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The Unrecognized Republic: Somaliland and the Gulf Security



Awad Mustafa is an online journalist with Al Arabiya English and is the former Middle East Bureau Chief for US-based international defense weekly Defense News.

The self-declared Republic of Somaliland is looking to the Gulf secure its borders within the horn of Africa due to the regional instability.

The autonomous state is also looking to deepen its economic and security ties with Arabian Gulf countries, Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire told Al Arabiya English’s exclusive.

In February 2017 the Somaliland parliament voted to provide the United Arab Emirates a military and naval base in the port city of Berbera.

The vote followed an agreement between Dubai Ports World and the Government of Somaliland to acquire the port of Berbera over a 30-year period.

“More than 30 thousand ships pass through the red sea every year and into our seas and we see it important to keep that important maritime route open and free from piracy and we hope that the presence of the UAE military will add to the security of the region,” the foreign minister said on Somaliland

Despite the country’s 800-kilometer-long shores on the Indian ocean they were able to free it from the threat of piracy.

“Piracy is a land base crime and we have managed to ensure that pirates do not have that base in Somaliland, we have a coast guard that is efficient and is developing and we hope that it will be further developed with the United Arab Emirates which is taking care of the security of the seas”

Shire insisted that the presence of the UAE in Somaliland will strengthen the stability and security in the region.

“There is a lot of contention in this region at the present time and unfortunately we are being brought back to the bad cold war days and we believe that the presence of the United Arab Emirates will bring stability in the region,” he said.

The country is facing a number of threats, the minister said, therefore making a security partnership with the UAE vital.

Threats include extremism, piracy, illegal immigration, human trafficking, as well as the unstable situation in Somalia and the war in Yemen.

“We have given a security facility to the United Arab Emirates and people have raised concerns regarding this being destabilizing to the region, however we view this as a stabilizing factor in the region,” he said.

Deepening relations with the Gulf

Economically, the foreign minister Shire said that Somaliland would like to deepen its relations with the Gulf countries.

“We would like to get more investors from the gulf countries and we would like to see more trade flows from the region and I would like to see our economies more integrated,” he said.

Currently Saudi Arabia is the country’s main export destination.

The main exports are livestock as well as commercial ties and relations with Oman and Kuwait, he said.

“We have a lot of opportunities for investments in different areas, in agriculture in livestock, minerals, tourism, and services.”

The Somaliland government is also planning to set up an investment company with in the Dubai International Financial Center to facilitate investment in Somaliland.

“Its role will be to create, joint venture companies with investors from different parts of the world and it will be a facilitating company basically where the companies would be working in Somaliland but the formation will take place here in Dubai,” Shire said.


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Somaliland’s $442m port project with DP World and Ethiopia will go ahead




Investment will establish Somaliland as a regional trading and maritime hub and create a container terminal with a capacity to handle up to 1.25 million TEUs a year

In April 2016, the Republic of Somaliland, an African nation situated in the Horn of Africa, proudly announced a $442 million international public-private partnership that represented the largest investment into the country since it declared independence from its neighbour, Somalia, in 1991.

The government of Somaliland and DP World, a leading multinational terminal operator, established a joint venture company which will manage and invest in the Port of Berbera. Construction of the quay extension is expected to start by the middle of this year and will take 18 to 24 months to complete.

The investment will establish Somaliland as a regional trading and maritime hub. It will create a container terminal with a capacity to handle up to 1.25 million TEUs a year when complete. This is a clear vote of confidence in Somaliland’s political and social stability.

Ethiopia, the region’s largest economy and most populous land-locked country in Africa, joined Somaliland and DP World in the joint venture in March 2018, turning the development of Berbera Port into a multilateral investment. Berbera is, thus, well positioned to become a gateway port for the land-locked in east Africa. This will bring economic prosperity, social development and political stability to the region, especially Somaliland where the unemployment rate among people under 30 is as high as 70 per cent.

Yet despite the obvious benefits that the trilateral investment would bring to the Horn of Africa, the Somali Parliament last Monday spitefully declared this project void and has sought to ban DP World from investing in Somaliland. Although this decision has no legal merit and will not in any way impact the deal with DP World and Ethiopia, it demonstrates to the international community Somalia’s senseless hostility towards Somaliland, which has been unrelenting since we took the decision to break off our union on May 18, 1991, and regain our sovereignty and independence as a nation state.

The international community should be asking why Somalia – a country that has received billions of dollars in aid over the past three decades, but which still remains a failed state – is using the little bandwidth available in its political spectrum to undermine a project that would deliver greater prosperity for the region.

My administration has been preparing to restart the dialogue with Somalia to discuss issues of mutual interest and negotiate amicable separation. These talks were due to begin later this month. But given the uncalled for hostility from Somalia, we have now been forced to reconsider our position.

Somalia has overstepped the line. Its unsuccessful attempt to alienate much-needed investment in the Horn of Africa will only hurt everyone in the region, including many innocent Somali people.

Therefore, we unequivocally condemn its posturing, and we call on the international community to do the same in the name of peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa.

HE Muse Bihi Abdi, President of Somaliland

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