In October last year Barthol Chapel resident Kieran Booth (pictured), was selected by the charity, First Aid Africa, to join their 2016 international expedition team of volunteers. From June 1st, the third-year Robert Gordon University student will be travelling to Kenya to teach life-saving First Aid to schools and communities in remote Sub-Saharan Africa.
First Aid Africa works to provide and encourage access to sustainable First Aid equipment and education, delivering emergency healthcare solutions to benefit the public.
Each year, the charity sends teams of volunteers to rural areas of Uganda, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania to train communities in First Aid skills which they would otherwise not receive. It is a little known fact that injuries kill more people each year in Africa than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.
Having recently completed his Overseas First Aid training course, Kieran (20) is looking forward to the challenges that he will face during his expedition.
“It’s going to be a fairly tiring and demanding experience out in Kenya but I have no doubt it will be equally rewarding. I applied to get involved as I knew it would be something totally different and out of my comfort zone but it feels great knowing that I’ll be helping to provide support and make a real difference in areas where First Aid knowledge and resources are practically nil.”
The international First Aid training has provided the volunteers with knowledge of how to deal with casualties both within the UK and out in Africa.
“It’s been really interesting learning about the ways to treat various injuries but we have had to realise the importance of how administering First Aid overseas can differ from across here in the UK. Many of the materials that would be used to treat injuries in this country simply aren’t available in the parts that we are travelling to and so it’s all about being resourceful and using what little equipment you have in the most effective way. One simple triangular bandage has more uses than I ever thought!”
Kieran will be making the 4500-mile journey to Kenya from the beginning of June to begin a full month of teaching before the next group of overseas volunteers arrive to relieve them.
Ahead of the expedition Kieran is required to raise money for the charity to cover the costs of the various resources and materials required during the trip and beyond.
“There are a lot of worthy charities out there seeking donations and I appreciate it’s difficult for people to support as many as they would like to. I’ve organised fundraisers that I hope people will be keen to participate in – the aim is for people to enjoy themselves, be in with a chance of winning some super prizes and all while helping a good cause.”
‘The BIG North East Quiz Night’ will take place on Saturday 23rd April in the Melvin Hall in Tarves from 7pm – suitable for all ages.
Tickets for ‘The BIG North East Raffle’ are also on sale, which features an array of prizes from businesses across Aberdeenshire and beyond.
With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates
Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids charity manager, and Garreth Wood, trustee of The Wood Foundation launch the appeal.
North-east children’s charity Cash for Kids has launched its annual Mission Christmas gift appeal, which this year is being supported by The Wood Foundation, Sir Ian Wood’s philanthropic charity.
Mission Christmas, the festive campaign of Aberdeen-based charity Cash for Kids, aims to ensure that all children in the north-east will wake up with presents to open on Christmas morning.
An estimated one in six children in Aberdeen City live in poverty, and many of their parents will struggle to afford to purchase presents for them this Christmas.
The appeal was officially launched this year by local philanthropist and trustee of The Wood Foundation, Garreth Wood, who sent a giant parcel off on the first leg of an enormous pass the parcel campaign, encouraging north-east residents to buy an extra gift or make a cash donation to the appeal this Christmas.
Last year, through the generosity of the north-east public, Cash for Kids distributed more than 14,000 gifts to 4,738 underprivileged children, ensuring they got to unwrap special parcels on Christmas morning. The total value of items donated was in excess of £210,000, with many businesses choosing to support the appeal.
Cash for Kids expects to receive a similar number of applications for presents this year. It will once again aim to ensure that every child brought to its attention – from new-borns to 18-year-olds – will receive a gift.
In order to fulfil all applications, Cash for Kids is asking members of the public to purchase an extra toy or gift for the appeal when doing their own Christmas shopping. Vouchers for shopping centres are also encouraged, particularly for teenagers who enjoy the freedom to choose a much longed for treat for themselves. Cash donations are also welcome, which the charity will then use to purchase items to fill any gaps.
This year, around 80 donation points – more than ever before – have been set up across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire where people can drop off a new, unwrapped gift until Friday, 18 December. The gifts will then be distributed to those in need in time for Christmas.
The demand for items, and the subsequent overwhelming response from the public, has led to Mission Christmas outgrowing its existing headquarters. A new larger distribution facility is this year being provided by Dunlop Oil and Maine. Local haulage firm Colin Lawson Transport will be providing the logistical support for a fifth year. This year, the firm is providing a dedicated vehicle and driver to collect the gifts from the donation points.
Michelle Ferguson, Cash for Kids charity manager, said:
“The response every year from north-east residents to the Mission Christmas appeal is incredible. Without their support and that of our volunteers it wouldn’t be possible to achieve what we do. We anticipate demand for gifts to again be high this year as a result of the local economic climate, so will be doing all we can to ensure that demand is met.
“Last year we received donations through some very creative means, including one from a 12-year-old girl who had saved up 50 prizes she had won throughout the year at Codona’s and donated them to the appeal. Some people also redeem their store card points or use three for two offers to purchase items at little or no cost.
“For those looking to raise money to support the appeal, we are running a Christmas jumper day on Friday, 11 December. It’s a fun festive way to get involved in Mission Christmas.”
Sir Ian Wood, chairman of The Wood Foundation, said:
“To know that there are children, right now, living in the North-East of Scotland who may not experience the excitement of receiving a special gift on Christmas morning is incredibly sad. In Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, poverty is often not as apparent as in other parts of Scotland, with the result it often goes unrecognised and unaddressed.
By supporting the work Cash for Kids do with the Mission Christmas appeal, The Wood Foundation hopes that every child across the North-East will feel the magic of Christmas this year.”
Cash for Kids is Northsound Radio’s listeners’ charity. It makes grants to individuals, families, children’s groups, organisations and projects throughout the Northsound transmission area. All money is raised locally and spent locally to benefit local disabled and disadvantaged children and young people under 18. More information on Cash for Kids can be found at www.northsound1.com/charity, or telephone 01224 337010.
The Wood Foundation
The Wood Foundation is a proactive venture philanthropy funder, focusing on creating economic activity to help people help themselves, providing business development and capacity support, in addition to funding. The team is located in East Africa and in Scotland.
The Wood Foundation, Scottish Registered Charity No. SCO37957, was established in March 2007 by Sir Ian Wood and his immediate family. The Wood Foundation invests into three portfolios of activity: Making Markets Work for the Poor – Sub Sahara Africa, Facilitating Economic & Education Development in Scotland, and Developing Young People in Scotland.
The Executive Chairman of The Wood Foundation is Sir Ian Wood and The Trustees are: Sir Ian Wood, Lady Helen Wood, Garreth Wood and Graham Good. For further information please visit: www.thewoodfoundation.org.uk.
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]
Pianist Philip Clouts’ quartet plays the Blue Lamp in Gallowgate on Thursday, October 29 as part of a UK tour to mark the release of a new album, Umoya, one of the first releases on the new jazz imprint of American classical label Odradek.
It’s an album that confirms the Cape Town-born Clouts’ ongoing love affair with South African music as well as encompassing rhythms and melodies from around the world.
“Jazz and world music have been important to me throughout my musical life,” says Clouts, who grew up in London.
“I’m inspired by both the freedom of jazz and the rootedness of world music with its sense of dance, community and spirituality. Listening to both genres always suggests a variety of rhythmical, harmonic and melodic approaches.”
Although he came over to the UK from Cape Town with his family as a young child in the early 1960s, Clouts grew up hearing the music of his homeland thanks to his parents having brought their favourite records with them.
