A lot of Westerners see Libya's Muammar Qaddafi as a defanged relic of the 1980s -- a man who used to cause a lot of trouble, was pacified by Reagan's bombing, and later gave up his terrorist ambitions. This is partially true, but while Qaddafi may have given up on his violent Islamist revolution, he has not given up his egomaniacal quest to become a power player on the world stage -- and last week he made a play to cement himself as leader of an entire continent.
In many ways, Qaddafi is stronger now than he ever was in the Reagan era. Instead of pursuing conquest militarily, he has decided to pursue power positions in international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union (AU). Last year, he scored a major victory by winning the chairmanship of the AU, which in his mind made him the leader of all Africa. He even used his position to promote the merger of all African countries into "The United States of Africa."
However, Qaddafi was not content with his one year as a continental leader -- even though the chairmanship was scheduled to rotate to Africa's southern region in an election held on Sunday. So, his friends in Tunisia submitted a proposal to reelect him. If it had passed, it would have represented a diplomatic coup to install Muammar Qaddafi as a potentially perpetual leader for the African Union - bringing his goal of continental domination one step closer to reality.
Luckily, Qaddafi lost and Bingu wa Mutharika, president of Malawi, was elected as the new chair of the AU. Qaddafi was able to buy supporters (literally) by paying AU membership dues for a number of small countries. Yet Malawi was able to secure heavy support from Africa's south and east -- assuring that the regional rotation of the chairmanship continued.
After the vote, Qaddafi gave a speech scolding the AU for "tiring" him with "useless" meetings -- and reiterating his desire to merge all Africa into a single nation.
Muammar Qaddafi has proved that old despots never die, they merely become crazier and sneakier with age. Kudos to President wa Mutharika and the nation of Malawi for putting him in his place -- although I doubt this will be Qaddafi's last attempt to take control of the AU.