The Conoco - Somalia Declassification Project

College of DuPage - Geography Department - Prof. Keith Yearman

Updated 16 November 2011 (includes new Defense Intelligence Agency Documents)

 

Introduction: Michael Parenti on Somalia and Operation Restore Hope

"Just days before he left office in January 1993, President Bush sent troops to Somalia supposedly to safeguard food distribution to its hungry people. Here seemed to be another worthy humanitarian cause. But why would Bush, who spent an entire career in public office untroubled by poverty and hunger at home and abroad, suddenly be so moved to fight famine in Somalia? Why not any of the other African countries in which famine raged? And why such an elaborate military undertaking for humanitarian 'famine relief'?" ("Against Empire." San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995, p. 122).

Perhaps the following declassified documents will help explain why Somalia was the chosen country. The following documents have been obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, and are posted online for the first time.

As of now, no documents concerning the initial contact between Conoco and the US government concerning Operation Restore Hope have been made available. This initial contact came in at least 1991, as is demonstrated in "Mogadishu Assessment Mission, Oct. 17-20: Preliminary Report" (22 October 1991) below.


Document Collection

Conoco: "This goose laying golden eggs"

"Petroleum Exploration: Conoco Searches for Oil in Somalia." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 21 March 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 02844. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-286) to Keith Yearman.

"The largest and most purposeful enterprise going on in Somalia at the present time is Conoco's quest for oil...Conoco is investing in oil exploration in Somalia on a scale unmatched by its rivals, building roads and airstrips, chartering one of the national airline's three planes full time, and sending seismic survey teams to the edge of [Somaliland National Movement]-controlled territory... The benefits to all if Conoco finds oil, and the immediate benefits to the economy of Conoco's spending, whether oil is found or not, are so apparent that no one has tried to kill this goose laying golden eggs...

"The most important part of the 'whole story,' perhaps, is that even if Conoco finds oil in significant amounts, there will have to be additional steps and much more investment before Somalia can benefit. The first prerequisite will be that Somalia achieve internal peace. [President of Conoco Somalia Raymond] Marchand explains to [Somali government] officials that if there is no peace, then neither Conoco nor anyone else will be able to get the oil out. A pipeline, pumping station and terminal would cost in the neighborhood of UDS 500 to 800 million..."

The Kott Delegation

The U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu was closed on January 5, 1991, due to the security situation in Somalia. The former embassy building was heavily damaged in the following months. Somali diplomatic affairs were, in the interim, run out of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. In October 1991, a State Department team headed by Bob Kott (of the African Affairs Bureau) was dispatched to Somalia to explore the possibility of opening a new, scaled-down embassy. Of particular importance are two documents concerning this delegation. In the first, "Mogadishu Assessment Mission," Conoco assured the State Department of the delegation's security. This drew a sharp rebuke from the Deputy Chief of Mission in Nairobi, Robert Southwick. The second document, "Mogadishu Assessment Mission, Oct. 17-20: Preliminary Report," stresses the role the US government should play in supporting US corporations in Somalia, "especially in the oil sector."

1. "Travel of Mogadishu Assessment Team." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Embassy in Nairobi. 10 October 1991. Cable Number: State 336658. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-361) to Keith Yearman. The State Department announces Bob Kott will lead a delegation to Mogadishu to "assess the feasibility of re-opening a small embassy in Mogadishu.

2. "Mogadishu Assessment Mission." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 11 October 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 24866. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. John Fox, Political Officer at the Embassy in Nairobi, spoke with a source (likely Marchand) to "assess the situation in Mogadishu as it regards the safety of the [State Department] assessment mission scheduled to arrive there next week.

