(Kudos Nahur – Berbera, Somaliland)
The potential UAE military base in Berbera has seen controversy even within Somaliland presidency and its cohorts. Apart from these, there are various stakeholders connected to the port militarization because this new development has huge geopolitics on the balance of power in the Horn of Africa and long-term security dimension in the region.
Somaliland’s Foreign Minister Sa’ad Shire objected the military base not necessarily for good reason. The contract is said to last 25 years to infinity. Even no minister – be the Defense or the Foreign Affairs – is certain about the terms of the agreement. The mystery sent a chilling tale to all concerned parties in the Horn of Africa. Why does UAE need military base? For what purposes? Where did the DP World investment agreement go? Are they separate or just two sides of the same coin?
On my last analysis “Arab Dirty Game in Somaliland Once Again”, I noted that the Aljazeera reporter went all the way to Addis Ababa to sit down with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam for in-depth interview and asked if it has negative impact on Ethiopia and Somaliland security.
So far, Bashe, the son-in-law of the bedridden president, appeared in Dubai for multi-million military deals without any military expertise or even not having experience of international business negotiations. The Defense Minister Adami, who is of minority background, is out of the negotiation. Kulmiye party’s successor Muse Bihi considers Mohamed Hashi, the Presidential Affairs Minister, has marginalized his role not to mention Cornel Dhagawayne.
Ethiopia wants access to Red Sea for both military and civilian shipments. Will a UAE controlled Berbera port accept Ethiopian arms if Egypt go to war with Ethiopia? Somaliland was a buffer state for quite some time under the wise leadership of the former president Riyale Kahen and the current president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud before his health worsened.
Somaliland’s Foreign Minister Sa’ad Shire upon his return from Dubai said Addis Ababa has every right to react with alarm to the news of the militarization of the Red Sea and seaport Berbera. “We’ve to balance between the two whereby getting the best of both worlds, we don’t want to lose either of the two” said the minister.
Dr. Fadal, Wadani Party’s Foreign Affairs Chief, also spoke about the deal and the need to be brought to parliament to be disclosed. So far, the First Family and the sick president pursue the fluid military deals without any consultation from any party. Foreign Minister Sa’ad maybe fired soon for his objection of the deal. Abdirahman ‘Iro’ of Wadani presidential candidate wants to keep the deal on hold until post-elections. He wants to appoint three party committee of military background to check the feasibility of the deal. Muse Bihi, who considers Berbera as a tribal property of his own, needs money for his election campaign. Mogadishu is said to grant the license to the UAE and the money in advance is to be split between Somalia and Somaliland. None of these are reconcilable.
Ethiopia’s lasting legacy
Ethiopia, wary of the new developments, looks the other way but only see Somaliland falling back to the laps of Arabians. Ensnared by the false petrodollar allure, Somaliland ministers dance to the tune of Gulf statelets. Addis Ababa wants to see Somaliland people independent and free but Arabs not .But will the military base serve that purpose or subjugation of the Somaliland public for possible reunion with Somalia? Only time will tell.
In 1988, civil war left a million of Somalilanders homeless forcing them to seek asylum in Ethiopia. The refugees including former Ethio-Somalia War combatants were sheltered in Ethiopia in without any sour eye. On the other hand, in 1990s when Somaliland asked the Arabs to come to their rescue to iron out growing tensions of clannish foolery, none of them cared to help.
In all the embryonic stages of Somaliland, the Addis Ababa government has been trying to share with its meager resources including the Ethiopian Airlines – the only national carrier ever landed in Hargeysa to this day. Schools and university in serious need of international recognition were franchised freely to act as independent campus under Ethiopian curriculum to enable students get scholarships anywhere in the world.
During the last elections, the Ethiopian state minister flew to Hargeysa to defuse political tension that may escalate into a deadly civil war similar to 1994. But the Hargeysa government is not showing gratitude. Will the Ethiopian people and government continue to support Somaliland on the expenses of other similar tribal administration that bubbled recently? After all, many other Somalis and the rest of the world still consider Somaliland as “a good clannish entity that works.”
Ethiopia may not judge Somaliland on what other rivals say about her but would surely only her acts. Addis Ababa could review the pros and cons of its ties because of this reckless government. That would put the future of Somaliland in jeopardy.