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What Berbera Port Agreement Means for the Federal Government of Somalia
Monday March 5, 2018
By Liban Ahmad

Dubai's DP World remains the majority stakeholder in Somaliland's Port of Berbera [Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo/Reuters]

The signing of the tripartite agreement on Berbera Port made to coincide with the visit of the Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia  in UAE presents the Mogadishu-based government with the second sovereignty-diminishing problem. The first occurred several months after the inauguration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo  in February in  2017, when a Somali national was extradited to Ethiopia for allegedly being a member of ONLF. The Berbera Port Agreement will reduce the image of the Federal Government of Somalia as a key negotiator with Somaliland Government on the possibility  of giving union a second chance or opting for amicable break up of Somalia into two sovereign states in the Northeast Africa. Controversial though the Port deal is the onus to prevent it  from turning into a divisive issue among Somalis and Somalia's international partners is, one hand,  on Somali political leaders  in Hargeisa and Mogadishu , and the International Community on the other.

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If, as Somaliland argues, the agreement was concluded between the Somaliland government and the former Federal Government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the federal government should share with the public the documentation on the agreement. The bone of contention in Berbera Port agreement pertains not to allowing Somaliland to sign an agreement with the DP World; it revolves around the share a foreign country, Ethiopia in this case, will have in the deal. The Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan  Khayre, stated that the Berbera Port agreement  was in violation of the Draft Constitution of Somalia. It is understandable that an agreement signed by a predecessor government will be hard to rescind; it will put in the public sphere the capability and reliability of the federal government up for discussion.  Somalilanders counter the federal government’s statement with a response that emphasises inability of the government to operate without reliance on AMISOM.  If  sovereignty  of Somalia does not entitle a national government to the right to challenge external actions  affecting territorial or political  unity of Somalia, the double standard that is undermining the post-World War II Order will inescapably   come to the fore.

DP World, which is based in UAE, a county that contributes to the development of Somali security forces and the national army  and where DP World is based , and Ethiopia whose troops are part of AMISOM,  have now in their hands the powers to undo what  the British Government has done to help Somalis to phase out the Transitional Federal Government and pave the way for a permanent federal government whose performance has lifted Somalia out of the failed  state status and placed in a fragile state status.  Interdependence among African countries is a worthy goal but it should not be realised at the expense of budding political institutions  for a country recovering from  a prolonged civil war and statelessness.

The Federal Government of Somalia and Somaliland Government should explore ways to discuss the legality of the agreement. If there is no clarity on how  the Federal Government of Somalia will share  revenues to be generated from the Berbera Port deal,  Somaliland will face accusations that it is operating outside international norms.  If, as Somaliland government argues, the former federal government leaders   gave the greenlight  to  sign the tripartite agreement, it should not push the federal government  into corner by  making it look like powerless to challenge the Berbera Port agreement.  There is short term damage to Somali Federal Government institutions if the incumbent government is not able to put the implementation of the agreement on hold; the longer term damage will affect Somaliland's quest for statehood. It will have acted like a sovereign state when the question of union or secession remains unsettled. That is not a road to take to become a new sovereign state in Africa.

Liban Ahmad
[email protected]

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