Qatar crisis washes up on Somalia’s shores

It was 1991 when Somali President Siad Barre was ousted, catapulting the country into disarray and prompting emboldened warlords to cleave the country apart.

Although an internationally-backed government was established in 2012 following interventions by Ethiopia and the African Union, the country remains fractured – bedevilled by humanitarian crises and a protracted struggle against Al Shabab militants.

In practice, the authority of the central government does not extend far beyond the capital, Mogadishu. It is within this context that Somalia’s recent row with the UAE should be dissected.

Ten months have passed since the Arab quartet of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. Hugely reliant on foreign investment and aid, Somalia has imported the crisis.

On April 8, amid rising tension, Somali security forces stormed a UAE jet at Mogadishu airport, seizing $9.6 million (Dh35.3 million) in cash destined for the Puntland Maritime Police Force, an anti-piracy unit of the Somali army backed since 2014 by the Emirates.

In response to the breach of diplomatic protocol, the UAE abruptly ended its military training programme in Somalia. Sheikh Zayed hospital in Mogadishu suspended operations.

Immediately thereafter, Qatar donated 30 buses and two cranes to Mogadishu regional officials. “That is not coincidental,” said Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa project director at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The gesture is emblematic of international pressures weighing on Somalia, thanks to pre-existing relationships and its proximity to the Gulf.

Turkey operates a military base of epic proportions in Mogadishu, whose lucrative port is run by Al Bayrak, a Turkish corporation. Ankara was an early investor in Somalia, though analysts say popular support for Turkey’s presence is dwindling.

Turkey’s ally, Qatar, whose airline immediately used Somali airspace when the boycott began last year, has sought to involve itself in Somali politics, according to Faisal Roble, a leading Somalia expert.

Saudi Arabia, which imports 80 per cent of Somalia’s livestock, donated $50m in 2016 after Mogadishu severed ties with Iran. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed visited Riyadh less than a fortnight after his inauguration last year for his first official trip.

Meanwhile, the UAE, which has been training and paying the salaries of 2,407 Somali troops, is most active in the autonomous region of Puntland, whose government yesterday appealed to the Emirates to remain engaged.

“There is a common understanding that Puntland doesn’t get the support it requires from the government,”

said Mr Abdi. But the involvement of international players “has driven a wedge between Mogadishu and the different regional states,” he added.

As Somalia’s fortunes have faltered in recent years, economic imperatives have compelled its regions to accept aid and investment from different players. After the Gulf dispute, such investment brought into question the central government’s promise to remain neutral in the Gulf dispute.

The stunning plane seizure follows months of deteriorating ties between Abu Dhabi and Mogadishu.

Somali politicians reacted with fury to the tripartite deal between Dubai’s DP World, the government of breakaway Somaliland and landlocked Ethiopia over control of a strategic port at Berbera. The UAE is also constructing a military base in Somaliland, just 260 km from war-torn Yemen, which contains Africa’s longest runway.

Somali politicians, powerless to dictate Somaliland affairs, claimed the deal was a violation of its sovereignty.

On the other side, Mogadishu’s failure to disavow Qatar may have caused irritation in the UAE.

“There are many people here in the UAE who feel deeply invested in Somalia’s future and stability and are saddened by developments,”

said Elizabeth Dickinson, senior Arabian Peninsula analyst at ICG.

Somalia’s geopolitical importance and internal fragility has unwittingly sucked it into a regional dispute, jeopardizing vital aid and investment. It is a lesson for volatile nations across the Horn and beyond.

Source: The National


What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE?

The United Arab Emirates is ending a military training programme in Somalia and closing a hospital it ran in Mogadishu.

Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the Horn of Africa nation has been showing recent signs of recovery, and that has generated interest from many countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme in the country and running a hospital in the capital, Mogadishu.

But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.

So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?

