On Sunday morning the parliament of the self-decleraed independent republic of Somaliland approved a plan giving the United Arab Emirates a military base in the strategic port city of Berbera.
The deal faced internal opposition from the minority Wadani party among others, but was nevertheless able to go through with substantial support. It is said that the UAE paid considerable bribe money to Somaliland elites, particularly those closest to 80-year-old Somaliland president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo.”
Ethiopia, Somaliland’s long-time benefactor in the deal, is said to be anxious about the deal, believing that the UAE may allow Egyptian troops into the base. Ethiopia and Egypt have been at loggerheads about a massive dam that Ethiopia is building, with Egypt believing that the project will reduce its share of the Nile river waters upon which its society is completely dependent. Ethiopia says the dam is necessary to achieve it’s developmental aims.
Additionally, Somaliland’s acceptance of a UAE military base may alienate the Houthis in Yemen, a country that is Somaliland’s second biggest trade partner. Many in Somaliland who opposed this deal feared that it would trigger Houthi attacks on Somaliland and drag Somaliland into the ongoing Sunni-Shia civil war in the Middle East region.
The federal government of Somalia has not yet publicly commented on this deal, and it’s unclear if Somaliland has the legal standing to authorize such a deal although the region has enjoyed de-facto sovereignty since the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991.
Fighting breaks out in Somaliland parliament as deal goes through: