Scramble for Somalia as Farmajo shifts focus to UAE

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The tussle over the control of Somalia is taking shape following Farmajo’s unexpected U-turn, this time focusing on the United Arab Emirates [UAE], which has been making silent inroads in the Horn of Africa nation.

With a strategic Indian Ocean coastline, hides, and skin along with underutilized minerals, Somalia has been a major target for Arab countries, which have been pushing to solidify their presence, amid escalating political tensions in the country.

In most cases, these countries invest in various development projects, the fight against Al-Shabaab through the strengthening of the Somali National Army [SNA], besides funding the country’s budget which cannot be sustained through local revenue.

And the competition has been shaping around Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates [UAE]. While Ankara and Doha seemingly support the current administration, UAE has often been accused of leaning towards the opposition, a claim it has often denied.

But the latest report gathered by the African Intelligence team shows that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose term expired on February 8 and who has been struggling to consolidate power, is keen to shift his allegiance to the United Arab Emirates, something which would significantly affect the local political arrangement.

The Somali president, on the verge of losing his job, the African Intelligence reports, is seeking financial support from new sources in the Gulf. The Emirati crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan [MBZ], has agreed to talks but remains cautious.

It’s not clear how much money Somalia wants UAE but it’s evident that the country is almost going broke following reluctance by the international community to fund a number of projects due to the current political stalemate, which threatens to disintegrate the country.

While UAE has not been keen on supporting Mogadishu, it has, however, put a lot of focus on regional states of Puntland and Jubaland, which have been opposing the “unpredictable” regime of Farmajo. Also benefiting from the UAE is secessionist Somaliland.

In Somaliland for instance, UAE, through the freight operator DP World, is financing the construction of the Port of Berbera and a major highway that will link Ethiopia and Somaliland. Analysts believe that this project will significantly improve Somaliland’s stake in the world.

For exactly 30 years today, Somaliland declared self-independence from Somalia, and since then, it has been running a parallel government with a Central Bank. The region is currently pushing for international recognition which is yet to be awarded.

Farmajo’s interests in UAE also come at the time Qatar is investing in a lot of diplomacy in Somalia. For instance, a top envoy, Mutlaq Alqahtani, was dispatched to Mogadishu and Nairobi a fortnight ago where he negotiated restoration of diplomatic ties between Kenya and Somalia.

Later, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad called President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo where he congratulated them for agreeing to restore the diplomatic relations. However, the situation deteriorated last week when Kenya suspended flights to Mogadishu in what is related to Somalia’s delay to lift the ban imposed on Miraa.

Also, Farmajo had a telephone conversation with Tamim Bin Hamad the Amir of the State of Qatar on the occasion of Eid-Ul-Fitr, Somalia’s state media reported, adding that: “The Government and people of Somalia with the Government and people of Qatar a blessed Eid and continued progress and prosperity.”