Tag Archives: Somalia civil war

Somalia as Security Flank for the Gulf

A battle for access to seaports is underway in one of the world’s unlikeliest places: Somalia, now caught in a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side with Qatar backed by Turkey on the other.  At stake: not just the busy waters off the Somali coast but the future stability of the country itself.

In 2017, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government signed a $336 million contract to expand the port of Bosaso, north of Mogadishu in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland.   In 2016, another UAE-owned firm took control of Berbera port in the breakaway northern region of Somaliland and pledged up to $440 million to develop it. In March 2017, Ethiopia took a stake in the port for an undisclosed sum.  The federal government in Mogadishu has long been at odds with the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland. The money could destabilise the country further by deepening tensions between central government, aligned with Turkey and Qatar, and Puntland and Somaliland, which both receive money from the UAE.

At the same time, Turkey, an ally of Qatar, is ramping up a multi-billion dollar investment push in Somalia. A Turkish company has run the Mogadishu port since 2014, while other Turkish firms built roads, schools and hospitals.   The rivalries have intensified since June 2017, when the most powerful Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Iran and Islamist militants…

Saudi Arabia and the UAE increasingly view the Somali coastline – and Djibouti and Eritrea to the north – as their “western security flank”, according to a senior western diplomat in the Horn of Africa region…

Excerpts from  Gulf States Scramble for Somalia, Reuters, May 2, 2018

Corruption in Somalia

Somalia_map_states_regions_districts

A United Nations panel that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions on Somalia has accused Somalia’s  president, a former minister, and a U.S. law firm of conspiring to divert Somali assets recovered abroad, according to a new report.  The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, an 8-person committee, disclosed the findings in a confidential report to the U.N. Security Council’s Somalia/Eritrea sanctions committee. Reuters reviewed a copy of the 37-page document.  The U.N. Monitoring Group said the information it has gathered so far “reflects exploitation of public authority for private interests and indicates at the minimum a conspiracy to divert the recovery of overseas assets in an irregular manner.”

Most of the overseas assets were frozen at the outset of the civil war in 1991 and include cash and gold held in banks during two decades of chaos and conflict in Somalia, as well as government properties on foreign soil.  What the monitors describe as a conspiracy involved the U.S.-based law firm Shulman Rogers, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his office, former foreign minister Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam, as well as two other individuals whom the monitors said acted as liaisons between Shulman Rogers and Somalia…

All those accused of involvement in the plan to divert assets have denied any wrongdoing. Several accused the chairman of the Monitoring Group, Jarat Chopra, of dubious investigative methods and making baseless assertions….

A 2013 U.N. Monitoring Group report said individuals in Mohamud’s government used the Somali central bank as a personal “slush fund”, with an average 80 percent of withdrawals made for private purposes. The presidency and the then-central bank governor Abdusalam Omer have strongly denied that accusation..  In its latest report, the Monitoring Group said that “a complex architecture of multiple secret contracts, which defied a separation of powers between the Presidency and the Central Bank, created the opportunity and rationalization for the misappropriation of public resources.”  “‘Pie-cutting’ of overseas assets by those involved in the project entailed retention of excessive percentages and direct payments from recovered assets as well as attempts to circumvent deposits in the Central Bank of Somalia,” it added.

Abrar, the former central bank governor who was also a former Citigroup vice president, quit last October after seven weeks on the job, alleging she had been pressured to sign a contract with Shulman Rogers that she feared could invite corruption at the central bank.According to the new report, she sent her resignation from Dubai after fleeing from Mogadishu out of fear for her safety.The Monitoring Group said it had followed up on a number of Abrar’s allegations and her concerns about the contract and the planned scheme for the recovery of Somalia’s overseas assets. One of her main worries, the monitors said, was a clause in a July 2013 contract with Shulman Rogers that gave the law firm a bonus of 5 percent of recovered assets in addition to its fees and for Shulman Rogers to retain a further 6 percent of recovered assets for undefined costs and expenses.

“Ms. Abrar considered this clause for undefined costs and expenses to be for hidden fees and ultimately understood that it was meant as a side payment to be divided two percent each between Foreign Minister Adam, Musa Haji Mohamed Ganjab and Abdiaziz Hassan Giyaajo Amalo,” the report said…

After consulting with the World Bank, the Somali president’s office said in a statement to Reuters that it revoked a power of attorney it had granted to Shulman Rogers in May and was renegotiating its contract with the law firm.

Excerpts from LOUIS CHARBONNEAU AND DRAZEN JORGIC. Exclusive: U.N. monitors allege ‘conspiracy’ to divert Somali assets, Reuters, July 15, 2014

The Non-Secret US Operations in Somalia 2014

Somalia USA, image from wikipedia

U.S. military advisors have secretly operated in Somalia since around 2007 and Washington plans to deepen its security assistance to help the country fend off threats by Islamist militant group al Shabaab, U.S. officials said.  The comments are the first detailed public acknowledgement of a U.S. military presence in Somalia dating back since the U.S. administration of George W. Bush and add to other signs of a deepening U.S. commitment to Somalia’s government, which the Obama administration recognized last year.

The deployments, consisting of up to 120 troops on the ground, go beyond the Pentagon’s January 2014 announcement that it had sent a handful of advisors in October 2013. That was seen at the time as the first assignment of U.S. troops to Somalia since 1993 when two U.S. helicopters were shot down and 18 American troops killed in the “Black Hawk Down” disaster.  The plans to further expand U.S. military assistance coincide with increasing efforts by the Somali government and African Union peacekeepers to counter a bloody seven-year insurgent campaign by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab to impose strict Islamic law inside Somalia.

