UAE ends military training programme in Somalia

The holding of the UAE plane was preceded by Somali security officials seizing funds belonging to the UAE.
April 16, 2018
Containers are loaded onto a DP World-run cargo ship at the Port of Berbera in Berbera in Somaliland, last April. (AP)
Unnecessary tensions. Containers are loaded onto a DP World-run cargo ship at the Port of Berbera in Berbera in Somaliland, last April. (AP)

LONDON - The United Arab Emirates cancelled its military training programme in Somalia in response to the grounding of a UAE plane carrying Emirati officials by Somali security forces.

“The decision comes in response to Somali security forces’ seizure of a UAE-registered civil aircraft at Mogadishu airport and confiscation of money destined to pay the soldiers,” a by the UAE Foreign Ministry said.

The holding of the UAE plane was preceded by Somali security officials on April 8 seizing funds -- estimated to be close to $10 million -- belonging to the UAE at Aden Adde International Airport.

The UAE official news agency WAM reported that the plane was carrying 47 Emirati armed forces personnel, some of whom were said to be held at gunpoint and assaulted by Somali security forces.

“The UAE deplores this violation of international law and norms at a time when the UAE has provided all kinds of political, economic, military and humanitarian support in the darkest conditions to establish security and stability in the Somali Federal Republic," UAE Foreign Ministry said.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash called on the Somali government to handle the situation with “wisdom and reason.”

“The current Somali government… is creating unnecessary tensions with a friend and an ally who supported the stability and security of Somalia during its hardest phases,” Gargash wrote on his official Twitter account.

Emirati-Somali relations tumbled following the banning of UAE ports operator DP World from operating in Somalia. The firm, the world's third-biggest container port operator, had signed a contract with the breakaway region of Somaliland to set up a port zone, which led to the Somalis’ action against DP World.

The military training programme, which began in 2014, was intended to build the capabilities of the Somali Army. UAE forces have participated on training missions involving thousands of Somali soldiers.

Before it cancelled the military cooperation, the UAE was paying the salaries of 2,407 Somali soldiers and built three training centres, a hospital and sent Emirati medical teams to treat Somali military personnel.

The UAE also supervised the counter-piracy maritime police force in Puntland, where it augmented the Somali military and security facilities while supporting efforts to fight terrorism in collaboration with other international parties and African Union forces in Somalia.

The Somali Defence Ministry said that it would take over management of the training programme, including paying soldiers’ salaries.

“As a government, our responsibility is to take care of our armed forces and pay their wages and not to delegate that responsibility to others. We thank the UAE for the training and relentless support it provided,” Somali Defence Minister Mohamed Mursal said in a statement.