The Gulf crisis is now affecting Africa after Saudi Arabia called on a number of countries, including Somalia, to join its boycott of Qatar. However, not every country is prepared to obey orders from Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have offered the government in Mogadishu an additional 68mn euros ($81mn) to join the boycott of Qatar. Nonetheless, the Somali president has sided with Qatar.
Somalia has maintained good relations with Qatar despite Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain continuing to demand that Mogadishu break off relations with Doha. Still, Somalia won’t give in to pressure.
Instead, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has called on all countries involved to engage in a dialogue. Much to the annoyance of Qatar’s neighbours, he is also allowing Qatari planes to pass through Somali airspace.
In doing so, Somalia is weakening the boycott imposed by the four countries, which closed their borders to Qatar in June, cut off diplomatic relations and imposed a blockade. They have accused the Qatari government of supporting terrorist organisations and demanded that they sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. However, His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has insisted on maintaining Qatar’s sovereignty.
Tensions also remain high because the UAE is exerting more influence in the regions of Somaliland and Puntland. Both regions have declared their independence. However, the government in Mogadishu still considers them part of Somalia. The UAE is building ports there and wants to establish a military base.
The situation in the Horn of Africa has been aggravated following the flare-up of an old border conflict in June. For seven years, the contested border between Eritrea and Djibouti was secured by peacekeepers from Qatar. When the Gulf crisis began, Qatar withdrew its troops from the Eritrean border, ending its role as mediator between the two countries. Eritrea immediately occupied the unmanned border zone northeast of Djibouti. “Eritrea doesn’t want to back down. That could lead to even greater tension between the three countries,” warns Somali political expert Muhyadin Ahmed Roble.
About a week ago, Senegal decided to send its ambassador back to Doha, after being previously summoned for consultation.
Senegal, which has a longstanding relationship with Qatar, also profits considerably from Qatari investment in that country.
Comoros severed diplomatic relations with Doha in the wake of the current GCC crisis but the Comorian president’s decision was termed as “unjustified” by Fahmi Said Ibrahim, a former minister, who was sacked for his support for Qatar.
The president also crushed a popular protest by the Comorian people against their government’s decision to sever links with Qatar, sources said.