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How the Gulf crisis is destabilising Somalia



The Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates (UAE) decision to break relations with Qatar, and more importantly their insistence for others to follow their lead, has pitted the Federal Government of Somalia (‘Somali government’) against many of its federal member states. This has created a serious challenge for the country’s nascent state-building process.

When Saudi Arabia cut ties with Qatar in June this year, it was the third time in three years that the nation (with the UAE close behind) had called on the Horn of Africa to remake its foreign policy in line with Riyadh. In 2015, Saudi Arabia convinced the entire Horn – except Ethiopia – to sign up to its coalition against the Houthi movement in Yemen; a key priority given Iran’s support for the Houthis, who are also Shia Muslims. Then in early 2016 when Saudi Arabia broke relations with Iran, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia did so as well.

Both these developments demonstrated how Saudi Arabia views its relationship with the Horn first and foremost via the prism of its proxy war with Iran, and the success its incentive-laden foreign policy has had on this front. After the break in relations with Qatar, Somalia – under the newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) – remained neutral. This threw Somalia into chaos, with the government coming under fire both internally and externally.

At heart are two interrelated concerns – unclear definitions of the roles and responsibilities between the Somali government and the six federal member states in practice; and the undercutting of the weak Somali state-building project by external actors.

In the first instance, Farmajo’s position has proved unpopular to many in Somalia who believe the potential benefits of siding with Saudi Arabia and the UAE far outweigh those associated with neutrality (which in essence is a vote for Qatar). Opponents note that the Saudi Arabia-UAE contingent offers Somalia much more in terms of a market for livestock exports, a source of migrant remittances and opportunities for ports management than Qatar can compete with. Nonetheless, Farmajo has held his ground.

In August Puntland announced it was breaking from the Somali government’s position of neutrality, citing its strategic relationships with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Dubai-based P&O Ports secured a 30-year concession for Puntland’s main port of Bosaso earlier this year, which probably influenced the decision and underlined the claim that siding with the Saudi-UAE camp was more beneficial.

This presented a clear challenge to the Somali government. Article 54 of the Somali Provisional Constitution allocates it the sole responsibility for foreign affairs, but Article 53 notes that the government should consult the federal member states ‘on negotiations relating to foreign aid, trade, treaties, or other major issues related to international agreements’.

It was the lack of consultation that Puntland cited. Its decision was followed in September by similar declarations from the South West and Galmudug administrations, openly challenging the Somali government’s policy. Both regions also cited the lack of consultation, again raising questions as to specific roles and responsibilities within Somalia’s federal system.

The challenges have not stopped there. Days after announcing his break with Farmajo’s foreign policy, Galmudug regional president Ahmed Duale Gelle Haaf was voted out of office by a faction of his region’s lawmakers. The Somali government supported the move, which Haaf claimed was illegal, orchestrated from Mogadishu and in reaction to his foreign policy stance. Other federal member states agreed, opposing Haaf’s ousting and the government’s apparent interference. Haaf himself maintained the support of another faction, in effect dividing Galmudug in two.

These developments demonstrate how the relationship between the Somali government and its federal member states is being threatened, with the resulting politicking a worrying prospect for building Somali stability at a local level. A similar no confidence motion may occur in the South West, while ex-HirShabelle leader Ali Abdullahi Osoble was also removed from office shorty after opposing the government’s stance.

The need for clearly defined roles and responsibilities in Somalia’s federal system is apparent now more than ever. The lack of agreement means that parties work together when convenient, but don’t when it’s not. It also allows for manipulation underpinned by a lack of trust, with accusations of the Somali government’s involvement in internal federal member state electoral processes, and the latter’s demands for a role in foreign affairs.

The tensions between the government and the federal member states go well beyond the Qatar crisis, and remain perhaps the biggest stumbling block to resurrecting a coherent Somali state.

