Somalilandsun- The profound silence of the international community in condemning the illegal and unjustifiable ongoing war in Yemen is staggering and exemplifies a political paralysis similar to the war in Syria. Somaliland particularly has been targeted by Arab coalition forces to directly and indirectly engage in a conflict that could only create further insecurity and destabilisation in the Horn of Africa. The Somaliland parliamentary approval of UAE military base in Berbera in February 2017 signals alarming escalation of violence for the Yemeni people and endangers Somaliland fragile peace. This articles ponders on why and in what capacity the Somaliland government is allowing foreign troops to conduct aerial bombardment of the people of Yemen from its shores? It will analyse the consequences of supporting an illegal military intervention against people of Yemen who neither invaded or were ever hostile to Somaliland. Somali people have always had economic and friendly cooperation with Yemen, a country that was hospitable and provided sanctuary to millions of Somali refugees during the civil war that engulfed Somalia since the fall of Siad Barre regime in 1991. While other neighbouring Arab countries supported Barre regime and eschewed any forms of democratic rule or change in the status quo, Yemeni people didn’t turn Somali refugees away as did the Saudi. Thus it is incomprehensible and sad to further cause untold amount of harm to innocent people, why did the government sanctioned this war?.It is shameful and unbecoming to gleefully destroy and kill women, children and unarmed combatants for monetary reasons, it is ironic in the most tragic circumstances for we too suffered the same treatment from Siad Barre aerial attacks on Hargeisa in 1989 using foreign mercenaries/South African pilots murdering 50,000 Somaliland people mercilessly . Somali people suffered the same hardships as Yemeni people under Barre regime, why are we forgetting and condoning serious human rights abuses?
In a recent radio interview with BBC Somali Somaliland Presidency minister Mohamoud Hashi Abdi was unclear about the government position regarding the issue of allowing UAE to establish military base in Berbera, questions has been raised by academics such as Ahmed Ismail Samater and oppositional party leader Abdiraxman Irro from Waddani to the legality and consequences of Somaliland been embroiled in an ongoing sensitive conflict that is in no way beneficial to Somaliland interests from political or economic standpoint. The very precarious position Somaliland exists within the Horn of Africa places it in an untenable position,as unrecognised state with a serious economic, social and political instability the haphazard manner which Dr Saad Ali Shire Somaliland foreign minister who used to be managing director of Dahabshille (money transfer firm) prior to entering politics implied that military bases was advantageous to Somaliland is worrisome. Western Military bases are notoriously known for drinking bars, prostitutions and beer industry case example been Okinawa, Guam and Chomoura islands. Land scarcity and affordability will become an issue for the tribes who live in Berbera (land misappropriation already an issue for Isa Musa and diaspora hiking up prices locals can’t afford), health issues from fighter jets, noise and waste pollution. Culture clash, racism and prejudice will be a hurdle, if foreign troops perpetrate crimes will the judiciary be relevant and how will cases of rendition and illegal detention will work. Will Somaliland condone Guantanamo style of operations conducted in its territory?
Following DP World historic agreement 2016 to improve Berbera Port the UAE aspired to further its hegemonic influence by requesting president Silanyo for permission to bomb the people of Yemen, this was presented in a lackadaisical way by civil aviation minister who initially interpreted the deal as between heads of state discussing favours to the media outlets and that no official decisions has been reached. This is contrary to what had transpired as recent events unfolded a breach of public trust and complete disregard to national interest, safety and security of Somaliland. The Berbera Port agreement was a smoke screen for a far more serious entanglement, unbeknown to the Somaliland people some corrupt government ministers (Silanyo entourage), prominent business figures with questionable integrity who’s only concern is to enrich themselves through any means had monopolised economic and political control. Subsequently factionalism, nepotism and corruption are endemic features of Somaliland image, a country that a decade ago had the most democratic fair elections in Africa is unrecognisable due to unfortunately a few minority elitists who systematically are plundering and selling state assets like the ports, air space, mining rights, telecommunication and cable network licences, fishing licenses etc without consulting or advising the people, Somaliland very survival is at stake.
