The parliament of Somaliland ratified on Sunday an agreement for a United Arab Emirates (UAE) military base in the port of Berbera.
The agreement was reached months ago between the officials of the two governments, on the sidelines of the negotiation to lease the port’s management to the UAE enterprise DP World.
The agreement has been the subject of debate among Somaliland officials and the neighboring countries, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Reports of the UAE military base deal surfaced as early as last October.
However, Somaliland officials acknowledged the matter last month after pressure from opposition parties.
Last week, the Minister of Information and ruling party official, Osman Abdillahi Sahar, told local media:
“The UAE applied to set a military base in Berbera because the people of Somaliland and the UAE have one thing in common. They are both Muslims countries which cooperate and have bilateral relationship….
They will help train our men in uniform. They will also help in guarding our coastline which is 850km long hence protect our sea resources which trawlers loot. Furthermore, it will help to improve our economic wellbeing because our country lack international recognition, hence could not afford many infrastructure development projects because it’s poor.”
The opposition party Wadani have been critical of the deal of the months and protested in parliament on Sunday.
In a statement, the party warned the military base can have a negative impact on Somaliland’s vital relationship with Ethiopia. It added further that
“Allowing a military base in our soil to a country which is an active party in [the Yemeni] conflict is against the interest of Somaliland people and state. It is a breach of its nonpartisan stance and shall expose it to serious security risks.
“A military force controlling the most vital strategic assets of Somaliland in Berbera, could be a real danger to Somaliland sovereignty and its aspiration for international recognition, as long as the UAE continues to deny Somaliland independence.”
The Berbera airstrip was built by the Soviets in the 1970s. An Ethiopian construction company upgraded the terminal in 2012. Ethiopian Airlines is the only major airline with daily flights to Berbera for most of the past decade.
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