, TRIPOLI, Feb 6 – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, elected on Monday chairman of the African Union, has put Africa at the centre of his foreign policy over the past 10 years, playing an active mediation role in the continent’s conflicts.
Gaddafi turned from being a self-styled champion of Arab unity, into an inspiration of the creation of the African Union which replaced the looser Organisation for African Unity (OAU).
Here are some key stages in Gaddafi’s efforts to create a United States of Africa:
– Sept 6- 9, 1999: An OAU summit is held in the Libya city of Syrte, as Libya celebrates the 30th anniversary of Gaddafi coming to power, the first international demonstration on this scale in the country for seven years.
In April the United Nations had suspended sanctions imposed on Libya in 1992 following the bomb attacks on a Pan Am plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 and of the French DC-10 over Niger in 1989. From June 1998, the OUA had partially lifted the air embargo which was slapped on Libya.
– Oct, 2000: Thousands of Africans flee or are expelled from Libya after an outbreak of racial violence. Tripoli stresses that this does not amount to a break with African states.
– March 2, 2001: Gaddafi forces the birth of the African Union during an extraordinary summit at Syrte. His initial plan, put forward in 1999, foresaw the creation of a federation bringing the African continent together within a United States of Africa, but it was considerably watered down over a series of summits.
– Feb 2, 2002: Gaddafi calls on Africans to come and work in his country, reiterating his dream of making the continent into a large economic bloc.
– Aug 31: He says that his country will from now on "conform to international law. In the future Libyan policy will be that of the African Union…our country will no longer act on its own….Libya can no longer cling to the Arabs… of which the (Arab) League, docile and inefficient is incapable of rivalling the AU," he says.
– Dec 2003: after nine months of secret negotiations with Britain and the United States, Libya announces that it is renouncing efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and sets about repairing relations with Western governments.
– Oct 14, 2006: Two Italians are freed a after more than 50 days in captivity in Niger, thanks to Libyan intervention. The "Gaddafi Foundation" led by one of the leader’s sons, Seif al-Islam, becomes a major player in international efforts to end the continent’s conflicts, notably the six-year-old war in Darfur, and to mediate with hostage takers.
– July 3, 2007: Gaddafi proposes in Accra the creation of an African federal government, but members of the AU are split on the idea.
– Jan 29, 2008: Gaddafi threatens to "turn his back" on Africa if the continent does not unify quickly and to reorientate Libyan investments in Africa towards Arab and Mediterranean countries.
– June 17: Gaddafi demands the immediate putting in place of an AU government, putting off to a later date his idea of a United States of Africa.
– Aug 29: Gaddafi is bestowed with the title of "king of kings" during a meeting of dozens of African tribal leaders in Benghazi in eastern Libya.
– Feb 2, 2009: Gaddafi is elected to head the AU for a year.