Uganda news update – Libya sanctions and asset freeze now extend to UTL


Uganda Telecom, in which Libya holds 69 percent shares, was next on the list of the Ugandan government to ‘seize’ in line with the UN resolution on an asset freeze, when news emerged late yesterday that the shareholding and control by Libya over the communications company has been frozen.

Unlike in the case of the Bank of Uganda taking over control of the Libyan owned Tropical Africa Bank, no details were given by government on the fate of Libyan appointed management, which by conventional wisdom can expect to be ‘frozen’ too when care taker managers are put into place by government. In fact the company spokesperson attempted to calm the stormy waters by sending out a feeble statement that operations were continuing as ‘normal’ but few paid much attention to this. Uganda had much hope some years ago when deep pocketed Libya came on board to acquire majority shares in UTL, but as time went on it became apparent that the purse strings were not opened to inject the much needed added capital to expand and further modernize UTL, which was the first to introduce 3G in Uganda but failed to keep the pace with competitors who are now on the more recent 3.5+G systems, eyeing 4G to stay ahead of the pack. Instead, the Libyan holding company went ahead to acquire Zambia’s state owned telecoms company, leaving the Uganda operation to either seek out commercial loans from banks or else raise money through cash flow – or what was left of it after the Libyan installed management had taken out their ‘share’.

With Libyan regime leader Gadaffi’s fate now hanging in the balance, here in Uganda and across Africa his assets held by companies controlled directly by him, his family and selected cronies, are bound to be taken over sooner than later and industry observers in East Africa are counting the hours before the governments in Kenya and Rwanda – where Gadaffi’s Libya owns and manages two major hotels – will be taken over in compliance with UN resolutions. In Nairobi in particular all eyes are on the Grand Regency Hotel, which was ‘gifted’ to Gadaffi’s Libya for a fraction of its perceived true value, without competitive bidding, in what industry analysts called at the time ‘one of the most corrupt transactions of recent years’ while speculating who in fact benefitted from the ‘deal’ at the time. Investigations predictably led to not much more than hot air but in view of the latest developments the same sources claim that now is the opportunity to reverse the give away and under a new sale get as much as three times more for it.

Watch this space.