Monday, May 23, 2011

Gaddafi's Mercenaries in Libya

Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, aware that he cannot fully trust either his country's tribal leaders or his army -- which has, in recent, days suffered from massive defections – has been turning increasingly to hiring countless mercenaries from almost all of Africa to offset the lack of loyalty of his own countrymen to help him repress the popular revolt against his regime.

As long as Gaddafi remains in power, he will destabilize all of Africa, as he has in the past, by supporting crimes against humanity, wars and terrorism.

Further, if Gaddafi stays, even only in the West part of Libya, he will continue to stop any democratization in the region by terrorism and military means, and do anything in his power to undermine Libya's neighbors – especially Egypt and Tunisia—in their hopes for democracy. Even half a Gaddafi with half a Libya is dangerous. He enjoys the complicity of African dictatorships, as in Zimbabwe and in Chad, and of African rebel groups that, in the future, might well attack American interests.

The mercenaries reportedly come from different countries of North- and Sub-Saharan Africa: Chad, Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Liberia. And these mercenaries come in different categories: some are pure mercenaries, moved by money; others are soldiers sent directly by their central governments, and others are members of guerrilla movements supported by Gaddafi in the past. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) claims that Gaddafi is also using child soldiers to face the Libyan uprising.

The International Federation of Human Rights numbers the mercenaries to be 6,000 whereas Human Rights Solidarity gives an estimate of 30,000[1]. According to the Qatari satellite channel, Al-Jazeera, Gaddafi's regime has brought approximately 50,000 mercenaries to Tripoli, and about 150,000 mercenaries throughout Libya[2].

Central Africa


Libyan revolutionaries claim that the government of Chad is playing a vital role in providing "mercenaries" to Gaddafi through the overland route to the Libyan town of Sabha, just across the Chad border. Ali Zeidan, spokesman of the exiled Libyan Human Rights League (LHRL), claims that two Chadian generals are commanding the mercenaries, under the orders of the Chad's ambassador to Libya, Daoussa Deby, the brother of Chadian President Idriss Deby.

The Government of Chad denies providing mercenaries to Gaddafi. Chadian FM Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement. "These are outrageous and malicious reports. […] Chad has never sent or authorized the recruitment of its nationals to fight in Libya. Chad cannot afford such a gesture, as we are concerned about the situation in our neighboring country."

Gaddafi has a long and complicated relation with its neighbor, Chad. Gaddafi brought Chadian President Deby to power in 1990 by supporting him financially and militarily. Deby was a rival to former Chadian President Hissene Habré, Gaddafi's enemy. In 1980, Libya invaded Chad in an attempt to remove Habré from power. Libya occupied and annexed the Aozou Strip, a region of 44.00 square miles in the North of Chad, bordering Libya's entire 500 mile frontier[3].

At the time, the United States and France helped Chad in order to contain Libya's regional ambitions. The state of warfare between Chad and Libya lasted from 1978 to 1988. Gaddafi was defeated and had to put aside his hegemonic dreams in Chad. In retaliation to US and France's support to Chad, however, Gaddafi's government sponsored the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and French Airline UTA Flight 772 in 1989.

Habré's government, however, did not last long. He was opposed by the Zaghawa ethnic group. In November 1990, a rebel offensive against Habré was led by Idriss Deby, the Zaghawa former army commander, supported by Gaddafi.

Darfur Region

Darfur, a region in western Sudan, is where war erupted in 2003, when the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) emerged to fight the government in a battle over power, resources and land allocation. Gaddafi was deeply involved in the Darfur crisis. Libya openly supported the Darfur rebel group, JEM, led by Khalil Ibrahim. Ibrahim was born in Darfur and belongs to the African tribe of Zaghawa, spread between Darfur and Chad. Even though Khalil claimed he was leading a battle against the discrimination practiced by African tribes in Darfur, he declared in an interview with Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on May 3, 2005, that his goal was "one state that includes Egypt, Libya and Chad." Khalil has been supported by the president of Chad, Idriss Deby. Deby, himself is a Zaghawa[4].

