By: Giulio Giomi
Somalilandsun-Opening a new military base by the United Arab Emirates in Somaliland could jeopardize relations between Hargeisa and neighbouring countries, concerned about the increasingly cumbersome Emirati presence in region
The PROJECT of the MILITARY BASE — the United Arab Emirates are preparing to increase its military presence in the Horn of Africa and more specifically in the Republic of Somaliland. According to Government sources in the former British colony, the delegations of the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would give the UAE armed forces to establish a naval base near the port of Berbera, the second most important city after the capital Hargeisa. The granting of the principles of the Gulf area lasts for twenty-five years renewable, covers a territory of 40 square kilometers and includes the airport and land adjacent to the coast. Abu Dhabi also agrees to provide arms and training to the security forces of Somaliland. The deal, if concluded, will strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries that since 2012 shall cooperate actively in areas such as investment, trade, defence and security. In terms of humanitarian aid to remember the significant commitment of the Emirati Royal family in projects in support of the people of Somaliland as the one recently called to fight the drought.
A further example of cooperation took place in may 2016 when the Dubai companyDP World world leader in the port sector was awarded the concession, lasting for thirty years, for the development and management of the port of Berbera. The project involves an investment of $442 million that will bring the port to become the new hub of East Africa and ensure economic growth in the entire State. Somaliland’s neighbours have expressed their disappointment about enlargement of the sphere of influence of the Emirates.
The hostility of DJIBOUTI — In particular, Djibouti is definitely contrary to the implementation of the port of Berbera, which if funded by petrodollars from Abu Dhabi, would become a real threat to the hegemony gibutina for the traffic of goods to and from the Red Sea. Moreover, the choice of DP World to invest on the potentialities of Berbera also stems from the collision between the latter and Djibouti City container terminal management: the company of Dubai was canceling the contract of a duration of thirty-year Government signed in 2006 accused of bribing gibutino as the President of the local port authority to win the tender. International arbitration, opened in London in 2014, reached a first verdict in March of 2016 decreeing the innocenceof Abdourahman Boreh, President of the Port Authority and forcing the Government of Djibouti to compensate the defendant.
OTHER BASE OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – that of Berbera won’t be the first overseas base in the Emirates. Fifteen months ago an agreement was reached with Eritrea for the renovation of the runway, which was in poor condition and the new construction of a port structure at ten kilometers north of Assab. As evidenced by satellite photos dating back to October 2016, the UAE armed forces have deployed several combat aircraft (Mirage 2000, Apache helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, UAV unmanned transport aircraft C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules) and armored infantry units (tanks Leclerc). By the same images is noticeable erosion of a considerable portion of costa, who created an inlet where lay the foundations of future naval station. Once the military infrastructure in Berbera will be valid, it is reasonable to think that different weapons will be deployed in that area; the strategy would be to maintain the air force to Eritrea to conduct attacks on Yemeni territory and centralize in Somaliland maritime forces designed to counter Iranian supplies by sea to the Houthi.
RELATIONS BETWEEN ETHIOPIA AND SOMALILAND – This Emirati military expansion in the Horn of Africa has alarmed also another regional power that is Ethiopia. While the expansion of the port of Berbera favors an increase in the passage of Ethiopian goods for the international market, on the other hand the militarization of a country that Addis Ababa considers belonging to its sphere of influence, can not but cause concern.
In fact, the cooperation between Ethiopia and Somaliland is spread mainly in the trade and in security . Regarding the first, the treaty signed on April 4, 2016, lowering tariffs and aims to increase the traffic of goods to 30% faster transportation, is just the latest example of the fruitful economic relationship exchanged in the years between two countries. From a safety point of view, however, Ethiopia Hargeisa defines a strategic ally which offered its military support allowing weapons and training to the security forces of Somaliland.
ETHIOPIAN Doubts– What Ethiopia stands to lose is cooperation on the security front: according to the MOU of 2016, the UAE would support the security apparatus of Somaliland, providing the experience gained by its armed forces on Yemeni territory with the operation Decisive Storm . To raise fears Ethiopians also contributes a willingness on the part of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to take a leading role in the region by offering beneficial investment and taking advantage of the conflict with the Houthis in Yemen.
In conclusion, the President of the Republic of Somaliland Silayo is faced with a choice of decisive foreign policy for his country , which is still struggling to gain international recognition as a state entity. On the one hand alliances and economic agreements with States confined, who fear competition from petrodollars, they are necessary and should be preserved, on the other the considerable investments offered by Abu Dhabi can not be ignored.
Google and Bing Translation of the original Italian language Le truppe emiratine in Somaliland e le conseguenze nella regione