"Conoco, a non-[US government] entity, has basically given the 'green light' for this mission. It is not Conoco's call to do so. Conoco's security is excellent. Their guards are well-paid and well-armed and the company's security zone is adjacent to the K-7 compound, the focal point of interest for this assessment team. In all likelihood, team members, under the Conoco umbrella, will encounter no security problems on the ground, do their business and go home. Then again, the security situation could change suddenly and dramatically (it already has numerous times since the fall of the Barre gover nment) and someone could get hurt. If the latter be the case, Conoco, which has no legal responsibility to protect USG personnel, will say 'we tried our best' and the USG is faced with both an embarrassing political and legal dilemma. A mission of this importance may warrant the use of US military or [Diplomatic Security Service] assets."

3. "Mogadishu Assessment Mission, Oct. 17-20: Preliminary Report." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 22 October 1991. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. This is a report on the Kott delegation. The purpose was to "evaluate the political and security situations and to examine available properties, in order to give the department the information required to make a decision regarding the re-opening of a small diplomatic mission in Mogadishu."

"There are, at present, few American citizens in Somalia. Conoco (Somalia), Ltd., however, anticipates re-commencing oil exploration work in southern Somalia within the next several months. According to Conoco, this would involve the introduction of 50-60 Amcit employees into Somalia. If the security situation does not deteriorate, it would be realistic to project a total presence of around 100 Amcits in southern Somalia by the middle of 1992. Such a community would justify a consular presence in Mogadishu."

"There are, at present, only two US firms (Conoco and Turnkey) operating in Somalia. Others, especially in the oil sector, are considering resuming operations. These firms will sometimes require the type of diplomatic support best provided by a permanent diplomatic mission.

Pursuing Black Gold in Somalia

The following cables demonstrate how the oil companies were pursuing Somali crude, and some of the difficulties they encountered along the way.

1. "Chevron Drilling Site in Northern Somalia." Cable from US Embassy in Djibouti to State Department Headquarters. 31 March 1988. Cable Number: Djibouti 0711. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. This cable refers to Chevron's operations in Somalia. "Chevron Oil has begun exploratory drilling at the first of two sites in northern Somalia...Another Chevron employee, a Somali-born US citizen...believes the [Somaliland National Movement] has taken a firm descision not [repeat] not to harass the oil operation in any way. The SNM believes the oil (which Somalis and Djiboutians apparently are convinces is present in major quantities) should be exploited for the benefit of the Somali people, particularly in the north. From a technical standpoint, that can only take place in the 1990's, when Siad Barre - and presumably his government - is gone...He believes many of the alleged terrorist incidents in northern Somalia were really the work of the soldiers themselves. Ill-fed and frequently unpaid because of the corruption...these soldiers often exaggerate and sometimes create, boming incidents and firefights in order to be able to justify more support from Mogadishu."

2. "FY-88 Security Assistance Funding Trips Up Military Review Committee (MRC) Meeting." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 2 February 1988. Cable Number: Mogadishu 01297. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. This cable is an overview of US-Somali military cooperation. While important militarily, the last page mentions "the capture of 2 dissidents [and the pursuit of] 3 others whose objective had been to sabotage U.S. oil drilling activities. [Somali Defense Minister Aden Abdullahi Nur] attributed their training and support to Ethiopia and claimed the goal was to close down the exploratory drilling by Conoco along the Gulf of Oman. Embassy will attempt to corroborate this report."

3. "Conversation with Outgoing Japanese Ambassador." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 6 February 1989. Cable Number: Mogadishu 01519. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. This short cable provides an overview of Japan's relationship with Somalia, from rehabbing Somali radio stations to opening a new embassy. Of note, "Nippon Mining (Kyoto) has invested in shares of the Conoco Oil exploration project in northern Somalia, on a strictly financial basis."

4. "Travel Restrictions." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 11 March 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 02441. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. Ambassador Frank Crigler's travel had been restricted by the Somali government. During a March 7, 1990 telephone conversation, the Prime Minister guaranteed Crigler free travel. Crigler chose to "test" this policy by visiting Conoco's site at Las Anod.

5. "Winds of Peace Blowing Even in Northwest Somalia." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 15 March 1990. Cable Number: Modgadishu 02658. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. Crigler's report on his trip to the Conoco site. Most of the cable is dedicated to security issues, however Crigler noted: "Northwest Somalia's ace-in-the-hole may be oil. Conoco has spent dols. 16 million drilling near Las Anod, with no results so far (at 9800 feet) but they remain optimistic."

