Somaliland: Chinese Flex Military Might in the Horn of Africa


As authorities in Hargeisa remain fixated with the West thus fail to take advantage of powers in the East like Russia and China

Chinese navy soldiers of frigate Daqing wave to bid farewell at a port in Qingdao Chinas Shandong Province on Dec 6 2015

By: Yusuf M Hasan

Somalilandsun – The 22nd fleet of Chinese navy escort left for Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia to take over the 21st fleet for the escort mission on Sunday reports the China Daily.

The 22nd naval fleet enters the Gulf of Aden as the Chinese continue to expand their presence in Africa initially commercial but more recently militarily as well and in various guises be it Anti-piracy duties cum Chinese Merchant Ships escort or its recent acquisition of base in the tiny Horn Region’s Djibouti.

First reports of Chinese military might surfaced in April 2009 when its navy successfully completed its first escort mission which a government official in Beijing revealed as involving full protection to Fifteen Chinese Merchant Vessels cross then filled piracy waters in the Gulf of Aden.

In justification of its presence in the area the Chinese government informed that a total of 1,265 Chinese merchant ships passed through the Gulf of Aden in 2008 of which Seven were attacked by Somali pirates

Director of the Xhinese Navy Bureau of the Operations Colonel Luping says fleet capableIn a pre-departure briefing of the historic duties The Chinese navy was termed as confident and capable of fulfilling its patrol task in the seas off Somalia, according to a senior navy officer Colonel Ma Luping, director of the navy operational bureau under the Headquarters of the General Staff,

Stating that the initial foray shall compose of two destroyers and a support vessel, to join the growing number of international fleets of warships to combat piracy off the East African nation’s coast Col Luping admitted that the Chinese navy vessels might encounter some complicated problems and inconvenience while carrying out the task as “the area is far from the Chinese mainland and the situation there is rather complicated”

“But there is nothing we cannot overcome. We are confident and capable of fulfilling the task,” he said.

While Chinese patrols in the area is not surprising because Piracy along the Somalia coast is a threat to international shipping being one of the busiest marine channels in the world that has seen billions of dollars paid out as ransom the acquisition of a naval base in Djibouti is of magnitude.

Apart from its fledgling muscle flexing in the Gulf of Aden the reported acquisition of rights to a Naval base in Djibouti was perplexing the tiny Horn Country having been a domain of the former colonizer France and the US which has a large presence not to mention headquarters of its Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa CJTF-HOA

China to take over US military base in DjiboutiIn August 20125 the website of Global Times China’s nationalistic tabloid reported that “China is about to take over a military base from the United States in the small East African nation of Djibouti”

Djibouti reportedly ordered the US to vacate the Obock military base so that it can be turned over the People’s Liberation Army. According to US-based magazine CounterPunch, the announcement was made in May, a day after US secretary of state John Kerry visited the country.

The move was “deeply worrying” for Washington as it came amid a wave of Chinese investment in Djibouti that includes a US$3 billion rail project to connect the country with the capital of neighboring Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and US$400 million in investments to modernize the country’s undersized port.

According to Financial Times ” The “support facility”, which would be a step up from current “access points” used by the Chinese navy to take on supplies during anti-piracy patrols, appears to signal a more permanent military presence on the continent, where more than 2,000 Chinese troops are deployed on UN peacekeeping missions”

According to China Concerns over the Chinese naval presence in tiny African country are unfounded as the intention is to safeguard vital trade routes for all

The historic role of the Chinese military has been to protect borders and territory, yet the Horn of Africa nation is more than 7,700km from Beijing. To rivals like the United States and Japan, such a facility could readily be viewed through the lens of hegemonic intentions said president Xi Jinping who has made no secret of his plans for the People’s Liberation Army

In a speech to military officers late last month in which he outlined a restructuring of operations plan President Jinping said he wanted to “build a robust national defence and a strong military that corresponds to his country’s international stature and is adapted to Chinese national security and developmental interests”.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has made no secret of his plans for the Peoples Liberation ArmyWhile the Horn of Africa region has been a stronghold of Western powers and cahoots with The US, France and Japan already having naval outposts there, Beijing argues that a Chinese military base in Djibouti is necessary to protect key trade routes linking Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe

Djibouti, adjacent to waters through which billions of dollars in Chinese trade and resources pass and on a continent where there is no greater trading partner and investor, is an ideal location to pioneer such aspirations.

And with a multi-billion stake in goods traversing the Gulf of Aden it’s fast growing political, Development and trade partnership with most African countries where one million Chinese have moved to Africa to live and work over the past decade. No matter what the vantage point, China’s establishment of its first military base on foreign soil, in Djibouti, is as desirable as it is necessary

adjacent to waters through which billions of dollars in Chinese trade and resources pass and on a continent where there is no greater trading partner and investor, Djibouti a tiny country of 900,000 whose government heavily relies on a sizeable income from renting military bases makes it an ideal location to pioneer such Chinese aspirations.

But as things develop around it and at a fast Pace the authorizes in Somaliland which withdrew from its union with Somalia in 1991 has miserably failed to capitalize on its strategic location as a bargaining chip for its 24 years elusive quest for recognition as a sovereign state separate from Somalia.

David Cameron meets with a Somaliland delegation led by President Silanyo o enhance deaf ear blind eye to recognition questPerpetually enthralled with Western powers among them its colonial master Britain and a wagon including the US that have turned a deaf ear and blind eye to its quest Somaliland has failed to turn eastwards to China and more importantly Russia

As a recognition carrot, coupled with its desire for a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, Why not offer Russia a base in Berbera its former home where the airport with longest runaway in Africa remains as testimony of much needed input from the Kremlin

Having a Russian presence in Berbera and the West Bashing prowess of its President Vladimir Putin will surely be a WIN WIN situation for Somaliland that has suffered decades of ignorance and twinning with Somalia its violent and dismembered neighbour.

Somaliland Coast Guards trained off the coast of Berbera aboard HNLMS Johan de WittThe irony is Somaliland seems very pleased and comfortable with regular practice missions with various European naval forces attached to Operation Atalanta that sees much publicized training to Somaliland Coastal Guards whose officers are unable to exercise their imparted skills aboard very very sophisticated tools and crafts in lieu of their dilapidated Mad Mullah era crafts.

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