After his two older brothers began taking piano lessons, he impressed the family by picking up what his siblings were playing by ear. His own piano lessons didn’t go so well initially but hearing the great British pianist Stan Tracey on a television programme when he was twelve attracted him to jazz and made him take the instrument more seriously.
He later formed the band Zubop and toured all over the UK, playing jazz with a definite South African flavour, before he moved to his current home in Dorset where he put together a quartet that continues the African connection and embraces his other musical influences. Sufi music, Nigerian dance rhythms and folk music from Romania and Southern Italy, as well as gospel music, all figure in his latest compositions.
His quartet currently features saxophonist Samuel Eagles, bass guitarist Alex Keen and the Yamaha Jazz Scholarship-winning drummer Dave Ingamells, all players who have, says Clouts, taken to the multi-cultural mix of his music with real enthusiasm.
“Umoya is the Zulu word for ‘life force’. It can also be translated as ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ and I’m really pleased with the way Sam, Alex and Dave bring out these aspects out of the music,” says Clouts.
“We played at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen about a year ago, with a slightly different line-up, and we’ve heard a lot about the Blue Lamp being the best jazz venue in Scotland. So we’re really looking forward to being back up there.”
Aberdeen Voice wishes to alert readers that the following article contains strong language. It is the considered opinion of the editorial team that the writer’s experiential account and the style in which his views and thoughts are expressed are best served by presenting his contribution as intact and true to the original text as possible.
By Greg Chaos.
When I first visited Uganda in January 2011 it was to do charity work. I was to be looking after children in an orphanage and teaching English and Mathematics at a primary school.
I’d recently split from a long term partner. My job prospects seemed to be disappearing down the toilet quicker than my latest bowel movement; causing perpetual skintness.
I was constantly inebriated because it was only thing I actually enjoyed doing… I needed an escape and I needed to do something with my life. At the time; this was the answer.
I knew about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill before I left. To me it came across as typical right-wing, nonsense legislation, passed by some idiot in power; which eventually would be quashed. I’d thrown myself into learning everything I could about the country in the 7 weeks between me deciding I was going and getting on the plane.
Despite the Bill, I’d decided to go anyway. Half way through my stay a friend sent me a video which had just aired in the UK, on BBC3. In Uganda my connection was poor and it would have taken me several days to download so I decided against it and watched it when I got home. I was shocked that the nation I’d just been to (and couldn’t wait to go back to) was the source of this homophobic hate. Naturally I thought; “well, they’ve clearly picked the biggest nutters they can find to put into this”.
Throughout the next 12 months I would strategically plan to set up my own charity which was to help orphanages and community based projects in Uganda. I had fallen in love with the country. I was going back. I watched ‘The Last King of Scotland’ countless times so I could feel as close as possible to the place again.
But I was going to address the homophobia and I would not be caught dead supporting any cause that was homophobic in any way.
I dedicated all my time to finding out about LGBT in Uganda. All I could find were the troubles. There was nothing online based around meeting anyone and helping any causes. When the penalty is potentially death, it’s understandable that most people don’t have the rainbow flying high.
In January 2012 I returned and immediately noticed a spectacular difference in the place. Perhaps it was because my eyes had been opened and I was seeing past the bullshit, who knows.
One of my first experiences of homophobia was the hostel I was staying at. I had become acquainted with one of the women who worked there. We’d hooked up and I asked her if she fancied going to dinner the next night. Despite her trying to take me to the most expensive restaurant in Kampala, (a fact I found out later on that night), we went to an Irish Bar called Bubbles for some pub grub and a piss up.
It was my first real chance, so I asked what she thought about the anti-homosexuality bill. She did everything she could not to answer the question. By the sounds of things the staff at the hostel had heard the foreigners complaining enough about the bill to not mention it… or at least to avoid confrontation about it.
She wouldn’t give me an answer. All I got out of her was ‘Jesus this and Jesus that’. The usual sentiments you’d expect from someone who lacks the ability to think for themselves. So I told her straight; “I’m Bisexual, does that bother you?”
After explaining what bisexual meant, she responded with the strangest question I’ve ever been asked about my sexuality.
To this day it still stops me in my tracks when I think about it. She grabbed my hand and said “Well why don’t you change? You can change.”
It took me a few seconds to register. The mixed feelings of outrage, complete shock and then the all-important guilt; which was quickly shaken off and replaced by sheer pride. I asked why I should change and witnessed the bigotry flow like blood from a stab wound. After half an hour of the usual God Nonsense and her ignoring my Atheism, I gave up and told her we should part.
I went to the bar to sink some quick vodkas and smoke a few fags, still trying to shake off the residual shock and rage.
Apparently insulting me wasn’t enough and she came in to find me. Apparently “this date is over, I suggest you go home or do whatever, but leave me alone, I don’t want to see you” wasn’t clear enough. She asked me for money for her taxi home and I’ll let you guess what my final words of the evening were.
After a few days I travelled to the city of Masaka; about 80 miles South West of Kampala.
I had been based here the previous year and was quite familiar with the surroundings. It’s a smaller city with a population of around 75,000, A lot calmer than the some 2 million of Kampala. I met with a friend who had offered me accommodation for a few weeks whilst I set up my charity. His community based projects included libraries and a small local bank for loans to help build local infrastructure. He had even come up with units to harness the natural gases from farmyard dung to be used for cooking stoves.
This man is (and to this today remains), in my mind; a Saint. He rose early every day to teach classes and stayed late every night to run his projects. His pay is meagre and he lives a simple life. The only remaining child of ELEVEN brothers and sisters, his determination is unparalleled. So it greatly pleased me to find out he had absolutely no quarrels with sexual orientation. (In fact he was curious and asked questions on the matter. I actually suspect he may be queer himself). He would come to be the only shoulder close by at one point.
Over the next few weeks my social interactions with the people around me diminished. I would always try and approach the question of the bill and refused to shy away from it as I felt I had done the year previously. Something I felt ashamed about. As the weeks continued I could see I was being taken less seriously because of what I had confessed.
Ugandans do this thing where they laugh and smile profusely when they’re having a serious conversation with someone and believe themselves to be right, even when they’re not.
Whilst doing this the other person in the conversation is usually visually distressed or down hearted. It is, to say the least, infuriating.
I feel that I was probably seeing the better side of it all. These conversations were with men and women who both worked for this man’s charity, so they have probably heard this all before from the foreigners who’ve come across to work for the charity and spoke against the bill in conversation.
I would later turn out to be correct.
After a few weeks I finally relocated to the programme I had worked with the previous year in a village just outside of Masaka. In a room full of cockroaches and with rats running on the rafters above you while you try to sleep; it’s not the nicest in the world, but it’s a bed for the night or 3 weeks… as it turned out.
The owner of this particular orphanage is (as has now been proven) a money grabbing useless bastard. He is out of the closet in every country around the world it would seem, except Uganda; which is why I haven’t mentioned the dickhead’s name. He arrived a few days after I did, returning from America where he had been touring for almost a year.
This former Pastor had been giving sermons at churches and Universities around the States for literally thousands of dollars per session. Sometimes up to five or six times a week, for 11 months. In case you’re not aware, the exchange rate in Uganda is incredibly low. You could live for a year pretty comfortably on a budget of £3-4,000. Easy. That’s nights out, 3 meals a day and rent if you find the right place and strike up a deal.