Recent demonstration by Somaliland diaspora in London on March 2nd 2017 are indicative of the level of misgivings and fear Somaliland people feel about the current kulmiye party led government, its avarice and capricious hunger to tear the country apart with tribalism, animosity and repression. Favourite award winning and popular journalists and writers like Abdilmalik ‘Coldoon’ has been languishing in prison for months without trial only to receive a two year sentence for speaking/meeting federal Somalia president Farmajo, it’s not a crime to report about worthy news and the press has freedom to do so according to Somaliland constitutional rights. Maxamed Baashe Xassan director of Star TV was arrested and detained unlawfully for publicly questioning the validity of military base. Mr Hassan former SNM patriot/ liberator had every right as concerned citizen of Somaliland to voice his opinions and be heard, presidents and ministers in government are not above the law and cannot use their positions as public servants to enrich themselves and the media has every right to place them under scrutiny. Alas silencing the media is the first step to despotism and tyranny something SNM fighters fought against relentlessly. Somaliland peace and security has been extinguished, any hopes for recognition withered away with kulmiye party.
Internal politics aside, foreign entities are vying for control of the Horn of Africa too. The Houthi in Yemen and Syrian conflict further conflated disparities and created a vortex of political and military instability, just note how Obama administration dealt with Assad using chemical weapons on his own people in 2013 and how Donald Trump responded recently. Russian support for Assad and Iranian power struggle with Saudi Arabia coupled with lack of intervention from international leaders to resolve and find peaceful solution for Syrian crisis since 2011 caused rise of Islamic State, increased xenophobia in Europe, humanitarian crisis for refugees and migrants heading for the shores of Europe. Inadvertently a new world order has been formulating, the utter failure of labour/socialists parties in Europe and loss of trust in conservative governments facilitated support for ultra right wing political parties who blame migrants and refugees for increase in terrorist attacks and dismiss openly multiculturalism and regard political Islam be it sunni or Shia as the new enemy of the Western values. With such backlash Gulf countries who have their own struggle with militant Islam in order to secure their own territories from Iranian incursions and influence made efforts to secure Arabian Peninsula by heavily investing in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Somaliland. As a newly formed democracy Somaliland leadership at the moment are ignorant of the short term and long term consequences of allowing external foreign entities to dictate policies that may not be in the best interest of its people. For instance Saudi led coalition against Houthi rebels has far reaching impact on the region, Egyptian concerns about Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has consequences for Somaliland security since the UAE has been granted military base Egyptian forces will also use. The recent warm welcome president of Egypt Abdel Fatah Al Sissi received from Donald Trump eludes a new world order consensus spearheaded by Washington set of ultra conservative right wing zealots that supposedly think more aggressive foreign policy will “eradicate” political Islam and terrorism on the one hand and cement investment opportunities (Somaliland has vast unexplored minerals, gas and oil resources) see Danish institute study title “Concessions and conflicts : mapping oil exploration in Somalia and Ethiopia” 2016. The process of recolonising Africa under the guise of war on terror is already happening (US Africom base camp Lumonier Djibouti), naval ships patrolling Bab Al Mendab are regular occurrence accepted by all regional governments, how this will be explained internationally will be interesting phenomenon as all human rights principles, values enshrined in Geneva convention charter will be completely obliterated along the way. This signals new era of cooperation between certain Arab states, Israel, USA and European nations committing to fighting new enemy “political Islam” and in terms of geopolitical importance Somaliland and Somalia are blessed with the longest coastline in Africa rich with untapped resources and ripe for exploitation. Thus UAE military naval bases in Assab Eritrea and Berbera are significant strategic infrastructures, initially agreement were touted as port regeneration and development deals and to the citizens of Somaliland and Eritrea it meant employment opportunities but this hasn’t materialised in tangible manner. Instead ministers like Zamzam Aden Abdi finance minister of Somaliland, Bashe Awil ambassador for UAE and Mr Hashi are openly exploiting their positions in government, take for example the cement factory co-owned by Bashe Awil “Morgan” son in law of president Silanyo and Boreh an exile Djiboutian national who was behind the DP world agreement.