Presenter: Peter Dobbie


Mohamed Shire – political and security analyst

Abdullahi Halakhe – Horn of Africa analyst

Mohamed Ali – Somalia country director at ADESO organisation

Source: Al Jazeera News



Angola wants complementary strategies for maritime security

Angola considers it essential that African States develop complementary maritime strategies at the national, regional and continental levels for maritime space protection, risk prevention, threat identification, the definition of coordinated responses and legal accountability.

The information was provided on Monday in Luanda by Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Augusto at the official opening of the 1st postgraduate course in Law of the Sea, designed to train Angolan cadres on issues related to the maritime domain, in the economic, legal, political, technological security, among others.

According to the official, effective cooperation, the sharing of information and an adequate and pragmatic distribution of resources are also defended by Angola in this regard.

He considers maritime security as essential for the preservation of the peace, stability and development of the so-called blue economy for the riparian states, especially in the Gulf of Guinea region.

The said that the African integrated maritime strategy recognizes the potential of the maritime sector to promote socio-economic development, boost trade and improve the living conditions of more than 700 million people on the African continent.

However, he acknowledged that piracy has emerged as a threat to maritime security, undermining both economic gains and peace and stability in Africa and the world.

He therefore deplored the fact that the maritime space of West and Central Africa, as one of the catalysts of trade and development of the continent’s economies, was confronted with a situation of insecurity and increased crime, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.

Source: EIN News


Ghana Navy seizes 3 more vessels engaged in illegal activities

The Ghana Navy has seized three (3) more vessels in Ghanaian waters at Takoradi in the Western Region, for allegedly engaging in illegal activities.

This comes less than 24 hours after the Navy seized two Nigerian vessels around Tema.

The three ships were found illegally transferring oil products to each other, and were immediately impounded and their occupants arrested.

According to the Chief Staff Officer at the Navy Headquarters, Commodore Issah Yakubu, although the ownership of the ships and the number of crew on-board are not immediately known, investigations will commence soon to get further details about them.

“It was very clear on our monitoring systems that they were transferring fuel among themselves and they are not licensed to do that in Ghana…The ships have just been arrested and are being escorted to the harbour. Once they get to the habour, investigations will start,” he said in an interview on Eyewitness News on Monday.

He attributed the Navy’s recent successful operations in arresting a number of vessels, to close collaborations between stakeholders including the National Petroleum Authority [NPA], and the Maritime Police.

“Our current successes are based on enhanced collaboration between agencies concerned… The National Petroleum Authority, the Ghana Maritime Authority, Marine Police, Bureau of National Investigation,” he added.

Commodore Issah Yakubu noted that, a thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the number of infractions carried out by the arrested persons, and what charges will be leveled against them.

Meanwhile, investigations are still ongoing to prosecute managers of the two Nigerian oil vessels which were allegedly transferring crude oil illegally in Ghanaian waters.

The seized vessels had a total of 11 persons on board, with all of them being Nigerians.

This development comes on the back of a reported hijacking of a Ghanaian fishing vessel by some persons believed to be Nigerian pirates.

Five persons on board were taken hostage, but the abandoned vessel was rescued by the Ghana Navy.

The five, including three Koreans, one Ghanaian and a Greek national, are believed to have been taken hostage by some alleged Nigerian hijackers, who attempted to seize the tuna vessel, Marine 711 on the Keta high seas.

However, one of the crew members who was found together with the abandoned vessel is currently receiving medical treatment as a result of the traumatic experience.

The vessel, Marine 711, with official No. 316694, and registration No. AFT28 has successfully rescued and is currently at berth 10 at the Tema Port.

Source: Ghanaweb


Security Agencies To Track And Crack Maritime Crimes

The Chief Staff Officer of the Ghana Navy, Commodore Issah Yakubu, says maritime security agencies have resolved to track and crack all maritime crimes in Ghana’s territorial waters.

He says, ‘We just want to send the message across that the stakeholders are collaborating; we know what is happening out there, we are re-strategizing and we will get all the criminals.’

