(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.