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||Ogaden Oil- Letter to President and CEO of Africa Oil Corporation
|Will the Gambit in the Ogaden Sink Africa Oil.....?
WEDNESDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2013 01:26
Letter to President and CEO of Africa Oil Corporation
Mr. Keith Hill, President and CEO,
Africa Oil Corporation
Suite 2000 - 885 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6C 3E8
Dear Mr. Hill,
We are writing to you to express our extreme sadness about your decision to involve your company in oil and gas exploration in the Ogaden. This was a bad move. We respect and understand that Africa Oil like any other corporation has every right to invest its capital to make profit for itself and for its shareholders. However making a profit at the expense of oppressed and terrorized people is unconscionable.
In 1887 the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) forces conquered Harar, the long time capital of the Ogaden. Within days of their capture of Harar, the invading Ethiopians converted the largest mosque of Harar into church and unleashed one of the worst massacres in modern times, so much so that the blood of the innocent drenched the streets of the historic city. After more than 120 years of occupation, the mosque turned church still stands as a symbol of oppression and subjugation!
From their new centre in Harar, the Ethiopian rulers sent forays of terror, killing and pillaging throughout the Ogaden region. Outgunned and outnumbered, the Somalis of Ogaden nevertheless used whatever they could put their hands on, and resisted the occupation in every way possible.
Take for instance the story of a young man named Abdi Koshin who in 1898 witnessed firsthand the Ethiopian terror and destruction in the Ogaden. Bound by sense of duty to defend his people, but bereft of any form of modern weapon, Abdi Koshin grabbed a knife, and with a bit planning and sheer audacity attacked the commander of the invading Ethiopians, slashed his belly so ferociously that the commanders stomach and internal organs fell to the ground, killing him instantly! Being in the midst of the Ethiopian forces, the young man had no way of escaping. He was therefore quickly apprehended and killed on the spot. His bravery however became a legend! And from that day on, he is simply known by his nickname Uurdoox, the- gut-slasher. 82 years later, Uurdoox’s grandson, Mohmed Diiriye Uurdoox became the General Secretary of the Western Somali Liberation Front, the forerunner of the ONLF. In other words, the resistance to the Ethiopian occupation remained consistent and unbroken that every generation passed the torch of the resistance to the next. And today, those who are leading the struggle in the battlefield and in the diaspora are the great, great, great grand children of the first generation that suffered the Ethiopian oppression and subjugation.
1964 there was war between Nasrullah, the Liberation Movement of the Somalis of Ogaden and Ethiopia, and Ethiopia escalated the war by attacking the nascent Somali nation that gained its independence just three years before.
In 1977 the fighters of Western Somali Liberation Front—the predecessor of the ONLF—liberated about 75% of the Ogaden territory. And later on, with the help of the Somali National Army, the biggest bases of the Ethiopian forces in Wardheer, Godey, Qabri-daharre, Degahbur, and Jigjiga all fell one after the other, at which point 98% of the Somali territory in the Ogaden became liberated and under complete control of the Somalis.
Unfortunately for our people, the Soviet Union, the superpower of the day and its Warsaw Pact directly intervened on the side of the Ethiopia. As a result, Somali armed forces were kicked out of the Ogaden territory. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians on both sides died in that war.
Now the uninitiated would think that since the liberation of Ogaden war reversed, and Somalia itself descended into a black hole of civil war and lawlessness, the Ogaden war, with its monumental sacrifices both in blood and treasure, had been completely pointless. Nothing is farther from the truth. Every drop of blood shed for the liberation of Ogaden either by our own Western Somali Liberation Front fighters or by our brethren the Somali National Army is an enduring deposit that would forever re-energize the determination of our people. No cause is ever lost, unless its owners give it up. For our people, the subjugation has been so painful, the sacrifices so great! All bridges are therefore burned behind us. There nothing for us but to forge ahead, with absolute conviction that the
Daybreak is near!
You are not interested in delving into the intricacy of African conflicts over territories and resources. We understand that. However anyone with ambition to exploit our resources is bound to face, deal, and learn about both the ugly history of the Ethiopian occupation of our land, and the yielding resistance of our people.
In the past 100 years, many things have changed in Ethiopia. The system of the government changed. The monarchy changed. The Derg military government changed. The ruling Amhara class changed to the current Tigreans. But the oppression of the Somalis of Ogaden hasn’t! It remained consistent.
There is no comfort in living under occupation and subjugation of any kind. And for more than 9 decades our people endured deprivation, fear and humiliation under the successive Amhara regimes. However the unimaginable atrocities and the scorched earth policies that the current Ethiopian regime subjected our people makes the oppression under the Amhara regimes appear rather benign!
There isn’t one single Somali family in the Ogaden that hadn’t had at least one member of its family either killed, or tortured, or raped, or imprisoned, or its property burned to the ground and looted. The death of an innocent person at the hands of a brutal regime is never pleasant. And the latest and the most gruesome are always the most painful.
