By Farah Adan
After Qatar refused to bow to Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s demand that it subordinate its foreign policy to their own, these two countries unleashed a vicious campaign of political and economic harassment against it that included the imposition of a blockade and the expulsion of thousands of Qataris. Like they often do in diplomatic conflicts, the UAE and Saudi Arabia also ordered their network of client-states to immediately sever diplomatic ties with Qatar. Many did, including Chad, Egypt, Comoros, and the Bahrain. Despite the insistence of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Somalia however refused to cut ties with Qatar. The administration of president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo) declared that Somalia would remain neutral in the conflict.
Already in a fragile political state, Farmaajo reasoned that Somalia could not afford to take part in a political conflict between Middle Eastern states. Furthermore, Qatar has played a positive role in Somalia. Qatar was, for example, one of the first Arab states to re-open its embassy in Mogadishu and it funds a wide range of humanitarian programs in the country. There was little logical reason for Somalia to take sides in this dispute.
Financial incentives were dangled before Farmaajo to change his stance, including an offer of $80 million dollars from Saudi Arabia, but the Farmaajo administration adopted the principled stand that Somalia’s foreign policy was not for sale.
While the Saudis appear to have accepted Somalia’s position, their lesser partners in the UAE have become outraged that Somalia did not grovel to their demands. To retaliate against the president, the arrogant midget oil sheikhdom has adopted a reckless policy of stirring political conflict, clan animosity, and insecurity in the country in order to use the ensuing chaos as a pretext for having the Somali parliament impeach President Farmaajo.
The UAE’s considerable financial resources, and extensive networks and connections within Somalia, have facilitated this conspiracy. A troubling example of this is the recent behavior by a unit of Somali security forces trained and salaried by the UAE. Although these forces were ostensibly trained to help secure Somalia’s security against threats such as al-Shabaab, they have emerged as a serious threat to Somalia’s sovereignty and fragile political situation. Just on Saturday, a unit of these forces attacked and ransacked a residence belonging to Abdi Hassan Awale Qaybdiid , a former warlord who is now a Somali parliamentarian and chair of the constitutional review committee. The Somali government has stated that these forces were not acting on government orders, and 40 of them including several of their officers have been arrested. This troubling episode is proof of what many have long suspected: that these UAE-trained Somali security forces are more beholden to their patrons in Abu Dhubai than the Somali federal government in Mogadishu, and that the UAE will use them as a proxy-militia force to further its interests in the country. The apparent motive behind the attack on the Qaybdiid residence appears to be to antagonize his Habar Gidir clan, a major clan in South-Central Somalia that only has a very fragile peace with the rival Darood clan of President Farmaajo.
In addition to unleashing this violent cohort, the UAE has also funneled millions of dollars to a cabal of political spoilers so they can use this money to bribe Somali parliament members to bring impeachment motions against President Farmaajo. One of these spoilers is failed presidential candidate Abdirahman Abdishakur, a corrupt and moronic figure who was eliminated in the first round of elections last February and apparently wants a second-shot at the job. Even more corrupt is the other key UAE-funded spoiler, former prime minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, a bloated imbecile barely able to speak coherent Somali who only became politically relevant owing to the prestige of his father, who served as Somalia’s second democratically elected president before being assassinated in the 1960s. While his father was a hero to many Somalis, Sharmarke is reviled for, among other things, signing a controversial MOU with Kenya while he was prime minister that adjusted Somalia’s maritime boundary in favor of Kenya, after what many suspect was a pay-off. (Farmaajo’s government has since taken Kenya to the ICJ to reverse this controversial MOU).
Reports coming from Mogadishu allege that Abdishakur and Sharmarke are calling Somali parliamentarians with offers of up to $50,000 cash if they agree to vote in favor of a motion impeaching President Farmaajo. The money will come from a UAE-funded slush fund. UAE-fabricated incidents such as the attack on the Qaybdiid residence and similar incidents will serve as the ostensible rationale for Farmaajo’s impeachment if it goes through, but in reality his government’s principled refusal to allow UAE to dictate Somalia’s foreign policy is the real motive.
The UAE’s hope is that Sharmarke, who it recently hired as an adviser, will be elected to replace Farmaajo. This is despite the fact that Sharmarke has a terrible reputation and failed badly in his own presidential run last February, which the UAE funded. If Sharmarke or another UAE lackey indeed becomes Somali president, Somalia’s stance with regard to the ongoing Qatar dispute in the Middle East will change. Additionally, the UAE will succeed in its plan of acquiring significant assets in Somalia, such as control of strategic ports and the construction of military bases at cheap prices.
It’s difficult to say what fruit the UAE’s mendacity and machinations will bear. One hopes that it will end in failure, as the UAE’s foreign policy has a habit of doing everywhere from Syria to Yemen. But the reality is that Somalia’s institutions are weak, its peace fragile, and President Farmaajo has few resources to withstand an arrogant foreign power with billions at its disposal. In sum, Somalia is very vulnerable to the UAE’s predatory behavior. But this is clear: the UAE’s actions in Somalia are an assault on our country’s sovereignty and are indistinguishable from neocolonialism. This is not how the Somali people expected a fellow Muslim nation to behave toward them. It’s now up to the Somali people to reject this naked foreign conspiracy against their country’s sovereignty and stand with their government in defense of Somalia’s freedom and right to self-determination.