Untapped Wealth, Unrecognized Nation: Somaliland’s Oil Discovery and the Urgency for more U.S. Engagement
By Robleh Mohamud Raghe
Somaliland’s representative to Taiwan, Mohamed Hagi, has recently confirmed that Somaliland is still on track to drill for oil in the fourth quarter of 2023. A high-level Taiwanese delegation arrived in Somaliland earlier this week to hold key talks with government officials. This significant news demonstrates that Somaliland and its partners are determined to continue their ambitious agenda of strengthening political and economic ties, despite the current challenges posed by local and external actors behind the Las Anod political crisis.
Here’s what you need to know about the plans to drill for oil in Somaliland, the Las Anod political crisis, and why Somaliland recognition should be an urgent priority:
Somaliland, an unrecognized country in the Horn of Africa, has been generating considerable interest due to recent oil discoveries across the country, and current plans to drill for oil in Ainabo (Eastern Somaliland). This potentially game-changing resource has caught the attention of major players in the international community, including the United States and Taiwan. Despite its lack of international recognition, Somaliland has managed to maintain relative peace and stability while its neighbor, Somalia, grapples with decades of civil war.
I am overjoyed that Somaliland will become an oil producing country by 2024. Drilling will start in the fourth quarter of 2023.
The people of Somaliland are grateful for Taiwan's substantial investment in oil. I am confident that Taiwan will soon invest in many more fields. pic.twitter.com/QqpsfALyto
— Mohamed Hagi (@AmbMohamedHagi) March 16, 2023
The discovery of oil in Somaliland could represent a new era for the country and the Horn of Africa. LSE-listed oil company Genel Energy and Taiwan’s state-owned oil supplier, CPC Corp, have partnered on the Ainabo oil project. This partnership is significant, as it signals a strengthening of ties between Somaliland, the United States, and Taiwan. Furthermore, the recent addition of Somaliland to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2023 highlights the country’s growing importance to the United States.
However, this newfound interest in Somaliland’s resources has not been without its challenges. A rebellion has erupted in the city of Las Anod, with terrorists and militants fleeing from Somalia infiltrating the area. These groups are suspected to have backing from external forces unhappy with Somaliland’s oil drilling plans and its blossoming ties with the US and Western partners. This insurgency poses a significant threat to Somaliland’s stability and potentially the broader Horn of Africa region.
Somalia has publicly rejected Genel Energy’s claim to oil exploration and exploitation rights in Somaliland. This assertion complicates matters further, as Somalia’s unlawful claim to sovereignty over Somaliland hinders the latter’s ability to mobilize resources to combat the insurgency.
There are several possible scenarios playing out in Las Anod, with the involvement of external actors being a distinct factor. Given Somaliland’s strategic location, it is conceivable that foreign powers are involved in an attempt to undermine US and Taiwanese interests in the region. The suddenness and intensity of the insurgency suggest that external actors may be providing resources and support to the militants, including arms, funding, and strategic advice.
A potential solution to this crisis lies in granting Somaliland the international recognition it deserves. Somaliland has operated as a fully independent state since 1991, with a functioning government, a growing economy, and a pro-Western, pro-democratic orientation. The lack of international recognition only serves to perpetuate uncertainty and instability in the region.
Recognizing Somaliland would help further legitimize its government, allowing it to mobilize the resources necessary to combat the insurgency and strengthen its economy. It would also enable Somaliland to enter into meaningful agreements over the exploration or extraction of oil and gas reserves, providing a much-needed boost to its economy.
The situation in Las Anod is a major threat to regional stability in the Horn of Africa. It is time for the US Senate and Representatives to recognize Somaliland and support its efforts to combat the insurgency and strengthen its economy. Doing so is not only the right thing to do, but is also in the best interests of US foreign policy. By recognizing Somaliland and strengthening ties, the US and its Western partners can safeguard their interests in the region and promote stability in the face of growing challenges.
Somaliland’s oil discovery serves as a wake-up call for the United States and the international community to take the Horn of Africa region more seriously. Somaliland’s stability, strategic location, and growing partnerships with the US and Taiwan make it a valuable ally in the Horn of Africa. The recognition of Somaliland would open the door for increased investment, cooperation, and security in a region where stability is often scarce.
The challenges faced by Somaliland and its allies are not insurmountable. By acknowledging the importance of Somaliland and extending recognition, the US can demonstrate its commitment to fostering a more stable and prosperous Horn of Africa. In turn, this would strengthen US foreign policy objectives and contribute to the global effort to combat terrorism and promote economic growth. The time has come for the international community to embrace Somaliland and support its aspirations for a brighter future.
Robleh Mohamud Raghe is a writer, analyst, marketing executive, and former communications aide to the 4th President of Somaliland, Ahmed Sillanyo. You can follow him on Twitter at @RM_Laf.
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