Somaliland Vows to Improve Safety After Genel Halts Operations


Somaliland’s government hired private security experts to help improve safety after Genel Energy Plc (GENL) suspended operations in the semi-autonomous region citing growing instability, Foreign Minister Mohamed Bihi Yonis said.

A team including John Holmes, a former commander in the U.K. special forces, will deliver a report this week in the capital, Hargeisa, on security in the region, Yonis said in a phone interview on Oct. 4. Genel, the London-based company run by former BP Plc (BP/) Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, said Sept. 8 it temporarily suspended its search for oil in five blocks in Somaliland “in the face of a deteriorating security situation.”

The report by the team of experts will identify the “security gap that needs to be sorted out,” Yonis said. “We’ll fill the gaps that are of concern.”

Somaliland, a former British colony, declared independence from Somalia in 1991, following the ouster of former Somali dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. No country has officially recognized it as a sovereign state. Previous attempts to encourage exploration in the region foundered because of perceptions among investors that Somaliland has the same security concerns as neighboring Somalia, where Islamist militants have been seeking to establish an Islamic state since at least 2006.

The U.K. Foreign Office advises against all travel in Somaliland because of the “high threat” that westerners face from terrorism and kidnapping, according to its website. The U.S. State Department warns its citizens to obtain kidnap and recovery insurance when traveling in the region.

Suicide Bombers

The government has taken measures to prevent attacks by al-Shabaab, the Islamist militia in Somalia, Yonis said. Somaliland was targeted by suicide bombers in October 2008, when explosives were detonated at Somaliland’s presidential palace, the Ethiopian Embassy and a United Nations Development Programme compound in Hargeisa. At least 23 people died in the attacks, which also hit the neighboring breakaway region of Puntland.

“Somaliland is on the frontline when it comes to terrorism and we are doing what we can, and so far so good,” he said.

Yonis last week accompanied President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud to Turkey, where the government is mediating talks about Somaliland’s insistence on breaking away from Somalia. Further discussions will be held next month, Yonis said.

“We made our position very clear that the independence of Somaliland is non-negotiable,” he said. “We don’t want to be part of Somalia. We are willing to be neighbors and friends and brothers who can cooperate.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gavin Serkin at