Libya and Niger – Locust swarms, Tuareg mercenaries and Saadi Gaddafi.(Updated 22nd January 2013)
Swarms of the voracious Desert Locust have recently been found in northern Niger. They arrived there from infestations reported in January 2012 in southwest Libya, near the ancient Tuareg city of Ghat.
In a normal year Libya would have been able to control most of the swarms and prevent their movement southwards. However its capacity to monitor and control locusts has collapsed because trained personnel and equipment vanished during the civil war.
The locusts may have moved southwards from one insecure area to another. In northern Mali a Tuareg rebellion, strengthened by returning mercenaries after Gadaffi’s defeat, was hijacked by the militant Islamic group called ‘Ansar Dine’. There is now no local authority there, and certainly no one left with the experience and equipment to control Desert Locust infestations.
Some of the Gadaffi’s Tuareg mercenaries had been recruited from Niger to which they have returned bringing with them large quantities of arms and ammunition. So far Niger has dealt with its potentially rebellious Tuareg population more skilfully than neighbouring Mali; perhaps because the new president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has appointed a Tuareg, Brigi Rafini, as prime minister.
There are further threats to Niger arising out of Libya’s current problems. Prior to the Libyan uprising, the country hosted approximately one million African workers. Many were employed in construction, garbage collection, domestic work and other low-wage jobs. Unskilled Niger workers are no longer remitting part of their wages to their families and are returning home, adding more needy mouths to the already impoverished population.
There is one further disconcerting aspect to this. A number of workers from Niger have been imprisoned by Libyan militias which believe them to have been Gadaffi’s mercenaries. The treatment of some of them is reported to be brutal and the International Organisation for Migration is working to get them released. Until the Libya government is able to assert control over the many armed militias the treatment of these prisoners, and others from Chad and Mali, will continue to cause unease.
Niger is also harbouring Gaddafi’s playboy son, Saadi, who is wanted in Libya to answer number of charges. He is said to have escaped there with the assistance of a colourful and loquacious body-guard from New Zealand who claims to have been trained by the Australian army and who is busy seeking publicity for his exploits in Canada. So far Niger has refused to return Saadi Gadaffi to Libya for trail.
Update 22nd January 2013
The colourful and loquacious body-guard appears to be in a spot of bother in Canada at the moment according to the Libya Herald:
John oakes (First posted on Gaddafi’s Afrcan Legacy)