Commodore Issah Yakubu was interacting with journalists at Tema harbour on Saturday, after the arrest of two vessels which were involved in illegal activities in Ghanaian territorial waters.

Commodore Yakubu said, the two vessels were caught illegally transferring fuel (ship to ship) at sea, adding that, ‘Before such activities take place, certain protocols would have to be followed, but we suspected that the necessary protocols had not been followed. So we pursued them and they are now under arrest.’

He said checks on one ship revealed that it was a Nigerian vessel called MT Mamma Mary, with the registration of the second ship, Matrix I, yet to be ascertained because it had just been brought in at the time of the briefing.

He said all 11 crew members on board MT Mammy Mary, including the captain, were Nigerians with the vessel registered in Nigeria, ‘And it was this vessel which was transferring fuel to the Matrix I.’

He hinted that the crew had declared the fuel on their vessel to be 320 metric tonnes, ‘But this is just the beginning, and we are yet to do detailed investigations to find the actual quantities.’

Mr Hassan Tampuli, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), National Petroleum Authority (NPA), in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), said, ‘This is just the clearest indication of our resolve not to allow the criminals an inch; if they have learnt how to fly without perching, we have learnt how to shoot without missing. We are going to be on their pursuit; we have opened fire and we are not relenting at all.’

He observed that the security agencies were done with the preliminary investigations, and ‘each agency was going to carry out their detailed investigations to trigger their mandate as far as the incident was concerned.’

He observed that apart from the fact that the vessels were not licensed in Ghana, their supposed agents were also not licensed.

He added that, ‘We are not sure whether the product type meets our domestic specs. So we will check for further details to know the appropriate sanctions to give to them.

The arrest of the two vessels was a collaboration by the Eastern Command of the Ghana Navy, the NPA, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Security.

Source: Alexander Nyarko Yeboah, GNA


Pirates release three Indian tanker crew

West African pirates have released the last three Indian crew from a wine tanker hijacked in January.

Indian media said the trio were freed after their families and employer paid a ransom of NGN 6.5m ($18,000).

The 1,600-dwt Timi (built 1964) was boarded and seized on 31 January en route to Benin.

Three other crew were released in March after a ransom of NGN 3m was paid.

The remaining men were named as master Shushil Kumar, trainee Pankaj Kumar and Ajay Kumar, an electrician.

On 24 March, the gunmen gave their families a deadline of two days to pay the ransom.

The seafarers have said their captors gave them food only once a day.

Kumar was reported by Indian media as saying:

The pirates stopped our ship on January 31 and made us get into a small boat with them.

They then took us around in circles for nearly four hours, after which, we were taken into a forest, where the pirates set up camp.

Source: Tradewinds


DSA 2018: Malacca Strait security needed by ASEAN

Multilateral cooperation amongst ASEAN militaries has been successful, but still needs to improve if the vital sea lines of communication (SLOC) of the Malacca Strait are to remain clear, particularly with the rise of two strategic military competitors to the east and west, namely China and India.

Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand make up the bulk of the security effort in the Strait with the utilisation of three components of cooperation: coordinated naval patrols, the Eyes in the Sky programme and the Intelligence Exchange Group, said Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

‘Piracy is down, and Lloyd’s no longer considers the Straits of Malacca and Singapore a war zone. All parties seem to have provided the proper equipment and the Malacca Straits Patrols (MPS) hold regular training exercises.’

There is much agreement on this issue. ‘There have been almost no attacks in recent years and any reports to the contrary are ill-informed,’ said Sam Bateman, professorial research fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, University of Wollongong.

Countering piracy and other forms of crime at sea, such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling and illegal people movement, have been reduced due to cooperation between shore agencies, police and customs, he said.

Another area for potential capacity-building assistance are Intepol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime could be expanded.

