The UAE’s controversial military base in Somaliland could become operational within the very near future, the autonomous region’s foreign minister said on Friday.
The base is still being constructed in Berbera, located 100km north east of the capital, Hargeisa, but UAE ships have already started docking at its deep-water port.
“We don’t believe the use of the facility will add to the uncertainty and the conflict in the region,” Saad Ali Shire told Voice of America.
“UAE has already a base in Assab, Eritrea, which is operational, and the use of the base in Berbera is not going to add anything new to the conflict.”
Shire was previously extremely vocal in his opposition to the UAE base in Berbera and once threatened to resign over the issue.
Neighbouring countries, Ethiopia and Djibouti were also opposed to the plan when it was first tabled, but appear to have changed their policies. Ethiopia will reportedly also be allowed to use the port once it is fully constructed.
The minister said he had changed his mind for “economic reasons”.
“The agreement is [for] UAE to use Berbera airport and port as a military facility, and in exchange, the UAE will be building roads, a new airport, and funding health, education and water [and] energy,” he said.
The UAE has opened a number of military bases in the region in order to assist in its conflict in Yemen.
The New Arab revealed the extent of the UAE’s involvement on the Yemeni island of Socotra earlier this month.
Shire said the military base would be used for “training, surveillance and military operations.”
The port will be managed over a thirty-year contract by UAE’s international ports operator, DP World.
Turkey has also recently opened a military base in Somalia, in the southern capital, Mogadishu, which it is using to train troops in the fight against a
There should be no need for rivalry among foreign powers in Somalia however, according to the ambassador for the UAE in the UK, Hamid Almazroui.
“We are all working on a common goal – the destruction of al-Shabaab, so why should there be rivalry?”
The Bab al-Mandab Strait has seen a large buildup in military infrastructure in recent months, as the Saudi-backed coalition looks to tackle rebel supply routes across the Red Sea.