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Thursday, 05 January 2012 22:41

AU Summit to Declare Fate of Libyan Assets in Region

By Isaac Khisa

LibyaGameOverNAIROBI, Kenya, January 05, 2012 (East African) - The fate of Libyan investments in East Africa and other African countries, frozen at the height of the revolution that toppled former leader Muamar Gaddafi, depends on the outcome of the African Union Heads of state Summit that convenes in Addis Abba, Ethiopia in January.

 

Although the United States, United Nations and European Union lifted sanctions against the north African country, nearly three months ago, its assets held under the Libyan African Portfolio remain the subject of local restrictions in many host countries.

 

Following the imposition of UN sanctions, Uganda which plays host to a number of Libyan enterprises moved to take control of them and has been slow to revert management to the transitional authority in Tripoli even though the sanctions were lifted in October.

 

In contrast to Rwanda and Uganda which froze Libyan assets, Kenya opted to protect them without taking control. Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said at the time Kenya did not freeze Libyan assets following the UN Security Council resolution because "we cannot trace any Libyan investments in Kenya to Gaddafi, his family and other people covered by these sanctions."

 

Wetangula said the Libyan property is protected and would be transferred to the new government upon stability. Uganda froze Libyan assets worth $375 million in March, 2011, in line with a UN resolution imposing sanctions on the North African country. A month later, Rwanda followed suit.

 

Uganda says it is awaiting AU recognition of the new authority in Libya before negotiating the modalities for return of the assets."As long as the AU recognises a new broad based government, we shall automatically be bound to it and transfer the businesses and investments," Henry Okello-Oryem, Uganda's state minister for foreign affairs said.

 

Oryem said official recognition of the newly created Libyan government is expected to be announced at the AU Summit in January. AU first recognised the National Transitional Council (NTC) in September as representative of the Libyan people in the formation of a transitional government that will occupy the Libyan seat at the AU.

 

Wafik Shater, the new Board Chairman of the LAP, was in Kampala a fortnight ago to negotiate the freeing of Uganda telecom from the ban.

 

"We are a subsidiary of LAP which has seen sanctions on it lifted and we seek the same treatment like our parent company," Wafik said.

 

Under the late Gadaffi, through the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio invested into Uganda's agriculture, hotel, health, infrastructure, construction, food and finance sector. Libya has interests in the National Housing Corporation, Soluble Coffee Plant, Tropical Bank, House of Dawda, Uganda Pharmaceuticals, Uganda Telecom and Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe and the construction of an oil pipeline.

 

Libyans own 49 per cent in the National Housing and Construction Corporation with shares worth $21.1m in developing the housing projects at Lubowa housing estate along Entebbe Road and Naalya housing estate.

 

In 2007, the North African nation concluded an agreement with Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to partner in a joint venture to construct an $11m Soluble Coffee Plant that would add value to Uganda's coffee and at the same time comply with European Union standards.

 

More still, Libya owns 99.69 per cent of Tropical Bank, formerly known as the Libya Arab Foreign Bank. The north African state also had medium and long-term plans for the East African region. Through its oil firm, Tamoil East Africa, it won a contract to build and operate the Kenya-Uganda oil pipeline, Uganda's strategic oil reserves at Jinja, and other operational reserves along the pipeline route.

 

Tamoil East Africa owns 51per cent of the pipeline project in a public-private partnership with the governments of Uganda and Kenya, which share the 49 per cent.

 

Reports show that Tamoil's investment had been held up by the delay of the two governments in compensating property owners along the proposed route of the pipeline and to decide on the interest of Rwanda in extending the pipeline to Kigali.

 

The firm as well promised to invest $300m in up grading Mombasa crude oil refinery as well as build a $60m liquid petroleum gas (LPG) storage facility at the coast. The freezing of Libyan assets in Uganda and Rwanda, including Tamoil Holdings Ltd has made sister companies in the two states unable to transact business as they cannot access their accounts.

 

Laico Hotel in Kigali, Soprotel's subsidiary was taken over by government, and awaits valuation of its assets. Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP) had a 60 percent stake in Soprotel while Rwandan government owned the rest. LAP also had majority shares in telecoms firm Rwandatel, whose licence was revoked for failure to meet obligations. (END)

 

 

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