How UAE is undermining stability in the Horn of Africa and Somalia

Alexandra S Nchidwuor
Alexandra S Nchidwuor

Associate Researcher of Tactics Institute For Security & Counter Terrorism

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)  has always been a primary source of power throughout global politics. In recent years, UAE has been demonised for the destruction they are said to have inflicted in Africa and Somalia with their choice of political alliances, investments, and military base agreements etc.  Somalia is among many countries described as the ‘Horn of Africa’ with states located in this area often acknowledge as states that lack stability. Geographically, Somalia’s location along the Bab El Mandeb Strait links to the Red sea to the Indian Ocean.

Since the Gulf Crisis in 2017, where the UAE and Qatar has used this convenient location as a foundation in trying to push their regional barriers and take territory. This battle has caused problems for Somalia demographically and politically, despite efforts to resolve the upset between the two countries. Somalia has been dragged into the middle of the dispute and has been accused of siding with Qatar, sparking unnecessary rivalry between Somalia and UAE, with Somalis retaliating to the accusation against them, by accusing the UAE of causing civil division by supporting Somaliland and indicting violence between the two. Post Arab Spring, the UAE has made it their mission to take interest in numerous countries in Africa such as Libya and Yemen. The UAE has dedicated $26 billion on defence since 2016 and it projected to reach almost $40 billion by 2025.

The UAE’s increase in providing stable security and  war defence has created a powerful reputation within the global stage. Since, last year the UAE has military bases in many countries in the Horn of Africa, highlighting the significance of these states e.g., Somaliland, Eritrea, and Djibouti. These countries allow easy access to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden which is essential in providing further economic stability for the UAE in terms of trade. The military bases act as a guard to deflect any other Gulf countries trying to overtake their presence; the UAE can use the bases as a weapon of soft power to secure their influence in East Africa economically and politically. Up until recently, the Emirates took a soft and subtle approach with their role in East Africa but recently especially with the war in Yemen in 2015, the Emirates have taken an aggressive stance on their influence and territorial attitude in East Africa. The Emirates’ overbearing attitude to the countries within the Horn of Africa and Somalia has raised concern in international politics,  with their intentions being  questioned as contractual bondages rather than a mutual relationship between bureaucracies to assist least developed countries (LDC) with the progression of the countries. Rather the Emirates’ will continue to have control over these countries no matter the development of the state, with their sudden increase in military power and security nicknaming them ‘Little Sparta’, these countries would not be able to fight the Emirates’ off if the relationship were to turn sour.

Since the UAE accused Somalia of supporting Qatar. The UAE have been accused of purposefully destabilising the country, through funding of opposition forces against them. Originally, it was said that Qatar and Turkey had helped President Mohamed Abdul Iahi Farmaajo with his campaign coining him the victor. This alliance was seen as a threat to the UAE, and they acted accordingly despite Somalia’s constant denial of bias relationship against the UAE. This progressively began to worsen when Dubai Ports World, avoided the Somalia government and signed a deal with a region in Somaliland and included Ethiopia within the investment as a stakeholder to develop and manage Berbera port. The Somalia government stated the deal was illegal and attempted to block it by filing a complaint with the Arab League. The Somalia government already understand how fragile the country already is with the civil war and presence of extremist groups within the country and it seems the UAE aiding to the civil unrest between both regions with the alliance with the UAE and allowing military bases to set up in their region potentially seeing over $440 million in investment from Abu Dhabi.

In recent times, the UAE has seemed to be involved in a lot of the conflict within the countries in Africa. In 2020, Ethiopia’s Tigray region conflict erupted between the government and a rebel army, the rebel army accused the UAE of drone strikes on Tigray from Eritrea. This has caused a significant rift between the UAE, other Gulf states and East African countries. The UAE are seemingly using the Horn of Africa as a playing field for their own objectives and is trying to replicate their ambitions across Africa. The UAE influence over the Horn of Africa has only become prominent because of the weakened influence of the US over the continent. There are emerging regional alliances and influences across Africa and globally that breaks the historic dependence on the West, but it seems the power has shifted towards the Middle East and The UAE are using this shift to their advantage to slowly gain control of East Africa and use their resources as a method to subtly alleviate or weaken regions.

 

 

 

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