The ongoing Gulf Crisis is taking its toll on Somalia as divisions between the Federal Government and the Federal Member state governments widen. South West state joined Puntland Sunday in declaring its support for Saudi Arabia accusing President Mohamed Farmaajo of failing to present a position following a meeting with state presidents in July. Goobjoog News sought the views of former Somali ambassador to Pakistan Abdisalam Haji Ahmed Liban on these developments.
Goobjoog News (GN): The regional states including South West stake their rationale on ground that Saudi Arabia and the Emirates play a critical role in implementing their development agenda. Don’t you think this is a legitimate claim to lend support in the ongoing feud?
Amb. Liban: These regional leaders don’t have the responsibilities they are talking about on behalf of their people. Here is the law and if there is no order we will have a confrontation. They (regional administrations) do not have the powers in regards to this matter.
GN: Don’t you think the regional states have a right to be consulted over this issue so that both levels of government read from the same script?
Amb. Liban: The government has the ultimate right over this issue. The government cannot go to every state leader to solicit suggestion on a foreign matter. Consultation is good but what falls within the remit of the Federal Government cannot be interfered with.
GN: Given their feeble economic situation, wouldn’t be in order for them to align themselves with Saudi Arabia so that they can gain some support like the case of renovation and management of ports?
Amb. Liban: The responsibility to support the Federal States lies with the Federal Government and it knows very well what is good for its people.
GN: Given that states are declaring their support for Saudi Arabia and gradually alienating the Federal Government, do you think it’s time the Federal Government reconsiders its neutrality stand?
Amb. Liban: This is for the Federal Government to decide. What you asked me is whether it is right for the states to interfere in foreign affairs issues. The government will decide how to caution them.
GN: What is the international law position if Saudi Arabia decides to bypass the government and begin direct relationship with the states?
Amb. Liban: It is wrong to fish in the states and also inviting them like Sheikh Sharif (South West state president) now in Emirates and the news of his state siding with Saudi is announced by acting state leader. It is not good thing. Arab League has many members who are neutral in the diplomatic row. Somalia is bothered simply because it is economically weak and they can be persuaded. Personally I support the government.
GN: What do you think is the effect of the Gulf Crisis in the larger Horn of Africa?
Amb. Liban: Ethiopia and Djibouti sided with Saudi but did they benefited from this move? Djibouti’s Island was captured by Eritrea after Qatari soldiers left the area. We don’t know what Gulf States fought about and they will never invite us when they want to become friends. I will prefer the Somali government to show the wrongs that are committed by the states.
GN: When strengthening international relationships, does one consider moral or strategic benefits?
Amb. Liban: I told you of many Arab League members which are neutral and no one bothers them. If they think they can bully us because of being weak, they have to know that we are familiar with problems. Even one time I did not hear [Somali government] we are supporting Qatar. We have no direct business with them and we can do little for them even if we support them.