The Economist: Emiratis plough millions into Somaliland - Somalia’s federal government can do little to stop the project

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Somalia’s federal government can do little to stop the project




THE ancient port town of Berbera in Somaliland, a breakaway state in northern Somalia, is generally a sleepy place. The heat, which can reach 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, stifles even the dogs. Yet visitors will find it buzzing at the moment. Near the edge of town, sand and rubble fill the space where, until recently, there were 19th-century Ottoman traders’ houses. New buildings are springing up. A little out to sea, as half a dozen ships idle in the sun, a barge from Dubai hauls a colossal crane towards the shore.

All of this activity relates to a new port being built by DP World, a company mostly owned by the government of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the moment, Berbera’s port is small—used mostly for the export of livestock to the Persian Gulf, and the import of goods to Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. However, over the next decade or so, thanks to DP World, it could turn into one of east Africa’s biggest. The port and another Emirati project, to build a military base in Berbera, are powerful reminders of how money from the Gulf is changing the Horn of Africa. It also risks exacerbating the struggle between Somalia’s weak, but internationally recognised federal government in Mogadishu and its restive, secessionist regions.

The Berbera port, which will cost some $450m, is by far the biggest investment in Somaliland since the province declared independence from Somalia in 1991 (in practical, but not legal, terms it is a separate country). It has taken on a new significance since February, when DP World was thrown out of neighbouring Djibouti, where it had operated the main port since 2009. Djibouti currently handles over 90% of Ethiopia’s sea trade, and also hosts French, American and Chinese naval bases. Somaliland officials probably hope to steal some of that traffic. In March Ethiopia announced it had bought a 19% stake in the Berbera port.

The project annoys politicians in Mogadishu, who fear losing more of their already meagre authority. So they have kicked back at the UAE. Last month parliament passed a law banning DP World from all of Somalia (something it cannot enforce). On April 8th the authorities in Mogadishu temporarily seized an Emirati plane carrying some $9.6m in cash, apparently intended for soldiers in Puntland, another autonomous state, being trained by the UAE. On April 11th the defence minister announced that Somalia would end a similar programme in which the UAE paid and trained soldiers in the national army, who will henceforth be paid by the (penniless) federal government.

Officials in Somaliland are unruffled. The federal government “cannot control even ten square kilometres of Mogadishu”, says Liban Yusuf Osman, Somaliland’s deputy foreign minister, dismissing its objection to the port deal. But the dispute drives a big wedge between the two governments, says Rashid Abdi of International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO. It does not help that many politicians in Mogadishu are thought to have taken money from Qatar, the UAE’s rival, or that Turkey, another rival, is one of Somalia’s biggest foreign investors.

Indeed, the government in Mogadishu is a mess, thanks in part to constant manoeuvring by foreign-funded politicians. On April 9th the speaker of parliament, Mohamed Osman Jawari, stood down, having apparently lost a power struggle with the prime minister, Hassan Ali Khayre, and the president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known by his nickname “Farmaajo”.

A few days before, African Union soldiers had to step in after Mr Jawari’s bodyguards stormed the parliament and ran up against troops loyal to the prime minister. Both sides ostensibly oppose the port in Berbera, but Mr Jawari saw an opportunity to seize more power for parliament by holding a (symbolic) vote on the deal, without consulting Mr Mohamed.

The bickering does not help the cause of a unified Somalia. The government in Mogadishu has little to offer the country’s regions. That allows countries like the UAE to swoop in and fill the gaps. Al-Shabab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, continues to mount successful attacks. On April 1st dozens of Ugandan soldiers were killed by the jihadists in the most deadly raid in over a year. The greater the chaos in the areas ostensibly controlled by federal government, the smaller the incentive for regions such as Somaliland to care what its politicians think.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline "A storm over a port"

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galbeedi and the likes,

This is where geopolitics of one country can play into hands of another.

America wanted Abiy to be prime minister of Ethiopia, galbeedi wanted Abiy to be prime minister of Ethiopia.

galbeedi wants Somaliland not to grow as separate country. galbeedi is against Tigray and kilil. Oromo are against kilil and as much as they can against Tigray.

Djibouti is against Somaliland same as our galbeedi. Djibouti is against Oromo opposite to our galbeedi.

Kilil is neutral between Somaliland and Djibouti. Benefits from both, friendly to both and if there are issues which is natural to have issues kilil is confident can work with both Somaliland and Djibouti.

In Abiy election to PM America, Oromo and our galbeedi won. Kilil, Djibouti and Tigray lost (not big loss but loss none the less)

Abiy will definitely support and push for Somaliland success including UAE projects. America will also push and support for this success. Our galbeedi will be most disappointed.

our Oodweyne is biggest winner in all this frakas, but is hiding it not even mentioning it let alone to gloat about it. That is what smart, calculating folks do. If it is not mentioned, no politician will be asked to take a stand.


