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Africans venerate Gaddafi

Muammar Gaddafi's regime poured tens of billions of dollars into some of Africa's poorest countries. Even when he came to visit, the eccentric Libyan leader won admiration for handing out money to beggars on the streets.

world Updated: Oct 26, 2011 00:40 IST

Muammar Gaddafi's regime poured tens of billions of dollars into some of Africa's poorest countries. Even when he came to visit, the eccentric Libyan leader won admiration for handing out money to beggars on the streets.

"Other heads of state just drive past here in their limousines. Gaddafi stopped, pushed away his bodyguards and shook our hands," said Cherno Diallo, standing on Monday beside hundreds of caged birds he sells near a Libyan-funded hotel. "Gaddafi's death has touched every Malian. We're all upset."

While Western powers heralded Gaddafi's demise, many Africans were gathering at mosques built with Gaddafi's money to mourn the man they consider an anti-imperialist martyr and benefactor.

Critics, though, note this image is at odds with Gaddafi's history of backing some of Africa's most brutal rebel leaders and dictators. Gaddafi sent 600 troops to support Uganda's much-hated Idi Amin in the final throes of his dictatorship.

Some analysts estimate that the Gaddafi regime invested more than $150 billion in foreign countries, most of it into impoverished African nations.

Gaddafi's influence even extended to South Africa: The Libyan leader supported the African National Congress when it was fighting racist white rule, and has since remained close to Nelson Mandela. The ANC Youth League described Gaddafi as an "anti-imperialist martyr" and a "brave soldier and fighter against the recolonisation of the African continent."