President Farmaajo off to UAE as pressure builds over naval base and ports deals

U.N. Secretary general Antonio Guterres (C) and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
U.N. Secretary general Antonio Guterres (C) and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

President Farmaajo Sunday jetted off to the UAE leaving behind a twitter storm over the unilateral ports and naval base agreements between the Middle Eastern country and two of Somalia’s regions.

The visit which is the second for Farmaajo to the Gulf region comes barely three days after Puntland government announced a 30 year concession to UAE’s P&O Ports to develop and manage the port of Bosaso. The $336 million deal adds to another $442 million deal by UAE’s DP World over the port of Bosaso for the same period of time with an automatic ten year renewal.

A Puntland lawmaker who declined to be named told Goobjoog News the state’s assembly had not debated the matter. “I cannot commend about this issue since we have not seen the deal yet. We are waiting for President Ali Gaas to brief us about it,” the MP said.

The Puntland leader, Gaas was in the United Arab Emirates this past week to sign the deal which he said was ‘a huge undertaking in Puntland and will greatly contribute to the infrastructure development in Somalia, particularly the Puntland State of Somalia’.

P&O Ports was acquired by DP World in 2006 and is fully owned by the Emirati government.

A source privy to the foregoing has told Goobjoog News the Emiratis are also keen on striking another ports management deal with Jubbaland authorities to take over Kismayu port.

A Twitter hashtag, UAEHandsOffSomalia Sunday generated debate with Somalis calling on the UAE to rid itself of dealings with Somalia.

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Others however blamed the Somali government and regional administrations for over what they termed as unilateral decisions.

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President Farmaajo will be expected to protest UAE’s involvement with regional administrations in what analysts and Parliament have termed a violation of the country’s constitution and international law.

A section of Federal Parliament MPs last week tabled a motion questioning UAE’s naval base agreement with Somaliland which would grant the Emirati military rights to pitch camp in Berbera port raising fears of a collateral damage in the war against the Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The lawmakers asked Farmaajo administration to come clean on the matter and state what it knows about it. Sources have said the immediate former administration may have been privy to the deal and that there may have been cases of money changing hands.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia in March, President Farmaajo is reported to have sought the support of Saudi’s second deputy premier and defense minister Mohamed bin Salman Al Saud to convince the Emirati government to drop the deal.

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