Monday, January 7, 2008

Libya cut government out of hospital project

Malawi government has no idea on the progress of Al-Ghaddaf hospital, a district hospital, being built at Kameza in Blantyre as the Libyan government, the financer of the project, has put government officials out of the picture.

Libyan government stopped working hand in hand with government officials when disagreements ensued over the size of the hospital as Malawi government insisted that the hospital should follow the standards of districts hospitals in the country while the Libyan government wanted something smaller, a 100 bed block.

Principal Secretaries in the Ministry of Health and Foreign Affairs said the Libyan government started controlling the operation of the construction of the hospital from their base in Tripoli and Malawi government has no idea as to what was happening at the moment.

Ministry of Health PS Chris Kang’ombe said last time his ministry had discussions, on the hospital issue, with the Libyan envoy was when they were disputing the size of the hospital at Kameza, as the Libyan government wanted to build something smaller than the accepted standards of a district hospitals in Malawi.

“We agreed that they are going to visit Chiradzulo hospital to ascertain the standards of district hospitals in Malawi. Since then there have never come back to us and we know nothing as to what is happening at the site,” he said.

Kang’ombe said the Libyan government was implementing the project on their own at their base in Tripoli and Malawi government has not been involved.

“They have their man who oversees the project,” he said.

Malawi News visit to the site discovered that workers of the construction company City Builders, subcontracted to build the hospital, were sent packing on December 14, 2007 with no word as to when they were expected to return to the site of construction.

The site of the hospital has been abandoned with buildings that are supposed to be hospital wards at knee high level, an assimilatory block at a window high level and a brick fence surrounding the areas.

“The activity that has been taking place in the past months was the rehabilitating of the fence that fell at the on set of the rain season, nothing really on the actual building was happening,” said one of the people on the ground.

An official from the City Building a Mr. J Ngoma refused to comment on the progress of the project and also as to when they were expected to return to the site referring Malawi News to a Libyan who is supposed to be the overseer of the project.

Recently reports indicated that Malawi government asked the Libyan government to close its mission in Lilongwe as it was believed that it was no longer necessary.

PS in the ministry of Foreign Affairs Ben Mbewe said Libyan government has been difficult to deal with as they normally do things at their own time and pace.

“In a normal circumstance a project like building a hospital could be given three years to complete but it is now five year, we know very little as to what they were doing.

“People from Libya keep on coming in and out of the country but nothing is showing on the ground, we keep on giving visas for these people,” Mbewe said.

Mbewe said the current position of the relationship between Malawi and Libya would not be a stumbling block for the implementation of the hospital saying the project would have been through by now in a normal diplomatic aid saying: “We have been suffering a diplomatic norm with Libya government.”

A Malawian interpreter for the Libyan project overseer, Daudi Kaluma said he was not sure whether the Libyan representative was still in the country as he has not be in touch with him for some time.

Kaluma also refused to discuss the position of the Libyan government on the issue saying he would not do that without permission from the Libyan representative.

One of political commentators Billy Banda observed that the relationship between Malawi and Libyan governments started at a wrong footing during its inception as it was more of political relationship that administrative.

“Somebody has to answer as to what is happening now because diplomatic decisions are made on behalf of Malawians. There is more to the diplomatic relationship between Malawi and Libyan. It is all political,” he said.
Malawi set up diplomatic ties with Libya government in 2001 during the reign of former President Bakili Muluzi, who often said Malawi would benefit from co-operation with Libya.
Libyan leader Colonel Muarmar Ghaddafi, in 2002 when he visited the country, pledged to build a multi-million hospital for the Blantyre district among other things, however, five years down the line unnoticeable activities are taking place at the site.

Ghaddafi also pledged to donate fertilizer and 100 truckers to Malawi government; however the said fertilizer never arrived in the country and the unknown number of tractors arrived in the country only last year according to the foreign affairs PS Mbewe.

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