Those U.S. plans include greater military engagement and new funds for training and assistance for the Somali National Army (SNA), after years of working with the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, which has about 22,000 troops in the country from Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia.  “What you’ll see with this upcoming fiscal year is the beginning of engagement with the SNA proper,” said a U.S. defense official, who declined to be identified. The next fiscal year starts in October.

An Obama administration official told Reuters there were currently up to 120 U.S. military personnel on the ground throughout Somalia and described them as trainers and advisors. “They’re not involved in combat,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that until last year, U.S. military advisors had been working with AMISOM troop contributors, as opposed to Somali forces.  President Barack Obama last year determined that Somalia could receive U.S. military assistance…

U.S. special operations forces have staged high-profile raids in the past in Somalia, including an aborted attempt in October to capture an al Shabaab operative in the militant group’s stronghold of Barawe. U.S. officials have acknowledged Washington’s support for AMISOM and Somalia’s struggle against al Shabaab.  U.S. Central Intelligence Agency officials have been known to operate in the country.  U.S. troop numbers on the ground in Somalia vary over time, the officials told Reuters. Deployments are “staggered” and “short-term,” one official said. But the Obama administration official added that there was overlap in the deployments to allow for a persistent presence on the ground.

Excerpt from PHIL STEWART, Exclusive: U.S. discloses secret Somalia military presence, up to 120 troops. Reuters, July 2, 2014

The Drone War in Somalia

Covert Operations in Somalia

All for the Oil: Somalia and the Oil Companies

Somalia_Somaliland_Puntland_location_map

U.N. experts warn that plans by Somalia’s breakaway enclave Somaliland to deploy special forces to protect foreign oil companies could worsen conflicts in the long unstable Horn of Africa.  A confidential May 27, 2014 letter to the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Somalia and Eritrea, obtained by Reuters on May 30, 2014, recommends the panel consider whether the planned armed unit could be viable or not.

“The deployment of an Oil Protection Unit could play into internal and regional conflicts that appear to be brewing within Somaliland and between Somaliland and other regional authorities, if its deployment is not handled carefully or accompanied by mitigating measures,” the coordinator of the expert monitoring group, Jarat Chopra, wrote.  The experts, who monitor sanctions violations, said in July that Western commercial oil exploration in disputed areas and discrepancies over which authorities can issue licenses to companies could cause more fighting in Somalia.  Chopra’s letter repeated that “legal and constitutional discrepancies in respect of oil licensing throughout Somalia have opened the door for potential conflicts between the Federal Government of Somalia and regional authorities, and between regional authorities themselves.”

The overthrow of a dictator in 1991 plunged Somalia into two decades of violence, first at the hands of clan warlords and then Islamist militants, while two semi-autonomous regions – Puntland and Somaliland – have cropped up in northern Somalia.  About a dozen companies, including many multinational oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, but since then Somaliland, Puntland and other authorities have granted their own licenses for the same blocks….

Excerpt, MICHELLE NICHOLS AND LOUIS CHARBONNEA, Exclusive: U.N. experts wary of Somaliland plan for armed oil protection unit, Reuters, May 30, 2014

Not Failed Just Paralyzed: Somalia

Port Mogadishu. Image from wikipedia

Western powers are in early talks on writing off Somalia’s debt, a big shift for a country that was long branded a failed state and has with help scored successes against al Qaeda-linked rebels and piracy.  Just two years ago, Islamist militants and African peacekeepers fought daily street battles in Mogadishu.

Now the city is rid of insurgents, though still vulnerable to attack, and the government’s focus is on bolstering security, rooting out corruption and imposing the rule of law.  Foreign diplomats point to a determination to re-enter the international fold under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected last year in the country’s first vote for decades.

This is welcome progress for regional states whose economies have been rattled by their neighbor’s instability and for Western capitals which long worried Somalia provides a base for militant Islam to flourish unchecked.

Mohamud had made it clear Somalia should not be seen as a basket case and wants to change donors’ attitudes, envoys said.  Discussion about debts suggest that change is happening. Somalia’s arrears stood at around $2.2 billion in 2010, World Bank data showed, peanuts in international terms but daunting when domestic revenues are forecast at $54 million in 2013….

Washington, London and Brussels are among those which have formally recognized the government for the first time since civil war erupted in 1991….

Security worries persist. Britain warned this week of imminent attacks in Mogadishu and al Shabaab militants have claimed several suicide bombings in past months, more than two years after they were driven out of the capital.  Their fighters still control swathes of the countryside, but an African Union force has forced them out of most cities and the Islamist group is now at its weakest ebb in the six years since it emerged amid anarchy as a fighting force.

The 17,600-strong African force includes troops from Uganda, Burundi and Kenya. Nairobi is worried by a surge in bombings, kidnappings and grenade attacks on its soil that it blames on the Somali militants and their sympathizers.

But… [i]n a country divided along clan faultlines, the government’s relationship with the regions is delicate and often uneasy under a fledgling federal system.

Strips of Somalia’s coast remain infested with pirates, even if they stage fewer successful attacks now due to the greater use of armed guards, increasingly aggressive naval action and slight improvements in law and order onshore.”The other parts of the country are dark,” said Hashi. “Mogadishu, which is the heart of Somalia, has recovered but the other regions, the limbs, are still paralyzed.”

A political newcomer, Mohamud’s election was hailed by many as a vote for change, but seven months on some grumble.  “He promised to improve security but it has not yet happened,” said shopkeeper Halima Bile from Baidoa, which relies on foreign rather than local forces for protection from the rebels. “I don’t know when Somalia will become a real country.”….

Somalia strives to shake off “failed state” tag

The Covert War in Somalia 2012

According to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea,-