We do not have the time or the space to document here all the Ogaden civilians gunned down by the current Tigrean regime, but we will provide one representative example:
On January 17, Halima Ahmed, 21, whose uncle Farhan Ahmed is one of the signatory of this letter, was apprehended by Ethiopian forces just outside Degahbur, one of the major towns in the Ogaden. Ms. Ahmed left behind her 18 months old girl, and was going to town to buy some basic needs for her family. Ms. Ahemd was gang raped by an entire unit! The Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden and their militias are accountable to no one, and they know it. So what did they do after gang raping that poor young woman? As if the act of gang raping wasn’t cruel enough, they took their barbarity to the next level: They slit the throat of the young woman, and severed the head from the rest of her body, and threw the decapitated body on the side of the highway that connects Degahbur to Qabridaharre for all to see! Instilling fear in the minds of the Somalis of Ogaden is one of the most devastating weapons that the Ethiopian regime uses against our people. And the decapitated body on the side of the highway is meant to send that brutal message.
The Ahmed family both in greater Vancouver and in Seattle, WA, was so devastated and traumatized that they could barely communicate with friends and neighbours for almost two weeks! Their pain and anguish was further exasperated by the realization that those who butchered their daughter and caused their grief were accountable to no one! It is a gruesome and barbaric incident, but in the Ogaden it is not uncommon by any means!
The ONLF is usually very austere and economical in issuing any kind of threat against the Ethiopian government and those who, by working with the occupation, end up undermining the fundamental rights of the Somalis of Ogaden. But when it does issue a threat, the ONLF makes good on it. Prior to the attack on Obolle (abolle) oil field, the ONLF warned both the Ethiopian government that Chinese company that was working on that oil field. However, the Ethiopian government characterized the ONLF as a spent force, and dismissed its threat as an empty farce, and reassured the Chinese company and its employees not to worry about it at all. Then on April 7, 2007, The ONLF staged a well planned attack on Obolle oil field killing 65 Ethiopians and 9 Chinese workers! The Ethiopian leaders who dismissed the warning as empty bluff had egg on their faces, and could hardly find a place to hide! “It was a massacre!” They screamed from their hiding places, as if they haven’t been warned in advance.
History repeats itself. The ONLF has issued a warning again. Ethiopia again is dismissing the warning as an empty bluff. But does Africa Oil need to follow the footsteps of the Chinese company and its workers that had been lied to by the Ethiopian officials whose credibility is clearly in short supply? Is it wise to put your hand in a grinding machine just to see what happens? Sanity would counsel against such folly.
Ever since the Obolle (abolle) attack that had given Ethiopia a black eye, and the wide international coverage of the death of the Chinese oil workers, the Ethiopian government has been trying very hard to calm the fears of the investors in the oil sector. To that end, the Ethiopian government has announced on various occasions to have signed peace deals with various ONLF leaders and supposed splinter groups. The problem with the pronouncements of the Ethiopian government is that her claims defy logic and don’t make sense at all. For instance, by the last count, the tally of the number of supposed former ONLF leaders and the forces they represent that supposedly laid down their arms stands 128% of ONLF forces! This is both illogic and contradicts the basic law of arithmetic, and makes the claims by the Ethiopian government both ridiculous and meaningless.
We do not advocate or condone violence against anyone. However we reserve the right to use all the legitimate, available means to protect our people’s lives and interests.
The development of the oil industry is very similar to the development of the tech industry. In the tech industry, one, two or more tech savvy young men create and develop a new breakthrough program that makes communication and interaction between people easier, appealing and faster. When the new program proves that it could deliver the breakthrough it promised, the giants of the tech industry the Microsofts, the Googles, and so on scoop up that upstart, paying billions of dollars for the new invention, and making the inventors multi-millionaries overnight! That is how the Youtubes and the Skypes of this world came into being. And that is how they were scooped up by the Googles and Microsofts.
The development of the oil industry goes through similar path. Certain man or two, or more armed with an idea, a bit of money, and a desire to make the idea work fly to a far away corner, and at times some of the least accessible places on earth, and negotiate oil and gas exploration deals with the locals and whoever else may be calling the shots in those places. As soon as they acquire the concession to explore oil and gas in that area, the ambitious men incorporate their new company and enlist it on their respective stock market, and watch as their company’s stock incrementally increase by cents, nickels and dimes, or go down by similar amounts depending on where the wind of the market was heading that day.
In the meantime, the owners of the new company make as much noise as possible about their new acquisition, and publicize it in the local, regional, national and international media about the great potential their company struck in its new untapped acquisition.
If the new company’s acquisitions are judged to contain significant oil and gas reserves and those reserves are viable for development, the giants of the oil industry or their subsidiaries will scoop up that upstart oil company, and make its founders and shareholders millionaires very quickly.
However, whether the new company will be bought up by oil giants and reap a real benefit from its acquisitions depends on two factors:
----The acquired oil field(s) must contain significant oil and gas reserves of commercial quantity.
----The acquired oil field must be viable for development and exploitation.
If the acquisitions of the oil company lack either of these two factors, giants of the oil industry will shun such oil company and treat it as a shell game! The reasoning of the giants of the oil industry is convincing and straightforward. The acquisition of an oil field that does not have enough oil and gas reserves for commercial use is obviously pointless. Similarly, the acquisition of an oil field that is not viable for development either for security or for any other compelling reason is just as pointless.
