It seems Somalia can't catch a break. After years of devastating famine, civil war, division of the nation into various factions and the fact it is viewed as one of the poorest and most violent nations on the planet. If one wishes to define a failed state then Somalia must be first on the list.
Even the present government barely controls a couple of blocks in the capital, things are working and working well in Somalia. The economy is considered quite good. The 'real' growth rate of the economy in 2009 was 2.7%, which isn't bad when one factors in all that is happening in the country. It seems not having a central government has been a boon to the economy. It does make one wonder. I suppose it could be said that Somalia is more an experiment in libertarian economics rather then a crippled nation-state.
Yet that may all change, for Somalia is also cursed with what some people think is an abundance of oil. It seems people are saying there is a lot of oil in Somalia and its ripe for exploration and development.
You might be thinking that this is good news, after all, oil will mean revenue and the development of the nation. I sure it could be but for the headline in the Guardian: "Somalia promises west oil riches as diplomats vow to defeat al-Shabaab". So the government is promising the West a portion of the booty if they receive help in defeating the rebels and building up the infrastructure.
Consider with me the track record Somalia has had at the hands of the Western Powers:
1991- Somali Civil War, which followed by intervention by western powers under the aegis of the United Nation. The word that best describes those years is debacle. Not only did western powers fail to meet any objections, but the troops treated the local citizens with such scorn that they met one objective and that was to unite all of Somalia under a hatred of the West. Most of the military involved are still licking their wounds from the fall out.
One of the benefits the West discovered with the collapsed of the Somalia central government is that there was no one to protect the 200 mile off-shore zone, and so the various fishing fleets of Europe decided to exploit the resource. They used the same methods that proved so successful off the Great Banks of Newfoundland- the basis 'leave no fish behind' idea. If that wasn't enough they discovered that without any pesky navy to prevent them they could start dumping toxics off the shore of Somalia. The said effect of that little travesty was to destroy what few fish and sea life that remained.
Now you had all these unemployed fishermen. They looked around, they saw boats, guns and noticed all these big slow moving oil tankers not that far off-shore. So they did what should have been expected- they became pirates. They were quite successful and apparently, helped develop the economy further. Of course, the world didn't like these pirates and turned against them. Funny how they couldn't turn their guns on those vessels dumping toxics off shore- yeah funny how that is.
So Somalia has oil. Oil that the West is salivating at the thought of exploiting. The Canadian corporation Africa Oil Corporation is at the forefront of the development of the fields.
I would like to think this could be the best news possible for Somalia, here is tangible riches. If the speculation is true, that there might be as much as 4 billion barrels of oil, this is amazing.
The concern is, might the West, which has a long history of screwing the Somali people and nation over, try a new tact and actually give the people and government a break? Will they expect a certain level of atrocity to destroy the rebels so the clear the area of all who might interfere.
If done right, it will be a boon for the people.
Sadly, if done wrong, it's more of the same.