This is probably the first question that came into the minds of sensible Somalis around the world as soon as we heard oil drilling would begin in the country. We asked questions of the suspicious nature, like who are these companies? what are their motives? and who signed the deals on Somalia’s behalf? Frankly, we have every right to be suspicious. With the lawlessness and corruption in Somalia, it is the perfect recipe for oil companies to take advantage of the situation.
Love thy Neighbour?
It’s no secret the Somali crisis is a protracted and propagated one. With the lethal combination of internal civil strife, lack of a nationalist government and neighbours determined to take advantage of our resources, I’d say we are in quite a predicament. As a nationalist, I am worried about our eroding patriotism and rising regionalism. Somalia’s ever evolving horror story is indeed troubling to its citizens but even more so to its neighbours. Why is it that the likes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Eritrea find it so necessary in their national interest to keep Somalia in its current quagmire? Part of the answer is indeed oil and gas, the most coveted resource in the world. Somalia is estimated to boast vast reserves of petroleum from the north to the south, not to mention the large swathes of mineral resources found in south-central Somalia.
The majority of Somalis believe that discovering these resources whilst still in the current crisis would plunge Somalia into further anarchy. Only this time we would have foreign vultures namely neighboring resource hungry governments to protect our resources from. In my youtube video earlier this year, I mentioned that Kenya’s involvement in southern Somalia was designed to gain the upper hand on offshore oil block concessions that rightfully belong to Somalia as stipulated in the 1982 UN Law of the Seas. It seems now that claim is indeed bearing fruit as the Kenyan mission continues and those Somalis that supported them realize their neighbours’ real intentions.
5th Largest Oil Reserves in the World
A bold statement for a country like Somalia, but we better believe it. My colleagues and I at the East African Energy Forum (a lobby group that protects Somalia’s energy resources from corruption and illegal exploitation) have estimated Somalia to have anywhere from 80 to over 100 billion barrels of onshore and offshore reserves when all is said and done and frankly if I were Somalia’s neighbours I’d be worried about us too. This small nation of 10 million stands to have the 5th largest petroleum reserves in the world, eclipsing heavyweights in the likes of UAE, Kuwait and Nigeria. The Dharoor and Nugaal Valleys reserves-in-place alone are estimated to be valued at $1.2 Trillion in today’s market. I’ve said this number in almost all of my Somali oil and gas speeches and every time I received the same reaction of dismissal and non-belief. I admit these numbers are large estimates but it doesn’t take away from the fact that these petroleum reserves will thrust us into the world spotlight and bring Somalia more enemies than friends.
A Way Forward
Our enemies can only take advantage of us so long as we are blind to their ill-conceived plans. They have begun to realize that Somalia is indeed the unconquerable when it comes to outright aggression….ask the Ethiopians and the Kenyans how that’s going for them. But they haven’t given up just yet; instead they have turned their attention to robbing the country of its resources, which proves more profitable as is the case with illegal fishing, territorial infringement and now Kenya’s oil ambitions. Despite all these foreign projects, the people of Somalia can retaliate. Not in the form of gun-wielding and violence as we are so accustomed to, but rather in the form of public information, media, lobbying and educating ourselves. We must protect ourselves from outright corruption from those that claim to represent our interests.
A prime example of this corruption is the “Memorandum Of Understanding” deal in 2009 by the Sharmarke Government that effectively opened the door for the secession of Somalia’s southern territorial waters to Kenya. This blatant degradation of Somali integrity was only scuttled after a public outcry in the Somali media and public domain, followed by parliamentary rejection of the deal. It was also not coincidental that Norway (The world’s leader in offshore oil exploration) was the main lobby for the MOU on behalf of Kenya. This demonstrates that our enemies are united on taking the trillions of dollars under our feet while we are busy quarreling over which tribe is more superior.
Oil or Tribalism?
If Somalia is to benefit at all from current and future oil exploration then these two words cannot co-exist. I am still a firm believer that economic prosperity and partnerships will render tribalism a thing of the past. Oil needs security for it to be extracted, and the Somalis would do well to enter into economic partnerships with each other in order to benefit from these opportunities. In my last video I got plenty of hate mail suggesting I was an agent for Puntland promoting its oil wealth. It’s this kind of tribalism mindset that will ensure we never succeed as a country. In fact I provided evidence of the presence of oil across the entire country. How is it then that we find pride in a tribal affiliation that is God given by birth yet we refuse to come together with dignity as a people to develop our resources and our country? Wouldn’t that be something better to find pride in?
Israel as a Model
Don’t shoot me yet! The Israeli model of nationalism and lobbying is by far the most effective of its kind in the world…ask the Americans. I believe Somalia’s road to recovery lies in the hands of a nationalist citizenry taking up lobbying efforts both inside the country and in the Diaspora. The only way we can protect our energy resources is through public information campaigns, lobby groups, and educating Somalis on the facts. Everyone has a part to play.
The East African Energy Forum and Transparency International teamed up earlier this year to begin implementing the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Index) in Somalia. The EITI is a number measuring how transparent (or corrupt) a country’s energy industry is, which in turn will impact positively or negatively the stock prices of the companies involved in Somalia and give them incentive to deal transparently in Somalia. Agree with their methods or not, the Israelis have done an incredible job lobbying their country’s national interests in the world’s spheres of influence and as a result their national interest is nearly impregnable. This however requires immense resolve and “Somalinimo” on our part and whether we are up to the task surely remains to be seen.
The Ball is in our Court
We are a country at a crossroads in many facets of our society…politically, socially and economically. But that doesn’t mean our hands are tied and we are helpless while our resources are plundered in front of us. The only way we can be taken advantage of is by not knowing the facts and by being naïve. Our enemies will come up with elaborate ways of pretending to be a friend or “liberator” as a cover to the real reasons for their involvement in our affairs. It is up to the citizenry to voice their concerns, write and distribute articles, criticize foreign meddling and demonstrate in the city streets of Somalia, essentially rise up from our dormancy and pacifism. We must, because our politicians aren’t. The task is daunting but if we do this now, then maybe just maybe we have a chance to enjoy our God-given wealth 3,000 km beneath our feet.