Famine pushes Somalia, PM into UAE’s arms

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Somali PM Mohamed Roble has apologised to the UAE for the seizure of US$9.6 million in April 2018.

The Somali government, at the time, said the money seized at Mogadishu airport was intended for purposes of destabilising the country.

On the contrary, the UAE claimed it was for paying the salaries of the Somali military.

Read: Mastercard signs partners to elevate e-commerce in Somalia with new debit card launch

[Photo/Goobjoog News English]

The back story

After the seizure, security officials in Somalia said the substantial amount of cash was intercepted after the plane landed from Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, at Mogadishu airport.

There were three suitcases carrying the US$9.6 million which were put in storage inside Somalia’s national bank, according to two senior security officers.

Security officials in Somalia said they had intercepted a substantial amount of cash that landed from Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, at Mogadishu airport on Sunday.

There are three suitcases carrying $9.6 million in storage inside Somalia’s national bank, according to two senior security officers.

Ambassador Mohammed Ahmed Othman Al Hammadi, the UAE’s ambassador to Mogadishu, was also at the airport, according to another Somali security official.

One of Al Hammadi’s entourage tried to flee with the money from the airport, but they were forced by security forces to have their luggage screened.

The VOA reported that an officer who requested anonymity said that the UAE ambassador refused the checks and walked back to the plane with three suitcases, after which the counterterrorism teams confiscated the three bags.

Even after the fiasco, the Royal Jet which brought in the money, was released.

Al Hammadi, according to VoA, claimed that the funds were not intended for the UAE Embassy but it would go to the Department of Defense for the salaries of Somali soldiers.

He added that the administration had been informed in advance that the money would be provided to the troops.

A total of 1,000 maritime police officers have been trained by the UAE in the Puntland region as well as Somali Army in Mogadishu.

Read: Diaspora remittances a lifeline to investments growth in Somalia

Officials in Somalia however denied that the money was meant for the Somali army since it cost less than US$1 million a year for the army.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi with Mohammed Ahmed Othman Al Hammadi, UAE Ambassador to Somalia, at his office in the presidential palace “Villa Somalia” in 2018. [Photo/Emirates News Agency]
The Arab brothers’ infighting

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s government rejected pressure from the UAE to cut ties with Qatar, instead, adopting a neutral stance on the disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Since then, relations between Somalia and the United Arab Emirates have been strained.

In March 2018, the Somali government refused to bow to the pressure of an agreement between Dubai World, Somaliland and Ethiopia over Berbera port. Somalia said that the pact undermined the territorial integrity of Somalia.

At the time, Somali government authorities said that an unidentified foreign country had promised to intervene between Somalia and the UAE.

To clarify its stance on a port agreement as well as on a second military arrangement involving the construction of an army camp in Berbera, Somaliland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Al Hammadi in March 2018.

PM Roble’s UAE turnaround

In December 2021, Roble held bilateral talks with the UAE ambassador, according to a statement from the PM’s office.

When Mogadishu refused to join the Gulf Arab nations in blocking Qatar, an important ally and supporter of the Somali government led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the UAE broke its ties with Somalia.

The statement from the Prime Minister’s office stated that “the meeting covered, among other things, measures to further strengthen bilateral relations and the UAE’s assistance to those afflicted by drought in parts of the country.

More details of the meeting were not released by Roble’s office.

Diplomatic connections between the United Arab Emirates and Somalia were terminated after the Royal Jet plane seizure.

The Somali government’s decision also halted the UAE’s involvement in Somalia’s military affairs.

Since then, the UAE has strengthened ties with Puntland and Somaliland, two autonomous areas in Somalia, as well as with Mogadishu’s political opposition.

On the turn of events, Roble assured he would return the money to UAE in a Facebook post on Friday, January 7, 2022.

This is after receiving food aid from the UAE which will be distributed in drought-affected areas.

Read: Which way for Kenya and Somalia after ICJ ruling?

I have 10 years of experience in multimedia journalism and I use the skills I have gained over this time to meet and ensure goal-surpassing editorial performance. Africa is my business and development on the continent is my heartbeat. Do you have a development story that has to be told? Reach me at njenga.h@theexchange.africa and we can showcase Africa together.

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