The children he ‘looks after’ drink dirty water, wear rags and sometimes don’t go to school because he doesn’t pay the bills (despite owning a fucking school as well). They sleep on piss stained mattresses despite the fact I had replaced these a year before. Turns out they were carted off to his school as he could make more money having a boarding section.
In the end I confronted him about all of this and we parted ways. Before doing so I did get the chance to chat with him about the LGBT Rights in Uganda.
Even after divulging my own orientation he wasn’t keen to let anything go, despite his sexuality and the fact that his sermons condoning same sex relationships are plastered all over the internet. He should be commended slightly for his work within LGBT, although he is not known for it in his home country (and would probably be shunned if he was).
The man commands a lot of respect within the community around him because of his work; the orphanage and the school. However these are a complete joke compared to the luxury houses he owns, the cars he drives and the meals he eats. He’s the classic example of the rich not wanting to sacrifice an inch so that those under him can have a better life.
Whilst in the local bar one evening, drinking away my blues with my pal George (the local raging alcoholic with a gammy arm who delivers dirty water for a living, who just happens to not be a homophobe as well) I was confronted by a local man who I already knew had a distaste for mzungus (white people).
He had overheard me talking to George, I assume on the issue of the bill, and had begun to shout at me. But this time it was different. There was no mention of the bible in this man’s rant.
This time it was pure hatred. We tossed words back and forth before the bar owner threw the man out for being too drunk. Roberta (the lady whose house was actually the bar) spoke little English but recognized that the man was on one of his Anti-Mzungu tirades and chucked him out.
His friends weren’t impressed with me either, however on that particular night the choice between drinking and homophobic hate was in the end determined by their thirst and they sat quietly and glared at me. Having had a few drinks (I wasn’t hammered; just tipsy), I was prescribing to the “fuck ‘em” philosophy. It wasn’t until I sobered up that I realized that the quarter mile long walk home in the pitch black would have made me easy pickings.
You have to remember we were only a year removed from the murder of David Kato (the gay rights campaigner and Uganda’s first openly gay man) who was beaten to death with a hammer in his bed. At the very least I would have got my head kicked in and, to be honest; looking back on the situation, the only thing that probably stopped that from happening was that I wasn’t a local.
Had I been, I think it would have only been a matter of time before I was attacked. This all might sound overly dramatic, but I saw the look in those men’s eyes, I don’t think they even knew I was queer, but they did hear my support against the bill and that was enough to get them angry.
After parting ways with the village I had a week to kill before I returned home. I visited a few different projects and did some good work in the time I had left, but by this point my spirit was well and truly broken. It was becoming clear that throwing money into these causes wasn’t going to be the answer because the same problems would arise and the cycle of poverty would simply continue instead of changing for the better.
I was drinking with a guy I’d met the previous year, he knew and had no issues, however this could be linked to me paying for most of his drinks. At £1 a bottle I didn’t really care.
He was a street worker. Basically he’d wait outside the shopping centres and people would come to him looking for a particular fabric or dress or whatever. Instead of them looking for themselves, he’d go and buy items from several different shops. Sometimes travelling as far as Kampala for them. A strange profession but one that fed him.
I met him on the street with two other lads; his friends/co-workers or whatever; and one had said something along the lines of “here’s your boyfriend” in a sarcastic tone.
These two lads must have been about 19 or 20. I shot them a glare to let them know I’d heard them and that the next words from his mouth would hurt.
They shot a glare right back before my friend took me away and it settled on its own. It seemed that throughout all age groups there was hatred.
Before retiring on my last night I spoke just generally about my time in Uganda with the owners of the Hotel I was staying in in Kampala. A German couple, of Indian origins. They’d lived there for a good few years. Every now and again, when you’d walk past their room, the door would be ajar and you’d see their clothes hung up all over the room and one of them lying in bed. They were at that age where they didn’t seem to give a shit anymore.
They’d been together for some 40 years, if I recall. So why they chose to live in Uganda, I will never know. I really should have asked. Every now and again you’d see them in the reception area sitting side by side watching TV; one with a hand on the knee of the other, both with walking sticks. It was a stark contrast to everything I had seen going on around me because after all, these were enemies of the state. They were a Gay Couple.
Footnote: I have picked out a few of my negative experiences and pieced it together as best as I can. Please understand that every situation I put myself into, excluding the verbal attack in the bar in which I defended myself, I did so as calmly and carefully as possible.
The goal was never to create enemies, it was to create friends and try and show that LGBT is a natural way of life because we are seen as some sort of evil in Uganda. My only aim was to help, not to incite more hatred, and I did it for as long as I could humanly take it. Please also note that all names and some places have been omitted or changed in order to protect the identities of those in Uganda from their Government.
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Peacock Visual Arts presents a season of Middle East/North African films and an exhibition by internationally renowned artists The Otolith Group. With thanks to Kirsty Young.
Following on from festivals in 2009 and 2011 (Cruel Weather and Breaking Point), Intelligence Report will allow audiences to delve further into the sphere of moving image work from the Middle East and North Africa.
The programme is divided into two areas: the screening of six powerful new feature/experimental films from the Middle East/North Africa (at Belmont Filmhouse); and an exhibition consisting of video installations by noted artists The Otolith Group, and a group of repeating experimental shorts by seven artists, shown at Peacock Visual Arts (Saturday 4th October – Saturday 8th November).
The exhibition in the gallery will feature an installation by The Otolith Group (Turner prize nominees in 2010). The Group is a collaborative platform that seeks to rethink the dynamics of cultural production under conditions of accelerated, unstable and precarious global conditions. The seven shorts are the recent work of seven artists from Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Palestine.
Intelligence Report is a programme of films that reveal the problem of conveying revolution (Crop) or treating trauma-in-process (Sleepless Nights). Intelligence Report attempts to arrive at some comprehension of what the present may mean by taking a different inflection of the past – as in Annemarie Jacir’s When I Saw You (2012) set in 1967 Jordan.
In addition to the screenings, and giving context to the work, are introductions to three of the six films.
A representative from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Aberdeen will introduce When I Saw You (Lamma shoftak) by Annemarie Jacir (2012) on Sunday 5th October at 6pm.
On Thursday 9th Oct, 6pm Sleepless Nights (Layali Bala Noom) by Eliane Raheb (2012) will be introduced by Dr. Stefanie Van de Peer, Global Cinema Fellow, University of Stirling.
And on Sunday 12th Oct at 6pm Crop, Johanna Domke and Marouan Omara (2012) will be introduced by Dr. Andrea Teti, Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen.
Intelligence Report is is organised by Jay Murphy, a writer and independent curator based in New York and New Orleans.
The full programme of film screenings and the exhibition is available on Peacock Visual Arts website – www.peacockvisualarts.com. A printed programme is available to collect from Peacock Visual Arts at 21 Castle Street and at various outlets in Aberdeen city centre.
In 2011, Jonathan Russell wrote three articles on the Libyan conflict in Aberdeen Voice, in part because of the lack of public outcry. Here he presents the last part of his four article series.
Libya is an artificial state like much of the Middle East and Africa, carved out in the colonial era of early 20th century by Italy. After independence in 1951 Libya was ruled by a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris, Libya’s only monarch, who presided over an essentially tribal society.
On 1 September 1969, a small group of military officers led by 27-year-old army officer Muammar Qaddafi staged a coup d’état against King Idris, launching the Libyan Revolution.
Following the murder of Qaddafi in October 2011 and the collapse of his allies, the National Transitional Council (NTC) were recognised by the NATO powers at the same time however countries like Cuba and Venezuela who had offered to broker negotiations left their embassy’s in Libya.
