Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Britain's Interests in Somalia

The below is a speech given by a Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporter at a 'Free Raul Ally!' organising meeting on 5th October 2012. Raul is originally from Somalia.

Britain’s Interests in Somalia

In February 2012 British foreign secretary William Hague visited Somalia in what was the first visit of a senior British minister in over 20 years, the intention was supposedly to try and find a solution to the crisis facing Somalia and to combat piracy and extremism. Hague described Somalia as the "world’s most failed state" yet under the pretence of humanitarian aid and security assistance Britain is leading the race for exploitation of oil in the war torn country.

At The London Conference on Somalia on 23 February, convened and hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain along with representatives of the transitional federal government agreed to ‘inject momentum into the political process, strengthen AMISOM [the African Union mission] and help Somalia develop security forces, build stability, and tackle ‘pirates and terrorists’. The outcome of the conference included that AMISOM will be increased from 12,000 to 17,731 police and troops, and equipment support increased, doubling the required UN budget to $500m annually. 4,600 British trained Kenyan troops make up the bulk of the increase. The Conference was a greedy cover to enable Britain and the US to bargain over Somalia’s oil resources.

Away from the fanfare of the London Conference on Somalia, secret talks were going on ‘between British officials and their Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored’ in Somalia (Observer, 25 February 2012). The Puntland minister for international cooperation admitted: ‘We have spoken to a number of UK officials; some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues.’ Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Ali said a share of natural resources would be offered in return for help with ‘reconstruction’: ‘What we need is capital from countries like the UK to invest.’ BP and Shell promised to support ‘job-creation projects’ in the coastal regions.

The potential for oil and natural gas off Somalia in the Indian Ocean is the big prize for imperialism. The entire East African coastline is teeming with international oil company exploration teams on land and offshore, and is expected to rival the massive oil fields of West Africa. Fields containing reserves estimated at 110 trillion cubic feet of gas have been found off Mozambique and Tanzania in recent months. Britain’s top priority in Africa is to secure access to its natural resources and it has rushed to get first dibs on Somali oil ahead of US and Chinese rivals.

"What we are seeing today in Africa is a replay of the colonial scramble for control of resources by the major imperialist countries over a century or more ago in the late 18 and early 19th century" Trevor Rayne, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

It was in 1848 that Britain gained control of Somalia as a protectorate, the intention being to secure the Gulf of Aden, in order to allow for the safe passage of British ships carrying vast resources taken from India into Britain by way of the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea. Today the Gulf of Aden has 23,000 ships pass through it annually and is the second busiest trade route in the world, Britain alone makes £10 billion from this particular trade route.

Since the conference earlier this year Britain has been able to expand its operations in Somalia through the use of proxy warfare. By commanding the Kenyan and Ugandan military and the EU navy to launch attacks on Somalia, Britain is able to keep its intentions quiet whilst allowing these imperialist collaborators to suffer the casualties. In other words these forces are doing Britain's dirty work.

The rushing through of a new Somali constitution (at a cost of $60m) in August 2012, which was strongly backed by the British government but not the Somali people, aimed to convert the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) overnight into a Western-friendly regime that can facilitate imperialist plunder of the new oil in the semi autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia.

The deals that were arranged for British oil companies BP and Shell does not end there for British interests. Dubai-based, but British owned 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 Somali government, worth millions.

Despite a UN report published in June 2011 that stated: ‘Armed private maritime security companies have no official status under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 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’.

Many of the firms operating as ‘shipriders’ are British-based or owned, including Drum Cussac, Group 4 Securicor (G4S), Neptune Maritime Security and Triskel Services. Some are contracted by the British government to work in Somali territory. It’s enlightening to see who the real pirates of the seas are: the very same British government that is escalating the war in Somalia to secure oil resources is also profiting from people seeking protection from the very same war.

Britain is an imperialist county that’s economy is reliant on the exploitation of oppressed countries, that for years were underdeveloped under colonialism and continue to be underdeveloped, as the neo liberal policies forced on them by the IMF/world bank mean the majority of the country’s economy goes on re-paying debt. The money Britain takes in from these oppressed countries is triple the amount made from its GDP. It is this reason that stops Britain from allowing Somalia to determine its own leaders and government, Britain has to intervene in order to protect its access to resources. When Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq threatened to trade in Euro's not dollars, their overthrow shortly followed, the threat of an Islamic state that is unwilling to be exploited by European and US imperialists in Somalia or a state that sees China as a better trading partner is not acceptable for the imperialist countries. Britain boasts of its humanitarian assistance yet locks up those that flee from the turmoil it creates, it seeks to only take the profits from oppressed counties but not the people, this is inherently racist, and this is why we fight against immigration controls, fight in solidarity with Raul and all asylum seekers and demand an end to detention centres.

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