Hands off Somalia!

Imperialism continues to target Somalia, as the nation sees an ever-growing interest in its oil and an accelerating rush to grab its natural resources. Australia-based Jacka Resources, Ophir Energy and Turkish firm Genel all announced plans to start ‘extensive exploration activities’ in the semi-autonomous area of Somaliland, in what has been called the biggest exploration programme in the region for 21 years.

Genel, headed by former BP chief executive Tony Hayward, who visited the region in early November 2012, is preparing to commence ‘seismic work’ early next year, with an eye to drilling its first well in the second quarter of 2014 and another following in 2015. Despite speculation that the new federal government may up-end oil agreements made after 1991, the London-listed company remains unmoved and plans to spend $400m drilling five wells across Africa in the next three years. Negotiations continue between Somaliland and ‘unnamed groups’ to give away remaining oil blocks. In a continuation of secrecy, further unnamed private equity firms, backed by Chinese, Korean and Indian investors, are also developing manganese, iron ore and coal projects in the region. Iran, hoping to gain influence in the Horn of Africa, announced plans to open an embassy in Somalia, replicating Turkey amidst tensions between the two nations over Syria. Prior to this, only five countries had embassies in Somalia.

Somalia has also recently entered into an agreement with the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) to establish the country’s first ever stock exchange. Peter Mwangi, NSE boss, thinks the time is right for the stock exchange due to the years of war and civil unrest bringing the country ‘to its knees’ and Somalia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Idd Mohamed believes that ‘Kenya has been the most Somali-friendly country in the world’ and that the exchange will somehow help Somalia ‘receive assistance from oil exploration firms, private banks and other key players in the energy sector and telecommunication industry.’ The stock exchange headquarters will be in Nairobi.

Armed drone attacks by the US are on the increase, with the Financial Times reporting in October that ‘their use has become so extensive in Somalia that there are reports of commercial air traffic being disrupted’. Larger observation drones have been launched from Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti for years, along with long-range Reaper surveillance drones launched from the Seychelles to spy on pirates.

Meanwhile, the criminalisation of Somalis in Britain took an even more diabolical turn when a young British Somali man was stripped of his citizenship simply for refusing to join MI5 in something Theresa May claimed was ‘for the public good.’ Having grown up here since the age of five, Hashi went missing earlier this year, leaving his family fraught. They soon discovered the Home Office had revoked the care worker’s passport after accusing him of being involved in ‘Islamic extremist activities.’ Asim Qureshi of CagePrisoners, said ‘this is a purely racist profiling policy of the British government and particularly its security agencies.’ The family now fears that Hashi is being held in the brutal Camp Lemmonier, notorious for illegal detention and torture. When working in a London community centre, Hashi and four Muslim colleagues were approached and threatened with being labelled as ‘extremists’ if they refused to spy on other Muslims. For refusing to bow down to this disgusting demand, Hashi is paying a terrible price, and this appears to be one of a dozen similar cases. The new ‘government’ in Somalia will enable the floodgates to open for mass deportations and detention of Somalis as it provides the illusion of stability and will serve the agenda of imperialism. It’s clear the fight is only beginning.

Nazia Mukti

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013