Confidential sources tell Somali news agency Garowe Online that President Abdullahi Yusuf of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has introduced a new, ambitious oil exploration plan that would directly contradict if not terminate a ‘contract’ a regional ruler signed in mid-2005 with Australian mining firm Range Resources, Ltd.
President Yusuf and Gen. Adde Muse, leader of the semiautonomous Somali region of Puntland, have been holding closed-door meetings in the administrative capital Garowe since Yusuf’s arrival yesterday.
Sources familiar with the talks said a committee, composed of TFG and Puntland officials, has been established to « oversee the division of Puntland into oil blocks. »
The Cabinet ministers for Oil, Security and Finance Mr. Hassan Allore, Mr. Abdullahi S. Samatar and Mr. Mohamed Gaagaab have been appointed to the committee to represent Puntland, according to Garowe Online sources.
There was no indication of representatives from the TFG, but sources say officials working closely with President Yusuf have « shown interest » in getting access to blocks in Nugal and Mudug regions.
Further, preliminary reports indicate that Puntland leader Muse has now accepted President Yusuf’s position that the TFG has « exclusive responsibility » to manage the production of natural resources across Somalia. [ READ: ‘Puntland elections on time’: Somali president]
Observers say that the new proposal would terminate Muse’s ‘exclusive rights’ agreement with Range and Canada-based Africa Oil Corp., Range’s joint venture partner with an 80% stake in the Puntland project under the 2005 deal with Muse.
Also Sunday, President Yusuf met with a group of Puntland traditional elders at the Garowe State House.
According to reports, the elders were « critical » of Muse and his staff and President Yusuf urged the Puntland governor to « cooperate » with the elders, whom he praised for their efforts to keep the peace.
The elders explained to the Somali leader about the upcoming ‘save Puntland’ conference, which is scheduled to open in Garowe on August 20, saying that the conference is aimed at offering advice to the administration