The NTC from its outset was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood who are now, of course, out of favour with their erstwhile NATO backers.
In August 2012 a new Assembly was elected dominated again by the Brotherhood as in Morsi’s Egypt or Tunisia. The Muslim Brotherhoods ally Nuri Abu Sahmain is President of Libya. Mohammed Magarie replaced Mostafa Abdeljali in August last year as Head of State and Ali Zeidin replaced Abdurrahim al-Keib as Prime Minister in November last year following internal and external difficulties.
The latest news on March 12th throws Libya into even greater turmoil. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeiden was deposed on March 12th and fled to Malta, the Maltese government confirmed, on a stopover toward a reported destination of Germany.
Zeidan fled his country immediately following a vote of no confidence which ended his roughly one-and-a-half-year term as prime minister of the North African country. The hasty departure of the ex-diplomat rendered moot any attempts to arrest him.
Zeidan, who during his term as prime minister was once kidnapped and held for hours by armed militants, failed in recent days to stop rebels in the country’s east from controlling the sale of crude oil there. In spite of armed forces loyal to the government ensuring that a tanker called “Morning Glory” remained in harbor in Al-Sidra – the city has been held for months it left port and escaped flying a North Korean flag.
Back in Tripoli the blunder turned the mood in the provisional parliament against Zeidan. The subsequent no confidence vote was later criticized by Libyan media as a “trick” on the former prime minister.
Rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran now appears to be the winner in the war of nerves over the strategically vital oil harbors. Until July 2013 he was commander of the unit sent to protect the oil installations, explains Libya expert Amanda Kadlec of the Chatham House think tank in London.
“This gave him ease of access to all the port facilities throughout Libya”
His supporters have occupied three terminals, she says, and he has called for a separate government for a portion of eastern Libya. It remains unclear how many fighters Jathran commands, but according to Kadlec, reports range anywhere from 800 to 20,000.
Numerous accounts confirm the reality that lawless bands, armed by NATO during the war with modern weapons and which include foreign and local Al-Qaeda and other jihadists, are carrying out daily bombings across the country in the struggle for local control. Tripoli itself has numerous armed militias controlling various sections of the capital.
The general picture in Libya is that of developing armed struggle between local tribal militias and the Brotherhood that controls the central government with leaders in the provinces of Cyrenaica and Fezzan seeking to break away from Tripoli.
Congress has summoned militias allied to the Brotherhood to the capital to try to prevent a coup. As a result, the main opposition party, the centre-right National Forces Alliance, has deserted Congress together with several smaller ethnic parties, leaving the Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party heading a government with crumbling authority.
The July 2013 coup in Egypt against Morsi has further weakened the government which had intended to support Morsi with finance from oil revenues.
Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias who act outside the law, demand bribes for services and help perpetrate rampant corruption. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June last year and a further 44 were killed in Tripoli on 8th September.
The unreported Libyan diaspora
Prior to the 2011 “revolution” Libya had a population of 5,613,380 of whom roughly 2 million are now either internally displaced in camps or outside of the country. Official statistics suggest that 1.2million are now living in Tunisia, 400,000 in Egypt and 30,000 in Chad with others scattered around the world. We hear virtually nothing in our media about this and very little about the deteriorating situation inside Libya.
Libya exports terrorism
According to the New York Times, 13th June 2013, some of the more militant Islamic factions are now fighting in Syria and arms for the Islamic groups are coming from Libya.
However, Qaddafi’s assertion in 2011 that the rebels included Al-Qaeda groups was dismissed by the Western media. Prior to the conflict Al-Qaeda sympathisers had trained in Afghanistan then, on their return to Libya, started a bombing campaign. This led to arrests and imprisonments but ACCOR they were let out on amnesty largely according to the Amnesty 2010 report on Libya due to the influence of Qaddafi’s son Salif.
Though the NATO intervention against Qaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Qaddafi’s tanks and planes would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi, the international community has chosen to ignore the continuing and escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.
The strikers in the eastern region Cyrenaica, which contains most of Libya’s oil, are part of a broader movement seeking more autonomy and blaming the government for spending oil revenues in the west of the country. Foreigners have mostly fled Benghazi since the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, was murdered in the US consulate by jihadi militiamen in September 2012.
Violence has worsened since then with Libya’s military prosecutor Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar, in charge of investigating assassinations of politicians, soldiers and journalists, himself assassinated by a bomb in his car on 29 August last year.
Rule by local militias is also spreading anarchy around the capital. Ethnic Berbers, whose militia led the assault on Tripoli in 2011, temporarily took over the parliament building in Tripoli. The government called on the Supreme Security Committee, made up of former anti-Qaddafi militiamen nominally under the control of the interior ministry, to restore order.
At least 19 prisoners received gunshot shrapnel wounds, with one inmate saying “they were shooting directly at us through the metal bars”. There have been several mass prison escapes this year in Libya including 1,200 escaping from a prison after a riot in Benghazi in July.
The Interior Minister, Mohammed al-Sheikh, resigned last year in frustration at being unable to do his job, saying in a memo sent to Mr Zeidan that he blamed him for failing to build up the army and the police. He accused the government, which is largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, of being weak and dependent on tribal support.
Other critics point out that a war between two Libyan tribes, the Zawiya and the Wirrshifana, is going on just 15 miles from the Prime Minister’s office.
the terror network only retreats to remote areas, regroups and eventually bounces back
The surrounding area both Sudan and Mali and of course Syria have been greatly affected by Qaddafi’s fall. There has been civil wars in Mali and conflict in the Sudan. Al Qaeda has used Libya as a training ground for sending combatants into Syria.
In the rocky mountains and uncovered wastes of south-western Libya, al-Qaeda’s North African branch has established a haven after French and West African forces drove them out of their fledgling Islamic state in northern Mali a year ago.
Now, according to interviews with local soldiers, residents, officials and Western diplomats, it is restocking weapons and mining disaffected minorities for new recruits as it prepares to re-launch attacks.
It is an al-Qaeda pattern seen around the world, in hot spots such as Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan and increasingly in North Africa: seemingly defeated, the terror network only retreats to remote areas, regroups and eventually bounces back – pointing to the extreme difficulties involved in countering their growth and influence.
On Saturday January 18th 2014, a group of heavily armed fighters stormed an air force base outside the city of Sabha in southern Libya, expelling forces loyal to the “government” of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, and occupying the base. This report has been confirmed by the Saudi Gazette in an article dated 22nd January:
“The Tamenhint air base 30 km northeast of Sebha is reported to be back in pro-Qaddafi hands after Tebu forces from Murzuk who were guarding it withdrew. They unilaterally pulled out Monday evening [Jan. 20] claiming that the government was deliberately exploiting clashes in Sebha between Tebus and Awlad Sulaiman in order to divert attention from moves to replace it with a new administration.”
At the same time, reports from inside the country began to trickle in that the green flag of the Jamahiriya was flying over a number of cities throughout the country. Despite the dearth of verifiable information – the government in Tripoli has provided only vague details and corroboration – one thing is certain: the war for Libya continues.
Since mid-January forces that remain allied with the former Jamahiriya political and economic system set up by Qaddafi have taken control of several cities and towns in the south. Clashes have also been reported around the capital of Tripoli, where nationalist forces have fought pitched battles with militias and military forces backed by the GNC regime. (Libya Herald, 20th Jan)
These developments have prompted French Admiral Edouard Gillard in the Washington post to appeal for a fresh NATO intervention.
