Profile: Libya’s new Minister of Oil & Gas – Dr Mohamed Oun

Libya

Published on Monday 15 March 2021 Back to articles

Dr Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Oun — born in 1950 in the western town of Surman and a member of the influential Al-Mahameed tribe — is an oil engineering graduate. In 1974 he joined Occidental and then, when the Zueitina Oil Company was established in 1986, he was appointed as its operational manager, and eventually became chairman of the board between May 1999 and 2005. 

Between 2000 and 2010, Oun was a director and then chairman of the GreenStream BV joint venture — between the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy’s Eni — which was established to export natural gas from the Mellitah Oil & Gas complex, 100 kms west of Tripoli, to Italy.  

Between 2005 and 2008 he was executive consultant to the NOC chairman. During this period, he headed a committee tasked with preparing strategies for negotiating with IOCs and, according to his own testimony, he was instrumental in deals that were struck between the NOC and IOCs including Eni, Occidental, PetroCanada, Repsol and Total. 

Oun’s fortunes changed following the 2011 revolution. Despite his assertions that he was never involved in politics and that he had never joined Qadhafi’s notorious Revolutionary Committees, he was removed as the Mellitah chairman because of his role and connections to the former regime. This decision was made by NOC’s then chairman, Dr Nuri A. Berruien. 

In 2014, however, Oun was appointed as an assistant to the deputy prime minister in Abdullah al-Thani’s parallel eastern Libyan government.

How the relationship will pan out between the newly created oil ministry that Oun will lead and the NOC has yet to be seen. It is not clear how the roles between the two institutions — one under the control of the west and the other under the control of the east — will be divided up. Meanwhile Oun’s relationship with current NOC chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, will be one to watch. 

In the past Oun has attacked Sanalla and it was he who also announced in December 2014 that the eastern government had appointed Mabrouk Bou Seif as the NOC’s chairman instead of Sanalla and thereby effectively establishing a rival NOC in the east (see Libya Focus, December 2014). 

Oun also opposed Sanalla’s late 2019 approval of Total’s purchase of Marathon’s stake in the Waha Oil Concession. Total paid US$450 million for Marathon’s 16.33% stake with the other partners in the Waha Oil Company being NOC (59.18%), ConocoPhillips (16.33%) and Hess (8.16%). Oun had instead proposed that the NOC purchase Marathon’s shares instead. In a statement, he declared that the justifications and reasoning given by the NOC for going ahead with the sale were ‘weak’ and tantamount to ‘squandering the country’s wealth.’ He also implied that Sanalla was not sufficiently knowledgeable about the oil sector and claimed that he had become head of the NOC through an ‘invalid decision.’

Oun further attacked the NOC for taking decisions out of ‘personal interest’ such as the May 2019 move to open an office in Houston and insisted that it was time to ‘confront and stop’ such behaviour. 

Because Sanalla was still at the helm of the NOC during this period, the relationship between the corporation and the new ministry could prove to be difficult. 

Libya’s new Government of National Unity (as of 10 March 2021)  

Prime Minister: Abdulhamid Dbeibah

Deputy Prime Minister for the east: Hussein Atiya Abdulhazif Qatrani
Deputy Prime Minister for the south: Ramadan Bujna’a Hasnawi
Defence: vacant (post will be held by Dbeibah)

Interior: Khaled Tijani Mazhen 
Justice: Halima Ibrahim Abdelrahman
Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation: Najla al-Mangoush
Planning: Fakhar Muftah Bu Furna 
Economy and Commerce: Mohamed Ali Mohamed al-Huwaij
Oil and Gas: Dr Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Oun
Finance: Dr Khaled al-Mabrouk Abdullah
Health: Ali Zinati
Education: Mousa Magrief
Industry and Minerals: Ahmed Omar
Agriculture: Hamad al-Emrimi 
Water Resources: Tariq Abulsalam Flika
Maritime and Animal Welfare: Tawfiq al-Dersi
Sport: Abdel Shafiya al-Juwaifi 
Tourism and Traditional Handicrafts: Abdelsalam Tiki
Environment: Ibrahim Mounir
Labour and Vocational Qualifications: Ali Abu Azzoum 
Social Affairs: Wafa’a al-Gilani
Culture and Knowledge Development: Mabrouka Oki
Higher Education and Scientific Research: Amran el-Keib
Technical and Technological Education: Yaklef Sifaou
Services: Abdelfatah al-Khouja
Transport: Mohamed Shahoubi
Housing: Zuhair Ahmed Mahmoud
Local Government: Badrdeen al-Toumi
Youth: Fatallah Zani

State Minister for Human Rights and Immigrants’ Affairs: Ahmed Faraj Abukhosam
State Minister for Political Affairs: Walid Amaar
State Minister for Immigration: Jdeed Martouq Jdeed
State Minister for the Cabinet and the Prime Minister: Adel Jumah Amer
State Minister for Women’s Affairs: Houria Mayloud
State Minister for Economic Affairs: Salama Lghweill

This excerpt is taken from our Libya Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact info@menas.co.uk for subscription details.

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