Tensions escalate after UAE ends Somalia military training mission
TENSIONS between Somalia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ratcheted up after the UAE said it will end its military training mission to Somalia. The move followed Mogadishu’s decision to ditch a military deal with its ally and seized millions of dollars in cash from an Emirati plane last week.
“The UAE has decided to disband its military training program in Somalia which started in 2014 to build the capabilities of the Somali army,” said the statement on the UAE’s state news agency WAM, according to Reuters. About $9.6 million in cash was taken from the UAE plane on April 8, Somali police and gov- ernment sources had said. The UAE said the money was to pay for salaries for Somali soldiers as part of an agreement between the two countries. The statement said a seizure incident contravened agreements signed by both countries.
WAM said the UAE has been paying the wages of 2,407 soldiers in addition to building training centers and a hospital. It said the UAE is supervising a counterpiracy maritime police force in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
Diplomatic tensions first spilled into the open in March after the Dubai-based DP World gave Ethiopia a 19-percent stake in the Berbera port in breakaway Somaliland - whose independence is not recognized by Mogadishu. Lawmakers in Somalia, which also has a history of animosity with Ethiopia, adopted a resolution accusing the company of having “intentionally violated the sovereignty of Somalia.” Tempers have also flared over a military base being built by the UAE in Somaliland.
The escalation came after months of building friction in Somalia as the Gulf crisis pitting Arab powers against each other spills over into the fragile state, whose position of neutrality has not gone down well at home or with its allies.
The 10-month Gulf crisis pits Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain against Qatar, which has been accused by its rivals of fostering close links with Tehran and supporting Islamist extremists. Qatar denies the charges.
With close geographic, political, economic and cultural ties with the Gulf, observers warn the Horn of Africa is facing heightened instability as countries come under pressure to pick sides, while Arab powers jockey for political influence.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre’s military regime that ushered in decades of anarchy and conflict.