Dissatisfaction is growing among the Libyan population. Once the most prosperous nation in Africa, with a standard of living that exceeded several European countries, the conditions inside the country have drastically deteriorated since 2011. The decline in living standards, the failure of the regime to rein in the militias that terrorize the population, the collapse of the oil industry and widespread corruption have drawn broad criticism, even among the favoured elites.
Another decree issued in January prohibits scholarship students and public employees from speaking out against the conditions prevailing in Libya. According to AllAfrica.com:
“It calls on Libyan embassies abroad and others to draw up lists of names and refer them to the Prosecutor General for prosecution.”
What is certain is that unrest will continue for some considerable time and the civilians who NATO and the UN Security Council resolution 1973 was meant to protect will be those that suffer the most and it is almost certain that the world will continue to turn a blind eye.
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
In 2011, Jonathan Russell wrote three articles on the Libyan conflict in Aberdeen Voice, in part because of the lack of public outcry. Here he presents the second part of a new four article series.
As in the whole of the Middle East human rights abuses were of considerable concern under the Jamahiriya Government. The Amnesty International Report in 2010 in its introduction makes the following point:
“Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely curtailed and the authorities showed little tolerance of dissent. Critics of the government’s human rights record were punished. Former detainees at Guantánamo Bay returned to Libya by US authorities continued to be detained; one died in custody, apparently as a result of suicide.
“Foreign nationals suspected of being in the country irregularly, including refugees and asylum-seekers, were detained and ill-treated. An official investigation began into the killing of prisoners at Abu Salim Prison in 1996 but no details were disclosed and some of the victims’ relatives who had campaigned for the truth were arrested.
“Hundreds of cases of enforced disappearance and other serious human rights violations committed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s remained unresolved, and the Internal Security Agency (ISA), implicated in those violations, continued to operate with impunity.”
What Amnesty fails to report however, is that health services and education were available to a high standard to everyone, food and electricity was heavily subsidised, all the population had been housed and the position of women in society was better than anywhere else in the Middle East or Africa, and in many ways better than many Western countries. The situation in Libya was also far from straightforward.
Numbers of men, particularly from Benghazi, had gone to Afghanistan to the Al-Qaeda training camps then returned to Libya and started a bombing campaign. The largest grouping of Al-Qaeda prior to the conflict fighting in Iraq came from Benghazi.
According to West Point authors Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman,
“Saudi Arabia took first place as regards absolute numbers of jihadists sent to combat the United States and other coalition members in Iraq during the time frame in question. Libya, a country less than one fourth as populous, took second place. Saudi Arabia sent 41% of the fighters.”
According to Felter and Fishman,
“Libya was the next most common country of origin, with 18.8% (112) of the fighters listing their nationality stating they hailed from Libya.”
Other much larger countries were far behind:
“Syria, Yemen, and Algeria were the next most common origin countries with 8.2% (49), 8.1% (48), and 7.2% (43), respectively. Moroccans accounted for 6.1% (36) of the records and Jordanians 1.9% (11).”
This means that almost one fifth of the foreign fighters entering Iraq across the Syrian border came from Libya, a country of just over 6 million people. A higher proportion of Libyans were interested in fighting in Iraq than any other country contributing mujahedin. Felter and Fishman point out:
“Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia.”
“But since the Al Qaeda personnel files contain the residence or hometown of the foreign fighters in question, we can determine that the desire to travel to Iraq to kill Americans was not evenly distributed across Libya, but was highly concentrated precisely in those areas around Benghazi.” ( See chart below from the West Point report, page 9 )
Unsurprisingly, Qaddafi and his government saw them as a threat to the stability of Libya. Apart from the sanctions, this was a major reason why Qaddafi came to the agreement with the West which was facilitated by Tony Blair.
None of this excuses the human rights abuses, but does put them in a wider context.
What can be said is that for the majority of people in Libya, life was good; however, if you went against the regime, watch out.
Though human rights violations in Libya under Qaddafi were bad, what followed in the wake of the so called ‘revolution’ far outstripped the human rights abuses of his time.
Armed militias continue to commit serious human rights abuses with impunity, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and unlawful killings. Thousands of people suspected of formerly supporting or fighting for Qaddafi’s government remained detained without charge or trial and with no means of remedy. The most famous of these is Salif Al-Islam, Qaddafi’ second son, who is still being held by one of the militias in Zinan.
Tens of thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in areas perceived to have supported Qaddafi in 2011 remain internally displaced and continue to be at risk of revenge attacks and other abuses. Undocumented foreign nationals faced arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, exploitation and torture or other ill-treatment.
Human Rights Watch recently posited the possible reasons for Libya’s current lawlessness. In a dispatch posted on 20th October 2013, Human Rights Watch described mass executions carried out by Libyan rebel groups on the day of Qaddafi’s death. In the days that followed, HRW gathered hard evidence of the executions and of who was responsible, which it presented to transitional authorities shortly afterward; to date, no investigation has been carried out.
“The failure to investigate systematic executions helped set the stage for the militia lawlessness in Libya today,” wrote Fred Abrahams, special advisor to HRW’s program office.
“Impunity for those and subsequent crimes sent the message that Libya’s armed groups stand above the law.”
Law 38 granted amnesty to those who committed crimes if their actions were aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution” against Qaddafi.
On the 23rd October 2013 Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, stated that:
“two years after the conflict, Tawarghas and other displaced communities are still waiting for justice and effective reparations for the abuses they have suffered. Many continue to face discrimination and live in under-resourced camps with no solution in sight.”
Human rights Watch in their 2013 report have said:
“As of October, roughly 8,000 people were in detention. The majority of them were held for more than a year without charge or due process rights, including judicial review and access to a lawyer. The Ministry of Justice holds around 3,000 detainees, around 2,000 are held by the Ministry of Defence or Supreme Security Committee. The rest were being held illegally by various armed groups.’’
Given that most of the country is being run by militias the figures are likely to be in reality much higher.
Conditions in militia-run facilities varied, with detainees in some facilities reporting repeated torture and deaths in custody. Conditions in state-run facilities appeared to improve, although there continued to be cases of abuse and some deaths in custody.
Following rising violence the Interior Minister Mohamed Khalifa al Sheikh resigned in August last year
Non-Libyans from sub-Saharan Africa, mainly migrant workers, are particularly vulnerable to abuse, facing harassment, arrests, ill-treatment in detention, forced labour and no regulated access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Sporadic armed confrontations between militias across the country have caused hundreds of deaths; the victims included children and other civilians not involved in the fighting. Impunity remained entrenched, both for gross human rights violations committed in the past and for ongoing human rights abuses by armed militias.
Amnesty UK Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Libya Researcher, reported the following:
“The authorities have failed to break the stranglehold of the militias. Hundreds of armed militias that fought against Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s repressive regime now pose the greatest threat to human rights in Libya.
“In 2012, our researchers visited the country and found evidence of a catalogue of abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, unlawful killings and forcible displacement. All are casting a shadow over post-revolution Libya.
“Torture is rife in Libya. It is carried out not just by military and security entities but also armed militia groups operating outside of legal frameworks.
“When our researchers visited 11 detention facilities in central and western Libya used by various militias, there was only one facility in which detainees did not report torture and ill treatment. In ten, detainees showed us injuries resulting from recent abuse.
“At least eleven people detained by militias have been tortured to death.
“So far, not one person has been brought to justice for these human rights violations. There have been no effective investigations into cases of torture and deaths in custody.”
