In Full View: The United States of Qaddafi

In the wake of the fervent protests that currently threaten Muammar Qaddafi’s forty-year grip on Libya, it was startling to recall that he is in fact credited with the formation of the African Union (AU)—an awkward achievement that sheds some light on the source of Brother Leader’s dangerous delusions of grandeur.

According to a BBC report, in July 2000, the ever-audacious Qaddafi arrived in Lome, Togo, for what would be the final summit of the Organisation for African Unity (founded in 1963 and rebranded in 2002 as the AU), in a convoy of three hundred vehicles. Having been isolated for years as leader of an alleged terrorist nation, in 2001 Qaddafi made an international comeback as Pan-Africanist visionary, successfully lobbying for the formation of the African Union.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki took on the inaugural chairmanship. Qaddafi’s vision was of a federal union with the catchy title “The United States of Africa”—an interventionist body with its own Peace and Security Council, a peacekeeping force made up of African military resources. The AU was to have its own parliament and court of justice, with the aim of exercising rule of law in instances of crimes against humanity. Apparently, modelled on the European Union, the AU would eventually also trade with a single currency, and unlike the United Nations, no member of the AU would have the power of veto.

Granted, Qaddafi was not the first to imagine Africa as a uni-state. The term United States of Africa was first coined decades ago by activist and poet Marcus Garvey and then widely promoted by Ghana’s first post-independence president Kwame Nkrumah. In 2007, the fifty-three member states of the AU gathered in Accra, under the proposed notion that by 2015, Nkrumah and Garvey’s dream will have been realized and Qaddafi had even volunteered himself as president of this new USA—a novel concept.

In the world’s current fascination with the pending demise of “Mr Africa” (a name Qaddafi reportedly gave himself in the 1990s), the irony is not lost on me. After all, it is more than his many monikers that remain a point of contention.


Thato Mogotsi is an independent photo researcher/editor, photographer, writer and new media explorer based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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