The Role of Sinclair Oil Corporation in the Eritrean Federation with Ethiopia

When oil becomes thicker than blood
When oil becomes thicker than blood

By Arba_Gorash,

Ethiopian Ogaden region is sitting on one of the world’s largest untapped oil and natural gas reserves that could put many oil-rich gulf countries out of business.

British and American oil companies have deliberately left the Ogaden region untouched as a strategic reserve against future oil shortages. But energy-hungry countries such as China and Sweden are now eyeing to drill for oil in the region, and this in turn has unsettled the British and American oil companies who believe they have inherent rights over the oil deposits by virtue of Ethiopia being their client state. 

For a better understanding of the what caused the 30 years war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, it is suffice to revisit the September 27, 1945 letter that was written by a U.S. oil and Gas company to James F. Byrnes, the then Secretary of State.
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September 27, 1945

The honorable James F. Byrnes
Secretary of state
Washington D.C.

Dear Mr. Secretary:

My company has only recently completed an agreement with the Imperial Ethiopian government for the development of petroleum in Ethiopia.

I feel rather certain that you, personally, have been informed with request to this agreement. Unfortunately, the country of Ethiopia is an inland country, with no direct water outlet for export shipping. Should we be successful in discovering oil, we would, of necessity, be required to construct adequate pipe line facilities from Ethiopia to a suitable seaport, as well as an export shipping terminal.

If we are to proceed with our development program in Ethiopia, it is of vital importance that Eritrea should be recognized as an integral part of Ethiopia, as we would have a suitable seaport outlet.

Our entire development program will seriously be delayed and affected should Eritrea be under the domination of any other power except Ethiopia. I, therefore, urgently request that your good offices support the demand of Ethiopia with respect to Eritrea.

For your personal information, I am attaching hereto photostatic copy of the supplemental agreement between my company and the Imperial Ethiopian Government, with respect to construction of pipe lines in outboard outlets, from which you will readily see the importance to this project of the acquisition of Eritrea by Ethiopia.

Very truly yours



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In 1944 Sinclair Petroleum, an American company, signed an agreement with Ethiopia and started petroleum exploration activities in the Ogaden. Until 1951, Sinclair Petroleum drilled 17 exploration wells in the eastern part of the Ogaden basin. The Ogaden sedimentary basin covers 350,000 sq. km. of land. Sinclair Petroleum had noted the existence of oil inflow in one of the exploration wells drilled in Gelladi locality.

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After the end of World War II, the United Nations conducted a lengthy inquiry regarding the status of Eritrea, with the superpowers each vying for a stake in the state’s future.

Britain, the last administrator at the time, put forth the suggestion to partition Eritrea between Sudan and Ethiopia, separating Christians and Muslims.

The idea was instantly rejected by the Eritrean people— both Christians and Muslims— who wanted total independence and keep their territorial sovereignty intact.

The United States point of view was expressed by its then chief foreign policy adviser John Foster Dulles who said:

…. From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country [Eritrea] be linked with our ally, Ethiopia.” — John Foster Dulles, 1952

A UN plebiscite voted 46 to 10 to have Eritrea be federated with Ethiopia which was later stipulated on December 2, 1950 in resolution 390 (V). Eritrea would have its own parliament and administration and would be represented in what had been the Ethiopian parliament and would become the federal parliament.

In 1961 the 30-year Eritrean Struggle for Independence began, following the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s dissolution of the federation and shutting down of Eritrea’s parliament. The Emperor declared Eritrea the fourteenth province of Ethiopia in 1962.

But why Eritrea? Aren’t Somaliland or Kenya both with access to the sea and much closer to Siclair’s oil territory in the Ogaden region than Eritrea?

According to the January 11, 1951 memo written by the Acting Deputy Director at  the Office of Military Assistance, neither Somalialnd nor Kenya will serve Sinclair’s oil concession interest in Ethiopia better than Eritrea.

