The State of UAE-Somaliland’s Naval Base Deal.


Recently, Somaliland government faced serious criticism both from some of her citizens and outsiders (most especially her neighbouring countries like Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia) with implicit political and economic interests. Leasing Barbara Port for UAE airbase led to the uproar. Those  supporting the government believe that the deal would add significant values to the socio-economic condition of the country, while the anti-UAE deal strongly believe that the decision would damage the peaceful co-existence of the Somalilanders and their relationship with their neighbouring countries. Hence, let’s weigh the two opposing views to see who is really a making sense.

One of the leading antagonists of the Somaliland government on this deal is Somalia, the country where Somaliland broke away from. Somalia’s economic and political interest in Somaliland no doubt made her government and citizens to kick against the decision – even though report gathered shows that Somalia’s formal President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, in collaboration with some of his ministers had secret deals with the Somaliland government with regards to UAE’s intention of having the second military base at Barbara, a strategic location for monitoring security threats from Red Sea area, Yemen and East African zone generally. Somalia therefore accused UAE of violating her national sovereignty and airspace because of its plans to come to Somaliland without paying airspace tax and without the permission of Somalia’s “legitimate” government.

The respective political and economic challenges projected to be faced by Ethiopia and Djibouti made the two governments to also harshly condemn the deal. These two governments projected their voices louder with the support of some Somaliland opposition party members and some business tycoons in the country. It is believed that this deal would weaken the country’s strong ties with Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti – countries that so far have informally given Somaliland partial recognition as an independent state.

However, some experts in economics have argued that the deal would be a landmark in the socio-cultural and economic growth and development of the de facto state. Considering the content of the agreement made, it is believed that the deal would drastically reduce unemployment rate and poverty in the country. Some pro-government individuals and groups also see this as a means of creating avenues for investors – most especially from the Middle East.

The government in particular has assured her citizens that the deal would significantly improve their living conditions as infrastructural facilities like road, dam, more standard educational and vocational institutions would be more accessible and affordable to the citizens and foreign residents.

Although it is obvious that UAE might use the base to attack Shia Houthi rebels, thereby leading to tagging Somaliland as a warzone (a name citizens had struggled to erase over 25 years ago) and sending away potential investors from neighbouring countries and beyond, we can conclude that the deal has long term fruitful effects as the agreement has expiry date and attractive economic package most especially for the citizens. This in fact might open doors for the country to gain her international recognition as an independent state. In a nutshell, within the 25 years of this deal, let’s hope for the best for both parties.

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