Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gaddafi's Political Orphans: What Next?

“He has a split personality-both parts evil”-Former Sudanese President Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiry on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Long before the rebel forces made a triumphant march in the capital Libyan the dark side of Gaddafi had emerged with his threats of turning Libya into “rivers of blood” and dying “like a martyr”.

His ranting aside, the ripples of the strongman’s departure are bound to be felt thousands of miles beyond his North African homeland given the huge political and economic networks he has cultivated during his 42 year-long rule.

National economies, corporate entities and individual fortunes are projected to take a plunge with the recent march of the Western-backed rebels through the gates of Tripoli.

After the Arab League spurned off Gaddafi’s quest to lord it over them the self declared “emancipator of humanity” turned his attention and oil dollars to the poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa nations. In a bid to entrench Libya at the economic and political heartbeat of several African regions the Libyan despot established several investment vehicles bankrolled by the country’s petroleum revenues.

Under the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund believed to be capitalized at approximately $65 billion, the North African nation have established numerous subsidiaries whose tentacle of interests touches on all sectors of the economy from hotels, oil exploration, mining, tourism, agriculture, agriculture programmes and infrastructure in at least 31 countries.

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

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

Alongside the economic alignments Muammar Gaddafi have 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 Forum for African Traditional Leaders (FATL).

As part of his agenda Gaddafi used to host members of FATL in the now fallen city of Benghazi every year where he reportedly spoilt them with gifts and promises of development fund.
As a vote of thanks this congress of chiefs and tribal leaders crowned their flamboyant benefactor “King of kings” of Africa in 2008.

The prospect of losing access to Libyan oil dollars is perhaps the reason why 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 catered 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”, has been appealing to African to members of the FATL to support Gaddafi in crushing the rebellion.

How a bunch of powerless traditional monarchs hope to achieve this remains a mystery.

“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 Sunday Vision. “He has always been there for us and supported cultural institutions and we need to do something to help him resolve the crisis”.

Gaddafi is also said to have close ties with the kingdom of Buganda where he channels his handouts through Prince Kassim Nakibinge. Kamlesh Pattni, christened “Prince of Peace”, is one of the prominent members of FATL from Kenya.

Apart from money pumped in the country through the traditional leaders, Uganda is one of the countries in Africa that have benefited the most from Libyan largesse in recent years. From investments to philanthropy Col. Gaddafi’s footprints are smeared all over the Pride of Africa.

In March 2008, the Libyan leader visited Uganda amid a huge fanfare to open a multi-billion dollar mosque, famed to be the second largest in Africa with a capacity to hold 15,000 worshippers at a time, whose construction he has bankrolled. Perched atop Old Kampala Hill, Gaddafi Mosque remains one of the most symbolic structures of how eminent the “King of kings” of Africa is in this land of plantains.

With the flamboyant leader having promised to bankroll the refurbishing and maintenance of the gigantic worship center for the next 10 years there are uncertainties as to what will happen after the fall of Tripoli a few days ago.

“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, lamented.

Sources in the Ugandan Muslim community say the construction of a Gaddafi-sponsored Islamic university was mooted after “a committee headed by Dr. Badru Kiggundu has acquired land in Mukono”. But with the current situation the project remains highly unfeasible.

According to the New Vision Libya have an estimated $375 million worth of investments in Uganda which have provided thousands of jobs for local people, which perhaps explains why many Ugandans are pro-Gaddafi.

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, OilLibya, House of Dawda, Uganda Pharmaceuticals and Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe. The Libyan government is also said to be laying the groundwork for the construction of a $300 million oil pipeline from Mombasa to Kampala.

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

Although Gaddafi’s dalliance with traditional kingdoms and push for the highly unpalatable United States of Africa idea have created a rift between him and his Ugandan counterpart, Museveni have come out strongly in defense of his former ally’s against aerial bombardment by NATO warplanes.

“The Western countries always use double standards. In Libya, they are very eager to impose a no-fly zone,” Museveni explained in a newspaper opinion piece. “We have been appealing to the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Somalia so as to impede the free movements of terrorists…without success”.

The Ugandan leader went on to give a list of wrongs that he claims informs his decision to oppose the NATO air raids against Libya.

The two presidents’ topsy-turvy relationship stretches back to the 1970s when Museveni was waging a guerilla war again dictator Idi Amin. Although Gaddafi funded and armed the bloody Amin regime, 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 since exchanged high-ranking honorifics. While Gaddafi awarded Museveni the Al-Fatah medal-the country’s highest honour-in 1988, Museveni reciprocated in 2004 by awarding Gaddafi with the Order of Katonga, Uganda’s highest military honour.

But ironically Uganda was among the first countries to enact the UN sanctions against the Maghreb nation. The Ugandan government announced its takeover of Uganda Telecom Limited where Libya holds 69 percent and Tropical Bank where the Libyan Foreign Bank owns 99.7 percent shares. According to Kampala the move was aimed at disconnecting Gaddafi from Libya Africa Investments, the umbrella under which the assets in Uganda falls.

Perhaps as a sign of the fact that the two long serving leaders are still friends Museveni have offered long time friend asylum in case he opts to step down willingly.

“Gaddafi would be allowed to live here if he chooses to do so,” declared presidential spokesman Tamale Mirundi. “We have a soft spot for asylum seekers”.

Observers believe offering an exit route for Gaddafi could help Uganda win favour with Western powers. Although Uganda stands to lose the most economically now that the “King of Kings” of Africa is gone, it’s not the only beneficiary of the Libyan Largesse.

The North African nation 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 heat of a Gaddafi departure.

“If Gaddafi was to fall I can see repercussions for a couple of countries,” observes Isaaka Soure, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said many months before the fall of Tripoli. “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”.

Since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took over power Liberia’s relationship with Libya have been soaring, a fact underlined by the fact that 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 in the country’s rice production, the country’s stable food. The project is meant to make war ravaged country food reliant in the next few years.

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

The Gaddafi regime has also been a major player in the conflicts going on in the Horn of Africa and the surrounding countries hence his departure might 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 for the last decade. Lack of Libyan support, military or economic, will leave some of these states vulnerable to internal turmoil.

In line with his desire to install stooges to power across the continent the self proclaimed “guide of humanity” opened the World Revolutionary Center (WRC) near Benghazi to train revolutionaries. WRC graduates in power as of 2011 are Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Idriss Deby of Chad. The duos’ regimes rely heavily on Gaddafi’s political and financial goodwill.

Analysts claim connections to this repressive sub-Saharan administrations has provided him with a huge pool from which to recruit mercenaries to sustain his rule and aid him in the fight against the insurgency. The departure of Gaddafi will also leave the fate of the thousands of sub-Saharan Africa immigrants who reside in the country in the hope of making a run for Europe uncertain.

The Gaddafi regime has also been accused of arming the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) with rifles, anti-aircrafts guns, satellites phones, vehicles and fuel. In May last year Libya granted asylum to JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim which prompted a rift between Tripoli and Khartoum. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi would not only mean the expulsion or arrest of Khalil but JEM would have to seek support from elsewhere which would end up dragging more players to the Darfur conflict.

However, one of the biggest losers in the continent will probably be the AU and its peacekeeping missions around the continent. Libya currently provides 15 percent of AU funding which translates to $40 million annually.

Losing this funding will have numerous 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.

From his 42-year stay in power Col. Muammar Gaddafi seems to have godfathered many “sons’ and “daughters” across the continent hence now that his guns and tanks have been overwhelmed by those he once termed as “rats”, the strongman of Tripoli is bound to leave behind millions of “orphans”.

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