“… Ethiopia’s border and jurisdictional difficulties with British and French Somaliland’s are under negotiation among those governments. An important interest of the United States in these negotiations is to see that the rights of the Sinclair Petroleum Company to develop petroleum in Ethiopia are not infringed by territorial adjustments among those powers. The British have assured us that if agreement is reached on a proposal to cede to Ethiopia a corridor to Zeila in British Somaliiand in exchange for a considerable section of south-eastern Ogaden, to be annexed to British Somaliland, the rights of Ethiopia and the Sinclair Company to the sub-soil resources in that part of the Ogaden transferred to British Somaliland will remain in effect …”

However, after 30 years of bitter struggle, the Eritreans won their independence and declared an independent Eritrea in 1993.

“… By logic, the nation of Eritrea (pop. 3 million) should not exist. The secessionist province’s independence fighters ought never to have defeated Ethiopia in their 30-year-long struggle. They were out-manned  outgunned, abandoned or betrayed by every ally; their cause was hopeless. They won by force of character, a unity and determination so steely not all the modern armaments, superpower support or economic superiority of Ethiopia could withstand it. The spirit that saw the Eritreans through 10 years in the trenches of their mountain redoubt at Nakfa has built them a nation from scratch, since independence was finally consummated in 1993” — Johanna Mcgeary and Marguerite Michaels Monday, Mar. 30, 1998

In 1969, ARCO acquired Sinclair Oil Corporation.
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16 thoughts on “The Role of Sinclair Oil Corporation in the Eritrean Federation with Ethiopia

  1. Every Eritrean knows that the US was behind the unjust push to force Eritrea under the tutelage of Ethiopian Empire. That is sad for a country that professes in democratic rights, although I have my doubts about that empty rhetoric. It is even sadder that the same country continues to abuse the Eritrean people by authoring and once again shoving another illegal and unjust sanctions against the long abused Eritrean people.

  2. Let us not kid ourselves. They will never sleep until their goal is achieved and we should never trust them. We should always be vigilant. They will lie to you with a strait face, give you a warm handshake, shower you with excessive and insincere praise and then stab you on the back. They are the most dangerous when their ambassadors declare " …… is a good friend of Eritrea" and at the same time in New York, at the UN Security Council their representatives stretch their hands in a vote of yes and sadistically impose illegal sanctions on a people whose only fault is TO BE FREE from domination.

  3. The Truth always make its way to the world stage. That was the very reason why Eritrean people and Tegadelti had been victorious and still going strong. As Eritreans says “the stick of the truth may get thinner but will never get broken!”

  4. The power of interests……absolutely dictate the immorality of humankinds. As an Eritrean, as well as African, the conflict of interest mode is sugar coated with a powerful tool which is called Democracy that I must acknowledge it.

  5. Seriously speaking, I thought the U.S. interest that left us to bleed for more than 50 years was the Dahlak Island …. you know Kagnew Station stuff……. But thanks to this wonderful evidence, it was then "Oil".

    Special interest groups like Sinclair, Chevron, Mobile, Weapons manufacturers etc ….. are the driving force for U.S. politicians as most of the senators and congress man and women are majority share holders in these conglomerate companies. When they talk about U.S. interest, they covertly referring to their personal interest with in those companies.

    Dick Cheny has a majority share on weapons manufacturing and for him to engage America on war foot brings himmore profit, so then the war in Iraq, Afghanistan etc…. That's the U.S.

    Long Live to China and Russia. Hands of Syria.

  6. Arba Gorash ……you are doing nice job brother keep going your good work we love you so much i admire all the the work you did in our enemy side you understand what i am going to say

  7. Arba_gorash is the most talented and highly knowledgable Eritrean who made fellas from south the boarder cry with his wisdom and words of character. He is the great defender of Eritrea on most if the Ethiopian websites, notably Ethiopian Review. His extraordinary photoshop skills made his opinion on such enemy websites worth visiting.

    My highest respect to yiu Arba_Gorash. Keep doing it!

  8. The more I think about it the more it boils my blood. However, we need more detail informationlike this one to teach any body why we were and still are fighting for our country. GOD Bless ARBA GORASH.
    Keep up a good work my brother.

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