UAE backs Somalia unity as port deal unravels

Saturday April 21 2018

People load a cargo ship at the Port of Berbera in Somaliland on December 5, 2015. PHOTO | AFP


The breakaway region of Somaliland has suffered a blow in its quest for international recognition after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — one of its key allies — said it supports the unity of Somalia.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash said that the emirates don’t have a consulate in Somaliland and that the country supports one Somalia.

Signed the agreement

Mr Gargash also poured cold water on the recent controversial agreement between Somaliland, Ethiopia and UAE logistics giant DP World on the Somaliland Port of Berbera, arguing that UAE had signed the agreement with Somalia government of president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

In March, Ethiopia acquired a 19 per cent stake in the port for $80 million, while DP World and Somaliland took 51 per cent and 30 per cent stakes respectively.

But Mogadishu declared the agreement “null and void,” arguing that the deal was against the principle of unity of Somalia and that the responsibility to sign such agreements remained with the Federal Government of Somalia.


The remarks by the UAE Foreign Minister add a fresh twist to the tension between Somalia and Somaliland over the latter’s nearly three-decade struggle to secede. 

On Thursday, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro, leader of the main Somaliland opposition party Waddani, asked President Musa Bihi Abdi to resign for “lying” to the public about the Berbera port deal.

Mr Irro, who lost to Mr Bihi in the November 2017 presidential election, reiterated that the port agreements were signed by federal government and not by Somaliland.

Military base
The new development is likely to weaken relations between Somaliland and the UAE.

Ties between the two were perceived to be strengthening especially after the Emirates announced in March plans to train Somaliland’s security forces, just a year after it began constructing a military base in the semiautonomous northern region.

Analysts believe that UAE’s sudden backpedalling could be meant to cool down the diplomatic tensions with Mogadishu that led to the termination of  a military training and funding deal between the countries last week.

Seizure of $9.6m

Somalia announced the disbandment of the UAE programme to train and pay salaries to some of its forces, a dispute erupted between them over Somalia’s seizure of some $9.6 million from the UAE at the Mogadishu Airport earlier.

Somaliland declared itself and autonomous region after the collapse Somalia’s central government in 1991, but the two states have always has always clashed mainly over the use of resources, governance and territorial areas.