Dehai Oil contracts at issue in Somaliland conflict?

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Thursday, 23 March 2023


Fighting continues in Somalia’s northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up arms in a bid to rejoin the internationally recognized Mogadishu government. Somaliland accuses the neighboring autonomous region of Puntland and the government of Ethiopia (which is officially attempting to broker a dialogue in the conflict) of intervening on the side of the re-integrationist rebels, who are headquartered in the town of Las Anod, Sool region. Somaliland has been effectively independent since 1991, and has seen a more stable and secular social order than the regions controlled by the Mogadishu government.

But now Mogadishu is asserting its right to grant oil contracts to foreign companies within Somaliland’s territory. Local media note that the new conflict erupted just after Mogadishu announced the issuing of an exploration lease to Genel Energy in Somaliland. The move was protested as “illegal” by the Somaliland government, based in the city of Hargeisa.

Somaliland has meanwhile opened talks with the government of Taiwan over possible oil contracts, with a delegation of Taipei officials visiting Hargeisa earlier this month. Both the prospective rival sets of contracts are slated for Aynaba, one of the three contested regions. Aynaba—also rendered Ainabo, Ainaba, Aynabo, Caynaba, Cayn or Saraar—appears to be recognized by the Hargeisa government as a district of Sool region, adding to the confusion.

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