6. "Somalia Summary, Number 10 of 1990." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 12 April 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 03595. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. This overview of Somali events mentions Conoco's abandonment of its first well near Las Anod. "After repeated difficulties they managed to reach a depth of 10,750 feet before losing a portion of the drill string down the hole. Conoco Somalia President Raymond Marchand and his colleagues are disappointed that they were not able to explore potential source rock to a depth of 14,300 feet."

7. "Official Informal No. 021. Minister of Minerals and Water Resources Memcon." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 9 October 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 08737. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. This cable reports on Ambassador James K. Bishop's meetng with Abdirizak A. Elmi, Minister of Minerals and Water Resources. "The Minister indicated that he enjoys doing business with the American companies searching for petroleum in Somalia. He spoke favorably of several of their local representatives. Due to depart for meetings with the [International Bank for Reconstruction and Development] in a few days, the Minister plans to visit Houston, where he has appointments with Conoco and Pectin. Noting the bullish attitude of the American companies, Elmi said they all want the Hargesia exploration concession, as their geologists have concluded that it is the most likely site for a substantial find."

A Temporary Withdrawal - Security Concerns

1. "Update of Threat Assessment - Somalia." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 7 September 1989. Cable Number: Mogadishu 09512. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. "Somalia remains in a medium to high threat category with a potential for becoming critical with little or no warning..." Conoco "has not reported any incidents."

2. "[Excised] Security in Northern Somalia." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Embassy in Mogadishu. 19 July 1990. Cable Number: State 236961. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. "Amoco, Conoco, Phillips, and Pecten have all contacted us recently about the security situation. Amoco said it may take out dependents permanently and expats temporarily until the drill site in Brava is ready. The expats will probably return if, as Amoco expects, the Somali government agrees to let them fly directly between Brava and Kenya."

3. "Oil Companies are Worried." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Embassy in Mogadishu. 30 July 1990. Cable Number: State 249168. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. Conoco told representatives of State's African/Near Eastern Affairs Bureau that they were "suspending operations in Somalia as of today (7/27) because of deteriorating security in Mogadishu and upcountry...The Somali government gave Conoco a letter releasing Conoco of obligations to continue exploration at this time...Amoco tells us American oil companies will meet in Houston the middle of next week to discuss the situation in Somalia."

4. "Conoco Shutting Down." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 1 August 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 06900. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. In this heavily-excised cable, Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph J. Borich reports on Conoco's suspension of operations "following the apparent assassination of their security detachment commander and the killing of a truck driver." Of possible importance, note the distribution list of this cable - it went to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Conoco and State - A Cozy Relationship

1. "Private Courier Service." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 10 December 1989. Cable Number: Mogadishu 13536. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. In this cable, Ambassador Frank Crigler describes how dependents of State Department personnel provided courier services for Amoco, Chevron and Conoco. An anonymous complaint brought an investigation by the Inspector General, which "found no wrongdoing."

2. "Conoco on How to Pay Our Employees." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 21 May 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 12692. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. With the embassy in Somalia closed, the State Department was concerned with paying its Foreign Service Nationals in Somalia. A consultation was held with Conoco (apparently Marchand), in which he advised State on how to proceed - from setting up accounts with the Central Bank to the amount of time State Department personnel should expect to spend. Of importance in this cable - "Two [US government] employees would travel to Mogadishu several days after Conoco re-occupies its offices on June 4..USG employees would be welcome to stay with Conoco and would be protected throughout their stay by Conoco's private guard service...USG employees could travel to Mogadishu either on the [Red Cross] aircraft...or by the Conoco aircraft...Conoco would probably not charge us for taking one of its regular flights...A final note: In addition to being helpful to us in every other way possible, Conoco has been giving rice, spaghetti, and powdered milk to out FSN's when they come to the Conoco office. Conoco refuses to accept payment from us for this service." [Note: See cables from May 20, 1992 and June 3, 1992 for further details on paying State Department's Somali employees].