The purpose of constructing Berbera corridor was to increase trade and economic cooperation with Ethiopia, yet the Emirati military naval base agreement is upsetting this equilibrium. Somaliland neighbours Ethiopia and Djibouti who are not on good terms with UAE for various reasons( Dam construction and Uk court in 2016 siding with DP World against Djibouti government in port corruption case ) by leasing Berbera base for 30 years Somaliland limited its options with Chinese investors who are heavily committed in Ethiopia and Djibouti ie rail way line Chinese construction project.
In 2006 Ethiopian forces TPLF actively engaged in destabilising Somalia under the guise of combatting political Islam (Islamic courts) this intervention created Al Shabab , these well laid plans are under threat now because the tide is turning for Somalia. In light of Turkish and UAE financial and military overtures to Somalia and Somaliland, Ethiopian hegemonic position in the Horn shifted and has also been further compromised by internal conflict recently (Oromo, Amhara rising) these alliances are upsetting the balance of power, for Somaliland with numerous election delays change of government is vital for stability.
In previous articles this author argued for safeguarding the rights of Berbera employees, yet according to recent reports Silanyo Mafiosi are silent about Dp world terminating local jobs approximately (250),this is in contrast to what was stated last year by government delegation comprised of minister of finance, foreign minister and presidency minster who promised at the exchange of contracts August 2016 that jobs were safe . How could this happen when Somaliland youth unemployment is rocketing at 70%, instead of training programmes and providing tools to decrease unemployment this current government is destroying what little hope university graduates and workers had. Instead entire families are risking their lives in illegal migration to escape poverty and hopelessness, the level of corruption and criminality purported by Silanyo entourage is astounding.
Some may argue that a military base would exponentially improve Somaliland Army performance, I would argue better pay scale to offset inflation and stringent improvement in regulating interest rate by establishing robust financial policies would guarantee greater prosperity. Spokesman Dyer on behalf the presidency office criticised London demonstration against military base in Berbera as treacherous actions instigated by federal government of Somalia to destabilise Somaliland but he ignored the crux of dissatisfaction with Silanyo rule. Only a minority group or class are benefiting from UAE largess, capital investment requires good governance and the current administration has completely failed the people of Somaliland. Amisom troops are still present in Mogadishu but federal government of Somalia is a recognised state, to alienate Mogadishu when the new president Farmajo is willing to negotiate and have an open dialogue is shortsighted. Somaliland first president Abdi raxman Tuur in 1993 spoke about Somali reconciliation in terms of finding solutions to problems without allowing external foreign countries to dictate to Somali people how to resolve conflict. Perhaps the reasons Silanyo government is promoting fear of the other (Somalia existential enemy of Somaliland) and playing the blame game is to deviate the Somaliland public from the real threat which is internal disunity amongst Somaliland elite and have nots. Most Somaliland citizens can’t hide their siphoned wealth in an offshore accounts, nor do they posses or use dual nationalities to leave the country. What drought afflicted poor nomads would gladly welcome is a change in their lives and respite from vicious cycle of poverty, they couldn’t care less about political affiliation, tribalism or the size of presidential palace.
The helicopter attack on Somali refugee heading from war torn Yemen to Sudan on Thursday 16th of March 2017 is a telling indicator of how the world views Somali people.
The Saudi authority denied culpability and any wrong doing, 42 people amongst them women and children lost their lives, in 2016 a boat carrying 500 Somaliland youths perished in the Mediterranean, these tragedies happen while Somali leaderships ponder what other assets to sell to foreign powers.
It is reprehensible and damaging particularly to Somaliland to be auctioned or bartered in such a way, people died to liberate themselves from the shackles of dictatorship, yet today Somaliland parliamentarians and government ministers are eagerly selling their most valuable commodity our country a long with their self respect.
BY: Fatheya Gelleh
MSc International Conflict