The recent purge here of radical Army officers aligned with Libya is the latest in a series of setbacks to Muammar Qaddafi's campaign to spread a "people's revolution" throughout Africa.
The undisguised efforts of the Libyan leader to undermine a growing number of African states have helped create a bitter tension between black Africans and at least some Arabs, a division that was symbolized by the Organization of African Unity's overwhelming rejection today of Qaddafi's bid to become its chairman.
Since coming to power in Tripoli in his own military coup in 1969, Qaddafi has used a substantial part of Libya's billions of dollars in annual oil-export earnings to proselytize among the disgruntled groups in the generally poor countries of west, central and east Africa. He also has used Libya's riches as a tool to manipulate various economically hard-pressed African rulers during their trips to Tripoli to give vocal support to his myriad schemes. At the base of his maneuvers, according to numerous western diplomats and African officials, is Qaddafi's avowed desire to create a Libyan-led, pan-Islamic African federation with him at the helm.
Although his efforts appear to be widespread, Qaddafi's two priority targets in Africa, according to U.S. officials and other independent analysts, are the governments of President Hissene Habre in Chad and President Jaafar Nimeri in Sudan. The Libyan leader's motives seem to be a mixture of geopolitical strategy and personal obsession, since Qaddafi considers their leaders personal foes and has vowed to overthrow them.
Chad and Sudan are important neighbors and potential conduits of Libyan influence to other countries in West Africa and the strategic Horn of Africa. Among those countries is Upper Volta, where moderates in the military government ousted the pro-Qaddafi faction after some unusual movements by the radicals last month.
Qaddafi made a 24-hour visit here at the end of April at the invitation of his supporters in the military. But according to a French source who was here at the time of the purge, Upper Volta's comparatively conservative head of states, Maj. Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo, 42, was not informed of Qaddafi's visit until shortly before the Libyan leader's plane landed.
U.S. officials said that Libyan technicians accompanying Qaddafi remained here when he left. Shortly afterward, seven Libyan planes also arrived that were supposedly carrying food. But a U.S. official said some military supplies were believed to be onboard and to have been delivered to the Army.
Two weeks after Qaddafi's visit, Ouedraogo struck in a predawn raid by arresting an unknown number of Army officers aligned with Qaddafi, including the prime minister, Capt. Thomas Sankara. Sankara and the others were dispersed to undisclosed detention centers outside of Ouagadougou, but, in a recent softening of Ouedraogo's policies, most are believed by U.S. officials to have been released and Sankara to be restricted to his home.
At the same time, the government ordered the Libyan charge d'affaires to leave the country, and the other Libyan technicians also left, these officials said.
Qaddafi's efforts have long raised concern in the United States, especially moves U.S. officials say are directed at Sudan and Chad. In February, the Reagan administration sent the aircraft carrier Nimitz off the Libyan coast and four Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance planes to Egypt to monitor Libyan military activity after intelligence reports indicated a Libyan-backed plot against Nimeri.
Although no plot materialized, Sudanese officials say that Qaddafi was scheming to get rid of Nimeri. They also say that large quantities of arms and money, "presumably of Libyan origin" have recently been found in the politically troubled southern region of Sudan. Last week the State Department expressed its concern about recent Libyan actions in Chad, where the fighting has been escalating between rival factions. Dissident forces under Goukouni Oueddei, a former president and a Qaddafi ally, claim to have moved south as they press their drive against the government.
Qaddafi has long been involved in the bitter civil war in Chad and even sent troops in to bolster Goukouni's tenuous grip on power in 1980. But leaders from across the continent protested the Libyan intrusion and Qaddafi withdrew his forces a year later when OAU troops were deployed. Goukouni was soon defeated and fled to Libya.
Nigerian President Shehu Shagari, who leads black Africa's most powerful nation, reportedly wrote the stinging OAU rebuke of Qaddafi's invasion that followed the Tripoli announcement that Libya and Chad would be merged as one country. Qaddafi, hoping to host his own OAU summit in 1982, backed down from the merger proposal.