3. "Mogadishu Security Assessment." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 9 October 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 24780. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. "Embassy is in daily contact with Conoco (Somalia), Ltd...During four visits by [US government] officials to Mogadishu over the past several months, Conoco (Somalia), Ltd. has provided the following security: USG officials are met at the airport by armed guards and escorted via convoy to the Conoco residence. This residence lies in the center of a blocked-off, two square-block security zone...This zone is controlled by Conoco and is heavily fortified. USG officials move about Mogadishu as little as necessary. When they do, they are provided with armed guards. USG officials sleep and take their meals at the Conoco compound. When they leave Mogadishu, they are again escorted to the airport via convoy under armed guard. The aircraft, leased from 'Rent-A-Plane,' is in constant contact with the Conoco compound while in flight, which further facilitates security during take-offs and landings and allows last-minute changes in plan, if necessary."

4. "Conoco Phasing Out Mogadishu Office, Will Work From Garoe." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 18 February 1992. Cable Number: Nairobi 03944. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Conoco "has ceased staffing its Mogadishu office with expatriates, according to Raymond Marchand, president of Conoco (Somalia)...Conoco, the only U.S. firm that kept its Mogadishu office open during the turbulent past year, finally despaired of stability and government returning to the capital anytime soon...All USG employees travelling to Mogadishu in the past year have stayed with and been protected by Conoco." This is was also released as Document R01, from the Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs.

5. "Request for Travel to Mogadishu to Pay FSN Employees." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 20 May 1992. Cable Number: Nairobi 11635. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Discusses efforts of State Department to pay Somali nationals who were employed by the US government. The political officer, John Fox, "would travel into Mogadishu aboard either a Conoco aircraft or a relief flight. He would stay at the well-guarded compound of Conoco (Somalia), Ltd." See "Approval on Fox Travel to Mogadishu to Pay FSNs" (3 June 1992) for response.

6. "Approval on Fox Travel to Mogadishu to Pay FSNs." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Embassy in Nairobi. 3 June 1992. Cable Number: State 175303. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Washington approves Fox's travel to Mogadishu for June 8-11, 1992. See "Request for Travel to Mogadishu to Pay FSN Employees" (20 May 1992) for initial request.

7. "Former FSNs Paid in Mogadishu." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 12 June 1992. Cable Number: Nairobi 13356. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Discusses Fox's trip to Mogadishu, describes Osman Atto at being "most helpful." See London 00133 ( "TFS001: More on Somali Perceptions vs. the Facts of Operation Restore Hope," 5 January 1993) for more on Atto.

8. "Somalia Security Assessment." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 2 October 1992. Cable Number: Nairobi 22214. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Discusses debriefing of Fox conducted 28 September. Fox "observed no anti-American sentiment...U.S. personnel have the ability to communicta (sic) via satelite telephones provided by Conoco...There is some thought being given in the department to opening an office in Mogadishu for the coordination of U.S. relief efforts. The office would probably be leased from Conoco."

9. "Opening of U.S. Liaison Office in Somalia." Cable from U.S. Embassy in Nairobi (Regional Information Management Center) to State Department Headquarters. 4 December 1992. Cable Number: Nairobi 26851. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Announces creation of a U.S. liaison office in Mogadishu, and that a "temporary office may be established at the Conoco compound if possible." [The US leased the Conoco compound, a villa, and had interest in an apartment complex known as K-7.]

10. "Somalia: Deployment Instructions for Ambassador Oakley." Cable from State Department Headquarters. 8 December 1992. Cable Number: State 390758. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Copy of cable originally sent 4 December 1992 to US Embassy, Addis Ababa. Gives orders to Robert Oakley to "proceed immediately to Mogadishu to establish yourself as the chief United States government representative in Somalia. Your establishment will be called the United States Liaison Office." Also note, "Department is working with Conoco. Rene Marchand, to secure their compound for your use. Conoco is willing but there may be some difficulties in actually getting set up right way." This cable was forwarded to U.S. Central Command Headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base.

