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Ivory Coast, Libya highlight growing rift between Africa and the West

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“It is a very interesting conflict going on. The Ivory Coast issue has divided African public opinion quite sharply,” says Achille Mbembe, professor of history and politics at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa.

African anger at the West reached its sharpest point at the beginning of a French-led air attack on heavy weapons belonging to Gbagbo’s forces in Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan on April 4.

African Union chief Teodoro Obiang Nguema – who is also president of Equatorial Guinea – told a gathering of reporters in Geneva, “Africa does not need any external influence. Africa must manage its own affairs.”

Not only was UN action unwanted in Ivory Coast, it was also undermining AU efforts at mediation in Libya, Mr. Obiang said.

"I believe that the problems in Libya should be resolved in an internal fashion and not through an intervention that could appear to resemble an humanitarian intervention," Obiang said. "We have already seen this in Iraq.”

Colonialism looms large

Yet the larger debate between democracy on one hand and nationalism on the other is an old one, Mr. Mbembe says, dating to the colonial period, when Africans were fighting for self-determination.

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