Memories of Kenyan elders' visit to Libya just before Gaddafi’s death

David Sulo, a Nandi cultural leader at his home in Sironoi village in Nandi county.

Photo credit: Tom Matoke | Nation Media Group

A traditional leader who was part of the 100-strong Kenyan delegation that visited former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 before the strongman died has broken his 10-year silence.

The leader has for the first time revealed details of the multi-billion-shilling development projects that Gaddafi promised African countries months before he was murdered.

Mr David Sulo, 65, was one of the traditional leaders from Kenya who represented the Talai clan of Nandi in a series of meetings in Libya that began on January 3, 2011 and continued for two weeks, with Gaddafi approving some project proposals from different countries across Africa.

Gaddafi’s goal, Mr Sulo believes, was to finance the development of African kingdoms to bolster what he strongly believed to be a better traditional African style of leadership.

Mr Gaddafi died 10 years ago, on October 20, 2011.

Mr Sulo, a Nandi cultural leader, paints a picture of Gaddafi as a “committed champion for change in governance in Africa'' and suspected that the Western world’s leaders might have been “intimidated” by the Libyan leader’s zeal.

Mr Sulo, a great-grandson of the great Nandi laibon Koitalel Arap Samoei, believes Gaddafi was a victim of misrepresentation.

“Western leaders have always understood little about most African leaders and in particular Gaddafi. I deduce the West was intimidated by Gaddafi’s dream to unite the African continent and may have encouraged his assassination,” Mr Sulo said.

He narrated how the Kenyan delegation developed their liking for the leader from the day they landed in Libya at the invitation of Gaddafi.

Davit Sulo, a traditional leader, talks about meeting ex-Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi

Mr Sulo said Gaddafi authorised multibillion-shilling funding proposals to develop cultural and sports centres in different countries in Africa that were represented at the same meeting in Tripoli.

“The Kenyan cultural leaders who went to Libya strongly believed that had Gaddafi lived longer, the African continent would now be witnessing great positive revolutions in terms of governance, unity and economical independence,” Mr Sulo said at his rural home in Sironoi village in Kapsisiywa location in Nandi County.

“Gaddafi’s desire was to rally African nations to form the United States of Africa,” Mr Sulo said.

Reject conditional aid

Gaddafi, Mr Sulo recalled, sought to unite Africa to lobby for political and economic integration across the continent and bilateral financial aid among African countries to cut down the continent’s overdependence on the West.

The Nandi traditional leader noted that in his efforts to unite Africa, Gaddafi initiated cooperative agreements and bilateral aid arrangements with some 10 African states from1997 to 2000.

This vision is what prompted Gaddafi in June 1999 to visit South African President Nelson Mandela to lobby for support for the formation of a United Africa (UA).

As one of the founders of the African Union (AU), which replaced the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 2002, Gaddafi controversially called upon African states to reject conditional aid from the Western.

“Gaddafi sought to witness the return of dignity and respect to Africa and its leaders from the Western world and that the consolidation of a united Africa with bilateral financial aid among African nations would serve as an answer,” said Mr Sulo, an avowed fan of Gaddafi.

Gaddafi championed a single AU passport and a common African states currency and defence system.

“I am not ashamed of being associated with the fallen Libyan leader. Gaddafi won us over with his commitment to his dream for Africa. He was capable of bringing the dream of a united Africa into fruition though it was shot down by other African leaders as ‘unrealistic’,” Mr Sulo said.

On the all-expenses-paid Libyan trip, Mr Sulo said they were put up at the Corinthian Tripoli Hotel, where each of the Kenyan delegates from different counties and villages were treated with “utmost respect and warmth” for the entire two weeks of their stay in Libya.

The Kenyan delegation was joined by other prominent African leaders and delegations ahead of several planned meetings where Gaddafi’s dream of a United State of Africa was scrutinised by all guests.

The African delegates included former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, senior African government ministers and local, county and cultural leaders.

The entire team of attendees “interacted with a different kind of Gaddafi”, who exuded “hope, optimism and change” for the African continent, Mr Sulo fondly recalled.

He described Gaddafi as a philanthropist who immediately demonstrated the capability of “inter-African countries aid” by sponsoring several projects in each visitor’s home country.

The Koitalel Samoei Cultural Centre in Nandi was expected to receive Sh400 million for construction and expansion.

Represented the Agikuyu

Gaddafi also agreed to fund the construction of an athletics camp for retired athletes in Kenya, Mr Sulo said.

These projects, however, stalled after the Libyan leader was assassinated just eight months after the meeting and a few months before final funding could take place.

Njuri Ncheke cultural leaders from Meru in Kenya were also promised funding of more than Sh550 million to build a cultural centre in Meru County.

Those from the Luo community would receive farming equipment valued at Sh500 million for purchasing tractors.

There were also plans to have an additional Sh300 million for a proposed Luo cultural centre in Kisumu.

The Maasai community of Kenya was also lined up to receive Sh400 million for a planned Maasai cultural centre.

The Kenyan traditional delegation to Libya was composed of about 100 cultural leaders, among them retired Major John Seii, who represented Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gishu counties.

Also in attendance was the former Mt Elgon MP Wilberforce Kisiero as well as David Ole Ntutu, who represented Narok County, while Thuita Mwangi represented the Agikuyu council of elders.

Other leaders in the Kenyan delegation were Peter Mumia, a grandson of King Mumia, and J Ole Muya, who represented the Kajiado council of elders.

The Meru Njuri Ncheke cultural leaders were led by Boeb Lutere. The Mijikenda council of elders were also represented.

Most of the Kenyan traditional leaders who attended the Tripoli meeting are reluctant to speak about the trip because Western countries declared Gaddafi a dictator soon after he was ousted and killed and they wanted little association with him.

Now, Mr Sulo blames the developed world for “instilling fear” among African leaders by intimidating them with threats of withdrawing financial aid and other systems of economic sabotage to silence their voices in calling for the unity of the continent.

Gaddafi had reportedly promised to channel 80 per cent of his country’s earnings from oil to develop African countries.

Mr Sulo explained that Uganda had benefited from Gaddafi’s philanthropy but regretted that other African governments failed to gain from Gaddafi’s larger dream.

Delegations from Each African countries, he said, freely exchanged ideas with the Libyan president on a one-on-one basis and they then developed positive thoughts about Gaddafi’s character.

Mr Sulo believes that Gaddafi, had he not been killed, could have actualised the dream of a united Africa that he and other leaders like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah championed.

Gaddafi’s vision, Mr Sulo noted, was for Africa to be at par with America, China and Europe.


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