Wednesday, July 30, 2008



July 30, 2008
By David Ohito
The Standard

Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi has sent a stern message to the Kenya Government that the Grand Regency Hotel belongs to his country, despite efforts to repossess it.

Gaddafi fought back on a week when investigations that would determine the fate of the sale started taking shape.

The Libyan leader sent a top government delegation with his verbatim message that was read to both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

"The hotel is sold, gone and file closed!" were Gaddafi’s words to Kenya delivered by his right-hand man, Mr Bashir Saleh Bashir, the Libyan Head of Public Service.

Libyan Ambassador Hisham Ali Shariff (left), head of public service and chairman of Libya Africa investment portfolio (LAP) Bashir Saleh Bashir (Centre) and Libyan Arab Africa Investment Trade Company chairman Mohamed Ajil after a press conference at the Grand Regency Hotel, Nairobi, on Tuesday. PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO

Mr Bashir later in a press conference at the Grand Regency Hotel’s Shaba Room, repeated the stern message he had given to Kibaki and Raila.

The Libyans spoke on a day that the Parliamentary Finance Committee chairman, Mr Chris Okemo, said his team was headed for a retreat this weekend to compile a report for Parliament that could recommend repossession.

But Gaddafi left no doubt as his special envoy met Kenya’s two principals, that his government would put up a fight to keep the five-star gem.

"You can carry on with investigations, but we assure Kenyans we followed all the procedures as established by law," Bashir told journalists.

No response from Principals

Neither State House nor the Prime Minister’s office had issued a statement by last night after the principals met the Libyans.

Okemo said the report would be ready by Thursday next week and would be tabled in Parliament.

"The report will detail how top Government officials transacted the sale of the hotel illegally," he said at Parliament buildings.

Justice (Rtd) Majid Cockar’s Commission of inquiry into the sale deal started sittings on Monday.

The Libyan team, which had jetted into the country in the morning, was accorded high profile diplomatic treatment as they were given audience at State House with President Kibaki and later with Raila at Treasury.

Escorted by Diplomatic Police cars, the Libyan envoy’s sleek grey Mercedes Benz with a fluttering Libyan flag snaked its way across the city centre as he kept the two rendezvous.

Bashir, who doubles up as chairman of Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAP), was accompanied by Libyan ambassador to Kenya, Hisham Ali Sharrif, Ali Shamak — the President of Oil Libya and Mr Mohammed Ajil, the chairman of Libya Arab Africa Investment Company.

The press conference was arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and personally facilitated by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Thuita Mwangi, and Mr Eliphas Barine from the Public Affairs and Communication office.

"There is no political motive behind the purchase of this hotel. I can assure you no diplomatic interests can be breached between Nairobi and Tripoli," Bashir said.

He added: "The money we have invested here will not go back to Libya. It will remain here to develop your country."

Buying price

An aerial view of the Grand Regency Hotel. PHOTO: tom maruko

He said the Libyan Government paid about Sh2.9 billion to the Central Bank of Kenya in May.

Sources said the Libyan government had raised concern over the uproar surrounding the hotel sale that Gaddafi said was a bilateral agreement between the Libyan Government and her Kenyan counterpart.

"We bought the hotel on a purely business interest and all legal procedures followed in a very clean transaction," Bashir said.

Bashir also explained how Libya had great interest of investing across the continent and had a portfolio worth US$ 8 billion (Sh520 billion) all over Africa — including Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Morocco.

Inviting Kenyans to welcome their business interests, Bashir said LAP was looking forward to partnerships in Kenya.

"There is no limit for our investments in Kenya," the official from the oil-rich desert country said.

He explained how the barely three-year-old Libyan investment company had aggressively invested in Togo, Guinea and was looking at putting in more monies on the African soil.

"Our strategy is to invest in African countries, with corporations, Governments and private sector initiatives. LAP is just three years old and we are one of the single biggest investors in Africa," he said.

He said the company was financing the construction of Kenya-Uganda pipeline too and was working out its shareholding.

The hotel has been sucked into controversy and propelled the resignation of Finance minister Amos Kimunya following Parliament’s verdict of a no confidence against him.

Already two parallel investigations are being carried out — one through Parliamentary Finance, Planning and Trade committee chaired by Okemo.

Another is through a judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Kibaki and chaired by retired Chief Magistrate Abdul Majid Cockar.

A Cabinet Committee initially appointed after the controversy broke out recommended that the Government repossess the hotel and the transaction cancelled.

The Cockar Commission is expected to recommend legal and administrative measures on completion of its work in a month’s time.

The Cockar team will investigate circumstances leading to the sale of the hotel and the role played by the persons mentioned in the transaction process.

Lands Minister James Orengo blew the whistle on the secret sale of the hotel and demanded an explanation.

Orengo later instructed his Lands officers to enter a Caveat on the property, meaning the land on which it stands cannot be used as collateral in the bank nor be transferred to new buyer.