Somalia should re­alise who its true friends are

Khaleej Times - - OPINION -

Somalia emerged from decades of law­less­ness, thanks to friends like the UAE. Now it wants to go down that road again by shun­ning true long-time part­ners who have stood by it and sup­ported the gov­ern­ment dur­ing try­ing times when the coun­try was be­ing torn apart by mil­i­tancy and vi­o­lence. Part-time suit­ors have emerged on the hori­zon and Somalia has for­got­ten the word ‘grat­i­tude’. It was in the grip of famine, gangs roamed the streets, sea piracy was ram­pant, govern­ments came and went, mili­tias ruled, ad­min­is­tra­tion was in the pits and all hell had bro­ken loose when the UAE came to its res­cue and helped it find its feet. The pri­mary task was to string to­gether a se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus to curb the spread of mil­i­tancy and the rise of ter­ror groups like Al Shabab who had threat­ened to over­run the coun­try. Re­mem­ber, it was the UAE that stepped in when when even UN ef­forts had failed to re­store or­der in the 1990s and early 2000s. Somalia needed to re­build in­sti­tu­tions and in­fras­truc­ture, the peo­ple must take charge of their destiny; they must be gov­erned by pop­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tives — it was a broad two-pronged ap­proach to tackle decades of civil strife. First, the UAE cracked down on sea piracy, helped build the So­mali coast guard, and strength­ened the hands of the gov­ern­ment by train­ing lo­cal So­mali troops to de­fend the coun­try. Funds poured in for power, wa­ter, health, ports and roads.

Slowly, the coun­try got its act to­gether and the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion has im­proved since 2012, but Somalia seems ea­ger to bite the hand that feeds it. There are new play­ers in the coun­try like Tur­key and Qatar who want their share of the strate­gic pie. Funds sent by the UAE to pay salaries have been seized by So­mali forces, which is not the way to treat a friend and part­ner. Somalia should re­alise that the path it is tak­ing will desta­bilise the Horn of Africa re­gion. Fair­weather friends like Tur­key and Qatar are a sign of a gath­er­ing storm.

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