President Farmajo warns foreign countries against violating the sovereignty of Somalia

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has warned foreign countries and companies against violating the sovereignty and unity of  Somalia. In his throne speech opening the third parliamentary session, the President said Somalia was ready for engaging in trade and investment projects with the world but only in a legal manner.

“Whoever wishes to engage investment in Somalia should seek the permission from the legal institutions of the government. Somalia’s foreign policy is based on neutralism and mutual respect,” he told the opening session of parliament.

“I am warning companies and countries not to cross the line and put to question the sovereignty of Somalia”.

While he did not mention the UAE by name during his speech, the President’s comments come on the heels of heightened tensions with the UAE over a controversial port deal in Berbera. His comments seem to be a direct response to the external of interference of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Somaliland and Ethiopia – each with a large stake in the deal.

Somalia petitioned the Arab League, insisting that the UAE is interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs. The Arab League responded by affirming Somalia’s sovereignty.

“The control of the borders of the land, its airspace and the sea are the responsibility of the federal government of Somalia, and the Arab League warns against interfering with Somalia in any kind,” the Arab League said in a statement issued on last Friday.

In a television interview last week, DP World CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem dismissed Somalia’s rejection ‘mere statements’ by saying Somalia has nothing to do with the affairs of Somaliland which has been independent over two decades ago.

“The decision of the Federal Government of Somalia does not concern DP World,” said Sulayem. “Somaliland is an independent country for more than 28 years and makes its own decision and its parliament approved this project.”

“The decision of the Federal Government of Somalia does not concern DP World, Somaliland is an independent country for more than 28 years and makes its own decision and its parliament approved the project,” Sulayem.

Early this month, Dubai announced a tripartite agreement dividing the Berbera port between DP World (51%), the Ethiopian government (19%), and Somaliland (30%).

The deal has led to a rapid deterioration of relations between the Federal Government of Somalia, Somaliland and Dubai-controlled DP World as each side exchange barbs over the contentious agreement, culminating in the President’s speech on Saturday.

Somalia’s Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khair said that “while Somalia welcomes foreign investment, the FGS has the ultimate responsibility of signing any such agreements.”

In a response to Somalia PM’s comments, The President of self-declared Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi said he considers the questioning of Somaliland’s independence by Somali Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khaire as tantamount to a declaration of war.

The Arab League statement issued last Friday welcomed ongoing talks between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Somaliland officials amid heightened tensions in the Horn of Africa, which suggests that mediation channels could possibly be already open.

Somalia also submitted a petition to the African Union seeking intervention over the port dispute. FGS officials have also hinted that all legal channels to solve this dispute will be exhausted.

The stakes have been raised considerably for DP World and Ethiopia after Djibouti cancelled the 30-year concession awarded to DP to operate the Doraleh Container Terminal. Landlocked Ethiopia – which has a population of  over 100 million – relies heavily on the Doraleh Port and the Berbera port for trade.

Djibouti’s then signed a deal with Singapore-based Pacific International Lines to increase the amount of cargo handled at the port.

DP World called the move an illegal seizure of the terminal and said it had begun new arbitration proceedings before the London Court of International Arbitration, which last year cleared DP World of all charges of misconduct over the concession to run the terminal.

Somaliland has said it will proceed with the concession despite objections from Mogadishu.