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Gadhafi's death gets muted reaction across Africa

Story highlights

  • Zimbabwe "cannot accept" Gadhafi's death as a legitimate outcome, a spokesman says
  • Some African leaders referred to Gadhafi as "brother leader" and "king of kings of Africa"
  • Gadhafi was among the largest contributors to the African Union
  • He disbursed billions of dollars for mosques, roads and luxury hotels in Africa

A majority of African leaders remained quiet Friday as news of Moammar Gadhafi's death spread worldwide -- a telling sign in a continent where the strongman spent billions of dollars buying friendships.

The 54-body member African Union declared the "chapter is closed" on the former leader and said it has always maintained its support for Libya's new leadership.

"This has always been our stance. ... We announced even before his death that we are going to work with the interim government," said African Union spokesman Noureddine Mezni. "We welcomed them into the AU and even raised Libya's new flag last week. This decision has nothing to do with his death ... even though the chapter of his rule is considered closed."

Mezni declined to address news of Gadhafi's death directly, opting to focus on the AU's commitment to working with the new leadership. He said the group will release a statement later.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, a longtime ally to the fallen ruler, remained silent. But Information Minister Webster Shamu said the government had been watching the situation closely and was not pleased.

"Zimbabwe just cannot accept what has happened in that African country as a legitimate way of correcting systems on the African continent," he said.

    On social media across the continent, the reaction to his death was mixed. Some tweeted "Rest in peace king of Africa," a reference to the title of "king of kings of Africa" bestowed on him by a group of African chiefs. Others condemned his killing as ruthless, saying he deserved a trial in court .

    However, some hailed his death as good riddance, urging other African dictators to take note.

    While Gadhafi the dictator may not be missed in a continent that spawned the Arab Spring, Gadhafi the investor may be a different story.

    Libya was among the African Union's largest contributors, paying dues for some of the 54-member nations.

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    Gadhafi also disbursed billions of dollars for roads, mosques and luxury hotels. In Niger, which has given refuge to his son Saadi Gadhafi, his influence is evident.

    A gleaming mosque built by the Libyan government in the 1970s stands tall in the capital of Niamey. Thousands attend prayers at the mosque -- a valuable gift to the poor Muslim country where crowds pack into limited worship spaces.

    Next door in Mali, he funded the construction of a popular mosque in the capital of Bamako and helped pay for a Malian government complex that's under construction.

    Gadhafi also poured money into neighboring Chad and Burkina Faso as well.

    "I'm not surprised that a lot of African leaders are quiet. He did a lot for African countries such as Mali and Niger ... and contributed 25% to the African Union budget," said Hamza Mohamed, a media analyst based in London.

    In addition to loyalty, there is a measure of self-preservation at play, according to Mohamed.

    "Most of the African leaders are dictators. ... They have a lot of similarities with him and are also vilified in their own countries," he said. "It would be hypocritical for them to say anything about his death."

    In South Africa, the government issued a brief statement urging reconciliation and disarmament, saying it hopes for a "cessation of hostilities and a restoration of peace."

    South African President Jacob Zuma, who referred to Gadhafi as "brother leader," traveled to Libya to help with mediation efforts during the war.

    Zuma joined the African Union in recognizing the new leadership last month but has said NATO's military intervention undermined efforts by the pan-African body to find peaceful solutions for member states.

    Analysts have said the lack of Gadhafi's financial endowments will leave a gap in some sub-Saharan nations.

    "There are two big elephants in the room," said Robert Taiwo, director of Whitespace Advisory, a global firm that works with companies looking to invest in Africa.

    Will Gadhafi's absence affect infrastructure investment in some of the countries? And if so, how will those countries cope?

    "According to the World Bank, the infrastructure funding gap in Africa is approximately $31 billion per year. It also appears that Gadhafi has invested in some of the poorest and most fragile regions in Africa," Taiwo said.

    In the long run, the international community may have to step in to fill the gaps, he said.

    In addition to his generosity, Gadhafi used his ideas and eccentricity as a big draw, analysts say.

    During his term as chairman of the African Union in 2009, he renewed his calls for a "United States of Africa" that would use a single passport, a single military and a single currency.

    While some sub-Saharan African leaders considered his vision of a unified Africa unrealistic, they nevertheless hailed it as one advocating pan-African cooperation.

    However, there were plenty of Gadhafi calls that were condemnable.

    He is accused of helping arm Arab militias in Sudan's violence-wracked Darfur region. And he backed rebel groups and brutal dictators such as former strongman Charles Taylor of Liberia, intensifying bloodshed in the region.

    Taylor, who led Liberia from 1997 to 2003, is accused of fueling a bloody civil war that led to widespread murder, rape and mutilation.

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