In the most prominent meetings Somalia’s PM Roble met Emir Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, then also Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and UAE Vice President and Prime Minister. In the discussions, all expressed hope for a strengthening of bilateral relations, while Roble congratulated the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, a reflection of the commitment to “promote harmony between states, cultures and people.”
It is not yet the overcoming of internal and external rivalries which are at play in Somalia along the fault lines that run between Roble and President Farmajo and that on the Gulf side still oppose the UAE and Saudi Arabia to Qatar, even after the recent rapprochement. These dynamics need to be further evaluated.
If Abu Dhabi will agree to greater exports of livestock from Somalia and to loosen visa requirements and, above all, if it will give up the training of Somaliland forces and the construction of military structures; if it will revise the agreement with Hargeisa on the port of Berbera and to renegotiate it with Mogadishu instead; if a normal flow of aid is resumed at a very difficult time for Somalia, then the public “apology” by the Somali Prime Minister and their public “acceptance” by the UAE Emir will have truly meant a new chapter for the two Nations – as diplomats on both sides are already saying.
In fact, it would be a reprise of what has already been observed since the early 2000s. It is possible that Roble is aiming at revisiting the political and economic competition that had seen the Sheiks pour millions of dollars into the Horn of Africa to excel over their rivals. Roble would be the focal point on the Emirati-Somali axis.
There is no reaction from Farmajo, who had tried to prevent the rapprochement. The thaw would undermine his role of privileged interlocutor on the Somali-Qatari (and Turkish) side. As reiterated by the Benadir Court, it is necessary to wait for the results of the audit that the Somali Central Bank has launched at the President’s instigation.
A positive conclusion would anticipate the material release of the seized sum, namely the $9.6 million in 2018. Although insignificant, it is the pledge of rapprochement and symbolizes Somali willingness to truly turn the page. It would also clarify who has the ownership or greater relative strength in directing these foreign policy decisions.
On the security side, Al Shabaab attacks have been reported both on the Kenyan side and in Jubaland near Kismayo. 15 people have died across the border, at least 10 in Somalia, also in executions.
The use of mines placed at the roadside differs from the most common techniques adopted by this branch of terrorism, at other times more targeted to security forces or federal or local officials. This is a noteworthy element. Indiscriminate actions can result in criticism of the insurgency and less support from the public. Specific, though unsubstantiated, alerts had been issued by the relevant Consular Authorities for Kenya.
These events coincide with meetings underway in Mogadishu to define the continuation of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and its transformation into a temporary structure: ATMIS (African Union Transition Mission in Somalia). These meetings were also attended by delegates from the Embassies of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda – countries that send their own military for AMISOM – in addition to the Ambassadors of the United Kingdom and of the United States and the Turkish Deputy Ambassador.