11. "Financial Support for Mogadishu - Update No. 1." Cable from State Department Headquarters to U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. 11 December 1992. Cable Number: State 399037. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. "Our initial thought is to establish a contract with Conoco at some fixed amount per person for lodging and food."

12. "FBO Funding for Mogadishu - 2562." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 24 December 1992. Cable Number: Nairobi 28472. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. "Administrative officer in Mogadishu has neotiated a lease for the Conoco compound for six months at dols 41,260." A villa was also leased for $36,000.

Raymond Marchand, President of Conoco Somalia

1. "Views of an Old Africa Hand." Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 30 September 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 08487. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2006-01-288) to Keith Yearman. Conoco Somalia's President, Raymond Marchand, met with Ambassador James K. Bishop to discuss the security situation in Somalia. "[He] took his family out of Somalia in August because he decided the Siad regime could not last much longer and that its demise probably would be chaotic. [He] closed down Conoco's field operations in northern Somalia at the same time, because insurgent activity in the country side [sic] made it impossible to transport necessary supplies to the site where the company was preparing to drill its third well...He feels the current government will be overthrown by the end of the year."

2. "Your Meeting with Raymond Marchand, President of CONOCO Somalia, April 2, at 2:30 p.m." Letter from Martin L. Cheses, Bureau of African and Near Eastern Affairs, to Herman J. Cohen. 31 March 1992. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. This letter is a briefing for a meeting between Raymond Marchand and Cohen. "...Marchand, in contrast to almost everyone else, has some optimistic thoughts about Somalia."

3. "TSF001 - Letter to Conoco." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 15 December 1992. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000004. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Oakley writes to Brandon Grove, leader of an interagency task force on Somalia, to "arrange a letter of appreciation from President Bush to the president of Conoco for the tremendous support that Conoco as a corporation and Raymond Marchand as an individual have provided here." This document was forwarded to the United States Delegation as State 403689 on 16 December 1992.

4. "Situation in Somalia: Conoco Ready to Return." Cable from US Embassy in Djibouti to State Department Headquarters. 14 April 1991. Cable Number: Djibouti 00976. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. Entitled "Situation in Somalia: Conoco Ready to Return," Conoco personnel noted a "stable" security situation in northern Somalia. In an apparent reference to Conoco Somalia's President Raymond Marchand, "he would be happy to take Djibouti [embassy officers], Mogadishu [political officer] John Fox, or other American officials with him on his next trip to Berbera." In this briefing of Djibouti embassy officials, Marchand described a recent trip to northern Somalia. In Berbera, "the SNM has succeeded to a great degree in disarming the population and has established a rudimentary justice system which sounds like something from the Old West: Murder, armed robbery and certain other 'weapons offenses' are capital crimes, and several executions have occurred. The frontier justice system seems to be working..."

5. "Condition of IPAC Facilities in Berbera." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 15 April 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 09509. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. The Navy and IPAC had previously been quite active in the city of Berbera. Marchand, upon returning from his trip to Berbera, informed the State Department that the US government residences in Berbera had "been looted of all furniture and are in need of a thorough cleaning..[but he] gave no information on the condition of the fuel storage and pumping equipment in Berbera."

6. "TFS001: ETA - Admoff Swenson." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 26 December 1992. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000068. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Oakley describes Conoco representative Raymand Marchand as "one of our major supporters to our reentry into Mogadishu." Also, "this would be an ideal opportunity to work out future arrangements in continuing to occupy Conoco's compound and its resources."

Conoco's Role in Reconcilliation

1. "SNM to Propose Federation." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 18 June 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 14987. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. The Somaliland National Movement was preparing a proposal to form a federation with the Ali Mahdi government in Mogadishu. The source of this information apparently came from within Conoco. Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 19 June 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 15103. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. A source (a Conoco employee) reported fighting in Mogadishu on June 16 and 17. The fighting "involved some heavy guns" and "was serious enough to force the closure of the Ministry of Mineral Resources on June 17 and to scare bus traffic off the streets...[The political officer] was able to hear sounds of automatic weapons firing over the telephone."

