The news that the secessionist state of Somaliland is to allow the United Arab Emirates to station a military base on its territory has been greeted with outrage and begs the questions who closed the deal and why?
Anyone familiar with international law would point out that it does not have the authority or the sovereign mandate to enter into a deal with a foreign power and as things stand no nation recognises Somaliland as a sovereign independent nation-state. Strictly speaking, Mogadishu would have to sign off such an agreement, but its seem clear that the new Somali President Farmojo’s who was sworn into office four days after the agreement did not sign off the deal. His administration has branded the deal illegal and has vowed to challenge it.
Nevertheless, it also seems unlikely that upgrading the port at Berbera and building a military based at the cost of $400 million dollars would have gone ahead unless there were signs of agreement from the legal landlords.
So, who has signed off a strategically vital port, 140 nautical miles from Aden allowing the Emiratis to potentially command the routes to and from the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal?
Well, the rumours emanating from Mogadishu often called ‘a city of whispers’ suggests that the outgoing president signed off the deal. Allegedly, whenever the Somali foreign ministry queried the matter, they would receive a response shrouded in secrecy…something along the lines of ‘the Office of the President and PM is dealing with this matter’.
Nonetheless, the corruption prevalent in the halls of power under the Hassan Sheikh administration in Mogadishu is not the primary concern of the odd secessionist’s in Hargeisa, but irritating the main pawnbroker in the region, the authority that incubated a rebel group, the Somali National Movement (SNM), into an administration, Ethiopia is. And rumour has it that ‘baby-daddy’ is not happy that Hargeisa is seeing another man, especially considering landlocked Ethiopia gets much of its goods, military hardware included, from Berbera port.
One can see why Hargeisa went for such a deal, there are the obvious economic benefits to the arrangement, this alongside the training that is to be provided to Somaliland forces, it also ensures that Hargeisa is not too reliant on one friend, one (Ethiopia) who despite incubating it, refuses to recognises it as a sovereign state.
The Powers that be in Somaliland; the clans, the council of elders, and the old Marxist trained cadres of the SNM seem to be split, they know full well that Ethiopia has its interests and if those interests do not align with their own, Ethiopia will simply back the entity that wishes to back its grand project in East Africa. This fear of Ethiopia is making some join forces with the UAE.
Nonetheless, those powers that be also know that the united Arab coalition also have their interests, and once their adventurism in Yemen ends their objectives will also change. This paranoia surrounding the UAE is making others more supportive of Addis Ababa
Nevertheless, Somaliland finds itself in the middle of a rising Ethiopia, one willing to gun down its own protestors, one that instigated according to Human rights watch a ‘mini-Sudanese Darfur’ in its eastern Ogaden region, and an increasingly assertive Arabia, one willing to intervene in countries to prop governments, one now presiding over a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
Somaliland can be said to be in an interesting position, one similar to the Crusaders states in the Middle East from 1098 until 129 as they stared into the precipice; those states were surrounded in the end by a rising Mamluk Sultanate and an expanding Mongol empire. They slowly became irrelevant and were no longer masters in their own lands as two more powerful militaries and economies contended in the holy land for power and influence, the Crusader states were eventually annihilated.
This deal, in the long run, seems to be as useful as a chocolate teapot, a furnace made out of snow, tropical camouflage in the desert, undoubtedly, there is going to be a mess and the people of Somaliland will have to clean it up.
The views of the writer does not necessarily reflect the views of Muslim Eye