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Somalia seeks to mend ties with UAE amid diplomat spat

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somalia on Monday hinted it could release the 9.6 million U.S. dollars seized from a plane chartered by United Arab Emirates (UAE) diplomats to transport the cash to Mogadishu, a move that can defuse tension between the two countries.

The Somali foreign ministry said it has received a satisfactory response regarding the money seized on April 8 at Mogadishu airport.

“The Federal Government of Somalia has sought to clarify facts surrounding recent developments in order to remove any room for misunderstanding between the two governments and peoples. This effort continues,” the ministry said in a statement.

“As part of these efforts and after lengthy deliberations between the two governments on the recent incident involving funds that were intercepted... the UAE has explained the purpose and the utilization of the said funds and the Federal Government will work together with the UAE on their utilization,” it added.

The statement came hours after the UAE disbanded its Somalia training program it started in 2014 in protest of the incident at Mogadishu airport.

The Gulf nation has also been paying the salaries of 2,407 Somali soldiers and built three training centers, a hospital, and dispatched Emirati medical teams for treating Somalis.

Mogadishu officials reportedly stopped a plane from the UAE from leaving the country after Emirati military trainers on board refused to hand over their luggage to be scanned and searched.

According to reports, some 47 Emirati Armed Forces personnel who were on the plane were held at gunpoint and assaulted by Somali security forces.

Mogadishu has since denied the allegations, saying that it only took the action after the UAE ambassador, who was at the airport, refused to let the bags containing the cash be scanned.

The UAE, which has been supporting the Horn of Africa nation for years as part of its stabilization efforts, said the money was meant to pay the salaries of Somalia National Army (SNA) soldiers and trainers.

The UAE has since condemned the seizure, terming it illegal and a breach of diplomatic protocol, and accusing the Somali government of creating “unnecessary tension.”

Mogadishu said Somalia and the UAE share a strong economic, political and cultural bond that dates back several centuries linking the citizens of both countries through history, economy, culture and geography.

“Somalia’s leaders have been committed to strengthening its bilateral relationship with this traditional and valued partner,” the ministry said.

It noted that the Horn of Africa nation is making great progress in implementing critical political and economic reforms to rebuild its institutions of government and financial systems to deliver security, services and rule of law to the people of Somalia.

“Somalia hopes the UAE can be a contributing partner to these efforts as a counter-terrorism and trade partner,” the statement said.

The ministry said Somalia welcomes foreign direct investment because prosperity and economic growth will help unite the nation,” the statement added.

Ties between Somalia and the UAE have been strained since mid-2017, when Mogadishu defied UAE and Saudi Arabia pressure to cut ties with Qatar, following a diplomatic dispute between the Gulf neighbors.



African Union senior commanders agree to pacify Somalia amid transition plan

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) senior commanders have resolved to place emphasis on tasks that will enable the force to achieve its agenda of complete pacification of Somalia with transition plan in force.

The AU mission said in a statement issued on Sunday at the end of the meeting in Mogadishu that commanders agreed to re-examine and assess the progress made with the transition plan so far, to enable it to plan more effectively.

“The AMISOM’s new mandate, requires it to facilitate a conditions based, gradual hand over of security responsibilities to the Somali security forces, without compromising gains already realized,” said Charles Tai Gituai, the Deputy Force Commander in-charge of Operations and Planning.

“Our mandate is very clear, that we are here to eradicate al-Shabab, to help the Somali people to be able to live in peace; the communities to be able to start their economic activities and that is our focus,” Gituai emphasized.

During the meeting, the AU mission’s commanders evaluated the status of the implementation of the plan, which includes launching operations to flush out al-Shabab remnants.

They also resolved to build the capacity of the Somali security forces, to enable them to take over the security of the country, as stipulated in the country’s National Security Architecture, agreed to by political leaders in April 2017.

“There is need to continually discuss in details how ready AMISOM is, in terms of manpower and logistics, in executing these tasks (training and operations), in the sectors, putting into consideration the operational readiness and the strength of Somali security forces to support the above tasks,” said AMISOM Force Commander Jim Beesigye Owoyesigire.

Owoyesigire said AMISOM needs to be urgently supported with force multipliers, like attack and retreat helicopters, to conduct pre-emptive operations against al-Shabab if the transition plan is to be realistic, without losing the hard-earned gains.

The week-long meeting also discussed the operational capabilities of the Somali National Army (SNA) and sought confirmation of their resources, institutional capacity, training of additional forces.

Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of AMISOM said the issue at stake is undertaking operations to disrupt, degrade and eventually destroy al-Shabab.

“This is the issue. There is no other issue. There are many things that are required but the task is to identify al-Shabab, its whereabouts, plan how to reach the enemy and destroy him,” Madeira added.

He said the resolutions by the commanders will be incorporated into the AU Mission’s Concept of Operations (CONOPS), which guides AMISOM’s military operations.


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