12 April 2011

Libya: What If Colonel Gaddafi Loses the Battle for Tripoli?


Nairobi — In January this year, an organisation calling itself the House of Traditional Elders of Kenya held court with Libyan strongman Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Led by its chairman, Mr Kamlesh Pattni of the Goldenberg infamy, they presented a Sh100-million proposal to the now embattled president.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the organisation's vice-chairman, Mr Riaga Ogallo, has condemned the ongoing bombardment of Gaddafi's forces by Western powers.

According to www.allafrica.com, when the organisation was formed in 2009, its other officials were Phares Ruteere (secretary general), Vincent Mwachiro (treasurer), former Ol Kejuado County Council chairman Daniel ole Muyaa (organising secretary), Haji Ahmed (deputy secretary), Peter Mumia (national coordinator), Julius Nyarotso (deputy treasurer), Mwangi Thuita (deputy organising secretary), and Sam Muumbi (deputy coordinator).

With rebels pushing towards Tripoli, thanks to an unrelenting bombardment of the loyalist troops by a coalition of European powers, arrangements such as the one Gaddafi has with the Kenya elders could go up in smoke. And that would be the case across the continent.

Corporate and individual fortunes could change drastically if the Western-backed rebels shoot their way into Tripoli and overthrow the colonel, who has been in power since 1969.

After the Arab League ignored Gaddafi's quest to lord it over them, the self-declared "emancipator of humanity" turned his attention and petrodollars to poverty-stricken sub-Saharan Africa.

In a bid to entrench Libya at the economic and political heartbeat of several African regions, the Libyan despot established several investment vehicles using the country's petroleum revenues.

Under the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the country's sovereign wealth fund believed to be capitalised at approximately $65 billion (Sh5.5 trillion), the North African nation has established numerous subsidiaries whose tentacles embrace hotels, oil exploration, mining, tourism, agriculture, and infrastructure in at least 31 countries.

Subsidies under LIA include the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank (LAFB), the Libyan African Portfolio for Investments (LAP), the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAAICO), and Tamoil, whose African operations run under the OiLibya brand. According to a leaked US diplomatic cable, from 2010 the scale of investments in Africa is in the region of $5 billion (Sh415 billion.)

These companies avoid investing in labour-intensive processes and instead prefer putting their money in state assets undergoing privatisation. Where this rule is overstepped, the conglomerates enter into partnerships with local companies.

In Kenya, for example, what used to be Mobil is now OiLibya, while the hotel formerly known as Grand Regency is now Laico-Regency.

United States of Africa

Alongside the economic alignments, Muammar Gaddafi has been trying to push for a United States of Africa through the AU and later through a group of traditional leaders which he had assembled under the auspices of the Forum for African Traditional Leaders (FATL).

As part of his agenda, Gaddafi used to host members of FATL in the now rebel-held city of Benghazi every year, where he lavished them with gifts and promises of development funds.

As a vote of thanks, this congress of chiefs and tribal leaders crowned their flamboyant benefactor as the "King of the Kings of Africa" in 2008.

The prospect of losing access to Libyan oil dollars is perhaps the reason Toro kingdom Queen Mother and FATL secretary general, Best Kemigisa, is one of the most aggrieved women in Uganda.

Gaddafi spent millions of dollars in renovating the palace of Toro King Oyo Nyimba at Fort Portal. He is also said to have paid for the 19-year-old king's education at a prestigious London school.

The Queen Mother, who describes Gaddafi as a revolutionary pan-Africanist who has led from the front in financing development projects across the continent, is also appealing to African members of the FATL to support Gaddafi in crushing the rebellion.

"He needs us more than ever before. As cultural leaders we should not sit and just watch him being hurt," Kemigisa explained in an interview with Uganda's Sunday Vision. "He has always been there for us and supported cultural institutions. We need to do something to help him resolve the crisis."

Kingdom of Buganda

Gaddafi is also said to have close ties with the kingdom of Buganda, where he channelled his handouts through Prince Kassim Nakibinge.

Apart from money pumped in through the traditional leaders, Uganda is one of the countries in Africa that have benefited the most from Libyan largesse in recent years.

However, the fate of Uganda's relatively robust economy is in no way tied to Gaddafi's fate, in spite of sizable Libyan investments there.

From investments to philanthropy, Gaddafi's footprints are evident in Uganda. In March 2008, the Libyan leader visited Uganda amid huge fanfare to open a multi-billion dollar mosque, famed to be the second largest in Africa with a capacity to accommodate 15,000 worshippers. Of course, he had financed its construction.

Perched on Old Kampala Hill, Gaddafi Mosque remains one of the most poignant symbols of Libya's geo-politics in Uganda.

With the flamboyant leader having promised to finance the refurbishing and maintenance of the mosque for the next 10 years, there is uncertainty about what will happen if Tripoli falls.

