Exclusive: U.N. experts wary of Somaliland plan for armed oil protection unit

UNITED NATIONS Fri May 30, 2014 12:25pm EDT

Somaliland troops march past during a parade to mark the 22nd anniversary of Somaliland's self-declared independence from the larger Somalia, in Hargeisa May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somaliland troops march past during a parade to mark the 22nd anniversary of Somaliland's self-declared independence from the larger Somalia, in Hargeisa May 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Feisal Omar

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. experts warn that plans by Somalia's breakaway enclave Somaliland to deploy special forces to protect foreign oil companies could worsen conflicts in the long unstable Horn of Africa.

A confidential May 27 letter to the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Somalia and Eritrea, obtained by Reuters on Friday, recommends the panel consider whether the planned armed unit could be viable or not.

"The deployment of an Oil Protection Unit could play into internal and regional conflicts that appear to be brewing within Somaliland and between Somaliland and other regional authorities, if its deployment is not handled carefully or accompanied by mitigating measures," the coordinator of the expert monitoring group, Jarat Chopra, wrote.

The experts, who monitor sanctions violations, said in July that Western commercial oil exploration in disputed areas and discrepancies over which authorities can issue licenses to companies could cause more fighting in Somalia.

Chopra's letter repeated that "legal and constitutional discrepancies in respect of oil licensing throughout Somalia have opened the door for potential conflicts between the Federal Government of Somalia and regional authorities, and between regional authorities themselves."

The overthrow of a dictator in 1991 plunged Somalia into two decades of violence, first at the hands of clan warlords and then Islamist militants, while two semi-autonomous regions - Puntland and Somaliland - have cropped up in northern Somalia.

About a dozen companies, including many multinational oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, but since then Somaliland, Puntland and other authorities have granted their own licenses for the same blocks.

A petroleum law that has not yet been adopted by Somalia's parliament, but is being invoked by federal officials in the capital Mogadishu, says the central government can distribute natural resources.

Chopra said the Somaliland government commissioned a study into the viability of an armed unit and told the experts "of its willingness to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions governing the import of military equipment and training for any such Oil Protection Unit."

The committee would have to be notified of any such imports and could object, Chopra said.

The Security Council imposed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of weapons to feuding warlords. The council last year partially lifted the arms embargo, allowing Mogadishu to buy light weapons to strengthen forces fighting Islamist groups.

Chopra wrote that the oil protection unit is unlikely to be formed for months. The Somaliland government's study has proposed an initial force of 420 personnel, drawn from the existing police and army units.

"The mandate of the Oil Protection Unit would be to deter threats through a credible armed presence and to defend against attacks with proportionate and regulated force as a last resort. It would ordinarily detect threats and deflect them into the hands of other Somaliland security agencies," Chopra said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Grant McCool)

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Comments (3)
khBlock wrote:
so-called Somaliland are illegally signing away the oil in Khatumo State to foreign oil companies. The resources within Nugaal (holhol) belongs to the people of khaatumo state. Nugal oil block will be rightfully co-managed between Khatumo & the Federal Government of Somalia.

May 31, 2014 8:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Realsoldier wrote:
Somaliland is free nation with defined borders and permanent population and also active government and has right to commit deals with any actors including oil exploring companies.
Khatumo is nothing more than a terrorist groups used clan named in fews towns of eastern Somaliland.

socalled Somali Federal Goverment only stands for the interesting of outsiders. it neither represent Somaliland People nor has control of plot in south

Jun 01, 2014 4:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
S.Lander wrote:
Jarat Chopra of the Monitoring Group should do his homework or resign, Somaliland is an independent State, and NOT a region of Somalia. Somalia itself is a nation in theory, no army, no real government, and is now run by the same warlords who destroyed the country in the first place. It is propped by the United States, UK, and the EU by the use of billions of dollars and African Union boots of on the ground. Now the problem is European nations with their old habits of neocolonialism are stubbornly trying to keep Somalia and Somaliland as one nation, rather than accepting the reality on the ground, two separate nations. the UK itself has signed oil exploration deals with Somalia’s so called government, shortly after its Somalia conference. Now fear mongering on the part of the UN about Somaliland’s progressive activity to secure is dishonest and deceptive to say the least.

Jun 05, 2014 10:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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