The children of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi can’t seem to stay in any one place for long.
Three of them, who fled Libya last year and found refuge in Algeria, have lately found themselves unwelcome. Now they’re on the run again – but strict travel restrictions make it difficult to get very far.
Of Gadhafi’s eight children, three fled to Algeria during the final days of the regime, along with the late dictator’s first wife Safiya. Another son is in Niger's capital of Niamey. Of the remaining four, one -- onetime heir apparent Saif al-Islam -- is in detention awaiting trial for crimes against humanity, and three are presumed dead.
Now, the three in Algeria – Aisha, Hannibal and Mohammed – no longer feel that their safety can be taken for granted.
According to the Telegraph, Gadhafi’s only daughter Aisha has been working with a lawyer in Tunisia to launch an investigation into her father’s death. But Algeria has reportedly placed strict controls on her communications, hindering her efforts.
She and her siblings may have seen this as a sign that Algeria is cooperating more closely with Libya, a theory supported by the two countries’ recent negotiations for a repatriation of Gadhafi’s widow Safiya, who was not considered an influential member of the ousted regime.
The United Nations has placed travel restrictions on Aisha and her siblings, so air travel is off limits. That leaves nearby Niamey as their most likely next stop. Brother Saadi Gadhafi has already enjoyed a haven in Niger for months; the government refuses to extradite him for fear he may be executed.
Not long ago, Algeria seemed like a perfect hideaway for Gadhafi’s offspring. During the eight-month Libyan uprising in 2011, Algeria was slow to recognize the legitimacy of the opposition’s transitional government. Rebel forces accused Algeria of supporting the regime, something the Algerian administration has denied.
In August, just after Gadhafi was ousted but before he was captured and murdered, the Algerian Press Service revealed that Algeria was providing refuge for Gadhafi’s immediate family for humanitarian reasons.
Some Libyans were outraged, but protests have died down over the past year. The Algerian administration has since strengthened its diplomatic relationship with the new Libyan government.
The most recent rift between the two countries had little to do with politics. In October, a soccer match for the qualifying round of the 2012 Coupe d'Afrique des Nations, or CAN, saw Algeria win a match against Libya, 2-0. In response, hundreds of Libyans staged a demonstration outside the Algerian Embassy in Tripoli.
But in a sign of the importance of the two countries’ alliance, both administrations rushed to downplay the controversy. Libya quickly apologized, and Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci responded graciously.
“Algeria is ready to work with Libya across all areas; the two countries are brothers,” he said, according to the Tripoli Post.
Exchanges like this likely didn’t sit well with the Gadhafi children. If reports in Arabic press are correct, the three one-time Algerian residents may already be settling into their new lives in Niger.