New Libya govt. attends AU Summit; pledges to maintain African ties

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) – The presence of an official delegation from the new Libya will not go unnoticed in Addis Ababa, where the 20th ordinary session of the Executive Council Thursday opens, ahead of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government.

One can recall that at the last African Union summit, held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the Libyan conflict was high on the agenda, with a neat division of member countries between pro and anti - NTC (National Transitional Council). The NTC, in an open war against the former Libyan leader Mouammar Kadhafi, was received at the summit as an observer.

The defeat of the Kadhafi regime, followed by his death, as well as the take-over of power by the NTC punctuated with the formation of a government of transition, had rapidly changed the order in favour of the recognition of the NTC by the great majority of the member States
of the Pan-African Institution.

Furthermore, the African Union that had long been careful not give a blank cheque to the NTC, unhappy for being ignored by the belligerents, openly opposed to its roadmap for the resolution of the conflict, finally took note of the death of Mouammar Kadhafi to lift the suspension of the country... even one month before the formation of the government of transition.

Continuity, but transparency  

Yet, it would be flattering to believe that the contentious issues are
once and for all closed between the new authorities of Libya and the member States, especially those  particularly close to Mouammar Kadhafi and substantially supported by the latter who did not have only friends within the circle of African leaders.

But if the new authorities of Libya continue their relationship with the African Union and insist on the "continuation" of their  cooperation with Africa, it is predictable, according to Tripoli, that
some methods used by the former leader in the framework of this cooperation, will not be as they were before.

In an exclusive interview granted to PANA by the Libyan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohammed Abdulaziz, before the 18th summit of the African Union, it appears that the fear of the African analysts, that the majority of the NTC leaders might be attracted by Europe and the Middle East rather than Africa, is completely unjustified.

“I do not see Libyans now moving to the North, and then forget Africa. I do not think this is what they want, but our idea is very clear: we belonged to the continent and we continue to belong to this continent”.

The new Libyan authorities seem, before anything, preoccupied by the post-conflict reconstruction that, of course, attracts many countries: South Africa, followed by Egypt, as well as Niger, that went to Tripoli with contract proposals for this phase of the post-conflict
reconstruction, were part of the first rush.

"It is natural that everybody runs to be able to move forward, and this is the continuation of what we had in the past instead of a new invention,” said the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose country is determined to honour its commitments vis-à-vis those who have
supported it as well as those who were already at work on the field.

“Those who support Libya at this moment are taking the initiative of coming to us, for they do have technology, advancement, plans, and they are ready with specific projects. In addition, there is an obligation on the part of Libya because those involved are not new. They are already present there”, declared Dr Abdulaziz.

He added: “If some African countries are prepared to engage with us, in terms of reconstruction, we have no problem with that. The point is, what type of engagement it is going to be?”

Italy remains for the time being at the top of the list, due to the number of contracts that link it to Libya, considering the relationship that has always existed between the two countries,
"regardless of our judgement on the colonization era, since it is the continuation of the relationship between us".

But Africa will not be the least lagging behind in that race to business. "Probably we need workers from the African continent more rather than its technology. I do know the situation in Africa. But we need, during this transitional period, to still move forward and fast for the reconstruction of our basic infrastructure.”

A heavy contentious issue

The African continent is therefore paying a heavy tribute for its absence from the group of technologically advanced business people, but also for its hesitation in taking a position and entering the history written by the NTC leaders.

Even at the level of investments, funds from Libya had served, under the former  regime, to invest in several sectors of economic activities in some African countries through companies operating openly under a Libyan sign.

But this has not always been the case in many African countries, where investments had been made through shell companies, sometimes in the name of individuals, making it almost impossible to track those Libyan investments.

The same applies, according to the Deputy Minister, to the calls made in the middle of the conflict between the NTC and the Kadhafi regime, in favour of the freezing of Libyan possessions in the African capitals to which very few had responded.

These are so many contentious issues on which “we don’t have a figure yet, of what we lost and what is still there”, said Dr Abdulaziz.

On the programme of investments in Africa, he said: “We like to know the viability of these investments, what kind of impacts they could have for us and for the local community where we are investing.
After completing  this assessment, we will be able to  plan exactly the  type of expansion there should be as far as investment is concerned. To my mind, we cannot plan for the future before making our proper assessment.”

Dr Abdulaziz, who underscored that Libya had diplomatic relations with 39 African countries, promised that Tripoli would maintain its presence in the 39 countries that also benefit from Libyan investments, but could not consider the future without an inventory of fixtures.

“We are now preparing criteria based on bilateral relations, based on mutual interest between us and the African countries. We do have investment in these 39 countries, but  it would be premature to decide what kind of direction to take  before we complete such assessment," he said in answer to a question on the new orientations of the Libya Arab African Company (LAAICO) and the Community of the Sahelo-Saharan States, put in place by the  defunct regime.

LAAICO invested in several economic

sectors, including hotels and tourism, with possessions, in totality or in part, of 23 establishments in 15 African countries (South Africa, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Uganda , Rwanda, Togo, Tanzania,
Tunisia and Chad).

The Community of the Sahelo-Saharan States, for its part, groups about thirty countries of the Sahel region, notably in a global economic union based on a strategy, through a complementary development scheme with national development plans for the countries involved, including investment in the agricultural, industrial, energy, social and
cultural sectors.

This same Sahelo-Saharan region, including an uncontrollable strip of land bordering Libya, swarms with lawless activities, ranging from terrorism to all kinds of trafficking that
threaten the stability of the surrounding areas.

Although the new authorities are aware of the impacts of the Libyan conflict on the increase on the armed operations in this area, they do not conceal their preoccupations as to the threat that would represent the circulation of arms as well as the presence in the area of some close relations of the former Libyan regime.

Therefore, the Libyan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs thinks that it is indispensable that a cooperation of  the States of the region be established around the best means of securing the common borders  rather than mere custom checks, to prevent any desire of destabilisation of the States.

Talks are ongoing with the most involved States, that is, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Algeria, in order to cooperate to ward off the dangers that "no country could tackle alone".

-0- PANA SSB/MA28Jan2012

28 يناير 2012 09:25:35

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