By Mahmoud Qodah
Hargeisa (Somaliland Monitor) – Ethiopian Representative to Somaliland Gen. Berhe Tesfay described his government’s view about the recently approved agreement by Somaliland legislators that will allow United Arab Emirates (UAE) to set up a military base in Somaliland’s port city of Berbera, as he noted that it is up to Somaliland to decide its internal affairs, and not for his country which is to decide allowing for United Arab Emirates (UAE) to have a base in Berbera or not.
Gen. Tesfay told this to Mahmoud Walaaleeye, a Freelance Reporter based in Hargeisa, who had an interview with the diplomat hours after 144 members from Somaliland’s joint house of Parliament (Elders and Representatives) supported and voted in favour of the agreement that will allow United Arab Emirates to establish a military base in Berbera port.
In an answer to rumours telling that Ethiopia will close its diplomatic office in Hargeisa, Gen. Tesfay after Somaliland allowed Emirates’ military base in its country, the Diplomat dismissed those reports, as he stressed that such reports are baseless which have been propagated by those who are enemy to Somaliland and Ethiopia. He also added that Ethiopian diplomatic office in Somaliland will not be closed, instead it is vice versa and will be open and exist for ever.
“Ethiopia deserves and should get a credit for its usage to the port of Berbera, and this is the responsibility of Somaliland government, as it is a vital importance for them.”
Last year (August 13), Somaliland House of Representatives similarly endorsed after government and Dubai based Company (DP World) signed a joint venture agreement that will cost $442m to upgrade the port of Berbera, which mainly exports livestock to the Middle East.
According to Tomi Oladipo, BBC Monitoring Africa security correspondent, Djibouti has been the regional hub for foreign military bases, but now faces competition from its next-door neighbour.
In Somaliland, the UAE has an alternative and less controversial location for a military base than Eritrea, which is under UN sanctions. The Emiratis will also provide much-needed training and equipment for Somaliland forces. The threat posed by militant Islamist group al-Shabab in Somalia has been largely kept at bay in the breakaway region – having a stronger local force backed by an international partner will shore up this stability.
Its port in Berbera is not solely for military use. Its expansion could provide Somaliland with more robust economic opportunities, particularly targeting its landlocked neighbour Ethiopia.