Last week, the Somaliland Parliament approved a plan for the United Arab Emirates to establish a military base in Berbera on the Gulf of Aden, a site where the former Soviet Union and United States both used during the Cold War era, according to AP report.
The UAE base would help Somaliland economically and geopolitically, if it is executed correctly, in an open and transparent manner. But the way the Silanyo administration is handling the base is marred with a lack of transparency, nepotism and cronyism.
President Silanyo has unfettered power when it comes to national security matters, and he has the authority to enter a treaty or agreement with a foreign country, such as the pending Berbera military base. But Silanyo, who is backing the base, is relying only on the advice of his family including his son- in-law, Mr. Bashe Omar, and those of his greedy sub-clansmen, who are not seasoned politicians and merely looking for cash from the contract of the base, like his senior aide, Mohamud Hashi, who is the head of the Somaliland team negotiating with the UAE. Even our own foreign Minister, Saad Shire, is not involved in the decision making regarding the negotiation of the military base.
This has created a climate of mistrust and lack of support among the public and diaspora for the base.
Political panhandlers and some Somaliland websites that propagate the narrow agendas of their Sub sub-clans are disseminating fake news and lies about the base because of the backroom deal Silanyo initiated.
However, no question, the benefits of the base outweighs the risk. The revenue generated from the lease of the base would help fighting the abject poverty of the country: the Somaliland government would receive more money to fund basic services such as health, water and electricity, education, and infrastructure development.
For example, expanding the highway between Berbera and the border town of Tog Wajaale (265km) would give Ethiopia another outlet for their imports and exports. Ethiopia currently depends on the crowded Djibouti port, north of Somaliland. According to Silanyo, this investment in infrastructure would create jobs for the local population, and would increase the trade between Somaliland and Ethiopia.
Moreover, our national security forces would receive more advanced training and better equipment to protect the nation and its interest.
The future UAE air and naval facility in Berbera could provide refueling and other military purposes. This facility would be used for interdicting Iranian arms shipment to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It is also possible for the US Central Command responsible for the Middle East, which includes the waters around the Horn of Africa, to use the installation, for contingency plans.
With the new Trump Administration’s aggressive policy against Iran’s belligerency in the Middle East, would potentially allow Somaliland to engage with the United States and its NATO allies because the installation that would be available to them.
To salvage the base deal, Silanyo must recuse his son-in-law, Bashe Omar and Mohamud Hashi from the Base negotiation because of the blatant nepotism. Instead,Silanyo should put the interests’ of the Somaliland people ahead of his family and his cohorts. He should appoint the best team Somaliland can assemble, in terms of experience, qualifications, and competency, which can negotiate on behalf of the Somaliland people, and bring the best deal home.
The terms of the contract of the lease for the base must unambiguously state: The area of the facility in acres, and the duration and the yearly lease payment for the base. So far, the Parliament has not approved any contract for the base. What the Silanyo administration submitted to the legislature was a draft paper in Somali about the benefits of the base, with no details included.
What type of payment scheme are we asking for the naval and air base? Are we interested for a development aid package or a yearly lease payment?
For instance, Camp Lemonier, the U.S. military base in neighboring Djibouti, is a 500 acres facility, and it shares one runway with a commercial airport, the U.S. pays the Djibouti dictator $70 million per year for the lease, which comes out to be $140,000 per acre each year. That would make it the most valuable real estate in the world right now because of its location near the Bab el-Mandab Strait, a water way connecting the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.
Somaliland has not been diplomatically recognized, despite our territory is located a strategic place, next one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. We have to lease our base for the best deal possible, and that requires skillful negotiators and deal makers.
Silanyo is borrowing a playbook from Said Barre. Barre, in his final months as leader of Somalia, came to rely on his family members, including his son in-laws, and his clansmen. After what the Somaliland people went through, today, it is repugnant , for Silanyo to let his son-in-law, and his fellow clansman, lead the negotiation for the Berbera naval and air base. I hate to say it; this is the pure dictionary definition of nepotism, the nepotism and clanism that we fought against.
Finally, we must do it the right way for the base deal because the land belongs to all Somalilanders. Any proceed from the base lease should go developing our people , including our children, and it should not end up on the British or Emirati bank accounts of Silanyo’s son-in laws and his greedy clansmen.
Lewis Center, Ohio
Editor and Founder, Gubanmedia.com
He can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org