Mogadishu, SOMALIA – In the wake of the tragic incident at the General Gordan training camp in Mogadishu, where UAE military trainers were targeted in a deadly attack, the responses from Somali political figures and the broader community have unveiled the complex web of geopolitical interests, national security concerns, and regional alliances that shape the current security landscape in Somalia. This event not only highlights the ongoing threat of terrorism but also brings to the forefront the contentious issue of foreign military presence in Somalia.
The reactions within the Somali parliament to the killing of the UAE trainers were notably divided. Some members expressed their condolences, while others issued statements with qualifications. Opposition politician MP Abdirahman Abdishakur condemned the terrorist act unequivocally, extending condolences to the families, friends, and people of the UAE, and emphasizing the universal threat posed by terrorism. In contrast, MP Abdullahi Aden Kulane, known for his closeness to former President Farmaajo and Qatar, criticized the presence of Emirati troops, suggesting that the agreement between the UAE and Somalia’s executive branch lacked legitimacy, as it was not ratified by parliament.
Understanding the Mixed Reactions from the Somali Parliament
To fully grasp the incident and subsequent reactions, one must place them within the broader geopolitical context, especially the Gulf Crisis of 2017, which saw Qatar and several other Gulf states, including the UAE, in opposition. This rift has extended into the Horn of Africa, influencing Somali politics and security dynamics. Supporters of Somalia’s former government, which leaned towards Qatar, have generally been critical of the UAE’s support for the current Somali administration. This geopolitical tug-of-war has manifested in competing influences on the ground, with different factions within Somalia aligning with the geopolitical interests of these Gulf states.
Despite the criticisms and controversy, the UAE’s role in supporting the Somali National Army (SNA) is undeniably significant. The UAE’s commitment to training 15,000 new SNA forces and funding their monthly salaries illustrates a substantial investment in Somalia’s security infrastructure. This support plays a crucial role in shaping Somalia’s future after the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), especially with ATMIS expected to withdraw 4,000 more troops by June 2024 and complete its drawdown by the end of the year. The UAE’s involvement, therefore, is central to the Somali government’s strategy for maintaining security and stability in the absence of ATMIS forces.
The Debate over Foreign Military Presence
MP Kulane’s statement reflects a broader concern about the transparency, authorization, and objectives of foreign military trainers in Somalia. The criticism that these forces are training soldiers not officially part of the SNA and not on the government payroll adds another layer of complexity to the issue, suggesting a need for clearer oversight and regulation of foreign military assistance.
Nevertheless, to cast aspersions on the UAE for its role in assisting Somalia not only overlooks the constructive impact of this support but also fails to acknowledge the intricate balance required in international security cooperation. It is imperative to analyze the motives and outcomes of foreign assistance through a lens that considers the mutual benefits of such partnerships, while also recognizing the sovereignty and self-determination of the recipient nation, Somalia.
In this context, it is essential to ground constructive criticism and accountability in a comprehensive understanding of the security dynamics at play and the challenges Somalia faces. Stakeholders should appreciate the need for foreign support, particularly from countries like the UAE that demonstrate a commitment to Somalia’s security sector, within the framework of Somalia’s overarching security and development goals.
As Somalia continues to confront the threat of terrorism and works towards a stable, secure future, the support of international partners will be crucial. Yet, authorities must carefully manage this assistance and align it with Somalia’s sovereign interests and legislative processes. The path forward requires a nuanced approach that acknowledges the complexities of geopolitics, respects national sovereignty, and prioritizes the security and well-being of the Somali people.