Watching Alliances Experience “Blow Out” from a Build Up of Democratic Pressure

Its a beautiful spring day here in coastal Mississippi.  A nice day for a Mardi Gras parade and to rake leaves, which we do here in the spring instead of the fall, and to watch events unfold in Africa.  As election results are coming in from Uganda, the Libyan army is attempting to repress a budding revolution against Museveni’s recent friend from the north, Col. Gaddafi.  Of course, Museveni is not the only one who has been cozy with the theatrical Libyan dictator, oil baron and would-be “Pan African” leader.

From today’s Guardian, “Britain’s alliance with Libya turns sour as Gaddafi cracks down”:

Now Britain’s risky and controversial relationship with Libya is beginning rapidly to unravel.

BP, which is also heavily involved in the country, is weeks away from beginning a major drilling operation in a vast area around the desert town of Ghadames. Indeed, a group of US senators last year suggested that the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could have been influenced by lobbying over BP’s commercial interests in Libya — an allegation fiercely denied by the Scottish government.

And it is not only Britain’s foreign policy on Libya that has sent diplomats scurrying into disarray as they have tried to keep up with the wave of popular uprisings against regimes that Britain supported, but the policy for the entire region.

According to Claire Spencer, head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, the rapprochement with Libya in 2004 was founded on assumptions that dominated for a decade post-9/11, obsessed as the west was with the fight against al-Qaida, the wider “global war on terror” and fear of mass migration and the rising influence of Iran.

“Against that we backed the other half, the so-called moderates standing up for our values – regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.” The domination of that foreign policy agenda, she believes, meant that not only in the Foreign Office but in the Quai d’Orsay and the US State Department, those warning of the growing potential for unrest across the region were ignored.

Though Libya had faced accusations of refusing to recognise the rights of refugees, indefinite detentions, torture and arbitrary expulsions, Spencer believes that British diplomats felt they had only the most limited leverage on their new partner.

By yesterday the queasiness had turned to outright horror, as Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague, a day after his department revoked all British arms licences to Libya and Bahrain, condemned the “unacceptable and horrifying” use of violence by Gaddafi’s security forces against his own people, “including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

Which leaves the crucial question of whether Gaddafi can survive. In the past, as Spencer points out, the self-styled Supreme Guide has been adept at ditching prime ministers and others to protect his position and place himself on the side of the people, a tactic he tried to use even in the current protests. Now he has abandoned that in favour of the use of outright violent suppression.

If he believes that he can confine the problems to the country’s east, he may be mistaken. Many from that region have families in Tripoli. He may find it impossible to stop rebellion spreading.

And Britain’s manoeuvring to distance itself from the man it has supported for the last seven years may have come too late.

Needless to say, here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast BP has not been especially popular since last April. I don’t think many people here have paid especially great attention to Gaddafi, but neither I suspect, have they been particularly confused about him.

I pulled out a copy the other day of a J. Peter Pham column from World Defense Review from March 2010 entitled “Libya as an African Power” which I would encourage you to read and reflect on:

The breakout came in 1997 when the annual summit of Organization of African Unity foreign ministers was held in Qadhafi’s hometown of Sirte (some of the diplomats attending were only able to do so because Libya paid their country’s arrears to the pan-African organization, thus restoring their voting rights). The foreign ministers also set up a five-member committee to mediate between Libya and the West over the Lockerbie dispute. On the heels of the summit, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela both visited Tripoli. African backing proved critical to the breakdown of the sanctions regime and the subsequent agreement to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law for the Pan Am bombing.

Meanwhile, Libya’s strategic engagements across Africa multiplied—a state of affairs symbolically demonstrated by the change in name of the country’s state broadcaster from the “Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland” to the “Voice of Africa.” .  .  .  .

Even the creation of the African Union in place of the tired Organization of African Unity has a Libyan connection that is usually glossed over. In response to an initiative promoted by Tripoli, the OAU Assembly of African Heads of State and Government met in extraordinary session for only the fourth time in its nearly forty-year history at Sirte in September 1999. In the resulting “Sirte Declaration,” the African leaders professed to have been “inspired by the important proposals submitted by Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, Leader of the Great Al-Fatah Libyan Revolution, and particularly, by his vision for a strong and united Africa, capable of meeting global challenges and shouldering its responsibility to harness the human and natural resources of the continent in order to improve the living conditions of its peoples” and resolved to “establish an African Union” better able to “cope with the challenges and to effectively address the new social, political, and economic realities in Africa and in the world.”

.  .  .  .

