The region had changed hands from Italian to British colonials during the Second World War. After the Second World War, it was secretly annexed to Ethiopia in 1954 by the British colonials, after 13 years of British occupation. In 1977 it was the scene of an international conflict, as Somali President Siad Barre attempted to wrest the region from Ethiopia. The Soviet Union poured arms and Cuban troops into Ethiopia and the invasion was halted. Since 1984, the Independence Movement, Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), has been fighting the Ethiopian government and civilians are caught in the middle. Ethiopia, which regarded so long the Ogaden as a desert area that can be exported from piles of charcoa,l had recently approached the unexploited natural resources of Ogaden Basin in which its oil deposits estimated at 2.7 trillion that occupied an area of 350,000 square kilometers.
In 2007, the Ethiopian Army launched a military crackdown in Ogaden after 200 rebels from Ogaden National Liberation Army (O.N.L.A.), the group’s army wing, killed 74 Ethiopian guards and soldiers based at three garrisons, including nine Chinese workers who died in the cross-fire. They were working for the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau under the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) at Obole oil field, a small town 75 miles (121 km) south of the regional Capital of Jijiga. Over the last five years, thousands of villagers forced to flee from Ogaden and are refugees in Kenya, South Africa, and Yemen.
The American oil company, Tenneco, was the first to strongly confirm that there was a huge gas reserve in the area 42 years ago. Now other international petroleum companies are finding that the area is rich with natural resources. Oil-rich Ogaden is the world’s number one forgotten humanitarian crisis, yet the foreign oil companies did not forget as many international oil corporations are pouring to the isolated and war-zone area time after time, believing that they can avail the region’s main natural resources of oil and gas, without the consent of the local population of the Ogaden region, with the help of Ethiopian Security Forces.
The Foreign Corporations pay Ethiopian guards a large sum of money in protection of their souls, but unfortunately the Ethiopian guards dislocate villagers and burn the postures all around the grazing-lands surrounded by the oil-fields of Obale, Calub and Hilala natural gas fields to avoid the Ogaden National Liberation Army’s target.
In July 2011, the Ethiopian army shot and then detained Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, two Swedish journalists who went to Ogaden in order to investigate and report on the role of Sweden’s Lundin Oil in the gross human rights abuses committed by the Ethiopian Army against the civilian population.
Ethiopia had used the foreign companies many times as a propaganda tool that it was signed a petroleum production sharing agreement with oil-hungry foreign corporations that would construct and develop the gas filed at Ogaden, but Somali population in Ogaden region see things differently. It is impossible to profit the Ogaden natural resources without reaching political solution of the region which was and still is the epicenter of the Horn of Africa conflicts.
The Powerful Independent Movement, Ogaden National Liberation Front, always warns the foreign companies to stay away from Ogaden basin or any attempt of risking their lives, until political solution is reached, which means the self-determination of Ogaden region. The Group’s Twitter account tweeted as saying: “Gas Fields’ Development Awarded to Chinese Company #ethiopia via @allafrica. Rest assured #ONLF fighters are waiting”.
Another tweet from the ONLF Twitter account said: “@allafrica Poor gullible #Chinese! #Ogaden is a battleground. NO oil until Somali self-determination is exercised”.
Since Ogaden region is landlocked, any oil-construction does not need only to be safe area but also to have a seaport, therefore Chinese companies have been courting the neighboring countries, such as the tiny nation of Djibouti and breakaway Somaliland to allow their seaports of Berbera and Djibouti port.
February 13, 2013, China’s oil and gas producer of Petro-transnegotiated with Somaliland’s officials for the possibility to extend Berbera port’s container and mineral export services to help China’s grasping ways to profit Ogaden gas and oil financially but has scrapped plans to build a liquefied natural gas facility. Now China’s GCL Poly Petroleum signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Wednesday January 8, 2014, with the government of Djibouti that will allow the company to construct two pipe lines stretching from Ethiopia to Djibouti.
Regional commentators believe that China is good for Africa leaders but it’s bad for Africans as long as human rights concerned. And it uses the key president’s issue to penetrating, like the European colonial times, more or less. Sad and angry Somali people in Ogaden say, every coming year it is Dhina’s day-dreaming to produce oil and gas from Ogaden region and Ethiopia’s nightmare of being an oil-industry nation, dreams likely to be a needle in a haystack.