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Khadija Sharife (2011) Libya: Top‑down oil imperialism or bottom‑up peoples' revolution?. Eye on Civil Society, 8 November 2011 : -.

The uprisings in North Africa have cast revolutions as a bottom‑up
peoples' initiative. But to what extent was this manufactured in Libya
by former colonialist, France? France’s old colonial policy, known as
Françafrique, was designed to create structural dependence and
domination by reasserting geostrategic control over natural resources
through the use of black ‘governors.’

The system was sustained through several political, economic and other
means, structured along agreements signed with former French colonies
such as Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Togo, Cameroon, Djibouti, the Central
African Republic, Senegal, and newer additions.

The basic premise was two‑fold: Geostrategic control through military
means and preferential access to African resources i.e.:

‑ Between 1997 and 2002, for example, France intervened over 34 times,
26 of which were conducted outside of the UN's umbrella. During the past
five years, French military troops in Gabon, Chad, Central African
Republic, Senegal, and Cote d'Ivoire have either increased or remained
the same. France's Minister of Defense admits to 10,000 specialized
soldiers active on the continent (2004‑07)

‑ Clauses contained within the agreements also ensured that France was
legally entitled to be informed of and maintain priority access to
natural resources including uranium, oil, and gas. African governments
were forbidden from engaging in military, trade, and other forms of
cooperation with nations regarded as a threat to their former colonial
overlord. France signed these Military Cooperation Agreements with 27
African countries from 1960s onward.

So, to what extent was France, the first to send in troops and to
recognise the transitional national council (TNC), involved in the
dislocation of buffoonish Libyan dictator Gaddafi?

Libya hosts Africa’s largest reserves of crude oil, generating over
US$40 billion last year. In 2009, France’s state‑owned company Total,
was forced to accept renegotiation of oil and gas, alongside other

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC), extended Total’s contract
(Mabruk and al‑Jurf fields) to 2032, but significantly diminished, for
instance, access to oil and gas production.

According to a confidential document published by WikiLeaks (dated
2009), ‘Each consortium will take 27 percent of oil production, down
from the 50 percent take they had under the previous agreement. For gas,
the consortium will take a 40 percent share (down from 50 percent),
which will be reduced in the future to 30 percent.’

The purpose, claimed the WikiLeaks memo, was the renegotiation of
Total’s contract, part of, ‘the NOC's effort to renegotiate existing
contracts to increase the Libya's share of crude oil production.’

‘An interesting potential corollary is that al‑Jurf is reportedly the
field from which Saif al‑Islam al‑Qadhafi, a son of Muammar al‑Qadhafi,
periodically obtains oil lifts, which he sells to finance his various

It is more than an allusion, therefore, that the French government
suffered both a vast loss from the renegotiated contract, making room
for other alliances (think China) to shore up global political capital.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s son, no doubt, would have been a painful irritant
with his brazen tendency for theft from an already diminished source.

Fast‑forward to the current Libyan stance:

Gaddafi’s right hand man and chief of protocol, Nouri Masmari, travelled
to France in mid‑October (18) 2010, (allegedly) seeking medical
assistance for his chronic illness. Masmari has long been considered the
‘keeper’ of Gaddafi’s secret, privy to all confidential information (and
in charge of everything including catering for Gaddafi’s home).

Described by insider Maghreb Intelligence as, ‘joined at the hip with
Libya’s leader’, Masmari was later spotted in French restaurants on the
Champs Elysee with Libyan associates – allegedly including Fathi
Boukrhis, Ounes Mansouri and Charrant Faraj – the key figures who would
lead the revolution. The publication stated, ‘Mesmari sticks closely to
his boss’s side so there’s some talk that he may have broken his
long‑standing tie with the Libyan leader.’

