Mogadishu (UM) – It is very sad that the Somali government never learns anything from its past failures and embarrassment with Saudi Arabia. Only a few weeks ago, no doubt under pressure from the bullying Saudi authorities, the Somali Foreign Ministry jumped into releasing a statement supporting Saudi Arabia in the ongoing and unsolved case of the murder of the Washington Post columnist, Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The Saudis have finally admitted it took place after weeks of changing their story.
In the statement, the dysfunctional Somali Foreign Ministry, arguably led by one of the least experienced, misinformed and confused leadership in its history, urged “the need to avoid deviations or campaigns targeting or harming the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” as the international community, including the US and European countries, warned of consequences against the Saudi Kingdom which came on the back of the withdrawal by major US companies from the ongoing investment Summit in Riyadh. The statement went on to say:
“The Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia reaffirms its position in support of the stability and sovereignty of Arab states and announces the full support of our brother Saudi Arabia opposes anyone trying to harm its role and interests.”
From this, it is clear that Somalia has missed the point: Saudi Arabia is not the victim, it is the potential perpetrator of murder that the world wants solved and cannot be paid off as is their custom because the international system is now built on a sense of accountability, transparency and with respect for human life and dignity ever more increasingly enforced by the independent media and informed public. On the matter of Arab sovereignty and stability, there already is internal division regarding the blockade of Qatar which Somalia decided to refrain from entering on any side. It would have been wise if it did the same on this issue at least until the Turkish authorities completed their investigation into what President Erdogan today described as a “premeditated” and “savage murder” of Jamal Khashoggi.
Somalia’s Foreign Policy has prioritised neutrality and aims to put the interest of the Somali nation and people first. What interest is there in always siding with Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia has forced Somalia into diplomatic losses with Iran, Sweden and Canada in the past. What did Somalia get for this? This puppet diplomacy cannot be in the national interest, especially, as the clear majority of our educated diaspora who are supporting Somalia’s recovery through skills and remittances live in Canada, Sweden and other Western states where human rights are valued and murder is clearly a crime. Most Somalia gets from Saudi Arabia are expelled citizens forcibly removed and dumped in Mogadishu without care. Even the livestock Somalis sell to the Kingdom has been politicised over the years. This should remind the naïve Somali Foreign Minister and the government that Saudis are no “brothers” but abusers of Somalia’s fragility for their own interests.
Somalia is not alone in supporting Saudi Arabia in the case regarding the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi but most of those that did like Jordan and Djibouti receive enormous amounts of bilateral financial aid, their people can work in Saudi Arabia legally under the government scheme and they are not fragile. Only Yemen is fragile, and the Saudis are bankrolling their exiled government in their Kingdom and bombing their opposition in Yemen. Somalia? Well, in his recent visit, maybe the Prime Minister came back with a little budgetary support to bolster his government’s weak finances which will no doubt not fully cover the operational costs of his government. But even this is not enough to risk the possible isolation of an entire nation from its western and Turkish partners, who have been more supportive and generous than the Saudis have ever been.
The Somali government has already stuck its head in the mess that is Saudi Arabia’s potential murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This will further undermine the credibility of the Somali government on human rights and as a reliable bilateral partner in the eyes of Western supporters and international organisations. It also contradicts Somalia’s recent election to the United Nations Human Rights Council only few weeks ago. So, this is the time to tell the Saudis that Somalia and its vulnerable people have risked everything for their petty interests and now we want them to end the bullying and call off their friends meddling in Somalia’s internal politics. The best gesture is to not deal with the Federal member states directly without the Somali governments express permission and welcome their leadership to the Gulf Cooperation Council States without the Federal Government presence. This is what real “brothers” would do to help Somalia stay together and develop. Surely, when we speak of “Arab Sovereignty and stability,” Somalia is also included. Why is it not respected by some Arab states that the Saudis have influence over?
The Somali government is weak, divided and needs to achieve debt relief to access international financing to reconstruct the country, as the Finance Minister Beileh and Prime Minister Kheyre always remind the public. It therefore needs to be consistent in its policies and actions. It needs to put its people and priorities first. Upsetting any partner could derail everything and a few nice false brotherly words from the Saudis and a lavish welcome with expensive gifts for a few of the delegation cannot fix this. It is not the outside world destabilising Saudi Arabia that we need to worry about but Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, undermining Somalia’s unity, international credibility and progress.
The Somali government must wake up to Saudi Arabia’s political abuse of their nation and not isolate their real partners like Turkey and the EU because of their narrow self interest.