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Gadhafi used Libya’s oil wealth to help create the AU in 2002 and served as its rotating chairman.

During the revolt against Gadhafi, the AU condemned NATO airstrikes even as evidence mounted that his military was massacring civilians.

Gadhafi’s influence even extended to Africa’s largest economy: The Libyan leader supported the African National Congress (ANC) when it was fighting racist white rule and remained close to Nelson Mandela after the anti-apartheid icon became South Africa’s first black president.

Current President Jacob Zuma also was one of the most outspoken critics of the NATO airstrikes in Libya, and he told reporters he thought Gadhafi should have been captured and tried, not executed.

The ANC Youth League described Gadhafi as an “anti-imperialist martyr” and a “brave soldier and fighter against the recolonization of the African continent.”

For many of Gadhafi’s supporters, the military operation to oust him was another example of the Western interference and neocolonialism that he railed against.

F. Mbossa, 52, a schoolteacher in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, said she was shocked by the “arrogance of the West” in carrying out the NATO airstrikes.

“It’s clear that France and the others never truly wanted an independent Africa, and that is why they never hesitated to kill all those who advocate for a strong and unified Africa,” Ms. Mbossa said with tears in her eyes. “But for Africa, Gadhafi remains a martyr.”

In Central African Republic, Gadhafi sent troops to support a government confronting coup attempts and an insurgency in 2001. But he also fomented instability.

He funded rebel movements that committed some of the worst human rights abuses on the continent, including the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone.

Gadhafi also supplied arms, training and finance to rebels in Liberia and Gambia, and invaded Chad from 1980 to 1989.

Historian Stephen Ellis called Gadhafi’s World Revolutionary Headquarters, just outside Benghazi, “the Harvard and Yale of a whole generation of African revolutionaries.”

In the 1980s, they included Charles Taylor in Liberia and Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone, as well as Laurent Kabila in Congo.

While Gadhafi won praise from some for not fleeing Libya, others chastised him for failing to see how it all would end.

In Zimbabwe, businessman Daniel Musumba said Gadhafi had been trapped by his own ego.

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