GOOBJOOG NEWS|MOGADISHU: Since ascending to power, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been keen on restoring Somalia’s place in the international community. Within the first six months of his reign, his administration made several important foreign policy decisions that have been instrumental in strengthening ties between Somalia and its neighbours and its international partners.
The new administration led by President Mohamud has taken it upon itself to renew and rebuild ties with its important partners through various foreign policy initiatives. Some of the countries that have seen improved ties with Somalia within the last six months of President Mohamud’s reign include the following.
Relations between Somalia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under President Farmaajo’s administration were somewhat strained. For example, in 2018, the UAE withdrew its military training program in Somalia after accusing the Somali government of seizing millions of dollars worth of cash and equipment from a UAE military plane. The UAE also accused Somalia of failing to support its campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, a conflict in which the UAE is a key participant. Since then, there were reports of tensions between the two countries over several issues, including Somalia’s relations with Qatar, which is a rival of the UAE in the region. In addition, there were concerns about the UAE’s involvement in the development of the port of Berbera in Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia that has declared itself independent but is not recognized by the international community.
The new administration led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (HSM) has been keen on renewing its relationship with the UAE. In June 2022, a month after his inauguration, President Mohamud met with UAE president Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi to resolve some of the longstanding issues that existed from the previous administration in Somalia. The two leaders again met in February 2023 at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 2023) that was held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) in Abu Dhabi. The two leaders deliberated on how to establish peace and prosperity in Somalia.
China and Somalia are friendly nations that have had diplomatic relationships for many years. The positive relations continued into President Farmaajo’s administration. For example, in 2014, Somalia established diplomatic relations with China, and since then, there have been several high-level visits between the two countries. In 2018, President Farmaajo visited China and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, trade, and investment. China has also been involved in several infrastructure projects in Somalia, including the construction of roads, airports, and seaports. In 2021, the Chinese company CCCC Dredging was awarded a contract to build a new port in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
The relationship with China strengthened even further under President Mohamud’s administration. In December 2022, President Xi Jinping of China met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Riyadh. The two leaders agreed to strengthen their ties further through more cooperation in development and peace in Somalia.
Somalia and Eritrea established their diplomatic relations in 2018. The two countries had previously been involved in a long-standing border dispute and had accused each other of supporting armed groups. Since then, there have been several high-level visits between the two countries, including a visit by President Farmaajo to Eritrea in 2019. During this visit, the two countries signed agreements on a range of issues, including security, trade, and investment. In addition to these diplomatic efforts, there have also been reports of military cooperation between Somalia and Eritrea. In 2019, there were reports that Eritrean soldiers were fighting alongside Somali troops against the jihadist group Al-Shabaab.
Since coming into office, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has made several trips to Eritrea to help strengthen the ties between the two nations. Eritrea is involved in training Somali soldiers in a bid to help the country improve its security. President Mohamud’s recent visit to Eritrea was in March 2023, when he had a two-day state visit to the neighbouring nation.
Somalia’s relations with Qatar under President Farmaajo were quite positive. In 2017, Qatar announced a $200 million aid package to Somalia to support infrastructure development, including the construction of roads and hospitals. Since then, Qatar has continued to provide aid and investment to Somalia, including support for the country’s health and education sectors. In addition to aid and investment, there have also been high-level visits between the two countries. In 2018, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani visited Somalia, where he pledged to invest $200 million in the country’s infrastructure.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed is keen on bolstering the ties between the two countries even further. In early March, he travelled to Doha, Qatar at the invitation of f emir Sheikh Tamin Bin Hamid Al-Thani. The two leaders discussed how to improve their cooperation.
Somalia’s relations with Kenya under President Farmaajo had been tense, especially towards the end of his reign. One of the main sources of tension between the two countries has been a longstanding maritime boundary dispute. In 2014, Somalia took Kenya to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to challenge Kenya’s claim to a portion of the Indian Ocean that Somalia believes is within its maritime boundaries. In 2019, the ICJ ruled in favour of Somalia, which led to a deterioration of relations between the two countries. Since then, there have been several incidents that have further strained relations between Somalia and Kenya. In 2020, Somalia expelled the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, accusing Kenya of meddling in its internal affairs. Kenya denied the accusations and retaliated by expelling the Somali ambassador.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s administration was keen on rebuilding its relationship with Kenya from the onset. President Kenyatta of Kenya was invited to attend the inaugural ceremony of President Mohamud in Mogadishu. Subsequently, President Mohamud chose Kenya as the country of his first foreign trip. In his three-day state visit to Kenya, the two leaders ironed out some of the unresolved issues from the previous administration and restored diplomatic ties and trade ties between the two nations.
- Algerian Arab summit
In November 2022, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud attended the 31st Arab Summit in Algiers, Algeria. The summit placed a strong emphasis on enhancing cooperative Arab action to safeguard Arab national security in all areas. This was an important forum for Somalia’s foreign relations as it expresses the country’s willingness to partner and collaborate with other Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East. By sending a delegation to the summit, Somalia reaffirmed its position within the Arab world as an important stakeholder in matters affecting the region.
Somalia’s relations with Djibouti under President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, have been generally positive and have strengthened in recent years. Djibouti has played a significant role in Somalia’s efforts to rebuild and stabilize after decades of conflict. Djibouti has been a major contributor to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and its predecessor AMISOM, providing troops and other support to the mission. Djibouti has also been a key partner in efforts to improve security and stability in Somalia, including by providing training and other support to Somali security forces. In addition to security cooperation, there have been efforts to deepen economic ties between Somalia and Djibouti. Djibouti has been a key transit hub for Somalia, providing access to ports and transportation links that are important for trade and commerce.
There have been high-level visits between the two countries during both President Farmaajo’s time and during the first six months of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. President Mohamud made his visit to Djibouti in July 2022. In return, President Guelleh of Djibouti also visited him in Mogadishu on a two-day state visit. Furthermore, the two leaders had a joint meeting with US Secretary of State Blinken to discuss important matters affecting the region, including regional security, famine, and terrorism.
Somalia and Uganda have cooperated in areas such as security, trade, and diplomacy. For example, the two countries have worked together to combat terrorism and piracy in the region, and have signed agreements to promote trade and investment between them. Uganda has also played a key role in providing peacekeeping troops to Somalia as part of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and its predecessor AMISOM which has helped to stabilize the country and improve security.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had an official state visit to Uganda in August 2022, where he visited Kampala for a two-day state visit. With his host, President Yoweri Museveni, the two leaders held bilateral talks with his host, President Yoweri Museveni, on security, investment, trade, and regional cooperation.
Somalia’s relations with Egypt under President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, have been relatively limited in recent years. There have been a few diplomatic contacts between the two countries, including a visit by Somalia’s Foreign Minister to Egypt in 2019. However, there have been no major agreements or significant initiatives to deepen ties between the two countries. One possible area of cooperation between Somalia and Egypt is in the field of agriculture. Both countries have large agricultural sectors, and there may be opportunities for the two countries to share expertise and technology in this area. Another area of potential cooperation is trade and investment. Egypt is a major economic power in the region, and there may be opportunities for Somalia to explore trade and investment ties with Egypt.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud arrived in Cairo in July to begin an official visit to Egypt at the invitation of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. The two leaders deliberated on important issues such as security, investment, trade, and regional cooperation and promised to work together to improve relations.