Following rising violence the Interior Minister Mohamed Khalifa al Sheikh resigned in August last year. Some 500 prisoners in Tripoli jail undertook a hunger strike to protest being held for two years without charges. When the government ordered the Supreme Security Committee to restore order, they began shooting prisoners through the bars. Where was the outcry from the West? In July 1200 prisoners escaped a jail after a riot in Benghazi. In short, lawlessness and anarchy is spreading
The position of women
Whilst Islamic law established almost equal rights for women in relation to divorce for the past 1,400 years, under the Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya Government the rights of women became greatly enhanced. Women were granted equal rights to men with many younger women in the cities wearing western clothes and thirty percent were in employment, which compared well with many other Middle Eastern countries.
Women were also increasingly seen driving, shopping and travelling without husbands or male companions, a practice which is forbidden in some countries in the Middle East. Child brides were banned and the minimum legal age to marry placed at 18. Women became lawyers, judges, aircraft pilots, army commanders and Ministers in the Government. It has been suggested that women had a stronger position in Libya than in any country in the world. By all accounts, the rights of women have taken a severe setback since the destruction of Jamahiriya, particularly in areas held by Al Qaeda.
According to the Human Rights Watch 2013 report, attacks against religious minorities started in October 2011, and intensified in 2012. Armed groups motivated by their religious views attacked Sufi religious sites across the country, destroying several mosques and tombs of Sufi religious leaders. Armed groups attacked churches in at least two incidents in Tripoli in May and September. The government’s security forces have failed to stop the attacks and have made no significant arrests.
Amnesty International has said that a total around 65,000 people are internally displaced across Libya, not just Tawarghas, but members of the Mashashya tribe from the Nafusa Mountains, residents of Sirte and Bani, Walid, and Tuaregs from Ghadames too.
The Tawarghas, ethnic black Libyans, are among those who have suffered the most. More than 1,300 Tawarghas are estimated to be missing, detained or were subjected to enforced disappearances, mainly in Misratah. Most were seized by militias and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, such as electric shocks, whipping and beatings with metal bars or water pipes in detention.
Amnesty International has asked the Libyan authorities to investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and indiscriminate torture, including of victims perceived as pro-al Qaddafi.
The European Union (EU), last year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and its member states have been assisting the Libyan authorities in tightening border security and developing “an integrated border management strategy” in order to curb “illegal migration” to Europe at the expense of human rights. Amnesty International has repeatedly urged the EU to fully protect the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and put in place a satisfactory system for assessing and recognising claims for international protection.
Migrants in Libya are often perceived to be a threat to national security. Since May 2012, the Libyan authorities have deported 25,000 persons.
“EU funding should be used to promote and protect human rights in Libya, especially while the country is still recovering from a recent armed conflict and confronted with a legacy of abuse,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui from Amnesty International has said.
“It is deeply troubling that EU funds appear have been used to support detention centres where thousands of foreign nationals are unlawfully held. Asylum-seekers and refugees who are entitled to international protection and should only be detained because of their status in the most exceptional circumstances are among those routinely detained and abused in detention.”
Libya’s immigration detention practices not only violate the country’s international obligations under refugee and human rights law and standards, but they are also at odds with EU human rights obligations as well as EU standards concerning the detention and return of third country nationals.
Libya’s Constitutional Declaration, adopted in 2011, declares that the “state shall guarantee the right of asylum by virtue of the law”. It is urgent the authorities translate this principle into real action and adopt legislation establishing a national asylum system.
Amnesty International has urged the EU, and member states, not to enter into further agreements on migration control with Libya until the government demonstrates that it respects Human Rights.
Thousands of people deemed to have entered Libya “irregularly” have been held in detention for months before their deportation, without access to a lawyer or the ability to challenge their forcible removal and/or detention.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui from Amnesty International (AI) has said:
“The Libyan authorities must amend their legislation by setting a maximum detention period pending deportation for migrants.”
AI also found evidence that the Libyan authorities have resumed deporting foreign nationals diagnosed with infections such as hepatitis or HIV after compulsory medical tests were introduced earlier this year. No individual should be deported on the grounds of their medical condition. Hassiba continued:
“Reintroducing compulsory testing for foreign nationals and deportation on the ground of their health status amounts to scapegoating them and only proves how inadequate Libya’s public health policies are.”
At the time of AI’s investigation a total of 5,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants were held in 17 “holding centres” under the Ministry of Interior, in addition to an unknown number of detainees held by militias. AI’s delegates also met a small number of unaccompanied children, sometimes as young as 10, who had been detained in at least three “holding centres” for months.
Many of the “holding centres” visited had extremely poor hygiene standards exposing those held there to the risk of disease, including chest infections and chronic diarrhoea. At the “holding centre” in Sabha, where some 1,300 were being held last May, detainees were held in filthy, overcrowded rooms.
The prison also lacked a functioning sewage system – and piles of garbage filled the corridors. Around 80 detainees – who complained of itchiness on their hands and genitals, suggesting a scabies infection – were held in a courtyard in the sun as treatment, but became dehydrated due to extended exposure to sun.
Denying detainees proper medical care is inexcusable. Libya’s government must show the world it is serious about protecting the rights of all individuals in Libya, whatever their status and nationality.
To date, NATO, which waged the air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces, has failed to investigate properly at least 72 civilian casualties caused by its airstrikes. The UN Commission into Libya also received written reports from the authorities stating that NATO launched about 3,000 airstrikes on several civilian and military targets in Libya. According to the same unverified reports, these strikes resulted in the death of 500 civilians and 2,000 injured.
The same reports stated that NATO had targeted schools, universities, mosques, and others civilian locations. According to the same sources, 56 schools and three universities were directly hit by these strikes. Furthermore, it is claimed that NATO airstrikes have resulted in the closure of 3,204 schools, leaving 437,787 students without access to education.
Security Council members that initially championed resolution 1970 referring Libya to the ICC have been largely silent on Libya’s obligation under that resolution to cooperate with the court.
The Truth About Libya: NATO Crimes & Mass Media Lies Exposed! Reported by Russia Today in 2011.
Though some of the people in Libya have benefited for the majority life has turned into nothing short of a nightmare.
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
In 2011, Jonathan Russell wrote three articles on the Libyan conflict in Aberdeen Voice, in part because of the lack of public outcry. Here he presents the second part of a new four article series.
As world attention has focused on the coup in Egypt and the Syrian conflict, Libya has plunged almost unnoticed into a political and economic crisis. Two and a half years ago, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, urged British businessmen to begin “packing their suitcases”, to fly to Libya to share in the reconstruction of the country and exploit an anticipated boom in natural oil and gas extraction.
Before the civil war, oil companies were sometimes only allowed eight percent of the profits from oil and gas exploration, the rest of the profits going to Libya.
These were the toughest exploration of gas and oil terms in the world, and as such were greatly disliked by the oil and gas multinationals. The need for this to change was greatly aided by the financial collapse in the West, leading to vast debts in their own economies and the need to get resources to balance the books.
After the civil war/invasion, the multinationals were to be given fifty percent or more of the profits, and in some cases for a 40-year period.
China, which was increasingly being given contracts, would be out of the framework. China had also been given a 20-billion dollar contract by the Libyan Government to build new housing. Again this fed into a wider picture of the West not liking the growing economic and political influence of China in Africa. It must be stated however that China has been given a contract recently to build 20,000 homes in Benghazi.
Qaddafi also had considerable influence in African countries, many of whom had been ex- French colonies, and this conflicted with France’s economic need to have more influence in their old colonies.
