- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

BANGUI, Central African Republic The soldiers Col. Moammar Gadhafi has sent to this African backwater speak no French or tribal languages nothing the residents can understand.
When the Libyan troops want to make a point, they flick the safety off their AK-47s and let the "click" speak for them.
The Libyan leader, who has achieved notoriety for supporting terrorism and announcing grand political schemes to unify the Arab world, now is putting guns and money into Africa, most visibly in the Central African Republic.
The stream of African heads of state traveling to Tripoli, Libya, has surged in step with Col. Gadhafi's African ambitions. Since September, 12 African leaders have made the trip.
Ivory Coast government supporters and West Africa analysts also accuse Col. Gadhafi of covert roles in the gravest wars roiling Africa. Libya and its partners deny such charges.
There are fears that a generation of African leaders who have fallen out with the West could turn to Col. Gadhafi for money, guns and friendship.
For Col. Gadhafi, the payoff is respect denied him in the Arab world, a shot at a statesman's role and shares of the wealth in unstable, resource-rich Africa.
The Libyan leader, 60, turned his back on Arab leaders in October after the Arab League refused to join African heads of state in condemning U.N. sanctions on Libya for the 1988 airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Since deploying here in May 2001, Libyan forces have saved Central African Republic President Ange-Felix Patasse from three coup attempts. Libya's reward: a monopoly on mining the country's gold, diamonds and uranium, although Mr. Patasse's government has denied it.
The embattled Ivory Coast government complains of outside backing in a 3-month-old rebellion shattering what was once West Africa's most stable and prosperous nation.
Leaders of Liberia and Burkina Faso, both Gadhafi proteges, are accused of funneling arms, cash and, in Liberia's case, fighters to Ivory Coast rebels.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed U.N. forces are trying to wind down a four-year, six-nation war, the Congolese envoy to the United Nations said Libyan planes have flown in arms, ammunition and tanks to a rebel group there in recent weeks.
"Liars," was the response of Libya's African affairs minister, Ali al-Treiki, in mid-December.
John Stremlau, director of the Center for Africa's International Relations in Johannesburg, said, "Gadhafi has become a quixotic figure; he's decided Africa is going to be his playground now that the Arab world has ignored him.
"But he's not so loony that he gives troops away for free. He's not a charitable organization."
The conflicts are only the latest in Col. Gadhafi's long African adventures. He started them in 1969, with his own officers' coup in Libya, on the tip of North Africa.
Sponsorship of 1980s Arab terrorism led to international sanctions, but Col. Gadhafi found himself free to dally for decades in his role as Africa's godfather, without much Western objection.
At times, he has fought African wars directly, as in Libya's invasion of neighboring Chad.
More often, he has fought them indirectly, cosseting fledgling rebels into full-grown fighters.
Wannabe-warlords Charles Taylor of Liberia, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone all got their start in Col. Gadhafi's guerrilla-training camps in the 1980s.
Mr. Taylor, who went on to mount a seven-year civil war in Liberia, remains in power.
So does Mr. Compaore, who ordered his best friend killed to take power. Mr. Sankoh, a doped babbler who waged a 10-year terror campaign to win Sierra Leone and its diamond mines, awaits an expected war crimes trial from jail.
Now, Col. Gadhafi is throwing his energy and oil wealth into the African Union, which he organized in July, succeeding the old dictators' club of the Organization of African Unity.
The Libyan-African friendships have paid off in promises of military training for Mozambique and a $360 million economic lifeline thrown to President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, which receives 70 percent of its oil from Libya.
Gadhafi watchers note a change in the aging Libyan leader, who seems more focused now on propping up African leaders than toppling them.
In Bangui, the Central African Republic capital, Col. Gadhafi's mustachioed soldiers man anti-aircraft guns. Libyan forces listen to Arab pop music in front of rocket launchers on the main road leading to the airport, where two Libyan fighter jets stand ready.
Col. Gadhafi's interest in the Central African Republic dates to 1976, when he explored uranium and other mining projects with self-styled emperor Gen. Jean-Bedel Bokassa. The deals fell through, despite a one-day conversion to Islam by Gen. Bokassa.
The Central African Republic's current leader, Mr. Patasse re-elected president in 1999 has shown indications of reviving the agreements. This year, his mining minister was widely quoted as saying Libya was granted a 99-year monopoly on the country's massive mineral reserves, including gold, diamonds and uranium. The government subsequently denied the reports and banned all mining ministry staff from speaking to reporters.

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