"Australia Police Inquiry of Mining Firms Should Extend" (Garowe online)

Garowe Online (Garowe)

3 February 2008
Posted to the web 4 February 2008

A cozy relationship between Puntland administration officials and the Australian company's executives has given local officials unsurpassed political power.

It is with genuine interest that one reads a recent article by major Australian newspaper, The Age, which publicly disclosed an ongoing Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation into "alleged misconduct and dubious practices in the developing world" by Australian mining firms.

According to The Age, political parties and Oxfam Australia have openly called for the Australian government to create a "mining watchdog" to oversee the activities of these firms in developing countries. The article reveals that corrupt practices on the part of Western firms aiming to exploit poor regions the world over for natural resources is so rampant as to warrant an official investigation by the AFP.

Although the article did not specifically name companies in the AFP's three ongoing investigations, the mere fact that mining firm corruption is getting the attention of Australia's largest law-enforcement organization is a welcome feat. It is also a wonder if Somalia, that troubled Horn of Africa country, is on the AFP radar at all.

Since 2005, a resources debate has raged across Somalia following a controversial agreement between a feeble regional administration, Puntland State, and an Australia-based mining company. That agreement, which drags to this day, has led to bloodshed, political scandal and a deteriorating security situation in one of Somalia's more-stable regions.

A cozy relationship between Puntland administration officials and the Australian company's executives has given local officials unsurpassed political power, which has in turn led to local clans to take up arms. Although the Puntland Constitution does not allow the region's leaders to sell off chunks of Somali territory, regional President Mohamud "Adde" Muse presses on with his unilateral exploration agenda.

Local clans in some of Puntland's regions, including Sanaag and Bari regions, have organized clan fighters to take up arms against Puntland security forces, whose aim is to bring foreign explorers to the region by military force. For example, in March and April 2006, at least ten people were killed in violent clashes between Puntland troops and local clan fighters from Sanaag region.

The Australian firm's relationship with Puntland has led to the appropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Puntland officials. Yet, Puntland civil servants and security forces have not been paid in months and concerned ministries are barely operational. Local sources say that donated money never makes it to Puntland government faults, part of a region-wide financial scandal that has turned Puntland, once strong and stable, as a land of the verge of disorder.

Furthermore, the leading characters behind the exploration push, including President Muse's close relatives, are also board members with the Australian firm in question. This not only creates a conflict-of-interest, but it also reinforces the local clans' entrenched belief that the Puntland leader is attempting to invade and control the resources of other clans by force.

Thus far, the Australian firm and its foreign partners have not succeeded in their scheme to explore Somalia, by silencing the opposition through the implementation of military force. All Somalis know that military force, in its most brutal form, cannot silence whole clans.

We only have to look towards Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, where disgruntled clans have ascertained that the mighty Ethiopian army did not spend a single peaceful night on Somali soil.

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