Mogadishu (UM) – Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire’s return to Somalia from an official visit to the UAE was marred by controversy brought about by his inability to exercise political judgement. Even before his plane had landed in Mogadishu, DP World, a partially UAE State owned Ports operator had signed an agreement with Somaliland and Ethiopia to operate Berbera port.
The critical timing of this agreement created the perception that the Prime Minister was in on the whole thing, but in a rushed and defensive press conference, the Prime Minister stood by the statement released by the Ministry of Ports nullifying such Agreement on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and wholly illegal.
Under the Agreement between Somaliland (which is still a part of Somalia under international law), DP World and Ethiopia on Berbera port, DP World holds a share of 51% with Somaliland taking a share of 30%, and Ethiopia holding a share of 19%. Under any common-sense analysis, this risky investment would be illegal given the unclear political situation in Somalia and the fragility of the country. Yet, during a sensitive period in which Prime Minister Khaire was their guest, a company the UAE government partially controls and has a serious stake in has meddled in delicate Somali internal affairs with a neighbour most Somalis do not trust as a third partner. This is illegal and unacceptable, and all the partners involved understand this only too well. So then why did they sign this agreement? To destabilise Somalia.
Instead of bringing home an apology from the UAE for the past intrusions on Somalia’s sovereignty , the Prime Minister was sent back to face a humiliating controversy which creates tensions between the Somali Federal Government and unrecognised Somaliland which views the Berbera port agreement as a legitimising gesture from two Governments and an international investor.
Prime Minister Khaire is right to raise the alarm on the illegal Berbera deal but he would feel less embarrassed and appear more authoritative had he not enjoyed the hospitality of the UAE government only a few hours before the deal was made public. This hospitality has indeed become the poison the Emirati Government, through DP World and their Ethiopian partner, sought to administer to further divide Somalia and benefit from its supposed demise. Fortunately for Somalia, its proud people have understood this cynical plot and untied against it.
UM has been reliably informed by an experienced global investment lawyer that the Berbera agreement is null and void given its violations of Somali sovereignty. This will also certainly bring into question DP Worlds Corporate ethics which demonstrates the epitome of irresponsibility, especially, as the company’s due diligence ought to have highlighted that Somaliland is a part of Somalia and not an independent state as its leadership pretend it is. Even if there is a genuine economic interest by DP World and Ethiopia in Berbera port, they ought to have sought permission from the Federal government of Somalia to develop it as the provisional constitution states.
The Berbera saga illustrates the UAE and Ethiopia’s complete disregard for Somali sovereignty. Both countries know the political cost of the deal and they still proceeded with it to destabilise Somalia by turning its people against each other. Aside from just shouting and screaming after pathetically enjoying UAE’s hospitality about the illegality of the Berbera deal, the Prime Minister must work with the Foreign Ministry to review Somalia’s relations with both Ethiopia and the UAE. He must also respect the Foreign Ministry and listen to their expert advice on his future tours before risking Somalia’s reputation and honour for his own vanity.
A key concern of the Berbera deal is that it could be a strategic act by both the UAE and Ethiopia to sabotage the planned Somalia Somaliland talks to be hosted by Turkey soon. Unlike the UAE and Ethiopia, Turkey is showing political understanding and maturity on the issue of Somalia-Somaliland and encouraging dialogue over pointless confrontation between brothers. This is what a concerned friend with good intentions should do.
DP World’s deal with Somaliland and Ethiopia on Berbera port should not be allowed to go anywhere other than in the nearest waste bin. It is illegal, divisive and unacceptable. The Somali Prime Minister did the right thing in supporting the Ministry of Ports to nullify the agreement, but this is too little too late. Because of his ill timed and advised visit to the UAE, it will be difficult for anyone to take his stance seriously. However, the federal government of Somalia ought to continue reaching out to Somaliland to speed up the talks to reach a political settlement that unifies the nation and its people. This is the best way to defend against all spoilers, live in peace and prosper together.