Battle of the Horn of Africa

Two of the richest countries in the world struggle for influence in Somalia.

Somali Coast Guard off Bosaso: On land, Qatar and the UAE are dueling.


Battle of the Horn of Africa

Two of the richest countries in the world struggle for influence in Somalia: For Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the crisis country is strategically important because of its location. For this they resort to rabid methods.

July 28, 2019 (Spiegel Online) – The man who stopped in Mogadishu on Monday morning on a central road to the airport of the Somali capital did not want to stop. He had one goal: death. Al-Shabaab, the suicide bomber of the terrorist militia, detonated his bomb at a checkpoint, killing at least 17 people and injuring dozens.

On Wednesday, a woman blew herself up in Mogadishu. She killed seven people and injured six others – including the mayor of the capital.

The terror series underscores that the country in the Horn of Africa can not rest, a proper government has not existed since the outbreak of the civil war in the early 1990s. Instead, corrupt warlords and brutal Islamists are fighting for power in Somalia, which is increasingly coming into the focus of world and regional powers because of its strategic coastal location.

Terror in Puntland – who is behind it?

Among other things, two of the richest states in the world, the rival ruling houses of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), carry out their conflict in Somalia. A scene is the quasi-autonomous region of Puntland, whose rulers have seceded from the capital Mogadishu.

In Puntland is the port city of Bosaso, whose port is run by a company from the Emirates. Qatar is the competition’s commitment there, a thorn in the eye. For this reason, militant Islamists on behalf of Qatar are said to have carried out bomb attacks and firearm attacks in the city. This is reported by the “New York Times”. The newspaper refers to a wiretap between a Qatari businessman with best contacts to the ruling house and the ambassador of the emirate in Somalia.

The violence is said to “expel the Dubai people from there,” said businessman Khalifa Kayed al-Muhannadi in the phone call. “Let them expel the Emiratis so they do not renew their contracts, I will bring the contracts to Doha.”

For Qatar the affair is embarrassing: The government emphasizes that Muhannadi does not speak or act in the name of the country. Doha does not interfere with the internal affairs of Somalia. Instead, the UAE would engage in foreign policy in Somalia to “manipulate and control” the country.


The port city of Bosaso is located on the Gulf of Aden, a geopolitical hub connected to the Persian Gulf by the Indian Ocean. Both Gulf waters have strategic straits:

  • The Strait of Hormuz is considered the world’s most important oil and gas shipping route. On its shores are Iran on the one side, Oman and the UAE on the other. The waterway connects the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean.

  • The tanker fleets then drive across the open sea in the Gulf of Aden to the strait Bab al-Mandeb. This is the busiest waterway in the world. It lies between Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen and is the gateway to the Red Sea.

  • The Red Sea divides Africa and Asia. It is a transit route that at its other end merges into the Egyptian Suez Canal, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

Somalia, the failed state, is therefore in a premium position. The closely cooperating with Qatar Turkey has recognized this. The country’s biggest embassy is therefore not located in the world cities of Washington, Beijing or Moscow – but in Mogadishu.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks with Somali children on a visit to the capital (archive).


The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also building a military base in Somalia. In the neighboring countries one is already there. After France, Japan and the US, China has also built a military base in Djibouti, UAE soldiers are represented in Eritrea, and until the recent coup in Sudan, Qatar was establishing itself as a power there.

A Chinese warship in the harbor of Zhanjian sets off – the destination: Djibouti.


In Somalia, this is countering the alliances that are currently competing for power and influence in Libya:

  • On the one hand, Qatar and Turkey, which support militia surrounding the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which always emphasize that they support exclusively state institutions in all conflicts.

And as in almost all conflicts in the region, Iran is also involved. The regime in Tehran, which maintains relatively good contacts with Qatar, claims the protection of shipping traffic through the “Gate of Tears”, as Bab al-Mandeb is called in German. President Hassan Rohani said Wednesday that the Islamic Republic was and will remain the protector of the strait.

Without speaking out, the head of government referred to the allied with Iran Houthi militias in Yemen, which still control large parts of the coast to the Red Sea. The unspoken threat: In the event of an escalation, Iran’s allies could also target merchant ships on Bab al-Mandeb.

By Dominik Peters and Christoph Sydow

Description of source: Online edition of the weekly German magazine The Spiegel covering general news and politics, and focusing on economic topics. Country of origin: Germany
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