After the 2011 civil war/invasion, Libya exceeded expectations and rapidly ramped up its oil production by more than one million barrels per day and doubled its real GDP. That recovery, however, was short lived. Libya has now almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government has lost control of much of the country to militia fighters.
Mutinying security men have taken over oil ports on the Mediterranean and are seeking to sell crude oil on the black market. Ali Zeidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, initially threatened to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker trying to pick up the illicit oil from the oil terminal guards, who are mostly former rebels who overthrew Qaddafi and have been on strike over low pay and alleged government corruption since July.
In an escalating crisis, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day in December. Only offshore fields remained largely out of the militia’s reach and have been supporting Libya’s production. However, offshore volumes tend to be small.
The UK government, in a desperate attempt to save face, has said it will train more of the Libyan army and, of course, sell the Libyan army even more weapons to help our balance of payments.
Libya has no shortage of oil resources – both conventional and unconventional. Libya holds Africa’s largest proven oil reserves. Its potential may be even greater as only about twenty percent of the country has been explored.
The recent loss in production has no precedent in Libya’s history. Existing oil companies have scaled down their activities with predictable negative consequences for the Libyan economy, which is poorly diversified and heavily reliant on hydrocarbon revenues. Oil and gas account for nearly 96 percent of government revenues and 98 percent of export revenues. This was a weakness of Qaddafi’s Socialist People’s Arab Jamahiriya Government, as it is now, with an over-dependency on oil and gas.
Corruption had become an increasing factor in Libya directly linked to the depletion in resources due to the sanctions applied by the West on Libya from the 1990s, which led to disquiet amongst the population and a decrease in the popularity of Qaddafi and his Government.
During the civil war, the drop in oil and gas production led to a contraction of real GDP by 62 percent, but the situation now is far worse. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned last year that current levels of government expenditure are unsustainable, if oil production does not return to pre-2011 levels, putting the country at risk and further fuelling already heightened socio-economic tensions.
Libya suffers from a high unemployment rate, especially among its young population and to survive many are enticed to join the militias, while much-needed public and private investment has remained anaemic. This high unemployment, both prior to and after the revolution, was a major factor in the growth of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
In May 2013 Libyan officials announced plans to review and draw up a new Petroleum Law for a 2014 licensing round which would offer more attractive fiscal terms in an attempt to entice international oil companies. Prior to the conflict China had been involved increasingly in the extraction of oil, a fact, as with China’s increasing economic links with Africa in general, much disliked by the West.
Libya should, as Philip Hammond had suggested, be on the radar of every international oil company when considering the size and quality of the country’s oil and gas reserves, but the latest developments have distorted the risk-reward balance that investors aim to achieve.
Foreign businesses were involved prior to the fall of Qaddafi but the government took in considerable revenue which supported free health care and education as well as subsidised food, housing and electricity. Having done away with the subsidies, many Libyans are now living in poverty. To get anything done Libyans have to bribe the militias who control not only militarily but also economically.
Prior to the overthrow of Qaddafi, the IMF estimated that the country’s total foreign assets were worth $150bn with just under half of that managed by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), with other investments made through the central bank and other investment vehicles.
The Financial Times interviewed former Gaddafi officials, directors of LIA and bankers who had never done business with the LIA, concluding that vague claims of mismanagement were more rumour and innuendo with no hard evidence. The accountancy firm KPMG had provided reports and audit in 2010 which showed the LIA asset position steadily improving, and made no suggestions of corruption or wrongdoing by any LIA staff member.
Farhat Bengdara, a Qaddafi appointee, the former governor of the Central Bank of Libya and member of LIA’s board of trustees, claimed that there was a “clear lack of governance at the LIA” which is surprising since he’d been on its governance Board of Trustees until the revolution came. On Bengdara’s recommendation Sami Rais , another Qaddafi-era appointment, had been made chief executive of LIA in October 2009.
Rais and Bengdara were subsequently sacked by the new Government of Libya.
The record actually shows the LIA managed to preserve Libyan state assets throughout the banking crisis of 2008 – 2010, and then during the revolution. Although a few investments showed book losses in 2010, the asset base grew from US$50 billion in 2008 to US$63 billion by 2010.
The performance of the LIA compares very favourably with the huge losses, up to 50% of total asset value, suffered by most other Arab and international sovereign wealth funds over the same period.
Stephen Jen, a Morgan Stanley economist, put actual international sovereign wealth fund losses at US$700 billion to the end of 2008, compared with the Libyan Investment Authority’s reported actual profits and increase in asset value over the last six years of the Qaddafi era.
The Libyan Central Bank had 143.8 tonnes of gold. This is an enormous store of wealth – particularly with gold prices at a historic high of over $1,800 an ounce. In terms of gold per capita, Libya had the ninth biggest amount of gold wealth in the world, just behind the US, at 22 grams per person.
There are important questions over what has happened to this gold since amid the chaos in Tripoli this is still not known. It could potentially have fallen into the hands of Al-Qaeda, or individual tribal militias, or Qaddafi loyalists, or a Western Government or Governments. What has actually happened to the $150 billion of foreign investments is also not clear.
A report, which was leaked to the BBC, revealed that at the time of the invasion, some of the biggest and best-known financial institutions in the world held billions of dollars of Libyan state funds. Principal among them were HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Nomura and Société Générale. However, the banks refused to say whether they held, or are still holding, the funds.
All the assets have now been frozen by the European Union and United Nations.
The document, dated June 2010, showed that HSBC held $292.7m in 10 cash accounts, with a similar amount invested in a hedge fund, while Goldman Sachs had $43m in three accounts. Almost $4bn was held in investment funds and structured products, with Société Générale alone holding $1bn. The Japanese bank Nomura and the Bank of New York also held $500m each.
All the banks refused to make any public comment on the funds they received and managed on behalf of the Libyan Investment Authority, citing client confidentiality
A much larger proportion of LIA’s assets – $19bn in total – was held by Libyan and Middle Eastern Banks, the document revealed.
It also showed that the LIA holds billions of dollars in shares in global corporations such as General Electric, BP, Vivendi and Deutsche Telekom. It had already been widely reported that the fund also held stakes in UK publishing group Pearson, Italy’s UniCredit bank and industrial group Finmeccanica, as well as Canadian oil exploration group, Verenex Energy.
The board of directors of the LIA resigned in September 2012, citing what it said was the incompetence of the fund’s current management. That has meant that the LIA hasn’t been legally able to execute substantial trades or sell any holdings. The LIA’s current management has lost support of the government. Last November, the Libyan prime minister dismissed the chairman, but his refusal to step down sparked a political crisis in Tripoli.
Those involved in management has said the dismissal was politically motivated and is illegal.
It has been suggested that the Western intervention was about stopping Qaddafi, who was the Chairman of the African Union from 2009 to 2010, introducing the Gold Dinar as a currency in Africa. This would have had substantial effect on increasing the deteriorating value of the Dollar, Sterling and the Euro. Qaddafi’s decision to pursue the gold standard and reject dollars for oil payments may have sealed his fate.
The price for a barrel of oil rose above 100 dollars amid concerns over instability in Libya and South Sudan, plus a growing US and worldwide demand for fuel. Fighting in South Sudan and erratic oil production in Libya are having a ripple effect on the global oil market.
Libya’s state news agency says gunmen stole $54m (£33.5m) in an attack on a van carrying foreign and local currency for the Libyan central bank. Ten men stopped the van as it entered the city of Sirte from the airport. The cash delivery had been flown 300 miles (500km) from the capital, Tripoli. “The robbery is a catastrophe for the whole of Libya”, Abdel-Fattah Mohammed, head of Sirte Council, told Reuters.