Gaddafi's support to the JEM, which is fighting the central government in Khartoum, can be explained through his controversial relations with Sudan. In the 70s, the former Sudanese President Jaffar Nimeiry was getting closer to the US. Gaddafi, being a fighter against "Imperialism," severed diplomatic relations with Khartoum and allegedly plotted three failed coups. Relations between the two countries did not completely normalize until now.

Gaddafi is paying a pivotal role in keeping alive the conflict in Darfur. Recently, Khalil Ibrahim has been residing in Tripoli since May 2010, after being barred entry to Chad, while the Chadian government was trying to pursue a rapprochement with Sudan.

Sudan's foreign ministry says it has evidence that JEM members are among the mercenaries supporting Gaddafi. The JEM has denied these allegations.


Qatari satellite channel, Al-Jazeera, mentions the presence of mercenaries from Burundi among Gaddafi's forces.[5] However, there is no further information on this topic.


There is no clear information on mercenaries from Cameroon.

Central Africa Republic (CRA)

News items report the presence of mercenaries from Central Africa Republic among Gaddafi's forces. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told the Associated Press that there is "a serious concern" that child soldiers are among the mercenaries that Gaddafi is hiring to attack rebel forces. The spokeswoman for the UN children's agency said the mercenaries come from the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, and Sudan's Darfur region, which are all places "with known child soldiers."[6]

Gaddafi also intervened militarily in the CRA; he supported coups and violence there. Gaddafi was a supporter of former CRA President, Ange-Félix Patassé, accused of war crimes, and of Jean Pierre Bemba (former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo), who intervened with his militias in CRA following Patassé's request, and with Gaddafi's support. Bemba was arrested in Belgium in 2008 on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

French news items suggest that Bemba's militia, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, is among the mercenaries fighting with Gaddafi against the uprising[7].

Congo Brazzaville

The President of Congo Brazzaville, Sassou Nguesso, openly supports Gaddafi. The Libyan leader has supported him both financially and militarily during a civil war in Congo that brought Nguesso back to power in 1997. Nguesso, with other African leaders, wanted to visit Tripoli on March 20th supposedly in support of Gaddafi, but did not receive international permission.

There is no clear information on mercenaries from Congo Brazzaville.

DR Congo (Former Zaire)

According to news items, Congolese mercenaries in Libya are members of rebels' groups[8]. Allegedly among them, as mentioned above, there is also former Congo VP Jean Pierre Bemba Bemba's militia, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo.


Gabon supported the council's resolution on Libya authorizing the no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. The vote comes as a surprise as Gabon President, Ali Bongo, is considered a good friend of Gaddafi, and Libya has invested hugely in Gabon. Ali Bongo succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, as President of Gabon. Omar Bongo, who stayed in power for 42 years, converted to Islam under Gaddafi's influence. Gabon's vote should therefore be understood in light of its internal political crisis. Bongo is accused of supporting dictators and of being one himself. Massive protests have been waged against Bongo, but were soon repressed by the use of force.

Gabon, however, after voting in favour of the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, had an afterthought and called for the immediate ceasefire by the western coalition forces.

There is no clear information on mercenaries from Gabon.

Equatorial Guinea

African Union (AU) Chairperson and Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema twice has called Colonel Gaddafi to secure AU support[9]. But some African countries are opposing the AU Chairperson's call to help Gaddafi.

Afrol news agency reports that following a phone call between Gaddafi and President Obiang -- who rose to power in Equatorial Guinea in 1979 -- the AU expressed support for the Libyan regime, praising its "readiness" for "political reforms." In a strong statement, the AU said it was firm in "its rejection of any form of foreign military intervention," including a no-fly zone[10].

