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AUDIE CORNISH, host: As Libya struggles to find its equilibrium, one the question for the post-Gadhafi era is its future as part of Africa. Moammar Gadhafi bankrolled and championed the vision of a United States of Africa, with himself as the continental president. Notably, the African Union has not officially recognized the rebel leadership in Libya, saying the regime change and outside intervention were wrong. So, wither Africa's relations with the new Libya?

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, says continuing clashes are the reason the African Union has not recognized the un-elected rebel leaders in Libya. Zuma was the chief AU mediator during the rebellion and was speaking after a recent African Union summit.

President JACOB ZUMA: There is the still fighting going on in Libya. Those are the facts. If there is a fighting, there is a fight. So we can't therefore stand and say this is a legitimate one now.

QUIST-ARCTON: More than a dozen African countries have unilaterally recognized Libya's rebel leadership, though not some of the continent's heavyweights nor, of course, the African Union. This has prompted a furious response from the transitional administration.

GUMA EL-GAMATY: Gadhafi has always looked at the African Union as his own baby.

QUIST-ARCTON: Guma El-Gamaty, the Libyan rebel representative in Britain, dismisses the African Union's position as pro-Gadhafi. He told Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" that African leaders are missing the point, if they choose not to ditch Gadhafi.

EL-GAMATY: Gadhafi has squandered billions and billions of Libyans' money trying to bribe many of corrupt dictators in Africa and that is partly what discredits the AU. And if some African countries are feeling sorry for Gadhafi, that's their problem. That's their, you know, right.

QUIST-ARCTON: But political analyst, Miguna Miguna, says Africa cannot simply sweep away history and forget the pivotal role Moammar Gadhafi has played on the continent.

MIGUNA MIGUNA: Gadhafi funded all the main liberation movements in Africa. It's a fact. We can't change history. He chose to be a pan-Africanist. That we will never take away from Gadhafi.

QUIST-ARCTON: Miguna warns that Libya's rebel leaders risk alienating the continent, not least because of the brutal treatment allegedly being meted out to black Africans, who Gadhafi recruited into his fighting forces. But many other African migrants, who are not hired guns, are also being targeted, argues Miguna.

MIGUNA: Some of the statements that I've heard from the transitional authority in Libya are worrying, in the sense that they sound very anti-African, anti sub-Saharan African. In other words, anti black-African and almost bordering racism, actually.

QUIST-ARCTON: The African Union too has expressed deep concern about the plight of black Africans being mistaken for Gadhafi's fighters in Libya. Jean Ping heads the AU Commission, and says the Transitional National Council must beware.

Dr. JEAN PING: TNC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries. If you do that, which means one-third of the population in Libya, which is black, is also mercenaries.

QUIST-ARCTON: On future Libya-Africa relations, political commentator Miguna Miguna says the new leaders must be pragmatic and remember that, geographically, Libya is in Africa, even though geopolitically it may be allied to the Arab world. But Miguna acknowledges the African Union may indeed find itself on the wrong side of history.

MIGUNA: The reality is Gadhafi did not want to leave and the African Union did not have the fortitude to tell him to leave and the U.N. did.

QUIST-ARCTON: Miguna has this warning for some of the continent's leaders.

MIGUNA: African dictators should be watching Libya, Egypt and Tunisia very keenly. These dictators should be shaking in their boots because their time is up.

QUIST-ARCTON: He says the Arab Spring is spreading.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Nairobi.

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