Unmasking Britain’s crude plans for Somalia

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

It has been three months since the British conference on 23 February, set up by the ruling imperialist powers to define their idea of a future for Somalia. Since then, the British government has been hardly public on its plans, but through its influence in the UN in Kenya and Uganda, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) in Somali waters, a new proxy war is being waged against Somali people in a battle for their natural resources and sovereign nation.

The first EU NAVFOR attack hit Somali shores on 15 May at 3am. Sea-based attack helicopters bombed ‘pirate supplies’ on a beach near Harardhere, which in detail only amounted to three speed boats, four ladders, and fishing supplies being destroyed. EU NAVFOR Lieutenant Commander Sherriff was quoted as saying: ‘What we want to do is make life more difficult for these guys’ (New York Times). Residents are reportedly terrified, due to reports of Somali fishermen being killed by foreigners, such as the two murdered by the US Navy on 17 March (Somalia Report).

The dash for oil

The rushing through of a new Somali constitution (at a cost of $60m) for mid-August this year, which is strongly backed by the British government but not the Somali people, aims to convert the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) overnight into a Western-friendly regime that can facilitate imperialist plunder of the new oil in Puntland, northern Somalia.

Western monopolies are queuing up to get involved in the exploitation. Africa Oil is a Canadian oil and gas company with assets in Puntland through its 51% equity interest in Horn Petroleum Corporation. Africa Oil, which claims an 80% interest in licences covering an area of 81,000 square kilometres in the prospective Dharoor Valley and Nugaal Valley, obtained the blocks by purchasing Swedish firm Lundin Petroleum’s East African assets in 2009. However, Africa Oil is just a new subsidiary of the Lundin Group and the sale was just an attempt to clean up Lundin Petroleum’s act, after it was exposed for involvement in bombings and civilian murders in Sudan in 1997-2003.

However the Horn/Africa Oil licences are now disputed by British Asante Oil and it is also on record that Puntland Minister for International Cooperation Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi has approached BP as a partner. BP held Somali exploration concessions in the 1980s before leaving in 1991 when Somali warlords toppled president Siad Barre.

It does not stop there for British interests. British-owned, Dubai-based, company SKA Air & Logistics (which has contracts in imperialist-occupied Iraq) won the contract for Mogadishu airport, while Halliday Finch (run by a British ex-military officer) has signed up deals to run ‘Somalia Maritime Services’ for the TFG, worth millions.


Somalia is surrounded by imperialist forces. The US controls a base of MQ-9 Reaper drones flying out of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, from where armed drones have carried out strikes in Somalia. Reapers also fly from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean to monitor Somali pirate activity.

South African mercenary outfit Saracen International has been operating illegally in Somalia for many years, mostly around oil-rich Puntland. Saracen has links to British mercenaries Aegis and the US Blackwater company (now Xe). Its head Lafras Luitingh was an officer in South African apartheid-era government hit-squads. However, Saracen’s operation has been recently withdrawn from Puntland since the assassination of one of their top trainers in April by his Somali bodyguard.

The real pirates

A UN report published in June 2011 states: ‘Armed private maritime security companies have no official status under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which raises serious questions with respect to liability for actions they may take and the damage, injuries or deaths they may cause.’

Private security contracts in the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits and Horn of Africa have become a lucrative market. Martin Reith, former chief executive of the Lloyds of London insurer Ascot Underwriting, has announced his plans for a Convoy Escort Programme (privately armed patrol boats), which will challenge the market of ‘shipriders’. Financial backing is estimated at around $30m, with a further $40m being sought, and the programme is expected to be launched this summer. Other partners include British based insurance firm Jardine Lloyd Thompson. There are clearly benefits for the London stock market in this scramble.

Many of the firms operating as ‘shipriders’ are British-based or owned, including Drum Cussac, Group 4 Securicor, Neptune Maritime Security and Triskel Services. Some are contracted by the British government to work in Somali territory.

Proxy war

Since AMISOM troops began fighting Islamic insurgents Al Shabaab in southern Somalia in 2011, thousands are still occupying the country through their regional ‘peacekeeping mission’. Kenyan jets have also bombed Somalia, and Kenyan and Ethiopian army troops have invaded the country.

In May the EU announced an extra €100m for salaries of AMISOM troops in Somalia, which now total over 17,000. It is not a peacekeeping mission but an invasion of foreign troops supported by the weak TFG and western imperialism. Ugandan troops, which make up the bulk of AMISOM forces, are trained in Uganda through the EU Training Mission Somalia and by private US firms, before being deployed to Somalia. Even the ‘road map’ for the introduction of a new government was decided in Kampala, Uganda.

Unemployment in Uganda is currently around 50% and 88% of people do not have electricity; this poverty is exploited by the EU to prop up AMISOM. Ugandan soldiers earn about $120 (£76) per month, but if they opt to fight in Somalia with AMISOM they earn more than $1,000.

Although there are rumoured to be 60 British SAS troops currently operating in Somalia, the major imperialist powers will not always begin by putting their own precious armies on the ground for a conflict. Instead ‘cheaper’ Kenyan, Ugandan and other AMISOM troops are used as low-price mercenaries for the West, fuelling an ongoing proxy war against Somalia but conveniently ‘keeping it African’.

The imperialist British government, along with the EU and the US, is placing a lot of emphasis on Somalia, with the people of Somalia accorded no role in deciding their own future. This is not a humanitarian intervention, but a scramble for African oil and minerals. All outside intervention must be opposed, as the imperialists have no other interest than further exploitation and manipulation of the Somali people and their resources.

Imperialist hands off Somalia!

Anthony Rupert


Hands Off Somalia events

Imperialist hands off Africa!

Saturday 16 June, 2-6pm

Horn of Africa Community Group, Lime Grove, London W12 8EE

Speakers from Hands Off Somalia, FRFI, AAPRP, Uhuru, and more.


Rage against the BBC!

Saturday 30 June, 2pm, Broadcasting House, Portland Place,

London, W1A 1AA