Abdulhaliim Rashid Abdirahman
Attorney At Law
Through this past decade, oil drilling and exploration in Somalia has been increasing. Today we are seeing international interest in a potential Somalia hydrocarbon industry increase exponentially. On November 14, 2011 the British Prime minister stated that “Somalia is a failed state that directly threatens British interests.” The British Prime Minister’s concern for Somalia is related to the world’s growing interest in Somalia’s potential hydrocarbon industry. Since then we have been hearing a lot about the “international community” and their desire to help the Somalia people. However, not all international aid is equal and not every country’s desire to help Somalia is genuine.
Somalia is on the cusp of a change. Our nation is at a crossroads. In a few years we may see a major change in revenues, governance, and stability. Based on current reports, there are just too many resources in Somalia, and the game has changed. The interested parties in the world want changes and stability in our homeland. The question is just how this change will come to pass. The fact is that countries from across the world, from nearly every continent have pledged to help Somalia, and they have every intention of being involved in Somali affairs. Corporate business interests from across the world have plans to be involved in Somalia.
The best way of judging a person’s character and worth is to look at his or her past actions and deeds. The same is true with nations. Somalia is on the cusp of opening up to the world and we must carefully judge the nations we choose to deal with in the infancy of our reemergence upon the world stage. This is especially important considering the wealth of national resources that are desired from our nation.
The consequences of not judging with acute precision the motives and desires of other, some of them seemingly friendly, could be disastrous. We have seen nations like France and other countries, who give aid under the guise of help only to facilitate colonial aspirations, and who only benefit the few chosen elite in a nation. In comparison, to nations like France with a checkered past in their dealings with other nations and a negative past in their dealings with Somalia, I look to Turkey. The contrast is self evident.
Most Somalis are aware of the historic ties Turkey has with Somali people. The town of Zeila, before there was a British Somaliland, was the beneficiary of Turkish influence including a Turkish built water system. I, myself, had lived in Turkey in the early 1980’s and remember fondly the hospitality the Turkish people showed us Somali students at the Middle East Technical University.
On August 19, 2012, the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Honorable Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stood at the Aden Abdullahi Osaman (Adde) Airport in Mogadisho and challenged the world not to forget or forsake Somalia. PM Erodogan stood at that airport, named after Somalia’s greatest president, with his wife and children. Since that day, Turkey has put its money and expertise into Somalia. Turkey has started a bi-weekly international flight service to the Somali capital, Mogadisho and built a tent city for 12,000 internally displaced people. Unlike many other aid workers the Turkish aid workers are living among the Somali communities they are helping to rebuild. It is a model of providing aid that others can and should follow.
On June 1st, 2012, the nation of Turkey will host an international conference on Somalia. It is expected that this conference will gather even more leaders and other dignitaries than the just concluded London Somali Conference (LSC). The Prime Minister of England Mr. David Cameron said that the London Somali Conference was the largest and most influential gathering that had ever come together on Somalia, but it is believed that the Turkey Somali Conference will eclipse the LSC both in scope and substance.
Somalis hope that this conference will continue the process of ending the Somali nightmare. They hope that this conference will not just address global concerns like piracy, that are not of urgent concern to the Somali people, however important those issues are on their own. Somalis are concerned with more immediate issues like security, famine, disease, infant and child mortality, and general health facilities.
A major concern for me is the recent talk of the establishment of an International Joint Financial Management Board (JFMB) who’s stated purpose is to help Somalia. The addition of the French Republic as a member of the JFMB is a concern. The history of the French with Somalis is a complicated and contentious one. Somalis remember the French involvement with Algeria, and closer to home, Djbouti. They remember that the French have never assisted Somalia. It may be assuring to the international world that France is part of the JFMB, but it is a concern that no African or Arab country is on this JFM Board.
The communiqué from the London Somali Conference with regard to the JFMB is vague, perhaps on purpose. The communiqué informs that some of the funds of the JFMB will come from Somali national assets. However, those assets are not defined or their use limited. Control over the prioritization of the use of those assets is not spelled out. Will those assets be used to irrigate Somali farms or to chase pirates from the Indian Ocean to the Bay of Bengal?
Well folks, the national assets are about to become significant to say the least. Perhaps it is instructive to look south and see that already this year, in the offshore areas of Tanzania, Mozambique, and Madagascar, substantial and very rich gas fields have been discovered. Ethiopia and Kenya have seen increased oil and gas explorations. However, the consensus appears to be that the mother lode is the off shore area belonging to Somalia. It has been said that this area and the lower East African coast could rival anything found in the Middle East and the North Sea. So what happens to the national assets? Who is in control?
Turkey would be an incredible addition to this board. Turkey has a thriving economy, is a stable Muslim democracy, and has been active in a supportive way in Somalia affairs throughout history. The fact is that we Somalis are responsible for our own fate but we need big brothers to look out for us as well. We know that we will eventually have to work together in a fair and representative way. We know that we will have to work with the international world. As Somalia opens up we will need to create schools, hospitals, post offices, government buildings, power plants, and the like. We will have to build regions and cities beyond the capital. Somalia’s sons and daughters have to come off the sidelines and participate as leaders.
I do not know what will happen in the future but one thing is for sure, our natural resources will find their way to the world market, and with that will come a wealth of funds that will either be drained from our nation or used to better every Somali. There is the real possibility of a united Somalia or, in contrast, a people splintered in to the lowest sub-sub-sub-sub clan. That is the choice facing Somalis.
Somalia is about the future now. Its contemporary history is too painful, and too shameful. Of course, at some point, we as people have to revisit and confront issues involving crimes against humanity committed in Somalia during the last 41 years. That is a Somali challenge. There needs to be some justice and accountability, and in the end we must come together as a people and move beyond this past to a future of stability, prosperity, and democracy. The next international event will be in Istanbul, Turkey in June. This will be part of a process marking the beginning of a long journey forward to reach our potential, and for a nation to find its place in the community of nations.
Abdulhaliim Rashid Abdirahman
Attorney At Law