Jan 29, 2014

Ogaden: No Profits From International Oil Industry Without Political Solution

International oil corporations continue pouring into oil-rich Ogaden without the consent of the region’s local population. Whereas Ethiopia claims the foreign companies’ presence will contribute to the development of Ogaden, locals believe it is impossible to profit from the foreign oil industry, unless a political solution with regard to Ogaden’s demands for self-determination is found. 

Below is an article published by Somaliland Sun:

The Ogaden is a territory comprising the south-eastern portion of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia and inhabits a population of about 8-10 million ethnic Somalis. The region, which is twice the size of England and Wales together has been ravaged by famine, droughts, tribal strife and successive wars .

The Region changed hands from Italian to British colonials during the Second World war, and after the war it was secretly annexed to Ethiopia in 1954 by the British colonials, after 13 years of British occupation. In 1977 it was the scene of an international conflict, as Somali President Siad Barre attempted to wrest the region from Ethiopia. The Soviet Union poured arms and Cuban troops into Ethiopia and the invasion was halted. Ethiopia, which for a long regarded Ogaden as a desert area recently approached the unexploited natural resources of the Ogaden Basin, where oil deposits are estimated at 2.7 trillion over an area of 350,000 square kilometers. Over the last five years,thousands of villagers have been forced to flee from Ogaden and are now refugees in Kenya, South Africa, and Yemen.

The American oil company, Tenneco, was the first to strongly confirm that there was a huge gas reserve in the area - 42 years ago. Now other international petroleum companies are finding that the area is rich with natural resources.

Oil-rich Ogaden is among the world's top forgotten humanitarian crises, yet many International oil corporations have kept pouring into the isolated and war-zone area time after time, believing that they can avail the region's main natural resources of oil-and-gas without the consent of the local population of the Ogaden region, with the help of Ethiopian Security Forces.

The Foreign Corporations pay Ethiopian guards a large sum of money in order for them to provide protection, but unfortunately the Ethiopian guards dislocate villagers and burn the postures all around the grazing-lands surrounded by the Oil-fields of Obale and Calub, and the Hilala natural gas.

In July 2011, the Ethiopian army shot and then detained Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, two Swedish journalists who went to Ogaden in order to investigate and report on the role of Sweden's Lundin Oil in the gross human rights abuses committed by the Ethiopian Army against the civilian population.

Ethiopia has used the foreign Companies many times as a propaganda tool, claiming that the petroleum production sharing agreements signed with oil-hungry foreign corporations would construct and develop the gas fields in Ogaden. However, the Somali population in Ogaden region thinks differently: "It is impossible to profit from the Ogaden natural resources without reaching a political solution to the Region, which was and still is the epicenter of the Horn of Africa conflicts.”

The Powerful Independent Movement, The Ogaden National Liberation Front, always warns the foreign Companies to stay away from Ogaden basin until a political solution is reached regarding the self-determination of Ogaden region.

Since Ogaden region is landlocked any oil-construction needs not only to be a safe area, but also to have a seaport. Therefore Chinese Companies have been courting the neighboring countries such as the tiny nation of Djibouti, and Somaliland to allow the use of their seaports of Berbera and Djibouti port.

On February 13 2013, China's oil and gas producer Petro-trans negotiated with Somaliland's officials for the possibility to to extend Berbera port's container and mineral export services to help China's grasping ways to profit Ogaden gas and oil financially but has scrapped plans to build a liquefied natural gas facility. Now China's GCL Poly Petroleum signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Wednesday, January 8 2014, with the government of Djibouti that will allow the company to construct two pipe lines stretching from Ethiopia to Djibouti.

Regional commentators believe that China is good for Africa’s leaders but bad for Africans, as far as human rights are concerned. Sad and angry Somali people in Ogaden say, ”every coming year it is China's day-dream to produce oil and gas from Ogaden region and Ethiopia's nightmare to be an oil-industry nation - dreams likely to be a needle in a haystack".


Picture by @CharlesFred