Somaliland disclosed that the issue of security dominated discussions it had held with its United Arab Emirates counterparts.

Boys playing at Batalaale Beach of the Red Sea port of Berbera, Somaliland (Photo: Weris Ismail)

“The security issue has been central to the discussions we held with the UAE government. Security is a critical element that cannot be downplayed at any time, anywhere and, especially, in a region characterized by recurring troubles,” His Excellency the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Somaliland, Yassin Mohamoud Hiir ‘Faratoon’ recently stated at a press conference he held at the Egal International Airport of Hargeisa upon return of a Presidential delegation he was part of

“Security has become of paramount importance not only to the region but to the whole world. Terrorism has taken root in many parts of the region, and Somaliland has a critical role to play in all matters pertaining to a secure region, and cannot be sidelined in any way,” he said.

Minister Faratoon recalled that the Republic of Somaliland has for 28 years held out on its own securing not only its inland borders but those it shared with other neighbors in the region as well as towards the sea to ensure that it not be used as a hunting ground for pirates.

Despite the pivotal role which the Republic of Somaliland has to, logically and undeniably, play regional security, it appears that countries and Organizations that should have built on this strength chose to totally ignore it.

Saudi Arabia, on December 12, 2018, gathered together in Riyadh six countries which it said were critical to the security of the Red Sea. Probably in an attempt to form a shield around its interests in the region and on the critical trade routes plying the Red Sea, the Saudis brought to Riyadh representatives from Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan tasking them to form a political and security bloc in the strategic Red Sea region.Saudi Arabia seeks new political bloc in strategic Red Sea region“This is part of the kingdom’s efforts to protect its interests and those of its neighbors and to stabilize the region that we live in and to try to create synergies between the various countries…” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at the time.

Somalia was invited. Playing out the international farce that Somalia ruled Somaliland which it did not, Somaliland was left out despite the fact that it controlled 845 kilometers (528 miles) of a pristine, Red Sea coastline. Neither was Eritrea commanding 1,150 km of the Red Sea present.

The Saudis, for reasons only known to themselves, seem to have not taken into consideration the fact that the UAE, their closest ally in the region, is about to complete construction of a fully-fledged naval/military base in Berbera on the Red Sea coast of Somaliland. Neither did the Saudis appreciate the support Somalilanders accorded it on its rift with Qatar on the expense of its development and diplomatic support.

To compound the Saudi oversight with a closer-to-home strategic blunder, the Horn of Africa’s own Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) formed what it called Taskforce on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden on April 4, 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Somalia, pretending that it still controlled the Red Sea coastline of Somaliland, participated, along with tiny Djibouti, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

Somaliland, again, was left out.

“Somaliland is an independent and sovereign country, and any plan of action set forth by neighbouring governments that pertains to or impacts its territorial waters without the active participation and consent of our representatives is unacceptable to Somaliland,” a statement of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Somaliland stated, correcting the anomaly.

Somaliland went on to state why it thought it had every right to be part of the taskforce.

“Somaliland has borne the brunt of this burden, dedicating nearly half of its meagre budget to insulating IGAD member states from conflict across the sea in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. In recognition of this reality, Somaliland entrusts that IGAD’s leadership and member states will make all efforts to include Somaliland in the Task Force, in a manner reflective of and respectful towards, its importance and potential contribution”, the statement pointed out.

Security, encompassing the Red Sea, was obviously one of the more driving motives of the Somaliland delegation which His Excellency the President, Musa Bihi Abdi, led to the Emirates on April 18.

Minister Faratoon established that among the delegation, taking an active role in the discussions were commanders of the varied security branches. The Somaliland Coast Guards commander and his aides were among them.

Not only is the Red Sea coastline of Somaliland under threat by piracy, but, of late, Somalia taking advantage of the misplaced trust and support Western nations and the UN have given it, started granting fishing licenses to foreign trawlers such as Chines fishing fleets to denude resources of a sea thus far guarded by Somaliland.

Somaliland has oft-declared that it will not stand by while its resources are pillaged, its coastline violated.

Other unconfirmed sources point to side meetings with Russian navy commanders docked out on the sea. Building a formidable coast guard was foremost among issues raised.

Russia has not concealed its interest in establishing a base at Zeila, a stone’s throw from western and Chinese bases in Djibouti.

At a critical stage where the fact that Western countries have turned a deaf ear to its right to restore its independence and to self-determination that worked for it for the past 28 years, Somaliland is left with no option but to turn to other sources for diplomatic and military support.

Russia cannot miss the opportunity – and if this happens – the West has none to blame but itself.

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