Bunkered down with Uncle Curly

Today, Foreign Policy is lucky to play host to Ryan Calder's Benghazi diary. Calder, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been blogging from Libya since he arrived there four days before the international intervention began. He is now based in Benghazi.

One of the details we at FP loved the most about his piece is his observation of the rebels' nickname for embattled Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi: "Uncle Curly." Calder notes how graffiti denouncing Qaddafi is ubiquitous in Benghazi:

Spray paint, incidentally, is vital in revolutions. When you liberate a building, you spray-paint your slogans on it. When you come across a destroyed enemy tank, you spray-paint that too. Someone tagged this one "Athar Bu Shafshufah": "Uncle Curly's Ruins."

Uncle Curly, of course, is Muammar al-Qaddafi. The colonel's hair gets a lot of attention in this country. Caricatures highlighting his famous 'do now cover the walls of central Benghazi.

And in a later entry, describing the scene along the road from Ajdabiya to Benghazi:

The atmosphere here is even more carnivalesque than at the other site. One dad walks his young son and daughter across the street, while another helps his kid up onto a tank and hands him a rebel flag, posing him with it for a picture. Passing drivers rubberneck and clog traffic, honking and taking pictures on their camera-phones as they move down the highway. Tractor-trailers pass by, hauling tanks and MRLs taken intact from the enemy, with the rebel flag planted atop them, ready to be recycled by the rebels. On a destroyed tank across the street, someone has spray-painted "Rabish Bu Shafshifah: Al-Bi'ah bi-l-Jumlah" -- "Uncle Curly's Junk: All for Sale."

For more photos of the graffiti of the Libyan revolution, click here.



End of a coup

While countries to its north and west fight bloody civil conflicts, there some positive news from Niger today, where the military handed power to a civilian government, 14 months after a coup:

The BBC's Idy Baraou says Mr Issoufou was sworn in at a ceremony attended by eight other African heads of state. A long-time opposition leader and ex-mining engineer, he won last month's run-off with nearly 58% of the vote.

Soldiers ousted President Mamadou Tandja in February 2010 after he sought a third term in office.

Our reporter in Niamey says crowds of people waited in 40 degree heat outside the stadium where the ceremony took place to greet the newly sworn-in leader. The military junta declared the day a public holiday and has gone to great effort to spruce up the capital, determined to make the event a success, he says.

One of the most interesting trends in the post-Cold War world is that coups happen a lot less frequently than they used to and are more likely to quickly transition back to democratic (or at least pseudo-democratic) rule. Fast coups such as the recent ones in Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, and Niger are becoming more the rule. 

On the topic of methods for resolving civil conflict, I've also found it striking that there's been relatively little discussion of a "government of national unity" as a solution to the crisis in the Ivory Coast. The African Union proposed this  solution last month, but it never gained much traction and at this point, Laurent Gbagbo seems to be in no position to make demands. Perhaps the recent exeperiences of Kenya and Zimbabwe, where internationally-imposed, post-election GNUs have done little to ameliorate internal tensions or strenghten democracy, have discredited the idea.