"May Allah protect and help our brother (Gaddafi) emerge victorious because I don't know whether we shall be able to maintain the mosque without his support," Meddie Akhram, a worshipper, was quoted as lamenting.

According to the Sunday Vision, the Ugandan Muslim community says the construction of a Gaddafi-sponsored Islamic university was mooted after a committee headed by Dr Badru Kiggundu acquired land in Mukono. But with the current situation, the project does not seem to be feasible.

The paper estimates Libyan investments in Uganda at $375 million (Sh31 billion), and these have provided thousands of jobs for locals.Some of the companies in which Libya is said to own substantial shares include Uganda Telecom, Tropical Bank, Laico Lake Victoria Hotel, Tamoil East Africa, OiLibya, House of Dawda, Uganda Pharmaceuticals, and Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe.

Oil pipeline

The Libyan government is also said to be laying the groundwork for the construction of a $300 million (Sh25 billion) oil pipeline from Mombasa to Kampala.

Libya also owns 60 per cent of Tristar, which exports garments from Uganda to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, as well as 49 per cent of Uganda's largest real-estate developer, National Housing and Construction Corporation.

Although Gaddafi's dalliance with traditional kingdoms and his push for a United States of Africa have created a rift between him and his Ugandan counterpart, President Yoweri Museveni has come out strongly in defence of his ally against the UN-sanctioned pummelling by American and European forces.

Gaddafi funded and armed the bloody Amin regime, but he later switched sides to support the rebel army that brought Museveni to power in 1986.

As a sign of their friendship, the two men have exchanged high-sounding honorific. While Gaddafi awarded Museveni the Al-Fatah medal -- the country's highest honour -- in 1988, Museveni reciprocated in 2004 by awarding Gaddafi the Order of Katonga, Uganda's highest military honour.

Ironically, Uganda was among the first countries to enact the UN sanctions against Libya. The Ugandan government announced its takeover of Uganda Telecom Limited in which Libya holds a 69 per cent stake; and Tropical Bank, where the Libyan Foreign Bank owns 99.7 per cent shares.

According to Kampala, the move was aimed at disconnecting Gaddafi from Libya Africa Investments, the umbrella under which the assets in Uganda falls.

Libya has also pumped millions of dollars into the economies of Chad, Niger, Liberia, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Mozambique, and many other countries, all of which are bound to feel the pinch of a Gaddafi departure.

"If Gaddafi falls, I can see repercussions for a couple of countries," says Isaka Soure, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa. "The new government in Guinea, for example, had banked heavily on Libyan funding for some of its developments.... If Gaddafi funding does not go through, it could have a serious impact."

Relations with Monrovia

Since President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf took over, Liberia's relationship with Libya has blossomed. The two leaders have visited each other several times in recent times. In 2008, LAP, in partnership with the Foundation for Africa Development Aid (ADA), invested $30 million (Sh2.5 billion) in Liberia's rice production, the country's staple. The project is meant to make the war-ravaged country food-sufficient in the next few years.

Other notable LAP projects in the West African nation include the establishment of a $15 million (Sh1.25 billion) rubber processing plant in Bong County, renovating dozens of schools affected by the war, provision of hundreds of scholarships to Liberian students, and the installation of large power generators for the restoration of electricity to Monrovia.

The Gaddafi regime has been a major player in the conflicts going on in the Horn of Africa and the surrounding countries. Therefore, his departure could drastically realign the region's power structures.

From propping the governments of Niger and Chad to supporting the rebels in Darfur, the self-declared "Brother Leader" has been a patron saint to many regimes around the Horn. Lack of Libyan support, military or economic, would leave some of these states vulnerable to internal turmoil.

The departure of Gaddafi would also make uncertain the fate of the thousands of sub-Saharan Africa immigrants who reside in the country in the hope of making a run for Europe.

Arming Darfur rebels

The Gaddafi regime has also been accused of arming the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) with rifles, anti-aircraft guns, satellites phones, vehicles, and fuel.

In May last year, Libya granted asylum to JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, prompting a rift between Tripoli and Khartoum. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi would not only mean the expulsion or arrest of Khalil, but JEM would also have to seek support from elsewhere, and this would end up dragging more players into the Darfur conflict.

However, one of the biggest losers in the continent if the Libyan demagogue is deposed will be the AU and its peacekeeping missions around the continent. Libya provides 15 per cent of AU funding, which translates to $40 million (Sh3.4 billion) annually.

Losing this funding will have major repercussions for regional stability since the AU and UN-supported 20,000-troop peacekeeping mission in Darfur will be greatly hampered, which might weaken the peace efforts.

The same fate might befall the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia, whose 8,000 soldiers are crucial in the battle against Islamic radicals in that country.

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