2011 has been a year ripe for revolution, mass protest and, apparently, extralegal assassinations. It makes sense. After all, dead men tell no tales, and keeping Muammar Gaddafi alive would have been very awkward for Western governments when the International Criminal Court stepped in.

Mahmoud Mamdani’s reflections on yesterday’s events are apt. He identifies in Gaddafi’s downfall a greater trend that has been developing:

Unlike in the Cold War, Africa’s strongmen are weary of choosing sides in the new contention for Africa. Exemplified by President Museveni of Uganda, they seek to gain from multiple partnerships, welcoming the Chinese and the Indians on the economic plane, while at the same time seeking a strategic military presence with the US as it wages its War on Terror on the African continent.

In contrast, African oppositions tend to look mainly to the West for support, both financial and military.

That all said: I do not celebrate the death of Gaddafi. I do not celebrate the ‘humanitarian intervention‘ staged by NATO into Libya.  I do, however, wish those in Libya who struggled to survive Gaddafi’s tyranny for the better part of their lives (Berber, so-called “black African” and “Arab” alike) a better future. 42 years of rule by the same man, one who had his hand in nearly every violent conflict that Africa has endured in that time, is not democracy. It is not pan-Africanism. It is not anti-imperialism.

At this point, Libya’s future is far more uncertain than that of Tunisia or Egypt, and we can only wait and see if Libyans have a chance to rebuild on their own terms. With vast oil reserves, the West’s “boots on the ground” and the World Bank and IMF chomping at the bit… Here’s hoping.