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Published On: Mon, Jun 15th, 2015

Somalia:Stop the Oil Madness

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As is often the case when people become hopeful of Somali future, talks and plans begin about our nations’ oil. (Link). The plans always seem so positive, with an almost utopian like sharing of the wealth. Nods always being given to education, health, and alleviating poverty. But we must be careful in our wishful thinking that oil will solve all our problems. We can no longer afford to be children, believing everything our government tells us (whether they are the same qabil or not). Looking at recent African history and relevant facts, one cannot ignore the very high probability of severe conflict arising caused by oil. Somalis cannot afford to waste decades more on fighting. The track record of fighting over resources (particularly oil) in Africa is quite evident-add to that prevalence of corruption, an armed conflict is a certainty in our nations. Given this, as adults with common sense and able to see the writings on the wall, we should see only one solution: a Moratorium (suspension on an activity).

We simply cannot be naïve enough to believe that what has happened elsewhere on the continent will not happen in our nations.

Corruption

One of our largest problems contributing to our nations’ plights. Our nations are ranked quite low in international ranking indexes for corruption. Transparency International placed Somali in last place in its 2014 report. But how does it relate to oil.

Let’s put this simply and into context. We, as a Somali people, are under the assumption that once our nations have produced oil, that we’ll be able to tackle the issue of corruption. How ridiculous is that! You personally know the level of infestation that is corruption exercised in our nations, and you want to trust them with Billions of dollars? Absurd!

I am sure they’ll tell us how responsible they’ll be with the immense funds, and even promise to enact some flimsy law to stop corruption. We can’t really be dumb enough to believe it. Can we?

Let’s look at Nigeria as our example. Corruption so rampant that $1.1 Billion was easily transferred from oil companies to the government to fake companies owned by powerful Nigerian individuals without once being seized to be used for the public good (Global Witness)They would have gotten away with it if they hadn’t tried to cheat each other (and to some nice detective work by Global Witness). This is after various Nigerian governments have promised to crack down on corruption (especially those related to oil sector). And that $1.1 Billion is just a fraction of how much Nigerian citizens have lost to corruption.

Such level of corruption related to oil is already happening in Somalia. How else can one explain a recent draft agreement that would see 90% of the revenue (*to a certain extent) being given to an oil company (Bloomberg). Add to that a request to not pay taxes for 10 years? If money did not secretly trade hands, then deals like that (even draft ones) are beyond inept and fall in the realm of stupidity. Somalis are creating nascent nations and are new to the arena of multi-billion dollar contracts. We should learn before making 20-50 commitments that will unquestionably show to have not been favourable in the future.

Civil War and the Resource Curse

The optimist among us might point at Nigeria’s current state relative to the rest of Africa. A strong GDP, Infrastructure being continually built, and the potential to be a tech hub in Africa. This argument has validity (if one was to forget the billions stolen), but such an outcome is less likely than the more serious one – if it’s not one of the contributors. Conflict due to oil is a far more likely outcome. As documented by others in the media, small conflicts have already arisen from oil based purely on exploration (i.e. potential). Meaning not a single drop has been pumped yet. Our nations’ quests for oil riches will more than likely lead to a situation similar to Sudan (and more accurately South Sudan). How could it not? The South Sudan story is a long and complex one with civilian deaths being estimated at 50,000 to 100,000, but ultimately it has come down to a civil war between tribes with oil acting as a conflict catalyst to ingrained divisions. Sound familiar? We fight over the most trivial thing, our culture is rampant with paranoia, and still proudly practice the law of “an eye for an eye”. The sort of money promised will undoubtedly tempt most of our politicians to kill their mother, I doubt they’d blink an eye for the rest.

What I fear for my nations and people is what’s called The Resource Curse (especially as it relates to oil). The issue is discussed by various academics such as Paul Collier and an in depth analysis as it relates to Somalia done by The Heritage Institute for Policy Development (HIPS). Unfortunately, most still offer the choice that one can succeed if done slowly and properly. I doubt that politicians are listening to the slow part (planning to pump within the next 5 years) and can guarantee they won’t listen to the properly part.

The only solution available that’ll benefit the greater number of us, is to stop chasing oil (at least for now). A proposition supported by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea in 2013 (Paragraph 79 and 176b). If we do not, one can only guess that we’re dumb enough to believe our clan leaders will share in their stolen goods or too lazy to tell our politicians to stop chasing oil.

There is another practical reason to not see oil as our savior, but that’s another discussion.

But to be fair and honest, I don’t know what my level of stake is in this or what actions I can take. I live in a far country that’s stable and have no means to interact with the systems that can offer solutions. So I take my small solace in this cathartic writing.

Perhaps those interested (such as myself) will join and/or support groups like Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP). Organizations and groups committed to making governments and companies more accountable in the extractive sector.

 

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