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UN role in Somalia comes under fire

By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Sep 7, 2009 - 7:04:37 AM

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UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) - The UN Secretary-General's special representative to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has not answered reporters' questions concerning his involvement in the crafting of a 15-page “Memorandum of Understanding” that would give Kenya rights to drill for oil off the Somali continental shelf, extending for 200 miles.

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Some analysts claim that Nairobi applied to the UN for an extension of its maritime border, by claiming larger sectors of the continental shelf which would impact on drilling rights for the region's mineral potential.

The press asked Mr. Ould-Abdallah if it was a conflict of interest for the UN to involve itself in assisting the Somalis in engaging the Norwegian government to pay its fees for the filing of the MOA; and if his role in the matter constituted a conflict of interest.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah said that all questions should be posed to the officials in the UN Development Program. To date no one from UNDP has responded to reporters questions; nor have any other high-level officials. The spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon explained to The Final Call that the special envoy had indeed given a sufficient answer.

The government of Norway, through its UN Mission was the only one to answer, saying helping Somalia file its paperwork was something they have done to help several African nations, but refused to say what other African nations they have helped. Norway is the world's seventh largest oil exporting nation in the world.

Gerald Lemelle, executive director of the Washington-based think tank, Africa Action tells The Final Call that what we are witnessing at the UN is the “historic” Western concept on how to have a relationship with Africa after colonialism.

“Nations such as Norway had to figure out a way to maintain control over African resources, so they use Security Council resolutions, and African proxies such as Kenya (reportedly Norway paid $200m to Kenya for the MOA),” he said. “At the heart of Western intervention in Somalia, which has been a geo-political football, is the battle for its oil,” Mr. Lemelle said.

He said that in today's climate of transparency, Western powers are using the UN-created Transitional Federal Government, “a government with no legitimacy” in Somalia to do the bidding of the oil corporations.

The interim government announced back in 2005 it would start offering concessions for oil, gas and mineral rights, not just for exploration but also for marketing. However, the leadership of that government was replaced by the U.S. and UN in 2007.

And the new administration of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed wasted no time in getting down to business by signing a partnership agreement with Kuwait and Indonesia, with Somalia getting a 51 percent interest in the corporation, according to International Oil and Gas News.

Analysts and activists such as Sadia Aden, a Virginia-based human rights advocate and Prof. Abdi Ismail Samitar, a Somali advocate at the Univ. of Minn., say the UN has engaged in leading Western nations in an attempt to control Somali resources. The foreign navies that patrol Somali seas against pirates are really there to exploit the resources of Somalia, mainly its oil reserves and natural gas; and have been given permission to do so by the UN Security Council, Ms. Aden told The Final Call.

“Somalis know that these navies did not come to hunt and prosecute pirates but to divide the Somali seas, and to protect their interests as they hope to divide up our resources—not just in the ocean, but also on land,” Ms. Aden added.

Prof. Samitar told The Final Call that the MOA caused an uproar in Mogadishu; and that the 245-member Somali Parliament voted unanimously against it. “This is not a real government, so they lack the authority to implement or enter into agreements,” the professor insisted.

Prof. Samitar said that the TFG was beholding to Kenya and its Western backers because of a lack of financial resources; and therefore, the interim government lacks the ability to protect the interests of the Somali people.

Oil industry analysts were saying back in the early 1980s there was evidence of a natural trough of oil that extended across the Red Sea from Yemen into Somalia. Before the over-throw of Somali Pres. Siad Barre in 1991, tens of millions had been sunk into oil wells in Somalia, the largest investment by a Texas-based company, CONOCO.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that while Somalia is considered by many experts in the oil industry as being the last frontier for the “Black Gold” in Eastern Africa; there is no creditable evidence of large reserves of oil; however, there is a sizable reserve of natural gas.

A 2004 report by HAN DATA & Information Background: “Strategic Mining & Oil in Somalia” stated there were precious metals such as copper, gold, zinc and silver, including iron ore, bauxite and gypsum in the Horn of Africa nation.

The UN has been hearing from pro-African activist organizations such as Africa Action, according to Mr. Lemelle, on their role in giving away large tracks of land in Africa to the multi-national corporations; and their backing of dubious contracts that give away African resources. “We want to know who authorizes these contracts,” he said.

Related links:

U.S. foreign policy fuels blowback in Somalia (FCN, 09-22-2008)

The Oil Factor In Somalia (LA Times, 01-18-1993)

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