Strategic location: What is the role of the UAE in Somalia?

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2024-02-12 | 12:03
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Strategic location: What is the role of the UAE in Somalia?
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Strategic location: What is the role of the UAE in Somalia?

Report by Ahmad Abdallah, English adaptation by Yasmine Jaroudi
 
In a recent terrorist attack on their military base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, four Emirati officers and one Bahraini officer were killed. 

What is the role of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Somalia?

About a year ago, a military agreement between Abu Dhabi and Mogadishu came amidst Somalia's ongoing war against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, linked to Al-Qaeda.

As the African Union peacekeeping forces, supporting the Somali government, prepare to withdraw by the end of the current year, UAE forces, along with troops from other countries, have stepped in to train the Somali army to take over security responsibilities.

This shift has led to establishing UAE military bases in Somalia, mirroring efforts by other nations, such as Turkey, to establish a foothold in the strategically located African country. One of the key strategic aspects is Somalia's position along the Red Sea, a vital maritime route.

However, this strategic location has also sparked tensions with neighboring Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, landlocked and eager to secure access to the sea, has faced economic challenges due to the cost of renting ports in Djibouti.

While Ethiopia seeks access to the sea, Somaliland, which is not recognized internationally, wants recognition of its legitimacy.

On this basis, Addis Ababa signed an agreement with Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, to lease to the Ethiopian Navy more than 12 miles of sea access in the port of Berbera for 50 years in exchange for Ethiopia's recognition of Somaliland as an independent state.

The Somali government has contested this agreement, and the president annulled it through legislation.

Amidst these developments, Somalia grapples with a series of challenges, primarily centered on its strategic position.

Will this strategic location be a blessing or a curse for Somalia?

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Somalia

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