At the policy level, the key challenge is to generate political will for the implementation of multilateral naval cooperation among ASEAN navies, said Michael Raska, a specialist in the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore. For example, the region must begin sharing real-time actionable intelligence and enhance coordination through hotlines. This would accelerate joint responses to common maritime challenges and threats.

‘In many ways, issues of contending strategic interests in a broader geopolitical context, coupled with domestic political transitions and a lack of resources, preclude effective maritime cooperation within ASEAN,’ Raska said.

However, at the same time it is the perennial challenge of technical interoperability, particularly in the diverse range of naval capabilities and their asymmetric distribution among ASEAN navies, Raska said. This can be currently seen in the joint patrols between Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia in the Sulu Sea rather than in the Malacca Straits.

The three navies possess varying aerial surveillance and radar network capabilities, air and land military assets, as well as different naval operational routines and processes. These in turn may project a perception of weak capability, interpreted as inability to secure territory.  While ASEAN states continuously attempt to address these challenges, there is a long way to building a robust and effective maritime security system, Raska said.

One of the outstanding issues causing problems are internal differences among the four ASEAN powers about the possible role outside powers, primarily the US and China, as well as Australia, Japan and India, play in the Strait. ‘This is usually couched that all user countries should contribute to security in the straits,’ Thayer said.

Thayer emphasised that ASEAN naval patrols are ‘coordinated, not combined and joint, unlike Eyes in the Sky, due to sensitivities over maritime boundaries and sovereignty’. He said a step forward would be joint patrols that crossed maritime boundaries. Another add-on would be to widen the area to include maritime approaches to the Strait of Malacca by including India to the west and Japan and Australia to the east.

‘Australia already conducts aerial reconnaissance under the auspices of the Five Power Defence Arrangements that also includes Singapore and Malaysia, as well as New Zealand and United Kingdom, Thayer said.

One of the fundamental problems amongst ASEAN countries is territorial disputes, said Richard Bitzinger, a visiting senior fellow at RSIS. ‘The three countries operate ‘coordinated patrols’, but mostly this is letting each other know when one country’s navy or coast guard is going out to patrol.’

In short, most Malacca-Singapore Strait patrolling and security building has been like most other ASEAN security activities: ‘mostly ad hoc and mostly single-nation actions’. In the region there is a ‘very urgent need for more airborne maritime patrolling’.

Bateman agrees that there is a ‘pressing requirement for surveillance aircraft’, but other requirements include systems and training for the maintenance of effective cooperative surveillance and information-sharing in the strait. Malaysia is relatively well off with surveillance capabilities, and the US in the past has provided coastal radars to Indonesia, although it is unclear how well maintained or operational they are, he said.

Thayer said that, from his work as co-facilitator for an international conference on rapid disaster response – lessons learned that reported to the East Asia Summit, the technical capabilities of maritime search aircraft varies enormously among the four MPS participants. This indicates that there could be technical upgrades and more maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).

One of the most obvious and blatant examples for the need for more sophisticated MPA was the unsuccessful multinational search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished from radar in 2014, Thayer said. New Zealand’s P-3 Orion MPA were the best equipped because New Zealand had no plans to upgrade to the P-8 Poseidon. ‘Australia, on the other hand, didn’t upgrade its Orions because it was procuring the more advanced P-8 Poseidon. Littoral states just did not have the capability needed at the time.

Currently, only three Western countries are offering the type of sophisticated MPA platforms needed in the region, sources indicate. This includes the Airbus Military C295 Persuader, Boeing P-8, Lockheed Martin SC-130J Sea Hercules and Saab Swordfish.

Source: Shephard


Ghana receives maritime equipment from Germany

In order to improve the regional Maritime Security Architecture, the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken delivery of a number of technical equipment from the government of Germany.