Now the oil fields in the Ogaden may contain large quantities of oil and gas reserves, but they are not viable for development for security reasons. This is well known. The Chinese left for security reasons. The Malaysian company left for security reasons. Africa Oil is going to leave soon or later for security reasons.
That means the oil fields in the Ogaden lack one of the two critical components used for appraisal for investment by the giants of the oil industry. And since Africa Oil acquired Ogaden oil fields even though everyone knows those oil fields are not viable for development, a cloud of suspicion will start swirling around not only around Africa Oil’s Ogaden operation, but around all of its operations, and put a question mark on the judgement and the integrity of the company’s managers. When a company gambles on its shareholders’ money on a risky acquisition that has no viability whatsoever such as Ogaden oil fields, all of the company’s operations and its business practices will all fall under a cloud of suspicion! Investing in the Ogaden oil fields under the current climate is not only wasteful, but it enormously damages the company’s credibility. Credibility is difficult to build, but very easy to destroy. When Africa Oil wastes its shareholders’ money on risky venture with predictable consequences, what it does in other regions will be looked through magnifying glass! Therefore, when we ask the question, “Will the Gambit in the Ogaden Sink Africa Oil?” This is what we are talking about.
Sometimes you win not by making more money but by cutting your losses. Regardless of how much money Africa Oil paid to acquire exploration concession in the Ogaden, the company and its shareholders will be better off not to waste any more money on that hopeless concession. You are not the first firm that acquired concession in the Ogaden, and you won’t be the last to abandon it. Certain oil corporations that were much more powerful and much more resourceful than Africa Oil have abandoned Ogaden concessions because they realized that given the volatility and insecurity in the Ogaden, it wasn’t feasible to explore, develop, and export oil and gas from Ogaden. The impossible hurdles that forced others to depart are facing you head on. And it would force you to a fate similar to that of others. In other words, investing in the Ogaden oil fields at the current circumstances is acquiring a toxic asset. And the chances of recovering your investment from it are practically nil.
We are not against the development of oil fields in the Ogaden. Far from it. Ogaden is one of the least developed regions not just in Ethiopia but in the entire world! And we would very much like that the oil and gas and the resources in our region to be explored, developed, and exported and the proceeds used to the enjoyment and the empowerment of our people. Unfortunately the under the current Ethiopian occupation that is not possible. That is why we vehemently oppose our resources to be exploited and the proceeds used to the detriment and the subjugation of our people.
We do not represent the ONLF. And we don’t always agree with all of its policies. However on the issues of resistance to the occupation and preservation of our resources we are all on the same page.
In conclusion, we, the representative of the Ogaden communities in the diaspora, hereby cordially appeal to you to stop providing funding to the Ethiopian regime, because those funds will surely perpetuate the oppression and the misery of the Somalis of Ogaden, and make Africa Oil and its executives complicit in the crimes the Ethiopian government has been committing against our people.
If, however, you disregard our appeal for whatever reason, we will have no choice but to take our legitimate fight to the wider world, especially to the media(traditional and social media), to the human rights organizations and expose Africa Oil and its executives as wilfully attempting to benefit at the misery of the oppressed people of Ogaden. But most importantly, we will inform the giants of the oil industry and even Tullow oil, your partner, that the oil and gas fields in the Ogaden to be toxic assest—toxic because it is demonstrably clear that, given the security situation, the chances of developing Ogaden oil and gas and bringing those products to the market are practically nil. Thus anybody acquiring such assets must be engaged in a shell game!
This is not a threat. It is merely an indication of how far we are prepared to go to protect our people resources and interest.
Ogaden is a no go area. And you are better off to save your money, and cut your losses. The sooner you realize that the better for all involved.
We look forward to hearing from you.
1) Mohamed Heebaan Vancouver, Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Farhan Ahmed Vancouver, Canada
3) Yusuf Ismaaciil Edmonton, Canada
4) Maxamed Macalin Axmed Edmonton, Canada
3) Ismaaciil Xusen Edmonton, Canada
4) Qorane Faarax maxamed Edmonton, Canada
5)Maxamud Maxamed Yussuf Edmonton, Canada
6)Maxamed Axmed Gani Winnipeg, Canada
7)Niciimo Ciilmooge Edmonton, Canada
8)Sahra Abdi Edmonton, Canada
9) Abdirashid sh.Abdi Fortmcmurray, Canada
10)Maxamed Axmed Mahdi Fortmcmurray, Canada
11) Abdi Hirsi Edmonton, Canada
12) Abdinasir Yusuf Fort McMurray, Canada
13) Maxamud sh. Muxumad Edmonton, Canada
14) M-shaqlane Edmonton, Canada
15) Axmed Maxamed Nuur Edmonton.Canada
16) Shugri Abdullaahi Edmonton, Canada
17) Saynab Bashiir Edmonton, Canada
18) Axmed Maxamed Askar Edmonton, Canada
19) Abdiraxmaan Mohamed Ismaaciil Edmonton, Canada
(20) Abshir Mohamed Dubad Edmonton, Canada
By Mohamed Heebaan
on January 06 2014 19:21:09
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