War is not nice but it has at times positive side effects . The increasing UAE implantation in Eritrea is bringing a slight vibration of light prosperity in an otherwise dull economic landscape . To call it “development” would be an exageration but there are visible effects. Nobody knows how much Abu Dhabi is paying for its base in Assab but there are rumours of a $500m yearly bill , way more than either the French of the Americans are paying in Djibouti . The UAE presence has had an impact on the afar population on the Yemen shore , increasing smuggling and fishing . With at times dire consequences : the Emirati , not well-learned in local peculiarities , did not know that the Eritrean coastal waters are richer in fish than the Yemeni ones . Too many boats coming from the other side scared them (the coast they face is controlled by their Houthi enemies) and they bombed them , killing a lot of Yemen-originating Afar fishermen . Their fear , even if unjustified , was not ridiculous : the so-called “rebels” are in fact solidly entrenched on the Yemen side , not only Houthi but also former regular Yemeni troops who have remained loyal to their former President , ali Abdallah Saleh , who has sided with the Houthi whom he used to fight when he was in power . UAE aircraft based in Eritrea bomb them from Assab while Saudi aircraft bomb them from Saudi Arabia . The bombing is now well factored-in by the Yemeni civilians who have learned how to protect themselves from it and on the ground the GCC troops remain blocked , incapable of advancing . Issayas Afeworki does not care , he gets his money as well as a new access path to resources : small Chinese investors have come from Abu Dhabi and Dubaï and brought a modicum of prosperity . Behind this slow motion war and its economic dimension , it is obvious that the UAE authorities worry about the future . Hence their increasing presence on the African shore (Berbera is another example) and a calculated way to double the Saudi presence in an independent way . The calculation is clear : there is an increasing agitation in the Shiite-populated provinces of Saudi Arabia and the vibrations can be felt all the way to Riyad . The Qatari were foolish to run too far ahead and insist on the importance of the Iranian factor . But they were wrong for being right too early (and too loudly) . Abu Dhabi shares their worry and quietly prepares a plan B for the case Saudi splinters and falls apart . The UAE have no desire to go down with them and Africa is part of their contingency planning . The military stalemate is a preocuppying non-development . Saudi Arabia litterally drips with US weapons and Trump’s jocular friendship is there to guarantee that there will be more . But this lethal American delivery is useless , the Saudi are incapable of using it (hence the increasing use of mercenary troops of all origins : the latest batch came from Columbia) . And this is unlikely to stop : by now most of the former PDRY , the former southern British Yemen colony , is in reality independent , with a theoretical overview of the legal Yemeni government and a reality on the ground that bears no relationship to this comforting picture : the South is a crisscross of alliances between al-Qaida fighters , independentists and tribal militias . Some accept to declare themselves subjects of President Abo Mansoor in order to benefit from Saudi largesse of money and weapons . But they do not feel constrained by their “loyalty” . More than ever , the Horn of Africa is being drawn into continued interaction with the Yemeni side
In a discrete way , the Berbera former military base keeps inching back towards its former status . On May 13th a Russian member of Moscow’s Embassy in Djibouti , Yuri Koroshiko , visited Hargeysa and met with the Somaliland authorities . The usual platitudes were diplomatically exchanged but there was a sub-conversation to the meeting : The Russian diplomat — who ha&d taken advantage of his presence in the unrecognized State to visit the base formerly built in the 1970s by the USSR — that a return of these installations to his country might be reciprocated by an official recognition process , the golden prize sought after by all Somaliland politicians — and beyond them by most citizens . There was no official declaration but the hint was there. Meanwhile , a few days later , a delegation came from the Arab Emirates to inaugurate the beginning of the work on the harbor . Lo and behold , no UAE officials there , 100% businessmen from the DP World company. No hints of recognition , a purely business-as- usual approach in spite of the presence of President Silanyo , Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire and a whole bevy of Somaliland officialdom . DP World yes , UAE no . With the present fitna between the UAE+Saudi Arabia versus Qatar and Iran (+ assorted Shiites in other places) the United Arab Emirates’ prudence acquires an added relevance . But this might not be of Somaliland’s liking . Hargeysa’s irritation is palpable . After being reprimanded by London for several postponements of its elections , and after being subjected to hostile popular demonstrations (a rare phenomenon in the self-reliant country) , Somaliland has finally decided to hold the polls next November . State-of-the-Art electoral cards have already distributed in Awdal , Sahel and parts of Sanaag and these electoral cards are being used as a play for reinforced national unity . Since both the East and the West are not populated by Issaq — the core clan family in the North — they protested about their under-representation in these coming elections and asked for more MPs . Yes , answered the national electoral autorities , vote in the Presidential polls and you’ll be able to use these same electoral cards for the legislative elections in 2019 . That way your larger population will be enumerated and able to elect more MPs . The inducement seems to be working but the Mogadiscio authorities complained about this “plot” . On June 2nd , Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire declared to the journalists : “We are tired of being too polite . We are going to be nasty . It is only nasty children who can get attention , the good boys get nothing“. Indeed . But how ? There are plenty of occasions to get nasty in the region but none that looks very appealing to the Somaliland leadership . Except if those Russians decided to project their Iranian alliance on the South Red Sea Shore. Who knows ? This could get a bit of attention
Early last month the Republic of Djibouti put in an application to join the OECD World Forum for Transparency so as to turn the small Red Sea state into a fully modern embodiement of liberal and up-to-date transnational economics . This was a very nice announcement . But what was less nice was that , at the same time , the ODPIC (Office Djiboutien de la Propriété industrielle et Commerciale Djibouti Office for Indsutrial and Commercial Property) stopped putting its property registry online . Why did OPDIC suddenly go silent on this essential statistical and legal element ? Well , well , well , there were silent constraints dictated by the economic (and political) realities . Djibouti is dreaming of becoming a financial hub , even perhaps one of these tax havens on the Luxemburg-Virgin Islands-Jersey model . And at the same time is is getting closer and closer to the People’s Republic of China which is building both a commercial harbor and a military base in Djibouti , side-by-side with the French , US and even Japanese installations (the Japanese are nervous about the Chinese deployment and would like an extension of their hitherto modest perimeter) . Big player military games , conflicting interests , large investments , the projected financial hub is right now defering to Chinese demands for discretion . Chinese companies are perched on the edge of the Red Sea and would like to step into the regional great game with discretion . You said “transparency” ? Yes , by all means . But let’s have a “managed transparency” , transparent for some and opaque for others , according to needs and status . In modern liberalese the good word for this is “flexibility” . President IOG is extremely flexible .