ADDIS ABABA — Recent oil talks between Somalia’s weak federal government and the Anglo-Dutch company, Royal Dutch Shell plc, has raised eyebrows in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland where more than half of the blocks are situated.
ExxonMobil plans to join Shell in a 50% venture to carry out explorations in five offshore blocks (Blocks M3-M7). Three out off the five are in the vicinity of Puntland’s coast, which does not recognize Mogadishu’s oil legislation.
The Government of Puntland on Sunday rejected the deal claiming that they were not consulted. Puntland’s Director General of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Petrol, Mr Issa Mohamoud Farah, dismissed the Mogadishu deal and stated his region was out side the federal government’s jurisdiction.
“The Federal Government of Somalia does not govern over Puntland and all accords should be postponed until all states agree on how to share the country’s natural resources,” he said during an interview with BBC Somali Services.
He emphasized that Puntland and the federal government had agreed on that the federal government was to minimize its role to four main areas; immigration, foreign affairs, monetary policy and defence.
They said they already signed oil contracts with other foreign companies and Puntland plans to honor the deals. He added foreign exploration ships will soon arrive in the Puntland coast to begin exploratory activities.
Meanwhile the Puntland public said they will not sit back and watch their land being grabbed and warned that the controversy was a recipe for bloody confrontation.
The regional think tank, The Hawdian Institute For Strategic Studies, has warned the entry of Shell and ExxonMobil will not only spark a conflict between Garowe and Mogadishu but will ignite land ownership and territorial rows.
“In the 1980s, it was the entry of companies like Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron that have sparked the Somali civil war that led to the collapse of the whole state. Their re-emergence will re-surface old rivalry and re-ignite the Somali conflict. Thus it will destabilize the whole region,” the institute said in a letter to Somalilandpress desktop.
It added Shell and ExxonMobil have re-entered the Somali politics during a very dangerous and volatile time.
“It is with rather grace concern that Shell and ExxonMobil plan to re-arm rival clans in the hope of acquiring Somalis only last hope to ever pull themselves from poverty and conflict. There are no grounds backing the need to revive old deals that were signed with a dictator that long vanished. These claims are invalid. They long expired,” Hawdian Institute said.
“Federal Somalia is not the Somali Republic of 1980 and the likes of Shell should have known better by now,” the statement added.
“The Shell-ExxonMobil deal is very likely going to fuel the ongoing conflict in Somalia and extremely volatile environment will limit humanitarian access. The international community should closely monitor and discourage the Mogadishu administration from spreading the conflict to relatively peaceful regions such as Puntland,” it concluded.