By Daniel Hunter
The World Development Movement has today (Thursday) warned that the UK’s new drive to provide aid to Somalia is looking like a ‘cynical’ attempt to grab its oil, rather than being aimed at ensuring a better future for people in one of the world’s poorest countries.
A report in the Observer newspaper on Sunday revealed that UK officials have been engaged in secret negotiations with Somali leaders to secure access to the country’s immense oil reserves. The revelation came after the UK announced a large aid package for Somalia, and David Cameron hosted a conference in London last week on the development of the war torn state.
International development secretary Andrew Mitchell has denied that the timing of the aid programme is linked to the imminent start of oil extraction in Somalia. But the World Development Movement is concerned that the UK may have set off an international scramble for the country’s fossil fuel resources that will be of no benefit to the local population. Other countries, like Nigeria or Angola, that have embarked on resource extraction as a form of “development” are now plagued by the resource curse, which may actually lower GDP over the long-term, while resulting in gross human rights and environmental abuses.
The World Development Movement’s director Deborah Doane said today:
“Aside from the huge impact of new oil extraction on climate change, any oil grab by rich countries like the UK in the Horn of Africa could lead to increased militarisation and violence in an already highly unstable region.
“The UK’s involvement in Somalia is increasingly looking far from altruistic. The UK government’s aid programme should be dictated by the needs of the people of Somalia, not an insatiable appetite for oil.
“We urge the UK government to stop promoting the interests of oil companies like BP and support a low carbon and sustainable development trajectory for Somalia that involves keeping the black gold firmly in the ground.”
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