Libya’s economy has gone from being one of the most stable and financially effective in the world to a complete calamity. Whether or not this will eventually be turned around is yet to be seen, but the losers at present, whatever happens in the future, are the vast majority of the Libyan people. The West, whose intervention was at best naive and at worst extremely sinister, has also not gained.
As with other conflicts in the Middle East, the US and its allies, primarily in this case the UK and France, have played into the hands of militant Islamic groups.
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
In 2011, Jonathan Russell wrote three articles on the Libyan conflict in Aberdeen Voice, in part because of the lack of public outcry. Here he presents the first part of a new four article series.
The lies used to justify the NATO war against Libya surpassed even those created to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both had observers on the ground for months following the rebellion in eastern Libya, and both have repudiated every major charge used to justify the NATO war on Libya, which was meant to have been about imposing a No-Fly Zone as agreed by the United Nations.
The video “Libya War Lies – Worse than Iraq” which can be found on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNWf1kw2eUk , is the work of Thomas Mountain, author of the widely read article by the same title, and explains his perception of the real reasons for the war on Libya.
The media also played an important role in galvanizing public opinion, in particular Al Jazeera whose output was trusted particularly by many people in the Middle East including Libyans and by those in the West who had come not to trust their own media.
Al Jazeera reported on 22nd February 2011 that Libya’s Government carried out airstrikes on Benghazi, Tripoli and elsewhere. Both observers and Russian satellite pictures have said since that this was not correct. Many Libyans who supported the uprising now regret their support, not only because they were misinformed, but also because of the appalling state that Libya now finds itself in.
Below is a clip from the speech by Denis Kucinich, who stood twice for the Democratic Party leadership in Congress, suggesting that the military intervention was pre-planned. He raises concerns about both the abuse of the United Nations and democracy in the USA. You can see three further clips of his speech on Youtube.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s address to Congress on the War in Libya:
There were no confirmed accounts of helicopter gunships attacking civilians, and no jet fighters bombing people, which completely invalidated any justification for the No-Fly Zone in the Security Council resolution used as an excuse for NATO to launch its attacks on Libya. There were some tragic examples of rape on both sides of the conflict. However, the stories of mass rapes by Government troops were never verified.
‘What has happened in Libya since the conflict is, however, far worse than could have been suspected and has been highlighted again with the flight of Prime Minister Al Zeidin fleeing the country this Wednesday. So much goes on in the world and particularly the Middle East that there is little news coming out about Libya. What we have heard about is the killing of the American ambassador in Benghazi and the taking hostage of the Libyan Prime Minister by a militia group; and most recently the killing of a UK citizen and his New Zealand partner.
The general impression is that the country is lawless.
Sir David Richards, leader of the British NATO forces at the time of the invasion of Libya, has said on BBC Radio 4 recently that Qaddafi has been proven right in what he said would happen to his country following his fall from power. That is, that the country would fall into the hands of Islamic extremists and there would be inter-tribal fighting.
When looking at the situation more closely what you see is a broken country – the basic facts are:
that the country is being ruled by militias and that the Central Government has little control. Al-Qaeda’s flag is flown in many towns.
Under Qaddafi, multinational oil companies got as little as 8% of the profits from oil and gas. By contrast, it was agreed by the Transitional Government during the conflict that they would get 50% or more and some for a 40-year period.
Oil and gas exploration has now almost collapsed as installations are controlled by the militias.
Libya had been one of the few countries in the world that was not badly affected by the world economic collapse of 2008. It is now nearly bankrupt according to the IMF.
Around 2 million of the 5,613,380 population are either displaced in camps in Libya or no longer living in Libya. These people are mostly in camps in surrounding countries and mostly forgotten by the world – including the UN.
A law was passed – Law 38 – saying that no action would be taken against any crimes that had taken place against Qaddafi loyalists. Thus all crimes committed by anti-Qaddafi forces, including Al-Qaeda’s and NATO’s crimes go unprosecuted and it is open season on ex-Qaddafi loyalists.
Human Rights violations are massive, torture and killings are common.
Not only were the electricity stations bombed by NATO, as was done in Iraq, but also the Great Man-Made River http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Man-Made_River which supplied the country with water. Although some repairs have been carried out, electricity is cut every day and there are water shortages.
Women’s rights and involvement in society which were strong under Qaddafi have taken a severe step backwards; some cannot even join university out of fear.
The Libyan bank had 143.8 tons of gold that disappeared: who in fact took this gold? None of the $153bn of assets held by Libya abroad has been returned.
Here is a clip from Russia TV:
Three further articles will examine:
the economic situation;
human rights; and
the political situation in Libya and surrounding countries
Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Lord Kitchener is to be featured on the new Royal Mint £2 coin.
Kitchener drowned after his ship was sunk at sea on the 7 May 1916 but in some quarters the man is still celebrated as an heroic general who rallied the nation to send the youth of Scotland to their deaths in the madness of the trenches of France and Belgium during the first years of that war to end all wars.
Thought by some modern thinkers to be a thoroughly nasty man, in 1898 he famously sent a force of 8,200 British troops equipped with modern weapons against 20,000 Sudanese citizens and a few thousand or so Egyptians on dromedaries up the Nile to destroy a town in the Sudan by the name of Omdurman in a revenge attack for a previous British defeat.
Sven Lindqvist, a Swedish historian, has pointed out that the decisive battle of Omdurman was fought in the name of civilisation but nobody in Europe asked how it came about that 15,000 Sudanese were killed while the British lost only 48 men. Nor did anyone question why almost none of the Sudanese wounded survived.
In his book ‘Exterminate All the Brutes’ Lindqvist refers to some sad and shameful 19th-century newspaper accounts of British massacres of wounded Sudanese after the battle.
Maxim machine guns, lack of any medical care or indeed any victuals for prisoners plus sharp British bayonets may have been the weapons of choice, however the British resolve for HRH Queen Victoria and her then imperial empire, was almost certainly the prime motivation for this quite appalling pre- WW1 slaughter.
In that dated and historically inaccurate film The Great Escape, the German prison commandant advises the British Senior Officer that 50 of the escapers were shot while attempting to flee Nazi Europe and that their personal effects will be returned to the POW camp.
– How many of them were wounded?
– Here are the names of the dead.
– How many of them were wounded?
– I am advised by a higher authority that none were wounded.
On the 26th of January 1899 at the ‘battle’ of Omdurman’s conclusion, Winston Churchill wrote to his mother with the message that:
“Our victory was disgraced by the inhuman slaughter of the wounded and Lord Kitchener was responsible for this.”
Kitchener’s influence over his contemporaries remains undeniable. Throughout his life and well beyond it, even those who knew him best, such as his school friend Raymond ‘Conk’ Marker, invariably seasoned their affection with a curiously resonant awe:
“In this age of self-advertisement there was always a danger that Lord K. with his absolute contempt for anything of the kind, and his refusal to surround himself with people who attract attention, would not be appreciated at his real value but I think the country recognises him now.
The more I see of him the more devoted I get to him. He is always the same – never irritable – in spite of all his trials, and always making the best of things however much he may be interfered with. As Chamberlain said, “to praise him is almost an impertinence.”
Many of us Scots are of the opinion that the new Royal Mint £2 Lord Kitchener coin is unworthy of the memory of our dead ancestors and is quite shameful.
Worth refusing perhaps should you be given the opportunity.