What’s new? The rivalries underpinning the June 2017 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis – particularly between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the one hand and Qatar and, by extension, Turkey on the other – have spilled into the Horn of Africa, notably fanning instability in Somalia. Mogadishu-Abu Dhabi tensions have risen sharply.
Why did it happen? The Somali government of President “Farmajo” says it remains neutral in the GCC rivalry, but the UAE perceives it as too close to Qatar. Abu Dhabi appears to have upped support to Somalia’s regions, or federal states. Farmajo, in turn, has deepened ties with Doha and Ankara and repressed rivals.
Why does it matter? Certainly not all of Somalia’s problems can be pinned on the GCC crisis. But competition among the Gulf powers and Turkey has magnified intra-Somali disputes. As Mogadishu-Abu Dhabi relations unravel, those disputes – which pit the Farmajo government against rival factions in Mogadishu and against federal states and Somaliland – could escalate.
What should be done? The Somali government should remain neutral in the intra-GCC spat and reconcile with Somali rivals. Qatar and Turkey could encourage such reconciliation. The UAE should coordinate with Mogadishu regarding all its aid and investment in Somalia. Abu Dhabi-Mogadishu talks are a priority – Saudi or European Union officials could mediate.