Nonetheless, while the crisis has highlighted this internal dilemma, this has been exacerbated by outside actors. Not being able to convince Farmajo to change his mind, the UAE set out instead to undermine his position by appealing directly to the federal member states. For example, South West leader Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden reportedly visited the UAE right before his decision, while Haaf travelled there right after.

The UAE has always maintained relations with Somalia’s federal member states in a way that other external actors involved in Somalia, such as Turkey, have not. Yet the UAE’s active bypassing of the Somali government in this case undermines its authority, contributing to an erosion of the state-building process in which the international community has invested so much.

In this sense, it highlights another common problem inherent in the Somali arena – international actors may engage a weak Somali government when it suits their needs, but pursue other means when it doesn’t. (Saudi Arabia is taking a different tack than the UAE, however, as Farmajo recently visited the country and secured a $50-million donation for the Somali government.)

In short, the Qatar crisis has highlighted some major tensions in Somalia’s state-building process, demonstrating how easily this fragile project can become unhinged. Until there is clear agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states on the roles and responsibilities of each, combined with implementation mechanisms and respect from external actors, state-building in Somalia will be subject to persistent crises and incremental gains.


Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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Somali News

Africa is on the verge of forming the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization



CNBC — According to the African Union, this would consolidate a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

But, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have both snubbed the summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

African heads of state have gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a free trade agreement that would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Leaders are poised to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area, a deal that will unite the 55 member countries of the African Union in tariff-free trade.

The agreement is touted by the African Union as encompassing a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. It is hoped that it will encourage Africa’s trade to diversify away from its traditional commodity exports outside of the continent, the volatile prices of which have hurt the economies of many countries.

“Less than 20 percent of Africa’s trade is internal,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also currently chairperson of the African Union, said in a speech Tuesday. “Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world.”

But, the deal has its critics. It was announced over the weekend that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would not be attending the summit, despite his federal cabinet last week approving the deal. “This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” said an official statement from the foreign ministry.

The agreement is opposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella organization for trade unions in the country.

“Given the size of its economy, population, and given its political clout, Nigeria’s stance towards the African Continental Free Trade Area is key,” Imad Mesdoua, senior consultant for Africa at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy with offices in Lagos, told CNBC via email. Nigeria is the continent’s most populous nation and considered by some metrics to be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy.

“There is a general sentiment among (labor unions and industry bodies) that Nigeria’s export capacity in non-oil sectors isn’t sufficiently robust yet to expose itself to external competition,” Mesdoua said.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, also called off his visit at the last minute, although it remains unclear as to why.

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, according to the African Union. By this time it will account for 26 percent of the world’s working age population. Talks for the African Continental Free Trade Area began in June 2015.
Should the agreement be signed, second phase talks are expected to begin later this year. These will focus on investment, competition and intellectual property rights.

According to a study published by the United Nations last month, the deal will lead to long-term welfare gains of approximately $16.1 billion, after a calculated $4.1 billion in tariff revenue losses. But, the report did warn that benefits and costs might not be distributed evenly across the African continent.

In principle, a free trade area across Africa “makes perfect economic sense,” Ben Payton, head of Africa at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC via email.

But, he added: “The biggest risk is that African countries would be unable to effectively enforce external customs controls. For example, this would mean cheap Chinese goods that are imported into Ghana could eventually cross various African borders without further controls and make it into Nigeria. This problem already exists, but a free trade area would potentially make it worse.”

The World Trade Organization was formed in 1995 and comprises of 164 members.

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Somali News

At least 14 dead, several hurt in car bomb in Somali capital



ABC — At least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Most of the casualties were passers-by and traders, Hussein told The Associated Press. The toll of dead and wounded was announced by security ministry spokesman Abdulaziz Hildhiban.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast. The group frequently attacks Mogadishu’s high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country’s deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. Al-Shabab was blamed.

Thursday’s blast comes almost exactly a month after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu shattered a months-long period of calm in the city, killing at least 21 people.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country’s security to Somalia’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.

The U.S. military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.

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