March 1, 2012
British media say the government’s move to offer humanitarian aid and security assistance to Somalia is aimed at winning a stake in country’s future energy industry.
In a report published Saturday, The Guardian revealed Britain’s involvement in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia.
Somalia, a former British colony, has been suffering decades of conflict and is known as a hotbed of piracy plaguing international shipping in the Indian Ocean.
In early February, British Foreign Secretary William Hague paid an unannounced visit to Somalia to become the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Mogadishu in almost two decades.
He also appointed Matt Baugh as Britain’s first ambassador to war-torn Somalia, which he described the country as “the world’s most failed state.”
Last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an international conference on Somalia where he pledged more aid, financial help and measures to fight terrorism in the African nation.
The Guardian report, however, described the summit as talks between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting intact oil reserves in the arid northeastern part of Somalia.
“We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximize future earnings from the oil industry,” the report cited Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, the minister for international cooperation in the autonomous Puntland region, as saying.
Puntland is an region in northeastern Somalia, where the first oil is expected to be extracted next month.
Experts say London’s involvement in the future Somali oil industry could prop up the UK’s weakened economy, at a time it has resorted to austerity measures to avoid a budget deficit.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his government had almost no other choice but to persuade Western companies to invest and operate in Somalia by offering a portion of the country’s plentiful resources of oil and gas and large reserves of uranium.
Britain’s efforts to develop Somalia’s natural resources continue while the Canadian company Africa Oil started oil exploration in Puntland in January, the first drilling in Somalia for 21 years.
Chinese and US firms have reportedly also voiced interest about the potential for oil as the country sounds safe enough to drill after two decades of unrelenting war.