While often this blog focuses on corruption and fraud, we also pay close attention to international news generally, so we can be sure we’re prepared for any issues that may come up for our clients. One situation we’ve recently been following is the relationship between the UAE and Somalia.
Relations between the UAE and Somalia have recently become tense. The trouble began in 2016 when the UAE signed an agreement to further develop and operate the Port of Berbera in Somaliland, an internationally recognized autonomous region within Somalia. Somaliland declared independence in 1991, though its independence is not internationally recognized. The government of Somalia feels that the agreement with Somaliland is invalid as it does not recognize Somaliland’s sovereignty, and has argued that the agreement is a violation of international law.
Then, in 2017 the Government of Somalia refused pressure from the UAE to curtail its relations with Qatar, which is in the midst of a rift with several countries within the middle east, including the UAE.
While the development of the Port of Berbera, in which the Ethiopian Government has also invested, could significantly increase the region’s trade with greater logistical capacities for the import and export of goods, strained relations between governments could cause more uncertainty and instability in the region’s economies.
More recently, in April 2018 the Somali Government seized nearly US $10 million from an airplane at the Mogadishu airport. Somali security forces said that the seizure occurred during a routine check, when three bags full of US dollars transported by a plane from Abu Dhabi, UAE were discovered. Some reports indicate that the UAE Ambassador to Somalia was at the airport and attempted to retrieve the money.
The UAE state media issued a statement declaring the funds were intended to support the Somali military in their efforts against Islamic militants. The UAE alleged that the seizure violated international diplomatic norms and that nearly 50 members of the Emirati Armed Forces were held at gun-point and assaulted by Somali security forces.
Officials in Somalia confirmed that the money was taken to the Central Bank of Somalia, pending an investigation. The Somali Government also announced that it would no longer accept funding from the UAE for its military. According to Somali forces, troops trained by the UAE take orders from Emirati advisors rather than Somali ones, have conducted several independent raids that targeted Somali politicians, and have caused deadly clashes in recent months between Somali forces and Emirati-trained forces.
We will be closely following media coverage of the region to continue to learn about any advantages or risks that our clients may face while conducting business abroad. If you have any questions or business concerns, please contact Smith Brandon International. We have a wealth of knowledge in international business, as well as extensive experience in conducting risk assessments, and providing security and safety advice worldwide.