2. "Somali National Reconciliation Conference: An Organizer's Views on Next Steps." Cable from US Embassy in Djibouti to State Department Headquarters. 20 June 1991. Cable Number: Djibouti 01559. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. This cable discusses reconciliation conferences. The US government was asked to "play a greater role in the reconciliation process." Conferees sent a message to the Europeans. As Ambassador Barrett reported, "One element of this message is said to be a reference to a possible future request for international military intervention for the purpose of disarming tribal militias and restoring order..."

Concerning Conoco, Barrett's source "claims to have seen an internal document of Conoco (Somalia), which states that sites in the Garoe-Las Anod area are capable of producing 300,000 barrels of oil per day. Conoco's drilling rig near Garoe is, we understand, technically outside the boundaries of former British Somaliland. However, if the presence of large quantities of oil is confirmed, the bulk of the Somali oilfield will probably lie under soil controlled by the SNM. A confirmed strike could pre-empt moves toward reconciliation by making it appear more likely to northerners that the 'Somaliland Republic' is a viable economic entity. It could also set off battles between clans for control of land where drilling is expected."

Miscellaneous Documents

1. "[Excised] Security in Northern Somalia." Cable from US Embassy in Djibouti to State Department Headquarters. 13 April 1991. Cable Number: Djibouti 00967. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. Ambassador Robert S. Barrett reported on a visit by Conoco personnel to the Somali cities of Berbera, Hargeisa and Garoe. The Somaliland National Movement were reportedly "anxious to have 'visitors from the State Department,' and that any Americans traveling to northern Somalia would be met 'with open arms.'"

2. "Somalia Weekly Wrap-Up No. 15." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 13 June 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 14783. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. A weekly overview of the situation in Somalia; apparently a source in the redacted portions of the document was connected to Conoco.

3. "Mogadishu Daily Report for 9/30/9L." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 1 October 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 23995. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. "Conoco (Somalia), Ltd. expatriate employees returned to Somalia today. After visiting their rig site in Garoe and stopping for one day in Hargeisa, they will re-open their offices in Mogadishu."

4. "Guidance for Personnel Travelling to Mogadishu" [sic]. Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 20 December 1992. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000029. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. This cable provides a travel guide for incoming personnel regarding food and vaccinations.

This page last updated 11 October 2006. Maintained by Keith Yearman, Assistant Professor of Geography.

Los Angeles Times on Somalia

"Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside.

"That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.

"According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown..." (Fineman, Mark. "The Oil Factor in Somalia." Los Angeles Times. 18 January 1993, p. 1).

Parenti's Take:

"Government officials and oil industry representatives insisted there was no link. Still, Conoco (owned by DuPont), actively cooperated in the military operation by permitting its Mogadishu offices to be transformed into a U.S. embassy and military headquarters. The U.S. government actually rented the offices from Conoco. So U.S. taxpayers were paying for the troops in Somalia to protect Conoco's interests, and they were paying the corporation for the privilege of doing so" (Against Empire, p. 123).


Improving the Conoco Compound

1. "TFS001: Advice of Allotment (OF-162A). Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Liaison Office Mogadishu. 6 January 1993. Cable Number: State 002873. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Deals with budgetary obligations for construction and facilities improvements in Somalia.

2. "Generators for USLO Mogaddishu" [sic]. Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 5 February 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000234. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Discusses generator acquisition for USLO.

3. "Request for ESC Support." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to US Embassy in Nairobi. 10 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000478. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Discusses installation of locks on the compound.

4. "Advice of Allotment (OF-162A)." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Embassy in Nairobi. 29 December 1992. Cable Number: State 416187. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Deals with budgetary obligations for construction and facilities improvements in Somalia.

5. "Mogadishu Planning." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Liaison Office Mogadishu. 24 March 1993. Cable Number: State 088529. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Conoco compound does not meet security standards or current/projected space requirements.