Since the Tigray came to prominence in a revolution was easy for them to make rapid changes. They even changed Ethiopia to federalism which was unthinkable and to the Amhara still unacceptable. Try to do that in an evolutionary way and you die before seeing any fruits of your labour. What took the Somali in Ethiopia just one generation to establish state of their very own can now take many generations to undo it.




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For Somalis who were accusing Somaliland  or Puntland being too close to Ethiopia, what is coming will be total nightmare. Puntland maybe caught in so many vortexes and not able to be prominent now, but as for Ethiopia and Somaliland its a highway with no speed limits.

The Somaliland official who jokingly stated that who ever he met of the high officials of Ethiopia, almost every one of them was Tigray will have to brush up on some others, since Abiy whether for the Americans is full speed to undermine Djibouti and what better way than the issue of UAE. The joke among some Amhara is that, the Amhara might offer their services to Qatar and Turkey, except the bloody Tigray and Somali are blocking the view to Turkey.

The speed limit that was Djibouti in the relations between Somaliland and Ethiopia has been hit hard by America. Abiy and Bixi are contantly talking, but hiding it deep and coding it in a way others cannot decode for now.


There might be regime change in Eritrea that will benefit you folks immensely. UAE might be left with just Somaliland. The regime change in Eritrea is by Djibouti and Sudan. Turkey will have a base a stone throw away from all those jokeying in Djibouti. Except for Djibouti and Somaliland Turkey will have full access all sea from Kenya to Egypt.


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You keep talking about this country and that country being allies, or trying to be on the better side of someone. This is the geopolitics foundations of those who used to be puppets or accustomed to carry waters for others.

Those of us who were born free believe that we have to accepted and be legitimate on the eyes of our people before anyone else, then and only then we look our foreign policy. You are throwing about a lot of contradictions on dealing with nations, yet modern geopolitics is about looking after your interest and co-habituating with multiple actors. 

The Somalia we are projecting  not only in the future but at the present day  will not live or die what Abiy Ahmed or others do. WE want to carve our own destiny.

When we say that Puntland is following the federal government on the issues of national security and other issues, you always throw hopeless arguments by saying Ehlusunna might attack Puntland or Al-Shabaab might show up so , " Puntland needs Ethiopia". It uncovers your inner desire that unstable Mogadishu or war is the only hope to keep the relationship between Ethiopia and their regional enclaves in Somalia.

By the way, Ehlusunna is created and backed by Ethiopia in Dhuusamareeb.

I am not saying that the dismantling of the Tigray order will benefit me or other Somalis but, for these highlanders to be in power a lot of bad things must happen in the region. Meles was put in the ropes by the opposition as early as 2005, when tens of thousands stormed from the Addis Mercato to his palace and the only way to survive was shoot the protesters. No one had expected for him to survive another term, but the war in Somalia of 2007 gave him both an excuse to hold on power and  hundred of millions to bribe his opposition.

Legitimate and elected leaders  with clear mandate does not need to be puppets like Hailemaruim Densely. I know you fear changes and democracy both in Ethiopia and Zone five but things must change.

Finally, the crime family of Dubai hasn't done anything in Berbera despite this propaganda piece. No one is against progress but we are not willing to sell our sould unlike Illey and Biixi.


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On 4/12/2018 at 5:48 PM, Suldaanka said:

The bickering does not help the cause of a unified Somalia. The government in Mogadishu has little to offer the country’s regions. That allows countries like the UAE to swoop in and fill the gaps. Al-Shabab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, continues to mount successful attacks. On April 1st dozens of Ugandan soldiers were killed by the jihadists in the most deadly raid in over a year. The greater the chaos in the areas ostensibly controlled by federal government, the smaller the incentive for regions such as Somaliland to care what its politicians think.


Another paid article. This kind rhetoric is old and useless propaganda. It is now called fake news, even if it printed old newspaper. Why UAE needs to swoop in and fill the gaps?  What are they gone gain here? For sure now they know they have nothing to gain meddling Somalia business.  If they do, there risk associated, like just what happened moqdisho airport. Even American released that in 1991.

What are they gone gain here? For sure now they know they have nothing to gain meddling Somalia business. The colonial left Somalia when they released it was time to leave. This week UAE has made that decision and if they are wise they will change the course. Ethier changes the way they deal with Somalia or quite leave and never come back.

It was reported that Saudi will mediate UAE and Somalia and if that negotiation takes place, we may soon know the fate of Berbera base. Farmaajo wants them to stay and play a role. With Somali government protesting to UN. Afterall they have a reputation to protect. There is limitation how rigid they can be. They are already Yemen and Libya. Things are not going well either these countries. they do not have unlimited money either and Trump wants to pay the Syrian construction too. I believe they want to be in Somalia badly both economically and politically. They are more interest in south Somali. I think, they will release their failure and change their behavior at least until close to next election and also remain to run Berbera port. They may even reconsider training somaliland army, let alone build a base.


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