Somaliland: The Dilemma Of A Foreign Military Base


The Saud led coalition waging war in Yemen gains a foothold in the Horn of Africa through the UAE military base in Berbera Somaliland

By: Ahmed Kheyre

Somalilandsun- Back in the early 1990’s, a few years after the devastating civil war, Somaliland was in dire straits. The cities were in ruins, the people destitute and the central authority kept things under control solely on the shoulders of the nation’s elders.

During this precarious time, a respected former United States admiral came to Hargeisa to see the late President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal. The admiral had a proposition to make. If Somaliland were to allow UNISOM forces to be deployed in the country, then all of the nations needs would be met. It would seem everything was on offer, except de-jure recognition.

The late president, an emotional man by nature, was torn. How could he turn down the offer of much needed assistance on everything bar recognition?. The people were in need, the land was full of mines, the cities destroyed, and so on. Can he reject such an offer?

It was indeed a dilemma. The late president talked with his advisors, some were in favour of the deal, and others were vehemently opposed. Thankfully, the president made a momentous decision to reject the offer.

UNISOM floundered in our neighbour, Somalia. That disastrous mission is still being felt in Somalia. It has led from warlords to piracy to terrorism. Today, the people of Somalia would like to see the back of AMISOM.

The decision to reject the admiral’s, and in reality, President Bill Clinton’s deal, had some adverse effects on Somaliland. There were unfortunate internal strife and the nation is still desperately poor, but, it was the right decision.

Somaliland has had more than two decades of peace and progress. The foundations that were laid for the nation’s institutions have flourished. Granted, we do not yet posses de-jure recognition, but we are a de-facto state. We are captains of our own vessel.

It is therefore, galling to see the Somaliland parliament spearheaded by the late president and elected by popular franchise abused in such a way. If the administration of President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud Siilanyo believes that a United Arab Emirates military base in Somaliland is in the nations interest, then by all means present your case, line by line, word by word.

It is ridiculous to hand out a sheet printed by a local printer to parliamentarians and ask for a vote. Where was the debate? Where were the relevant ministers of Foreign & Defense? And who came up with a figure $1.2 million dollars in rent? when the prices is a thousand times more than that and when did the Chair of the House of Elders become Speaker of parliament? And why were those parliamentarians who opposed the dealer ejected, manhandled and imprisoned?

The administration states that the base will lead to economic and social developments. There will be new roads, new jobs, new Air Force and so on. I beg to disagree.
The UAE base in Berbera will be used to strike the Houthis in Yemen
The United Arab Emirates is a good friend of the Somali people. The ties between Somaliland and the former Trucial States goes back centuries. It is worth remembering that the food and other basic goods from Somaliland were the lifeline of the people of Abu Dhabi, Dubai & Sharjah. Today and yesterday, the United Arab Emirates was and is the lifeline of the people of Somaliland. Somalilanders live and work in the UAE, we have a bustling trade with the UAE, and there is a large community in the UAE who trace their roots back to the Horn of Africa.

However, a military base in Berbera, whether it is to safeguard the routes in the a Gulf of Aden, or to protect the substantial investment in the port of Berbera, is not and will not be in the interest of Somaliland.

Lest we forget, for almost the entire duration of the defunct union with Somalia, Somaliland was to all intent and purposes a military garrison. The soldiers of the defunct Somali Republic forces harassed, oppressed and slaughtered the people of the Somaliland, eventually hiring mercenaries to bomb the major cities and their residents.

Granted a military base in the hands of the UAE forces will not lead to such an outcome, but, it will attract the attentions of the enemies of the United Arab Emirates. Essentially, the UAE wants to fight it’s proxy wars in the Horn of Arica.

In the 1990’s the late president, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal had the integrity and strength of character to reject Admiral Howe’s offer. He was wise enough and brave enough to ride current backlash and look at the long term outcome, and he was proven right.

Ahmed KheyreToday, Somaliland is not so fortunate with its current leadership. But, every cloud has a silver, if this deal is forced thorough, then, Insha’Allah, future administrations and it’s leaders will have the chance to do the right thing.

Allaa Mahad Leh

The author Ahmed Kheyre is a Somalilander based in the diaspora from where he regularly publishes analysis of local events shaping Somaliland and Somalia