Abu Dhabi, January 31, 2024 – Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud attended a security conference in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, where he called for more international support to fight terrorism and defend his country’s sovereignty.
The conference, which was also attended by representatives from Qatar, the United States, the UK, and Turkey, focused on how to assist the Somali government in its efforts to defeat the Khwaarij terrorist’s group al-Shabab, which has been waging a 15-year insurgency in the Horn of Africa nation.
President Mohamud praised the recent successes of the Somali armed forces, which have recaptured several strategic towns and villages from al-Shabab, with the help of international partners. He said Somalia was committed to eradicating the terrorist threat from its territory and achieving self-reliance in security.
He also stressed the importance of maintaining stability in the region and avoiding any actions that could undermine the hard gains made in the war against terrorism. He said Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected by all parties, and warned against any foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.
He was referring to the controversial memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Ethiopia and Somaliland on January 1, 2024, which reportedly granted Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port of Berbera and a leased military base in exchange for future recognition of Somaliland’s independence.
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, declared secession from Somalia in 1991, but has not been recognized by any UN member state. Somalia considers Somaliland as part of its territory and has strongly condemned the MoU as an act of aggression and a violation of its sovereignty.
The MoU has also drawn criticism from Egypt, which sees Ethiopia as a rival for influence and water resources in the region, and the United States, which fears the deal could destabilize the fragile security situation in Somalia and embolden al-Shabab.
President Mohamud urged Ethiopia and Somaliland to revoke the MoU and respect Somalia’s unity and territorial integrity. He also called on the international community to support Somalia’s position and pressure Ethiopia and Somaliland to abide by the principles of the UN, the AU, and the regional bloc IGAD.
The president’s visit to the UAE came after he attended the Somalia Security Conference at the UN headquarters in New York in December 2023, where he secured the lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia, which had been in place since 1992. He said the lifting of the embargo would enable Somalia to build and equip its armed forces and enhance its capacity to fight terrorism and maintain peace and security.
The president also expressed his gratitude to the UAE and other countries that have been supporting Somalia’s security, development, and humanitarian needs. He said Somalia was looking forward to strengthening its relations and cooperation with its regional and international partners in the pursuit of peace, stability, and prosperity.