NAIROBI – In the immediate aftermath of the deadliest bombing in Somalia’s capital which killed at least 400 people on October 14, a Somali diplomat has claimed that the United Arab Emirates is the ‘only’ country that has helped evacuate and treat wounded victims, overlooking the massive urgent medical assistance and evacuations by other countries, mainly by Turkey.
Turkey became the first country which sent air ambulances and military planes to Somalia that evacuated many of the bombing victims who were airlifted to Turkey for special treatments.
The remarks by Abdulkadir Sheikhey Al-Hatimi, Somalia’s Ambassador to the UAE who spoke to the Emirates’ state-run KhaleeJ Times newspaper on October 24 got so much attention and set off debates on the social media, with many mocked him for the ‘joke’ claim.
“What a joke! #UAE is trying to discredit #Turkey by claiming its z (the) only country that helped #Somalia’s blast victims.” Tweeted Abdulaziz Billow Ali, a journalist, based in the Somali capital.
Others pointed out that the claim was made in part in a desperate search for a greater recognition by the United Arab Emirates which is locked in a geopolitical and economic presence race with Turkey, its long time strategic rival.
“Unfortunately, they are dearly fighting for recognition for non-existing support jokingly extended to #Somalia after the 14 October attack.” Tweeted Abdirahman A Omar.
“While they have sent a plane full of non-essential medical supplies 8 days after the attack. I pity my Somali people.”
Meanwhile, political analysts suggested that Mr. Al-Hatimi’s claims served as a mere ‘mood music’ for the UAE which sees its strategic interests in Somalia faced with controversies and suspicions hitting new stumbling blocks.
For months, Somalia’s government which seriously doubted UAE’s intentions had subsequently complained that the oil-rich Arab nation’s far-reaching interests were threatening the impoverished nation’s sovereignty, in the light the close working relations that UAE maintains with leaders of the country’s regional states.
STRUGGLE FOR DOMINANCE
Behind much of the challenges facing the central government— violence by Al Shabab and the political upheaval in Somalia — there is another challenge: Proxy political challenge.
As pressure is building up on the Somali government which maintains a neutral stand over the ongoing Gulf crisis, officials say that the Saudi-led coalition that cut ties with Qatar continue to use the country’s regional states as proxy networks to exert further pressure on the central government in a greater effort to force it to change its stand towards the crisis.
THE FRUSTRATED STATE
According Jacob Moses, a political analyst based in Nairobi, the inability by Somali government to extend its rule beyond borders due to military challenges and guerilla attacks by al-Shabab which still controls large swathes in the South and central Somalia are swinging things in favor of regional states that currently remain out of reach for the government, thus creating a balance of power.
“Any extension of rule by the central government represents a threat for the regional states. It would have been a game changer that would have mitigated any challenge by regional states had all regions were within the reach of the government.” he said.
“A military action would have otherwise been an option that would have helped settle things in favor of the government.”
Meanwhile, the limited hand that Somali government has to play in dealing with the powerful leaders of the regional states pursuing different agendas feels further than ever from its dream of ending persistent political crisis, thus allowing foreign countries employing diplomatic and financial leverage to exploit the gap.
Nevertheless, the UAE’s secret dealings with regional states was the opening shot of recent political crisis in Somalia which saw regional leaders sided with Saudi-led coalition and cut ties with Qatar further challenging the government which appealed them to maintain the neutral stand.
STALKING IN THE DARK
Despite the central government’s aloofness towards UAE’s ambitious and strategic interests in Somalia, leaders of the country’s regional states didn’t hesitate to get the message in their own way, embracing UAE, one of the richest nations in the Arab world as the country’s main ally.
According to experts, the sudden political shift by the country’s regional states that sided with the Saudi-led coalition, thanks to financial incentives offered by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates has in practice produced no major impact in forcing Somali government to abandon its neutral stand appeared to be directed towards realizing of two UAE proxy visions.
“The need for the establishment of a contiguous line of pro-UAE entities remains a key priority.” said Mohamed Ahmed, a political analyst as well as a professor of political science at a university in Mogadishu by email.
“Secondly, extending the UAE influence across Somalia, thus subverting the interests of Turkey in this area is the other and secondary factor.”
SOFT POWER RESOURCES
Using both political, diplomatic and financial leverage, UAE which officials say has never bothered to seek government’s authorization in its dealings with both Somaliland which despite declaring an independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 but hasn’t so far been recognized as an independent state and Puntland is currently eyeing other ports across Somalia.
Somali government which sees the move as a ‘blatant disrespect’ towards its sovereignty and judicial system by UAE’s ‘interference’ which it says threatens to destabilize the long-chaotic horn of Africa nation continues to avoid shunning UAE in public, thus resorting to behind scenes diplomatic battle, in a desperate attempt to evade further potential political crisis in the country which has a long history of constant political bickering by its political stakeholders and preserve its natural resources.
“Basically, UAE is stalking in the dark to dominate our country through proxy allies.” said a Somali minister. He asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“We can’t help, but engage in an analogous behind scenes fight with them with the help of international partners.” He said in an email interview.
In the meantime, UAE’s long-term oriented coordinated soft-power strategy throughout its sphere of influence accompanied by political brokers remained primary priorities in order to exert its influence in the horn of Africa nation at the expense of fragile Somali government.
According to officials, the UAE government has recently hired Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the former minister for planning and international cooperation as its second political adviser, having rewarded him with $3.5 million. Earlier, UAE has also hired Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, the former Somali prime minister as its key Somalia political adviser, officials said.
Upon his return to the Somali capital from Dubai last week, Mr. Warsame, who spoke to the reporters on Monday has started his new job by throwing barbs at Qatar, an arch-rival of UAE, calling it a ‘terrorism-sponsor’. state.
Source: All East Africa