Somalilandsun- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-KSA is very interested in a military base in Berbera along side its ally, the United Arab Emirates.
This fact has been in the offing for sometimes since the immediate past Somaliland administration of Ex- President Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo awarded the Emiratis rights to establish a military base in the country’s coastal city of Berbera.
Similarly the gulf crisis that pits Saudi Arabia and its cahoot the UAE Against Qatar has also flamed the interest by the Saudi Royal family in all matters Somaliland which though unrecognized was the first to cut ties with Qatar in favour of the KSA while its nemesis Somalia stuck with Doha.
According to information yet to be confirmed by either the government’s of the KSA or Somaliland, the President Muse Bihi Abdi will be heading to Jeddah to meet Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman”.
This follows a secret meeting to Hargeisa by the Saudi Deputy chief of intelligence Major General Ahmad Hassan Mohammad Asiri, who reportedly visited Hargeisa on the 21st September 2018 from neighbouring Djibouti.
While no official has acknowledged this highly unusual visit by the KSA intel chief who also doubles as military advisor to the minister of defense in Jeddah, signals from the Kingdom were very clearly following the high level meetings undertaken between the royal family and Somaliland delegation led by VP Abdirahman Abdilahi Sayli.
While the VPs team in the Kingdom was on official invitation by the royal’s family presumably for participation in this year’s pilgrimage, post Haj meetings with senior government officials and large businesses is poignant.
During discussions at the royal palace in Jeddah which was first for such a team from Somaliland , the Saudis clearly informed on their desire to partake more in cooperation with authorities in Hargeisa as pertains Security,Investment and humanitarian support.
Though the UAE which is a bedfellow of the Saudis has its feet firmly within the Somaliland corridors of powers having been awarded a multimillion dollar concession to manage the port of Berbera through DP world as well as establish a military base there, the huge interest by the royalty in Jeddah is a huge plus for Somaliland.
The Saudis who promised an expedited fact finding mission to Somaliland as a preclude to the enhancement of bilateral relations though initially in the guise of investors seems to have acted through dispatch of its deputy intelligence chief.
Just as the visit by Major General Ahmad Asri who used to be spokesperson of the Saudi led coalition waging war against Houthi tribesmen in Yemen, was not acknowledged officially reports indicate that a broad team of Development and humanitarian experts from Saudi but mostly of Somaliland origin had visited Hargeisa.
According to a report by Dalsan radio, a member of an Opposition Somaliland political party (name withheld) who wa part of the VP Sayli delegation to Saudi Arabia mid this year could not confirm nor deny the secret visit by the KSA intel chief he was very optimistic of the Saudis fulfilling their intent to enhance relations with this country.
Said he “The Saudis are very interested in Somaliland and based on their 1.789 trillion dollar economy which dwarfs the Emirates’, any terms they offer will be far superior and it does not hurt they can tell anyone in the region what to think and whom to like. So if this is a good thing for Somaliland, we just got to play our cards right”
If it be true that an invitation for President Muse Bihi Abdi to visit Saudi Arabia is anticipated imminently hopes are that the powerful Saudis might be enticed to if not fully but partially recognized Somaliland as an independent and sovereign nation, a quest that had been elusive since it withdrew from its 1960 voluntary later turned fateful union with Somalia 27 years ago.
“Despite the imminent infusion of Saudi dollar millions in the security, Development , economy and humanitarian sectors in Somaliland, Though much needed shall be of no tangible benefits if not accompanied by the exchange of senior level diplomatic missions between Jeddah and Hargeisa” says Horn of Africa analyst Yumoha Pasha.
Stressing that the only good of Somaliland is the one that stands with it like a sovereign nation despite the non recognition as neighbouring Ethiopia which has a full diplomatic mission in Hargeisa as well as signatory thence partner in numerous and successful endeavours, analyst Yumoha Pasha is equivocal that the Saudis entrance to Somaliland shall be lackluster just like that of the Emiratis.
Says he, “It is therefore imperative that when president Bihi meets with the Saudi royalty the issue of investment or security cooperation be Secondary to that of recognition” adding that
“ it is not more funds that Somaliland requires at this junction of its existence but an end to its global isolation which coupled with the western world’s continued limping of it as a region of Somalia is most humiliating” the analyst can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime as the gulf crisis and rapprochement between Ethiopia an Eritrea coupled with the use of Berbera port by the federal authorities in Addis Ababa put Somaliland in the international glare and in regard to the now almost three decades elusive quest for international recognition from western countries, the administration of President Bihi has a golden opportunity from the East.
According to Yumoha Pasha the interest of Russia to secure a military base in Somaliland is an avenue that should be explored with earnest since Putin , the top honcho on Moscow is a no nonsense Leader.
The support given to Syrian President Assad by Russia in the face of massive global Opposition fronted by the USA as well as that , which Putin has availed some separatist parts in Ukraine is exemplary of what Somaliland can assess from the Russian bear.
The Russian foray into Somaliland where it had in the late 79s operated a military base in Berbera resurged again in the same coastal town in mid 2017 when the Emirati Owned DP World Officially took over Management of Berbera Port Following conclusion of the $420m contract in which the UAE secured 51%,Somaliland 31% and Ethiopia 19% of shares in the venture that runs for thirty years
At the function in Berbera officiated by then Somaliland President Silanyo and senior UAE government and DP world company officials was the deputy Russian ambassador to Djibouti flanked by his military attaché clothed in full military regalia.
Following this initial foray reports started circulating to the effect that Moscow was is in talks with Hargeisa as Persians the setting up of a Russian naval base of at least 1500 men outside Zeila, a city near the border with Djibouti to offer support to warships and submarines patrolling the strategic stretch of coastline.
The base which shall if it comes to fruition be, the only Russian one in the gulf of Aden is expected to be home to two destroyer sized ships, four frigate class ships, two large submarine pens, two airstrips that can host up to six heavy aircraft and fifteen fighter jets, and other facilities.
In reciprocation and apart from rent payment Russia will assist Somaliland in gaining international recognition as a sovereign state through a resolution in the UN.
At the same time Russia will ensure security in the country by training the Somaliland military and equipping it with an array of modern ordnance.
If this happens. then Russia will join the list of powerful countries with bases in the Horn of Africa region which is strategic for so many reasons including proximity to the Middle East and influence over the Gulf of Aden.
The United States, France, Japan and China have military facilities in neighbouring Djibouti while Turkey recently established a facility in Somalia which has strained relations with Somaliland.
Russia has bases in only nine countries including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Syria, Tajikistan and Vietnam.
So for Somaliland which has ended empty handed in almost three decades of pursuit of international recognition from the West not to mention the blindness of the gulf countries p, association with Russia is of almost importance and should be pursued with earnest.