Nicolas Pelham reports on the ongoing disorder created by the Libyan war:
While separately none of the communal battles alone poses an immediate threat to Libya’s unity, the border skirmishes risk stirring broader upheavals that could pick apart Libya and its neighbors. Riqdaleen sees itself as a potential bridgehead for tens of thousands of Qaddafi supporters who have sought refuge in Tunisia and may return. Kufra’s feuding parties are attracting supporters from opposite ends of the Sahara, from the Mediterranean to the northern scrub land of Chad. Arab militiamen in Benghazi see a cause and an opportunity to fly the Prophet Muhammad’s black flag of jihad; the Toubou in Chad are anxious to repel an Arab attack on their fellow tribesmen. As the contents of Qaddafi’s armories spread across the region, gun markets are sprouting across middle-class Tunisia and fueling the low-level insurgency that Sinai’s Bedouin are waging against their Egyptian overseers. Equipped with their extensive bullion, Qaddafi’s surviving children—his son Saadi in Niamey, Niger, and daughter Aisha, in Algiers—stir up their old followers. Libya’s turmoil is acquiring continental significance.
Pelham’s main concern is with what is happening in and around Libya, so he makes few references to the situation in Mali. There the Tuareg rebellion has carved out a large space outside the control of the Malian government where Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are gaining influence:
Issoufou said Niger had evidence that Boko Haram, an Islamist group that has become a security threat in Nigeria’s north and fostered links with al Qaeda’s north African wing (AQIM), was running training camps in the Malian town of Gao.
Residents and security experts say senior AQIM figures are appearing openly in the major towns in Mali’s north, having previously been limited to remote desert regions.
The hundreds of thousands of refugees forced out of Mali by the Tuareg rebellion are placing a strain on the limited resources of Mali’s neighbors at a time when the region is already suffering from drought. Something else is now adding to the region’s woes:
The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that swarms of desert locusts are making their way south from Algeria and Libya towards the farmlands of Mali and Niger where aid workers are already warning of catastrophic food shortages affecting around 18 million people across the region.
The Gaddafi link? Desert locusts are common but controllable pests except when, as last year, civil war means the experts can’t treat the breeding grounds to stop them swarming.
The Libyan war has inadvertently contributed to a major humanitarian crisis, badly destabilized at least one other country in the region, and helped create a haven for terrorists. That isn’t a legend–it’s a reality that Libyan war supporters can’t or won’t acknowledge.
Update: Not surprisingly, Mali’s ability to combat the locust problem has been badly compromised by the Tuareg rebellion:
Mali’s northern regions face a locust invasion and the government can do little to combat the swarms because equipment used to fight the insects has been destroyed during a rebellion in the region, an official said Thursday.