Somaliland: Searching for a Scapegoat for the Oil Fiasco

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Genel has invested over $60m oil surveys in somaliland so far

By: Osman Sultan Ali

Somalilandsun – I have known Mr Mohammed Bihi Yonis for many years. He is a highly educated, experienced and a very accomplished person.

Through his influence, intelligence and charming personality, Mr Yonis helped many Somali professionals find lucrative opportunities in various international development organizations.

Mr Yonis’ extensive professional and personal Rolodex includes influential and powerful players in many countries and international organizations.

Therefore, I was delighted to hear about his appointment as the Foreign Minister of Somaliland, a small nation understandably craving international recognition. I enthusiastically supported President Silanyo’s choice, for I firmly believed that Mr Yonis was the right man for the job.

However, I can no longer unequivocally support Mr Yonis. Since the publication of our letter to Genel Energy , the Foreign Minister has launched a threatening campaign against us. This is an attempt to vilify those who merely voiced their constructive criticisms against Genel Energy and the Silanyo government.

He has implicitly incited violence against us. He publicly stated that we caused the departure of Genel Energy from Somaliland, and therefore former employees, contractors and subcontractors and citizens at large should direct their anger and frustrations against the letter writers.

Mr Yonis has deliberately and maliciously spread false misinformation against us all over Somaliland. It is really reprehensible for anyone to malign our reputation for merely disagreeing with the government’s disastrous oil policies.

We stood up to Genel Energy’s plans to loot the natural resources of the country without the slightest fear of any negative repercussions. The Silanyo administration and its predecessor allegedly signed nothing to protect the rights of the citizens. This explains their refusal to share any agreements between the government and Genel Energy with the Parliament and the House of the Elders.

It may be that there are no agreements. Why would the government of a duly elected president give a blank check to an unscrupulously greedy foreign company to prospect, drill, extract and market the natural resources of the country?

It may surprise the honorable Foreign Minister that we, the letter writers, are supporters of the president. But we have strongly believed that the sophomoric and shady oil policies of his government will eventually lead to the Balkanization of the country.

The ease with which Mr Yonis has absolved the government any responsibility for the debacle is astounding. He claimed that the letter writers and their supporters in the diaspora and at home forced “mighty” Genel Energy, an Anglo-Turkish oil corporation, to abruptly sneak out of Somaliland in the wee hours of September 9, 2013.

Well, the hue and cry over the letter to Genel Energy is much ado about very little. There are other credible reasons for the departure of the company from Somaliland. It is truly scandalous the way they left the country. They treated their employees, contractors and subcontractors badly. They failed to give the government advance notification of their intentions. They treated Somaliland, its government and people with undisguised contempt.

In a nutshell, Genel Energy treated our country like a 20th century Latin American Banana Republic!

Although there is enough blame for all those involved in the oil controversy, the Foreign Minister surely knows that Mr Hussein Abdi Dualeh, the Minister of Oil and Minerals and Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Hassan, the country representative for Genel Energy, are largely responsible for this unmitigated fiasco as they mismanaged the whole operation from the beginning. They refused to share responsibility with or to seek guidance from anyone. It is no secret that there was so much corruption, naked nepotism and utter incompetence as well as insufficient security.

It is inconceivable that hard nosed Genel Energy executives and Board of Directors, who had spent millions of dollars in Somaliland, felt so threatened by a reasonably worded letter by some unknown individuals scattered throughout the world, who had no influence or clout of any kind, would order their company to vacate the country.

Therefore, it is inexplicable why the Foreign Minister would publicly claim that the letter was almost the sole reason for Genel Energy’s departure.

The Silanyo government has yet to take responsibility for this disaster, and has instead unleashed its new Foreign Minister to put his reputation and excellent credentials on the line by threatening fellow citizens for solely expressing their disagreement with their government’s misguided policies.

The author Osman Sultan Ali is Founder and the former Publisher and Editor-In-Chief of the Horn Africa Journal

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