Chinese oil workers once again seem to be at the center of a nasty counterinsurgency in the Horn of Africa, in the Ogaden, located in south east Ethiopia. The Ogaden is home to what is reported to be major deposits of gas and oil, though as in South Sudan, just how much is actually there is still just guess work.
In the 1960s Western oil companies started finding lots of natural gas and maybe even oil in the region.
Then came various wars and then the US invasion of Somalia in 1992–3 and all the murder and mayhem this little war unleashed amongst the Somali people. So the Western Big Oil mafia has stayed away.
By the beginning of the new millennium, China had begun developing the Sudanese oil fields in the Abeye region and an oil pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Shortly thereafter, the Chinese began taking a hard look at next door Ethiopia and the enormous potential of the Ogaden gas and oil deposits.
Thus began the story of how China came to the Horn of Africa looking for oil and found itself in the midst of trouble … //
… 2011 saw reports of Chinese oil company personnel in Ethiopian army uniforms doing exploration work back where all the trouble broke out in 2007 and once again in the midst of fighting with the ONLF.
Now we are receiving gruesome reports that an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Ogadenis living in the Chinese oil exploration license area is being carried out by the Ethiopian army.
The army arrives in an area and begins to arrest or kill all the adult males, forcing all the men to flee into the surrounding countryside for days at a time, returning to find their homes burnt and even their children eaten by hyenas.
The question is, will the name of the Chinese owned oil company, Petronas, come to be one hated by tens of millions of Horn of Africans? Like it already is amongst the Somali people of the Ogaden? Only time, and good sense by the Chinese, will tell. (full text).
(Thomas C. Mountain is the only independent Western journalist in the Horn of Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at yahoo).