Political Myopia And The New Petroleum Law For Somalia
Somalia has been a lawless country with violent conflict and destructive internal political strife for almost thirty years. To foster political stability and establish a constitutional democracy in the country, the rule of law must be restored. For that to happen, the Somali parliament both at the state and federal level must fulfill their constitutional obligations of making necessary laws so that the country can move forward. And the needed transition to a more secure, more democratic, more inclusive and more prosperous Somalia can be achieved.
With no laws, Somalia will continue to be in what Thomas Hobbs, the English seventeenth-century political philosopher described as the “State of Nature”, whereby the rule of the jungle is supreme. The Somali people have experienced the brutality of dictatorship, the death, and destruction of the civil war, the menace of the warlords and the cruel barbarism of Al Shabab.
How long can the suffering of the Somali people continue?
The view that Somalia’s political, economic, and security developments have to be arrested and the country has to be on a perpetual standstill until Farmaajo’s regime is gone is politically reckless, economically wrong and morally corrupt.
Safeguarding the key national security interests of Somalia and the political hostility towards Farmaajo’s ailing presidency must be separated, even though the two issues may seem intertwined at the outset. Farmaajo is not going to be in Villa Somalia much longer. However, the strategic national security interests of the country and the long-term political cohesion of the Somali people must have paramount importance. All Somalis must think beyond today’s myopic disagreements and political hostilities and consider thoughtfully how to create a better future for the Somali children.
The Petroleum Law is flawed and the people who are so zealously pushing it forward do not necessarily have Somalia’s best national interests at heart.
They are primarily working for foreign oil and gas interests. However, the sad realities that all Somalis must come to terms with are the fact that whoever is in Villa Somalia at any given time will inevitably succumb to the political, economic and diplomatic pressures from outside the country. And as a result, they will have to make terrible decisions that are hard to swallow at times. Simply put, it is the nature of the prevailing “realpolitik” in the world today.
Somalia is a weak country that does not have the technological know-how, the legal instruments, the financial capital needed and the political expertise to manage its resources.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud awarded a huge and lucrative contract to Soma Oil and Gas (changed name to Coastline) giving it monopolistic powers to manage solely the entire Somali petroleum industries. It is important to note that Soma Oil and Gas was created only a few weeks before the signing of the contract. At the time, Soma Oil and Gas did not even have a proper physical address, almost no funds in their account, and no experience in Somalia or the oil sector. They had only three people as employees on paper.
In hindsight, awarding such a huge contract with no competition to Soma Oil and Gas was insane, to say the least. However, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and his cabinet would strongly argue that the decision they made was the best they could do for Somalia under the prevailing political, economic and security conditions at the time.
The new Petroleum Law is a reasonable baseline that can be improved once a political agreement with federal member states is achieved by the current regime or by a future government after the election in 2020. The biggest problem with this law is that it gives lots of powers to the ministry of petroleum. And that needs to be addressed immediately.
In a democratic system, laws have to reflect the political will of the people. The Petroleum Law does not do that sufficiently. And that’s why it must be amended in due time.
The argument that the Petroleum Law will give Farmaajo and his corrupt government the legal cover they need to continue auctioning Somali petroleum resources is valid and it does have political currency.
However, the question is what is the alternative?
We cannot let the Somali people continue to die with hunger, starvation and endless suffering while we are squabbling over myopic political issues. An agenda for economic development must be sought. The exploitation of Somalia’s petroleum resources is the most important component of any strategic economic development plan.
The fear of climate change is pushing the world to move away from the use of hydrocarbons and the current economic and political trends are to develop alternative and sustainable energy resources that have a less negative impact on the environment. This means that in less than half a century into the future, petroleum will be less important as an energy source. And Somalia’s natural resources could potentially be wasted while the country is in a dire economic and political crisis.
SOOMAALIYA HA NOOLAATO!