Considerably more important than its role as a donor of development assistance has been Libya’s role as an investor in Africa. A government entity, the Libya African Portfolio for Investments (LAP), overseen by the country’s main sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), numbers among its companies the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAAICO), which has a mandate to promote business growth in Africa by investing in sectors as diverse as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, real estate development, telecommunications, and tourism. Currently, LAAIC has holdings in some more than two dozen African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Another LAP company, the Oil Libya Holding Company (formerly Tamoil Africa), is engaged in refining, marketing and distribution of petroleum products in a similar number of African countries. In Morocco, for example, the Libyans have invested more than $5 billion to acquire about 200 gas stations, approximately 10 percent of the local market. Yet another LAP asset, LAP Green, has had telecommunications operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda. Last month LAP Green acquired 80 percent of Gemtel in South Sudan and the company has been shortlisted among the suitors seeking to acquire a 75-percent stake in the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) being offered by the Zambia Development Agency.

.  .  .  .

Uganda is a good example of a case where Libya’s investments have served its strategic objectives while simultaneously helping the target country’s economic and social development. There are few African countries where Tripoli’s past interventions were so much on the wrong side of history.  .  .  .

.  .  .  . Currently at least $500 million in Libyan capital is participating in Uganda’s growing economy. Libya owns a 49-percent stake in the National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC), a public enterprise with a mandate to increase the housing stock in the country, rehabilitate the housing industry, and encourage Ugandans to own homes in an organized environment. Libya also owns 69 percent of Uganda Telecom Limited (the Ugandan government owns the other 31 percent), where its capital has been used to aggressively expand the company’s market share. In a joint venture with the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Libya has invested in a soluble coffee plant that adds value to Ugandan production by making it compliant with European standards. Libya also has the contract to build an extension of the Mombasa-Eldoret oil pipeline in Kenya to the Ugandan capital of Kampala. The extension will be designed to permit reverse flow once Uganda begins its own petroleum production. Earlier this year, a team from Oil Libya visited Uganda to explore the possibility of building an oil refinery.

The Qadhafi regime’s decision in 2003 to abandon its WMD program, settle the Lockerbie claims, and give up its hitherto support of international terrorism (the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2007) led to the lifting of numerous economic and trade restrictions as well as the ban on American citizens doing business there. The potential economic and political rewards of deciding to work with instead of against Washington may actually strengthen Tripoli’s capacity in dealings with the rest of the African continent, especially the poorer states of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Given some of the anti-Western, post-colonial rhetoric that has emanated from Tripoli over the years, it may be surprising for some to learn that since the thaw in bilateral relations with Washington, Libya has even demonstrated greater openness to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) than some other states on the continent. AFRICOM Commander General William E. “Kip” Ward actually traveled to Libya twice in 2009 and met with Colonel Qadhafi .  .  .

Thus last May, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell arrived in Tubruq for a three-day port visit that was the first of any U.S. military vessel to Libya in more than four decades.  .  .  .  The visits were returned in September when a delegation of three senior Libyan officers visited AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as U.S. Air Force Africa headquarters at Ramstein Air Base.During the officers’ visit, General Ward gave an unprecedented interview to Al-Musallh, the official journal of the Libyan armed forces, in which he described his discussions of African security matters with Qadhafi and “we look forward to working together in ways that help us achieve those common objectives for peace and stability.”

In the interest of renewing links to professionals in the Libyan military and security services after a nearly four-decade hiatus, the Bush administration requested $350,000 in State Department-administered International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding for Libya in fiscal year 2009. The Obama administration requested the same amount for the current fiscal year, specifying that the funding would be used for English language education as well as courses on civil-military relations, border security, and counterterrorism (Libya has been invited to join the U.S.-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership). In addition, the Obama administration budget also allocated, for the first time ever, a token $250,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to provide assistance to the Libyan air force in developing its air transport capabilities and to the Libyan coast guard in improving its coastal patrol and search-and-rescue operations. As significant as these steps may be, there is no reason why bilateral cooperation should not extend to other spheres. As Saif Aleslam al-Qadhafi, noted at the start of the U.S. rapprochement with his father: “Libya does not envisage limiting relations to fighting terrorism. It proposes joint efforts, for example, to meet the needs of Africa by eradicating disease and promoting investment.” .  .  .  .


One thought on “Watching Alliances Experience “Blow Out” from a Build Up of Democratic Pressure

  1. Pingback: If Nelly Furtado and Beyonce are Embarrassed, is the Government of Kenya? « AfriCommons Blog

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