Qaddafi’s ties to the region date back to the 1980s, when he was looking to spread his influence across Africa and break off the continent’s ties to the West. He was rumored to have been incensed by Liberia’s cozy relationship with the Reagan administration under Samuel Doe, and by the Western-friendly stance of Sierra Leone’s then-president Joseph Momoh.
So the Libyan leader invited some young, radical-thinking West Africans to visit his “World Revolutionary Center,” a training camp outside the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi that the historian Stephen Ellis has called the “Harvard and Yale of a whole generation of African revolutionaries.” There they learned how to deploy weapons and gather intelligence, and they were immersed in anti-Western ideology.
Charles Taylor – the former Liberian president who reigned over six years of terror in his own country and who is now on trial for his role in Sierra Leone’s civil war – trained at Qaddafi’s center in the 1980s. So did Foday Sankoh, the leader of Sierra Leone’s main rebel group. Qaddafi supported both men with money and weapons after they had returned home from their training. The people of Sierra Leone and Liberia suffered the consequences.