Somalia seeks to end military pact with UAE amid diplomatic spat

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/4/12 9:25:42

The Somali government on Wednesday said it will end the United Arab Emirates (UAE) funding for its soldiers amid diplomatic spat after the seizure of millions of dollars from a plane chartered by Emirati diplomats to transport the cash to Mogadishu.

Defense Minister Mohamed Mursal Sheikh told journalists in Mogadishu that the government will take full charge of training and paying salaries for the Somalia National Army (SNA) after integrating the UAE-trained troops into the army units.

"The government has made a plan to settle down the army salary payments including those Somali forces that are in General Golden camp who were trained by the United Arab Emirates," Sheikh said.

The minister said the salaries for the armed forces will be paid as from Thursday, noting that it was the government's responsibility to pay salaries for its army and "no to bother other people."

The two countries have been embroiled in a diplomat spat after the Somali government seized three bags containing 9.6 million US dollars on Sunday.

"The seized money is worth 9.6 million dollars. Security agencies are currently investigating where the money came from, where it was going, the individuals involved and the reason for bringing money worth this amount into the country," Somalia's interior ministry said on Sunday.

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 allegation, arguing 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, who has been supporting the Horn of Africa nation for years as part of stabilization efforts, claimed the money was meant to pay the salaries of SNA soldiers and trainers.

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

According to the Somali government, the money was found in three unmarked bags on a Royal Jet plane and its seizure resulted in an hours-long standoff between airport officials and UAE embassy staff in Mogadishu.

The two countries inked a pact on military cooperation in November 2014 in which oil-rich Gulf country was to pay the salaries of SNA soldiers and trainers. But Mogadishu said the said MoU expired in 2016.

The Somalia government has launched investigations to establish whether the money was brought to undermine the country but said the seized money is safe under the central bank of Somalia custody pending the outcome of the probe.

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

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