Libya is a nation plagued by internal conflict, as the recent attempted coup illustrated only too well. Many of the rifts that exist between the competing factions are deep and intractable. Others, however, are relatively simple to resolve, and the rewards for their resolution would be huge.
The protracted power struggle at the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is one of the latter cases. The longstanding conflict between the LIA in Tripoli and the LIA in Tobruk was, only weeks ago, so close to an end. Since the departure of that long-standing irritant and impediment to progress, Hassan Bouhadi, as head of the Tobruk LIA, relations between the two sides have thawed. We understand that discussions to create a single board of directors that would unite the parallel LIAs are ongoing.
However, this sadly is not the end of the story. There is now a new player, in the form of the so-called LIA steering committee, which – with Bouhadi behind the scenes – threatens to undermine the LIA’s excellent recent progress.
This so-called steering committee, led by Ali Mahmoud Hassan Mohamed, claims to control the LIA by virtue of its appointment by the Government of National Accord (GNA). This claim is tenuous, to say the least. The GNA itself is a body whose legitimacy is under scrutiny, as it has not yet been ratified by the House of Representatives (HoR). Mr Mohamed’s claim to power is further undermined by the fact that the steering committee’s appointment is seen in many quarters as illegal. It has been opposed by a range of senior figures, including the HoR’s speaker, Ageelah Saleh.
While the steering committee’s authority is questionable, the harm it is doing to the LIA is anything but.
Mr Mohamed recently embarked on a lavish trip to Italy, prompting the head of the Tobruk LIA, Fawzi Farkash, to issue a statement requesting Italian government officials and private businesses not to deal with the steering committee. Indeed, unauthorised PR stunts like this from the steering committee at such a politically sensitive time are extremely unhelpful, and only serve to throw the LIA’s leadership into further confusion. For a man supposedly intent on “managing” Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, Mr Mohamed certainly seems to be spending a lot his time in places other than Libya, with Malta and Tunis seeming to be his preferred locations of choice.
Of even more concern to the LIA is that the steering committee is refusing or delaying payment of a range of legal bills due in respect of the LIA’s crucial ongoing litigations.
The potential consequences of such obstruction by the steering committee are enormous. Not only do these litigations represent a chance for the LIA to build on its recent successes, such as the LIA’s recovery of $120 million in total from Cornhill Capital and Lehman Brothers in recent months. But they also represent a crucial opportunity for the LIA to restore hundreds of millions of dollars to the Libyan people. These are opportunities that quite simply cannot go to waste.
Preserving the integrity of the LIA is vital to preserving Libya’s economic recovery. Our country’s economic future hangs in the balance. It cannot be left in the hands of those who are out for themselves.