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Libyan Investment in Chad Dries Up

France24 (11/22/11)

The revolution in Libya has had one little-mentioned side effect: the end of economic co-operation between the wealthy oil state and its neighbour, Chad. Libyan funding for Chad construction projects has dried up, and many Chadians say they miss the rule of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

At the start of the millenium, Libya began to invest in key economic sectors such as tourism, industry and agriculture in neighbouring African states. Thanks to its plentiful petro-dollars, Tripoli was able to fund the construction of 23 hotel resorts in 15 different countries, as well as oil refineries, banks and telecommunications networks.

Chad was one of the main beneficiaries of Libya's largesse, which stemmed from Gaddafi's desire to increase his influence throughout the African continent. The five-star Kempinski Libya Hotel in the capital N'djamena and the headquarters of the Chari commercial bank are both owned by the Libya Arab Africa Investment Company, one of the many hedge funds created by Gaddafi.

Economic co-operation between Chad and Libya was at its peak when the uprising against Gaddafi's government broke out in February. Chad had just given Libya 50,000 hectares of land to develop, as well as N'djamena's racetrack, which Gaddafi promised to turn into an Islamic centre. A month after rebel fighters killed the Libyan leader, these construction projects are now at a standstill.

The Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno has officially recognised Libya's ruling National Transitional Council, even though he long supported Gaddafi against the rebels. According to a report by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO focused on conflict resolution, relations between Chad and the new Libyan authorities remain tense.

Richard Mbatna is the owner of a sports store in N'Djamena.

"Gaddafi did a lot for the beautification of N'Djamena. He financed the construction of the Libya Hotel and of villas all around the city. But today, all construction work has stopped. That's why we miss Gaddafi.

"As a business owner, his departure has affected me directly. The second edition of the CEN-SAD sports games (a Pan-African sports competition created by Gaddafi in 1998( was supposed to take place this October in N'Djamena. I had prepared samples for sports uniforms and was hoping to be the official provider for Chad athletes. But the competition has been postponed until further notice."

Wad is an engineer in N'Djamena.

"Muammar Gaddafi has always fascinated Chadians. I believe he was a role model because he represented African nationalism and always pushed for the development of African countries [the former Libyan leader wanted to create the United States of Africa]. He had so many great projects for Africa and wanted to make it fully independent from Western states.

"Nevertheless, I realise that he did very little for the development of his own country. I was shocked to see on television that Libyan cities are not connected by highways, but roads in very poor condition. With his billions of dollars, I wonder why Gaddafi didn't invest in infrastructure for his own country."

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