France, which has been at odds with Libya about its policies in the former French colonies of west and central Africa, and the United States, working through the OAU's anti-Qaddafi block, pressured Chadian President Goukouni to request Qaddafi to remove his troops from Chad and promised to support an OAU peace-keeping armed force.
Another recent blow for Qaddafi occurred last month when the Central African Republic ordered a Libyan training team of 60 to 70 people to leave when its contract expired.
Despite Qaddafi's declaration of seeking to spread grassroots democratic movements through Africa, observers say, some of his actions appear to be more opportunistic. One example was his military and financial support of the brutal former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin before his government fell in 1979.
That same year, former Central African Republic ruler Jean-Bedel Bokassa was overthrown by a French paratroop invasion while he was in Tripoli negotiating with Qaddafi for money in exchange for the Libyan use of two abandoned French Army bases at Ndele and Bouar, near the Chadian and Cameroonian borders, respectively. Bokassa's offer could have given Qaddafi a strategic southern base for operations in Chad and into the unstable Moslem communities of northern Cameroon and Nigeria.
Qaddafi also has been targeted by Gambian President Dawda Jawara as the power behind a bloody rebellion there in 1981. Although no proof of Libyan involvement has been offered, the rebellion leader, Kukoi Samba Sanyang, was reported to have tried to call Qaddafi to seek help to counter the military force from neighboring Senegal that crushed his revolt.
While it is doubtful that Qaddafi had any direct link to Sanyang, former Senegal president Leopold Senghor was known to oppose Qaddafi. The year before he had accused Libya of planning to conquer Chad, Niger, Mali and Senegal in a straight line.
Senghor's fears were raised in other parts of the region also. Landlocked Niger, which sold uranium to Libya for badly needed revenues, abruptly ended the sales after Qaddafi sent troops into Chad and reportedly sought military security assistance guarantees from France in case Libya invaded Niger from Chad.
When Liberia's military government sent a delegation to Tripoli seeking financial aid, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa in the Carter administration, Richard Moose, rushed to Monrovia to assure Liberian head of state Samuel Doe that he did not have to commit himself to Libya to get assistance. Since that hasty trip, which followed the Libyan invasion of Chad by several weeks, United States aid to Liberia has increased from $6 million annually up to $70 million.
Doe subsequently expelled Libya's "people's bureau," saying his government only accepted embassies, But the Libyan government is heavily involved in financing two of the newest businesses in Liberia today, a recently completed 11-story office-apartment complex and a glass factory.
Qaddafi is not without a growing number of supporters in black Africa. After an official late April visit to Nigeria to patch up several years of sharp differences between the two governments, Qaddafi stopped in Benin before his surprise visit to Upper Volta. Benin's marxist military ruler Mathieu Kerekou, who has received generous aid donations for his poor country from Qaddafi, has been one of the Libyan leaders consistent supporters in African forums.
The ruler of nearby Ghana, Air Force Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings, is also a Qaddafi ally and has put some of Qaddafi's revolutionary theory into practice with the creation of "people's committees" that are supposed to run every aspect of Ghanaian life.
But one of the most influential elder statesmen in West Africa, the conservative Ivory Coast President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, is deeply distrustful and antagonistic to Qaddafi's forays. Simultaneously with Qaddafi's April west Africa trip, Houphouet-Boigny publicly intimated that the Libyan leader was supporting a two-week nationwide high school teachers strike in the Ivory Coast, but he offered no proof.
Often Qaddafi serves as many African leaders' public whipping boy in their efforts to turn their countrymen's attention away from difficult domestic problems, but he still is admired in many parts of their societies. Even in the comparatively affluent Ivory Coast, for example, a number of young Ivorians talk admiringly about Qaddafi's brand of politics when compared to the tightly controlled political system of the Ivory Coast.
Here in Upper Volta's capital, for example, Voltaic students went on a rampage and damaged the French embassy and the central market five days after the purge in support of the detained pro-Qaddafi Army officers.