By Jason McLure
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) — Ethnic Somali rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front issued a fresh warning to companies exploring for oil in Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region, known as the Ogaden.
No business should be conducted in Ogaden “until there is a political solution to the conflict,” the ONLF said today in an e-mailed statement. The rebels “will not be responsible for any collateral damages that occur from its engagements with the Ethiopian army,” according to the statement. The group also accused oil companies of “disinheriting the Ogaden people of their natural resources.”
The warning from the rebel group comes after the Ethiopian Reporter, an Addis Ababa-based newspaper, said that a contractor for Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasionale Bhd had resumed drilling in the remote region late last month. Petronas suspended operations there in April 2007 after the ONLF attacked an exploration site near the town of Abole, killing 73 people. The site was operated by a Chinese contractor, Zhonguyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau.
Shimeles Kemal, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government declined to comment immediately when reached on his mobile phone today in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The ONLF is seeking autonomy for Ethiopia’s Somali region, an arid land twice the size of England that is home to about 4 million people, most of whom are ethnic Somali nomadic herders. Conflict between the ONLF and Ethiopia has simmered for the past two decades.