Construction of a United Arab Emirates naval base in the separatist region of Somaliland has begun, according to a UN report released on 8 November.
It was announced in February that Somaliland’s parliament had approved the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) request to establish a military base in Berbera, but few details have been released.
The report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said that eight members of parliament who opposed the move were physically removed from parliament before the vote, and those who voted in favour were each paid USD10,000.
The Monitoring Group identified the location of a naval base that is being constructed 8.5 km west of Berbera’s existing port, and 2 km north of the city’s airport.
Satellite imagery shows that the construction site’s support area was set up in April, and work to build two breakwaters had visibly begun by May, one of which extended more than 400 m into the sea by 30 October.
According to the Monitoring Group, a senior member of the Somaliland cabinet informed the organisation that the UAE had been granted permission to refurbish and use existing facilities at Berbera airport as a military base for 25 years, primarily for anti-piracy maritime patrols and not for carrying out airstrikes.
The available satellite imagery provides no indication that the UAE has established a military presence at Berbera’s airport, or that work has begun on upgrading its facilities.
In return for the base, the UAE will build a new civilian airport for Berbera and rehabilitate the road linking the city to the Ethiopian border at Wajaale, according to the cabinet member.
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