The discovery of natural resources is a double-edge sword that needs to have a holistic approach. Disputes over natural resources have occurred all around the world since the dawn of civilisation. However, the extent to which it impacts the environment and communities within nations depends on the level of intervention and early planning. When managed well and you have in place, well defined, robust policies, what follows is, sustainable economic development and shared prosperity. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated, to mitigate and prevent the difficult challenges of land disputes, child labour, arm conflicts, community displacement and environmental destruction.
The Sanaag region, is rich in natural resources that currently contribute to the local economy such as frankincense, myrrh, rich grassland for seasonal grazing and water. Additionally, there is also a vast amount of untapped gold reserves, making the region a viable economic prospect. Undoubtably, there will be trade-offs where we will prefer one economic activity over another, whether that’s gold mining over frankincense and myrrh which are crucial to the living standards of some long-standing influential communities. Similarly, and equally as important/ these areas are important to the nomadic herders during the dry season.
I have personally visited and worked in areas where metallic resources are highly concentrated in specific Somaliland regions, such as Awdal, Sahil and Sanaag, As well as, successfully obtaining exploration concessions in the Sanaag region where preliminary investigations have been completed. Moreover, I have worked within the metallic resources industry in the past, gaining invaluable experience, analysing the nature of this industry in countries like the DRC Congo, Zambia and Botswana, where the outcomes remarkably vary. More importantly, I observed the level of monetary investments injected into communities and the implementation of interventionist policy structures established by their respective governments.
The Ministry of Energy and Minerals department within the Somaliland government should have the initiative to develop the right policies in collaboration with the local community, academia, and investors. We tend to ignore the importance of academics, to independently contribute when undertaking the necessary research needed to develop policies which can benefit this industry, the local communities and Somaliland at large.
Furthermore, it is equally important that the government invest in local communities. Mining projects, as a minimum should include community facilities, such us; clinics, schools, sanitation centers, clean water, to mention a few. The examples of yesteryears, where the extraction of natural resources have exploited local communities, ruined the local environment, while only enriching a handful of actors is a mistake Somaliland can avoid. For best practice, it is imperative these communities should set up an organising committee and elect people onto them whom they believe will represent them fairly and manage any viable resource from their community by balancing the interests of all equitably.
Somaliland administration must confront the challenges ahead, must act now or we shall reap what we sow. There is no better place to start than the absence of defined roles and responsibilities of our honorable, traditional tribal leaders (Chiefs, Sultans and Kings). This broken and inefficient system needs urgent reform, because currently as it functions, it is eroding our democracy, community cohesion, land ownership and resource development. Therefore, it is the prerogative of the Ministry of Interior to review and legislate the core remits of these traditional leaders, so they become beneficial to our society than a needless cumbersome.
Any of these technical solutions in the absence of conflict-sensitive structures within the administration will bring more harm than good. Fortunately, the Somaliland economy does not depend on natural resources, thus, we have a unique opportunity to implement necessary policies to prevent and mitigate future conflict over resources, by utilising all the local and international tools available to us, in terms of best practice, transparency and accountability.
Predictably, developing new policies and implementing them will prove difficult, as progressive change tends to meet instant resistance, it may bruise egos, but we must act now, as it will be beneficial to our future generations and contribute to a prosperous Somaliland for all.
Understandably, the completion of a comprehensive Mining Regulations Act that reflects Somaliland society structure, that is anchored in sustainability and developed through participatory consultation is an obligation of the utmost importance. Whereas, facilitating consultations and dialogue in which all stakeholders participate, to address all concerns and develop a common understanding will lay the foundation for success for all our precious natural resources.
M-H. H. Mirre
Activist & Social Entrepreneur