The Missing Link that could have helped the Farmajo Government on The Unveiling of Somalia’s Petroleum Mystery
On February 7, 2019, Somalia conducted its first roadshow and unveiled official proposals for selling its oil and gas deposits. The venue chosen was London, England. The goal was to publicize and find two key actors: experts to operate and financiers to invest.
The gist of the February 7-8, 2019 London Conference on Somalia’s Petroleum was captured by a presentation of about 10 PowerPoint slides. Under the title of “Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources” Somalia’s final proposal for creating a protocol to market its oil was officially put forth.
Governments are only as good as their engagement with the public is. The more you engage the public the more you receive legitimacy in whatever you do. As it appears, the Somali public has not been properly engaged in crafting the best way to get its buy-in. The following process, or a similar one, and a comprehensive roadshow could have enhanced the government’s ability to get maximum buy-in.
At a minimum, the following should have been done:
1. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, in collaboration with Ministries of the constitution, Youth, Women, and Public works, and their counterparts in the federal entities, should have created a comprehensive outreach plan to engage all Somali stakeholder. All these entities of the government have a role to buttress the work of the lead ministry. That Plan should have been shared with the Somalis through mass media and through the centers of our cities.
2. The Plan should have established several large Townhall meetings and smaller subsequent ones. They could have been organized in Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baydhabo, Baltweyn, Cadado, Garowe. Additional meetings could have been conducted in other key cities.
3. The government should have explained in layman’s terms to the nation: (1) what is it that the government is doing; (2) why we are selling our oil now; (3) who we are selling to; (4) how Somalia will be using the revenues from the oil. The public’s input in these meetings would have been part of the design of the government’s sale of our natural resources. An overarching planning concept says that plans and proposal are designed by visionary but ultimately made up in the public. The government failed to meet that threshold.
4. This approach would have reduced the amount of misunderstanding surround this sector and how multiple governments have tried to bring it to light. This was an opportunity missed once again.
Therefore, the Somali people have nothing to fall back on except what has been lately circulated in mass media. When the government fails to explain what it is doing, that responsibility goes by de facto to the critics.
The suspicion that many Somalis carry is born out of the absence of a clear process of public engagement about their future. The government failed and gave its opposition the right weapon to attack its legitimacy. Can the process be reinvented and have a way to involve public posthumously? That is not entirely impossible, but it needs guts and hearts from Villa Somalia
The author firstname.lastname@example.org is writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.