Expand Mission or Stay at Conoco?

1. "Permanent Staffing for Embassy Mogadishu." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 19 February 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000326. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Written by Oakley for the Somalia Working Group. "USG civilian presence in Somalia should remain minimal...No overriding U.S. national, economic, political, or strategic interests requiring a civilian presence larger or differenct than we presently have at USLO."

2. "Site of UNOSOM II Headquarters." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Liaison Office Mogadishu. 26 February 1993. Cable Number: State 058391. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. The former US embassy compound, which was heavily damaged, was being sought by the United Nations. This cable discusses the idea of moving the USLO from Conoco to the embassy compound. "Relocating USLO to the compound eliminates the need to lease K-7 or other properties from 'warlord' landlords at potentially exorbinant rates." See Mogadishu 000363 ("Site of UNOSOM II Headquarters," 27 February 1993) for reply.

3. "Site of UNOSOM II Headquarters." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 27 February 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000363. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. See State 058391 ("Site of UNOSOM II Headquarters," 26 February 1993) for initial cable. Oakley replies, "We continue to prefer our proposal for these facilities to remain at the Conoco compound..."

4. "Mogadishu Planning/Department Team Visit." Cable from State Department Headquarters to US Liaison Office Mogadishu. 4 March 1993. Cable Number: State 065615. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Asks how long US can stay at Conoco, and what lease and improvement costs will be. See Mogadishu 000470 ("Mogadishu Planning/Team Visit," 9 March 1993) for response.

5. "Mogadishu Planning/Team Visit." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 9 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000470. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. This is a reply to State 065615 ("Mogadishu Planning/ Department Team Visit," 4 March 1993). Conoco property leased for six months, at a cost of $6,700 per month. "Continuation of the Conoco lease will depend on whether Conoco will need the compound back for its own use. We believe it unlikely that Conoco will require the site until the situation in Somalia is considerably improved."


Personnel Listings

Amongst the numerous FOIA documents obtained were a series of personnel listings showing who was based at the Conoco compound:

1. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 12/28/92." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 28 December 1992. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000098. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of US government personnel based at Conoco compound as of 28 December 1992.

2. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 01/05/92" [sic]. Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 5 January 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000027. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 5 January 1993. Note date error in cable title.

3. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 01/16/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 16 January 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000102. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 16 January 1993.

4. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 01/26/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 26 January 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000166. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 26 January 1993.

5. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 02/01/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 2 February 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000208. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 1 February 1993.

6. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 02/14/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 15 February 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000290. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 14 February 1993.

7. "WGS001: USG Personnel in Somalia as of 02/28/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 1 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000372. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 28 February 1993.

8. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 03/08/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 9 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000466. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 8 March 1993. Oakley replaced by Robert Gosende.

9. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 03/14/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 15 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000502. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 14 March 1993.

10. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 03/21/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 22 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000565. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 21 March 1993.

11. "USG Personnel in Somalia as of 03/28/93." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 29 March 1993. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000631. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. Listing of personnel based at Conoco compound as of 28 March 1993.


The Truth of the Conoco Compound - The Osman Atto Files

1. "TFS001: More on Somali Perceptions vs. the Facts of Operation Restore Hope." Cable from the US Embassy in London to State Department Headquarters. Cable Number: London 00133. 5 January 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. This excised cable deals with the perceptions of Somalis regarding Operation Restore Hope. An informant discussed the "growing image problem" of the United States. This cable is enlightening in its discussion of the Conoco compound:

"The Conoco compound in Mogadishu being used by the Americans was in fact owned by Osman Atto, Aideed's bankroller, paymaster of the technicals, and khat trafficker supremo...(Atto, according to press reports in October, ran a third of the twenty workshops that converted vehicles into technicals. In addition, news reports support the allegations that Atto and Ali Mahdi are drug kingpins.)"

