Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Libya denies any role in Kimunya’s resignation

The Libyan Government has no role in disgraced Finance Minister Amos Kimunya’s resignation, its embassy announced.

The embassy insisted it bought the Grand Regency Hotel legally but acknowledged the Tripoli Government was unhappy with the adverse publicity generated by the controversial sale leading to Kimunya’s fall. Hisham Ali Sharif, the Charge de Affaires at the Libyan Nairobi embassy, who left for Libya as the hotel affair unfolded, returned to Nairobi on Monday. He arrived armed with a press statement from the Libyan Government, restating Tripoli’s purchase of the hotel amid reports the Libyan Government had protested to the Government over the damage caused to Libya’s investments by adverse publicity. "We do not know what happened," Hisham said, reacting to Kimunya’s capitulation and added that, "We (Libyans) are not happy with what is going on," referring to the raging debate. Meanwhile diplomatic sources in Nairobi indicated the Libyans piled pressure on President Kibaki for a fast resolution to the hotel controversy to salvage the reputation of its new investment drive across Africa.

Hisham’s terse statement on Monday declared that Libya’s hands in the matter are clean. On Monday the Libyan Government confirmed that last year’s memorandum of understanding between Libya and Kenya, paved the way for its purchase of the Grand Regency Hotel and vowed to defend its investments. President Kibaki and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi signed three protocols covering trade, air travel, hotel and tourism when the Kenyan leader visited Libya mid-last year. The protocols in the MoU accorded Libya favoured status to invest in local hospitality and energy sectors. And the Tripoli Government also claimed relevant departments and officials in the Kenyan Government were involved in the hotel’s purchase in May.

Adan Ahmed, the lawyer for the Libyan Arab African Investment, which concluded the purchase on May 20 and Sharif, claimed negotiations for the hotel’s sale began in March and ended on May 5, when Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung’u and the bank’s lawyer George Abuga signed away the hotel to the Libyans at a price Adan claims was double what they had anticipated. Lawyer Muthoni Gachui for the Libyan Government, Ahmed Mohamed Maawal and Ahmed Shtewi Amaer, who are directors of the Libyan company, signed the sale agreement, according to Hisham and Adan. The head of the civil service in Libya, Alhaj Bashir Saleh, issued a statement in Tripoli on Monday showing the hotel was sold to Libya for $45 million after an agreement between Kenya and Libya.

Saleh who is also chairman of state-owned Libya Africa Investment Portfolio in which Libya Arab African Investment Company is a subsidiary, claimed the sale/purchase was "done with utmost professionalism" and declared the raging controversy of Grand Regency "will not distract or discourage us from deepening our relationship with Kenya and bringing more investments and development to the Kenyan people..." Saleh defended the firm’s record and said the state company has invested in hotels in West, East and Central Africa. Hisham declined to say categorically if President Kibaki and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi discussed the sale when they met in Libya mid last year, but told journalists that "this hotel was acquired following an understanding we signed last year. "It was a government to government agreement and the important offices in Kenya were involved and briefed."

Adan produced documents showing that LAAIC paid a 10 per cent down payment of $4.5 million.

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