The hastily passage of the Somaliland UAE Berbera Airbase agreement by Somaliland join parliament session was undemocratic and unconstitutional. Both the manner as well as the method used by Siilanyo administration to secure the votes to rectify the agreement was deceptive and dubious. In his role as the Chairman of Upper House (Guurti) Suleiman M Aden has no constitutional authority to chair the meeting since that branch of parliament is not the law making body but rather ceremonial and deals primarily with reconciliations efforts, any constitutional issues arising from local and national elections, extension of presidential terms when extenuating circumstance arise. In addition to play a mediator role and/or when constitutional issues emerge between the government and the national political parties.
The most appropriate legal step for Somaliland president to tackle the issue would have been to forward a draft document detailing the specifics of agreement to the Lower House. Which have allowed members of the Lower House an opportunity to review methodically the agreement and thoroughly discuss its merits /demerits at the house chamber and then take up and down vote. The lack of clarity in the specifics of the circulated paper: such as the terms of agreement, the dollar amount agreed for the leasing the airport, its impact on the livelihood of the local people and its environs. All of the above stipulations in respect to this hasty forced agreement and administration’s complete silence are a great concern for the people of Somaliland in particular and those in the region in general.
In the following I will delineate those crucial points:
A) Who has the legality and authority to enter such agreement:
The mere fact that Somaliland is not yet recognized as State the UAE government will not entertain entering such a critical agreement with Somaliland administration to avoid any legal entanglement from Somalia if objections come up in the future. Therefore, the question that the Somaliland government needs to clarify to the public is: who granted the authorization in order for the agreement to go forward. Reliable sources who asked for anonymity stated that the Federal Government (FG) of Somalia and its former Prime Minister Omar A. Sharmarke singed on behalf of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.
More recently, according to Egyptian Al-Watan newspaper, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zaid Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi “said that three countries took part in the discussions which culminated into a near unanimous vote by Somaliland parliament few months before a similar vote which saw UAE win another 30 year deal to set a naval base near the port.
Sheikh Mohamed Al-Nahyan added that “the deal was reached after talks with US, Egypt and Somalia and UAE would take over the security of the Bab al-Mandab Straits.
In all practical purposes the valid agreement is than between Somalia and UAE and not between Somaliland and the UAE as the Siilanyo administration had claimed and the evidence is clear by the statement of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zaid Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi since Somaliland has no legal authority to enter such agreement.
B) Who are the power brokers behind the deal:
It has been circulated both in the world media, Somali websites and several articles that selected Somaliland cabinet members that are close to the family of the president his son-in-law Bashe Awill and the first lady were eager to sign the agreement before the upcoming elections in Somaliland. It’s also a common believed that there was a signing commission shared by the above individuals involved and the UAE government .The active role that Bashe played in the securing and making a reality that Berbera port and the Airbase be leased to UAE is apparent and well documented. He and his Mother in-law are the de facto rulers of the Somaliland with a few trusted ministers. Recently many reliable Somaliland observers indicated that there is a question mark on the health of the president Siilanyo as he is currently sought medical treatment in London.
C) Regional implications:
Many regional observers agreed that UAE air and naval base in Berbera will rekindle the long time rivalry between Egypt and Ethiopia for the control of river Nile water flow and to disrupt the completion of the mega dam in Ethiopia’ which is a national security treat to Egypt as the amount of water that goes down stream will gradually be reduce. Historically Egypt was staunch supporter of the unification of the five Somali regions and always believed militarily strong Somalia that can contain Ethiopia. However, since the collapse of central authority in Somalia in 1991 that policy was put into disarray. According to some observers UAE is a front for a wider Arab conspiracy to destabilize and then take over the control of strategic resources of Horn of Africa. The other more serious local implication that can occur could be, if Somaliland rejects to reunite with Somalia in the future Berbera Naval and Air Base could be used to enforce if the Arab league passes a resolution allowing the use of military force.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon up on every Somali to raise their voices and oppose this agreement that was forced upon the people of Somaliland by UAE as it could have adverse consequences not only for Somalis but for the whole region.
By Fowzi Kamal