2. "Somalia: Lessons Learned From What Hasn't Worked." Central Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Memorandum. 24 September 1992. Source: CIA FOIA Electronic Reading Room, accessed and copied 10 January 2006. In this intelligence report, the CIA identifies Atto as an arms smuggler: "...warlords have become adept at finding suppliers in the international arms markets. An Aideed lieutenant, Osman Atto, is widely reputed to have considerable contacts in international smuggling circles."

3. "DIA Foreign Support Intsum 692-93/1 Jul 93." Defense Intelligence Agency. 01 July 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman. The DIA discusses a US helicopter assault on a compound where Osman Atto "converted vehicles into technicals and where two Pakistani peacekeepers were killed during an ambush on the 28th...Atto, General Aideed's main financial backer, recently traveled to Nairobi, and Mombasa, Kenya, to recruit snipers. Marehan clan members who had served in the former hostage rescue force (HRF) in the Siad Barre regime were being recruited. Atto allegedly offered to pay $20,000 to each former HRF member who would be willing to travel to Mogadishu to serve as a sniper in Aideed's military. The targets would be the UNOSOM commander, his staff, and UNOSOM military commanders."

4. "Somalia: Situation Update." Defense Intelligence Agency. 21 July 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman. "Atto has reportedly offered a $10,000 reward for a successful attack on any military aircraft located at Mogadishu International Airport. Atto apparently believes that such an attack would be viewed as an important victory for Aideed forces because helicopters are seen as the only weapon that threatens the resolve of Aideed supporters."

5. "Somalia: Situation Update." Defense Intelligence Agency. 17 February 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman. Perhaps misreading Atto, the DIA reports he "is seen to be distancing himself from the general. Atto has made public comments to the fact that his personal fortune has been depleted as a result of his support for Aideed..."

6. "Defense Intelligence Executive Highlights 89-93." Defense Intelligence Agency. 11 May 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman. "A Somali leader is reportedly planning grenade attacks against Belgian forces in Kismayo. Osman Atto, Gen Aideed's principal adviser, was evidently furious when the Somali National Alliance (SNA) attack he organized against Kismayo on the night of 6-7 May was repulsed by the Belgian contingent of the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). Atto threatened a campaign of grenade attacks against the Belgians...Atto is said to believe the Belgian commanders will lose their resolve and consider withdrawing from their troops from Kismayo if they incur casualties during these assaults."

7. Related document on Kismayo: "Nada Intsum 515-93/DIA Wash DC/10 May 93." Defense Intelligence Agency. 10 May 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman.

8. "Somalia: Situation Update." Defense Intelligence Agency. 21 June 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman. Identifies Atto as a possible successor to Aideed.

9. "Somalia: Situation Update." Defense Intelligence Agency. 3 September 1993. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (0600-2005) to Keith Yearman. Aideed is no longer making decisions alone in his organization, instead Atto and Abdi Ghaldi are involved in decision making.

Conoco - Getting an Airplane Impounded?

"Air Clearances: Mogadishu Plays Hard Ball." Cable from US Embassy in Nairobi to State Department Headquarters. 20 May 1991. Cable Number: Nairobi 12584. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2005-05-183) to Keith Yearman. Somali authorities seized an airplane from African International Airways, which had been flying from Kenya to Somalia. According to a source, "The planes were impounded...to bring pressure on the [government of Kenya] to change its policy banning flights to all Somali destinations except Kismayo...Conoco is not a disinterested viewer of this mini-drama. It has been trying for some time to obtain flight clearances from the [government of Kenya] so it can supply its Mogadishu office and carry out crew changes. The possibility of Conoco being involved in the impoundments cannot be excluded."


Firefight by Compound

"Security Support Team 3A (SST 93-57), Status Report #921220." Cable from US Liaison Office Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 20 December 1992. Cable Number: Mogadishu 000032. Source: Freedom of Information Act release (2004-04-554) to Keith Yearman. "The [Conoco] compound was the target of several attempted takeovers during the civil war. The attacks were successfully repulsed by local employees of the company. Those same employees still work at the compound and have provided some historical background." This cable discusses security arrangements for Oakley, incidents where US motorcades came under fire, and a gun battle near the compound.