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Diplomats: UAE pushes for incumbent Somali president’s re-election

by Alastair

DJIBOUTI – The United Arab Emirates government has joined a long line of Arab and western governments supporting dozens of candidates vying for Somalia’s leadership seat amid fears of delays of the presidential election scheduled to take place on November 30, diplomat sources told Alleastafrica Wednesday.

Having secured a financial support for his re-election bid by the United Arab Emirates, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who is trying to defend his seat faces tough challenges by heavyweight rival candidates including his predecessor Sharif Sheikh Ahmed who vowed a ‘new development’ page for Somalia if he is elected for presidency for the second time.

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, former Somali president, and a presidential candidate.
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, former Somali president, and a presidential candidate.

Mr. Mohamud who called UAE as a ‘permanent strategic ally’ had earlier pledged he’d ensure that relationship between the two countries flourish to the maximum if he’s re-elected, in an indication of UAE’s growing interest to Somalia politics amid a tough rivalry with Turkey.

“They have already funneled millions of dollars to fortify his campaign.” said a western diplomat who asked not to be named in an interview with Alleastafrica in Djibouti.

The diplomat said that a parallel financial support by UAE to Mr. Mohamud’s rival candidate Sharif Sheikh Ahmed could hurt his chances of getting re-elected.

Mr. Ahmed had returned to Mogadishu last month, launching his presidential campaign

Having failed to secure major contracts to manage Somalia’s resources including the Mogadishu seaport and airport that were awarded to the Turkish government, the Emirates government which is seeking to maximize its strategic interests in the untapped Somali market has instead eased a port in the breakaway northern Somalia republic of Somaliland for 30 years; Opening 2nd door for the landlocked Ethiopia.

Located 937Km east of Addis Abeba, the Berbera port is seen by Addis Abeba as the second nearest port to serve its growing volume of cargo which has now congested Djibouti, following massive imports of food aid and fertilizer shipments. Nearly 98pc of Ethiopia’s import and export cargo is shuttled via the ports in Djibouti. Less than two per cent of this cargo, largely of food aid, comes through Berbera, with only five berths, compared to Doraleh’s 15 and Djibouti’s 18.

Despite protests by Somalia which refused to endorse the long-term agreement between Somaliland and UAE, the United Arab Emirates government said it had to seek an alternative route after the Emirati company DP World which managed the Djibouti port and authorities in Djibouti soared, thus prompting Dubai to search for an alternative destination in which to invest.

However, UAE’s efforts to have their man elected for Somalia’s top seat face mounting challenges from its long-time strategic rival of Qatar which is also funding a presidential campaign by the former Somali prime minister Mohamed Abdullai widely known as Farmajo who is also running for the horn of Africa’s presidential election, according to diplomats.

Mohamed Abdullahi, former Somali prime minister and a presidential candidate
Mohamed Abdullahi, former Somali prime minister and a presidential candidate

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s government is also pushing for a campaign by the former president of the semiautonomous northern Somalia state of Puntland Abdourrahman Farole who announced his bid for Somalia’s presidency.

The former president of the Somali region of Puntland Abdourahman  Farole and a presidential candidate
The former president of the Somali region of Puntland Abdourahman Farole and a presidential candidate

With the large-scale financial support to different presidential candidates camps by western and Arab government, It remains unclear the candidate for whom the Turkish government, a major ally for Somalia which has undertaken major projects across Somalia is supporting for Somali presidency.

According to Somalia’s Provisional Federal Constitution, adopted in 2012, the mandates of the Somali Federal Parliament and of the government would come to an end in August and September 2016, respectively.

Somali government which subsequently delayed the presidential election announced that the presidential election will now take place on November 30.

The international community which is spearheading efforts aimed at restoring peace and order into the Somalia which is recovering from decades of war mandated the current government to lead the country into general elections following the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a new parliament and the adoption of a new constitution in 2012.
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