Though initially – and allegedly, travelling for medical reasons,
Masmari would soon apply for political asylum in France while Gaddafi
hastened to issue an arrest warrant. He would eventually be arrested on
November 28 but was released in mid‑December after an appeals court
found the arrest to be ‘an irregularity’. Ironically, the French
officials who arrested Masmari kept him under protective custody at the
hotel of his choice.

Right‑wing Italian journalist Franco Bechis reported that while in
France Masmari and associates received visits from French intelligence
officials close to Sarkozy (some meetings allegedly witnessed between
French secret service and Masmari occurred at the Concorde Lafayette
hotel). Simultaneously, companies like Glencore and Cargill, facilitated
by a French delegation, were reported to have begun inquiring about
post‑Gaddafi access to Libyan resources.

On December 23, Maghreb Confidential would report that he was preparing
for a return to Tripoli; and that Masmari allegedly resumed his position
as Gaddafi’s right hand.

On Sunday, February 20, the day the rebels drew force against Gaddafi,
Masmari resigned. French newspaper liberation quoted Masmari (two days
later) as standing in favour of the rebels, cautioning ‘they can take
revenge against my family, but in the end my family is not better than
the Libyans who died for freedom. They will also be on their list of
martyrs.’ (Masmari’s daughters were later kidnapped.) Masmari’s position
was taken up by Fawzi Omar Swei, friend of Saif al‑Gaddafi.

Was Masmari working in alliance with the French?

According to the BBC, after meetings in Paris with Western and African
representatives, France was the first to fire shots in Libya, destroying
its target. In addition to reconnaissance over, ‘all Libyan territory’ –
to save, in Sarkozy’s words, Libyans from the ‘murderous madness’ of
Gaddafi – French jets ‘destroyed a number of tanks and armoured
vehicles’, a defence ministry official told Reuters, adding that he
could not immediately confirm the number.’

The US and UK supported the military effort considered an invasion, at
the time, by the African Union, which proposed a peaceful measure that
was dismissed by the UN Security Council (UNSC). Italy – state‑owners of
ENI – ‘offered the use of seven of its military bases which already
house US, Nato and Italian forces.’

Now that Gaddafi has been removed, and oil and gas exploitation
restarted, the Transitional National Council (TNC) – recognised
immediately by France, and thereafter Western nations led by the US, has
stated, ‘We don't have a problem with Western countries like the
Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues
with Russia, China and Brazil,’ (Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager
at Libyan rebel oil firm AGOCO).

This neatly undercuts emerging governments that had benefitted from
Gaddafi’s renegotiation of oil and gas contracts, example China, with 75
companies, 36,000 workers and 50 ongoing projects, in Libya. Similarly
Russia’s Gazprom and Brazils’ Petrobas may be sidelined. Like China,
Russia – a dissenting member of the UNSC, officially stated, as quoted
by BBC, that they regretted the decision ‘by Western powers to take
military action’.

Prior – under the old renegotiated contract, (2010) Italy (28 per cent)
and France (15 per cent) received the lion share of oil exports. The US
and UK, old foes of the Gaddafi regime, received just 3 per cent and 4
per cent with China acquiring 11 per cent. This is set to drastically
change. France’s Total was the first major entity to restart oil
production. New contracts are being negotiated with an entirely new set
of Libyan figures – allegedly, those architects who owe France at least
a significant loyalty for their role in the uprising, and later, instant
legitimisation of the regime.

Reuters saw a letter between the NTC and French officials (Sarkozy)
guaranteeing 35 per cent of oil to France in exchange for immediate
access to Libyan funds (over 7.6 billion euros), siphoned offshore to
French banks. The NTC denied the existence of it, with Mahmoud Shamam
claiming such was ‘false’. Shamam and interim Prime Minister Mahmoud
Jibril were both mentioned in the letter.

Sarkozy claimed to the media, ‘In Libya, the civilian population, which
is demanding nothing more than the right to choose their own destiny, is
in mortal danger…It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal.’

Francafrique goes democratique or just business‑as‑usual?

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