Big names, big money and the Libyan Link

The high-level entry of Libyan investors in the country has its roots in a secret trip a senior Narc politician made to Libya months before the 2002 elections. Read how:

§ The Narc politician travelled to Uganda and was issued with a Ugandan passport to enable him travel to Libya without leaving any trails that could have been picked by the Moi government

§ The politician was flown to Malta Island where he was picked in a private jet that flew him to Libya for a meeting with the country’s top leadership

§ Libyans contributed millions of petro-dollars to the Narc campaign

About two months before the general elections, a top politician in Narc, had a hush-hush meeting with an emissary of the Libyan government.

At the time, Narc was desperately looking for money to finance its campaigns both for the presidential and parliamentary candidates against Kanu’s well-oiled political machinery.

Coming at such a time, the Libyan emissary was a godsend for Narc. After the meeting, an itinerary was drawn but the then opposition politician could not fly directly to Libya because that would have alarmed the then President Moi who did not enjoy particularly cordial relations with the Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

In order to evade Kenya’s intelligence radar, the Narc politician had to take a circumlocutous route to Libya.

His first stop was Kampala in Uganda, where he was issued with special passport so that he did not have to use his Kenyan travel documents and leave unnecessary paper trails. From Kampala, the next stop was Malta Island where a private jet awaited him and flew him directly to the Libyan capital Tripoli for high-level meetings which culminated with the Libyan contributing millions of dollars to the Narc campaign and partly helped tilt the balance against Kanu.

Informed sources say that the Libyans were the single largest contributors to the Narc campaign kitty in 2002. The Libyans are said to have put in close to half a billion shillings in the kitty.

The money came in through two key Narc politicians; the one who flew to Libya and another who got the money in a hotel in the suburbs of Nairobi. The latter has since fallen out with his colleagues in Narc and is today a leading contender for presidency via ODM-Kenya.

Once Narc won the elections and the new government was sworn in, the Libyan government quickly sent another emissary who held a series of meetings with top level Narc politicians.

It was from these meetings that the idea of Libyans investing in the country started taking shape. This led to the creation of a local subsidiary of Tamoil Group, the Libyan multinational corporation that has huge investments in Africa and parts of Europe.

Among the local players who were initially involved in the creation of the subsidiary company, Tamoil East Africa included well-connected businessmen Alex Mureithi and Joe Kamau.

Analysts say that Libya’s sudden interest in expanding its sphere of influence in Eastern and Central Africa is driven by President Gaddafi’s desire to see Libya become a major player in Africa in the same league – or higher than – such countries as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt.

Another factor that has expanded Libya’s investment interests in Africa is the fact that the atmosphere for Arab investments in Europe was substantially poisoned by the 9/11 US bombing.

Kenya holds special appeal for Libya and President Gaddafi by virtue of its strategic positioning as a regional leader and also because of the country’s prominent role in regional bodies such as COMESA and IGADD.

During the Moi regime, Libyans confined their interests in the region to Uganda where President Museveni enjoys very good relations with President Gaddafi.

During his days in power, relations between President Moi and his Libyan counterpart were at best frosty and at worst hostile.

President Moi regarded President Gaddafi with suspicion often accusing his government of fuelling and funding anti0Kikuyu government forces within the country.

This led to the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the subsequent closure of the Libyan embassy in Nairobi in 1987.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were only restored in the last years of the Moi government.

Of Gaddafi’s son and Americans

Last year, a US private equity group Carlyle with links to leading Republicans was poised to bid for and buy state-controlled Tamoil, valued at 3 billion Euros.

Al-Saadi Gaddafi, the son of President Gaddafi reportedly said Carlyle was one of four or five groups involved in an international tender to buy 100 percent of Tamoil. It is estimated the business will fetch close to 3 billion Euros (about Shs 250 billion).

The Washington DC-based Carlyle has been known in the past for its links to prominent right-wing US politicians. These include the former US Secretary of state James Baker and the former US defence secretary Frank Carlucci, as well as the former British Prime Minister John Major. None of the men retains positions with the company.

Carlyle and Halliburton, another company associated with US Vice President Dick Cheney, concentrates on energy and defence contracts. Both hold high stakes in reconstruction of the war-torn Iraq.

The sale of Tamoil to Carlyle would have marked a change of direction for Libya, which has used the business to expand its international downstream operations.

Selling the Libyan company to such a well-connected American group would enable the Libyans to consolidate their business and political links with the American political and economic elites.

It is not clear what became of Carlyle move but suffice it to say that Libyans have since sold part of Tamoil Africa to an American firm known as Colony Capital, private investment firm, founded in 1991 by Thomas Barrack Jnr.

Given the complicated nature of such deals, there is a possibility that the new buyer is still part of the Carlyle group.

The sale was structured in such a way that the Libyans still retain an interest that will ensure that the Gaddafi government still ahs something which can be used as political and economic leverage in geo-political positioning.

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