China Acknowledges Militarization of its Spratly Island Bases

On Tuesday, a spokesman from China’s ministry of defense said that China has a “natural right as a sovereign nation” to deploy troops and military equipment to its bases in the Spratly Islands, which are built atop reefs claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and other neighboring nations. The announcement – a rare direct acknowledgement that China is militarizing the islands – followed shortly after a report that China is deploying jamming equipment to its base at Mischief Reef, a recently-built land feature with a giant airfield, hangars, radars and air-defense weapons.

In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that China had no intention of militarizing its bases in the South China Sea. However, in December 2016, satellite imagery showed air defense weaponry installed on several of the Chinese-controlled islands. In January 2018, Chinese state-owned media suggested that the People’s Liberation Army would have to increase its presence in the region, and blamed the United States for the growing pace of military activity in the South China Sea.

By the time of that warning, China had already deployed significant military resources to the area, according to high-resolution surveillance photographs obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The images appear to show two troop transport ships and one amphib docked at Mischief Reef in late December, one 100mm cannon installed atop a building at McKennon Reef in November, and guided missile frigates stationed off Mischief Reef and Subi Reef late in the year.

The Philippines, which also lays claim to these land features, has expressed little concern. “I think, from the very beginning, China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque at a news conference in February. “The point is, has there been a breach of Chinese commitment not to reclaim any new islands or shoal in the area? For as long as there is none, then we continue to respect that they are true to their commitment not to do so.”

Vietnam may loosen rules of engagement

On Wednesday, Vietnam’s legislature took up a bill that would give the nation’s coast guard wider latitude in its rules of engagement in the South China Sea. According to a translation provided by Reuters, the bill would allow the Vietnamese coast guard to fire upon adversaries in disputed areas if necessary to “protect sovereignty and sovereign rights in defense and security situations.”

Earlier this month, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said that China and Vietnam would settle the status of their sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea.

“We have agreed that settling the maritime issues is extremely important for the healthy and sustainable development of bilateral relations,” Yi told media after a meeting with Vietnamese foreign minister Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi. “The two sides should better manage disputes through talks and refrain from taking unilateral actions that may further complicate and expand the disputes.”

Recent tensions between China and Vietnam have led to improvements in U.S.-Vietnamese military ties. In 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an agreement to allow the export of weaponry to Vietnam; among other consignments, the Vietnamese government has taken delivery of 12 armed patrol boats from the United States for the use of its coast guard.

Source: maritime-executive


Moscow to pen military base in Somaliland

Mogadishu- Russia hopes to open a 1500-man naval base in the breakaway republic of Somaliland in the horn of Africa, a region where numerous countries have done so in recent years because of its strategic location. But in exchange, Africa sources say, the Somaliland leadership expects Russia to recognize its independence from Somalia.

If that happens, Moscow, which under Vladimir Putin has recognized two breakaway republics on the territory of the former Soviet space and promoted secessionist movements in Europe and the United States, would send a powerful signal that it is now prepared to get involved with secessionist groups in Africa, which are both numerous and troublesome.

And that more than the extent to which such a base would challenge other countries including the United States and China which have military facilities in the horn could open the way to even greater Russian adventurism, especially coming on the heels of Russian intervention in the Central African Republic.

According to reports in the Moscow media this week, Russian diplomats began talking with the breakaway government at the end of last year about the possibility of establishing a base in Somaliland and are close to an agreement.

The base would be home for two minesweepers, four frigates, and two submarines, a reflection of Russia’s inability to build larger ships. It would also have two long runways capable of handling up to six military transport jets and 15 fighters, the Russian media say. Moscow reportedly has offered 250 million US dollars in investment.

Somaliland in turn wants official Russian recognition and has not been shy about talking about that in the media. Whether the republic will get that remains to be seen, especially as one country – the UAE – already has a base there but has not officially recognized the breakaway republic.

Moscow, however, has shown itself more than willing to violate the international rules of the game; and consequently, it may be quite prepared to shake things up by taking this step, especially as that likely would allow Russia to claim a military presence there without having to spend money it does not now have.

Source: Russian media