Puntland, one of the poorest regions in Africa, has been a semi-autonomous region in Somalia since 1998 when it was formed in response to the collapse of the government and the ongoing civil war in the south.
But now for the first time in 20 years oil companies are drilling in Puntland. Oil could offer the jobs and revenue the region desperately needs. Or, it could be the very reason why this strategic resource rich country is at war. Somalia has proven oil reserves of about 200 billion barels. It must be enough to make oil giants covet a land home to world’s poorest people. 2 oil blocks in Somalia are equal to the size of Bangladesh.
Somalia’s capital Mogadishu had been under the control of Al Shabaab (formerly Islamic Courts Union) until last week. Shabaab soldiers have vowed to fight back blocking the way for mega oil deals. Oil companies would not enter a war torn zone without some form of international military protection for its operations. US military intervention in Operation Restore Hope crashed with its Blackhawk in a disgraceful manner. Conoco’s Mogadishu office was used by US marines and by US special envoy during Operation Restore Hope. Since US withdrawal in 1993-94 made it harder for oil companies to continue in a country where 2/3rd of oil blocks were awarded to US oil companies.