20/03/08 (B439) ALL AFRICA / Puntland : Le Ministre de l’énergie rejette une loi sur le Pétrole, qui serait une source de contestations possibles sur le territoire du Puntland. Somalia: Energy Minister Rejects Puntland Oil Law (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Yusuf Ali – Djibouti

Mohamud Ali Salah, Somalia’s minerals and energy minister, has rejected a natural resources law that is being considered by the regional government of Puntland under a shroud of controversy.

A press statement Energy Minister Salah sent to Garowe Online detailed his position and the position of the UN-recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The Puntland regional government’s attempt to ratify an oil law is "unacceptable," the statement read, since the constitution states that "natural resources…are considered ‘national property’ and the TFG is the peoples’ caretaker authority."

On Wednesday, the Puntland Parliament voted on "The Oil and Minerals Law of Puntland State Government," with legislators deeply divided on the issue.

The government of Puntland President Mohamud "Adde" Muse has been locked in political tangle with the TFG since 2005, when Muse unilaterally signed an exploration agreement without regional parliament oversight or approval from the federal government.

Former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, who resigned last October, vehemently opposed the Puntland leader’s efforts to enact a law legitimizing his deal with Australia-based Range Resources, Ltd. Gedi’s argument was that only the federal government has the constitutional authority to sign international agreements.

Energy Minister Salah’s press statement is the first clear indication regarding the issue of natural resources that has emerged from the current government of Prime Minister Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein.

The Muse administration in Puntland is dealing with rising insecurity across the region, including human trafficking, kidnappings and piracy, and official corruption.

Government employees remain unpaid and members of the security forces have either quit or joined criminal gangs for survival.

The region is also currently undergoing a period of drought and is dependent on foreign humanitarian aid to feed some of its own citizens.

Although Somalia does not have any proven oil reserves, industry experts consider the troubled Horn of Africa country a "speculative bet," especially for risk-takers.

Somalia’s former dictator, Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, signed legal deals in the 1980s with American and European firms to explore for oil in the country. But that effort was short-lived and ended in 1991 when clan warlords overthrew Barre and the country imploded.