However, the UN Security Council with the support of African member countries, South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon, approved of military action against the Libya. President Obiang again spoke over the telephone with the Libyan leader to discuss means to demonstrate Libyan cooperation with the international community by preparing for an AU "panel of five heads of state" to "investigate" the peace and security situation in Libya and "help negotiate a peace agreement between the Libyan government and the rebels."[11]

In a statement, the government of Equatorial Guinea said that the phone calls between the two leaders were misinterpreted, and that President Obiang would not show unilateral support to any of the parties in Libya.[12] According to news items, however, President Obiang sent troops to help Gaddafi[13]. The estimated number is of 650 Guinean soldiers[14]. Another news item reported that the government of Equatorial Guinea had prepared a group of 120 policemen and gendarmes to send to fight in Libya. The Guinean government told them that in Libya they would have received a 60-day training course as "border police." However while the 120 men were waiting to fly to Libya, they were apparently told that there was no safe way or possibility of landing in any Libyan airport[15].


No reports of mercenaries heading to Libya.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, in power since the year 2000, backed the international coalition action in Libya, saying lessons had been learned from the genocide in his country. The South African newspaper, Times Live, reports Kagame words: "No country knows better than my own the costs of the international community failing to intervene to prevent a state killing its own people. In the course of 100 days in 1994, a million Rwandans were killed by government-backed 'genocidaires' and the world did nothing to stop them".[16]

Sao Tome

No reports of mercenaries heading to Libya.

North Africa


No reports of mercenaries heading to Libya.

The Polisario

The Moroccan Press Agency reports members of the Polisario, Western Sahara Separatist Group, left Mali's capital Bamako on board a Libyan aircraft heading to Algiers, intending to enter Libya by land to support Gaddafi's forces against rebels[17].

The Polisario is a politico-military organization fighting Morocco in order to take control of the former Western Sahara, currently under Morocco's sovereignty, and win independence for that region. The Polisario's headquarters are now based in Algeria, in the town of Tindouf. According to news items, Gaddafi spoke directly to Muhammad Abdelaziz, leader of the Polisario Front, to ask for help. Gaddafi has supported the Polisario against Morocco financially and logistically, since the mid-1970s by providing equipment for an entire army.

According to sources, over two hundred well trained Polisario's fighters trained in the techniques of guerrilla warfare have been selected and armed with Kalashnikovs, grenades and rocket launchers, and sent on their way on board 4X4 at the end of last week, and headed for Libya. The mercenaries took the path leading to the Libyan border town of Atchane Al, where they had to be escorted by the Libyan military to Tripoli, passing by the city of Sabha[18].

The Moroccan American Center for Policy, reported that Libya's former Minister of State for Immigration & Expatriates, Ali Errishi, condemned members of the Polisario for their "hypocrisy" in claiming to fight for freedom and progressive ideals, but joining the Gaddafi's mercenary army.[19] Errishi confirmed that well-armed members of the Polisario are among Gaddafi's mercenaries.


The African Press Agency claimed that the Algerian government is supporting Gaddafi in recruiting mercenaries, especially from the Polisario, as Algeria is supporting this separatist group against Morocco. "The Algerian government spares no effort to facilitate the arrival of new reinforcements for Gaddafi to shield his regime from falling and avoid the repercussions on Algeria's stability that may arise from such a collapse".[20]

The Algerian government denied being involved in fighting the uprising against Gaddafi. The foreign ministry said in a statement, that these "false lies" which were reported by internet websites and TV satellite channels are "baseless," and Algeria was committed to non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, said the statement[21].


The Algerian paper Echorouk reports that after the Tunisian revolution, militias loyal to former Tunisian President Zine el Abedine Ben Ali escaped from Tunisia and found refuge in Libya[22]. According to news items, these militias are now fighting to protect Gaddafi's regime.


Mauritanians mercenaries are reported to be fighting for Gaddafi in Libya. A Libyan political opponent living in Washington DC, Mahmoud Chemam, stated that popular committees linked to Gaddafi in Mauritania are trying to recruit mercenaries to send to Libya[23]. Pro-Gaddafi's parties and movements in Mauritania are part of the fundamentalist Islamic Front Action. Mauritanian leader of the opposition, Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, called for investigation of Mauritanian mercenaries in Libya[24]. Since Gaddafi came to power, Libya has intervened in Mauritania's internal affairs. Gaddafi is even accused of having plotted several coups in Mauritania.

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

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