This idea drove him in 1979 to the University of Oklahoma, where he completed a petroleum engineering degree, with a view to building a career back in the Middle East. However, prompt job offers from several majors upon graduation persuaded him to stay on in the US and he ended up employed by Chevron in Los Angeles.
He pushed water out of old mature oilfields in California and later moved to work offshore by the late 1980s.
“And all this time I was toiling pro bono for successive governments back home, advising Hargeisa (the capital of Somaliland) on oil and gas affairs, scrutinising contracts and purchase agreements and encouraging companies to invest in Somaliland.”
During that time, Dualeh was getting deeply involved in the turbulent politics of his homeland, a once free state with a stable polity, which asserts sovereign independence from the rump of the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.
He joined the opposition Kulmiye Party — Kulmiye means the one who brings the people together — and he rose to become chairman of the party’s North American chapter, catching the eye of the party’s leader, now President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo.
By this time in 1990 Dualeh had married and was holding down a top downstream job as operations manager with California’s Metropolitan Transport Authority, ensuring compressed natural gas supplies for the fleets and developing new business.
His Somali wife and three children were happy and thriving in the golden state.
“Then while visiting Hargeisa in July 2010 I met Silanyo face to face and he told me he had other plans for me and that I should come home. I had always dreamed of coming back to Somaliland and now, look, I’m sitting here as minister.”
His children are in their midteens and visit Hargeisa frequently.
“They’re proud of my decision to return and improve conditions in the country. They encourage me and they’re also longing to be part of the adventure... I must say, their reaction was the turning point in my story.”
He is optimistic about his life and the future. “It’s all about waking up in the morning and wanting to make things happen.”
He has little patience for majors claiming force majeure and even less for briefcase outfits showing no obvious commitment — he wants action.
“I’ve just been to China to discuss Hong Kong-based PetroTrans installing a gas pipeline from Ethiopia to our port at Berbera, along with liquefied natural gas export trains, and I think it’s a very good idea.
“We have a peaceful country, an open door policy and demand contract sanctity just as we offer contract security.”
Commenting on overtures from New York-based financier and equity venture company Jarch Capital, run by Philippe Heilberg — the company specialising in energy deals with nonsovereigns, which won sweeping exploration and production rights to the entirety of nearby South Sudan — Dualeh says they are still knocking on the door.
“Heilberg tried to do a deal but it didn’t go well. He was offered a huge slice but wanted the whole country, so we just parted ways without agreement.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Dualeh says “a lot of oddball ‘Joe Blow’ companies pass through Hargeisa, but I don’t pay them any attention — we’re looking for serious technical and financial competence to get real exploration restarted”
By BARRY MORGAN (London).
Posted by S.AHMED