Open Letter To Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem of DP World

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Dear Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem,

I’ve been living in Dubai for quite some time so I know Dubai Emiratis’ generosity and humility is very noticeable. They prospered with little oil and Allah’s given ingenuity in the most uninhabitable place on earth while Somalis die en mass on fertile ground out of massive ‘starvation’ in land awash with rivers and rich with natural resources. But that’s not my issue rather the new controversy about the DP World agreement of running Berbera port for the next 30 years.

I, without any interest on either side for or against the deal, write to you about the DP World unfinished deal with Somaliland authority and the media frenzy. The controversy it generated over Berbera port proposed joint venture to wake you up to the emergent reality totally in contrast to what ministers informed you. Somaliland is in desperate need of DFI but the deal has been portrayed in a negative light by some elements in the government for enrichment.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem.

Dubai investors’ welcome in Somaliland was setup and the visitor delegation engineered to bypass the streets where the riots were ongoing. The deal was widely opposed by the people of all walks of life for one good reason: perceived at the least the size of the handouts may undermine our parliamentary democracy. Nevertheless it is rectifiable.

Firstly, the terms of the deal were not exposed for public scrutiny, and that caused enormous damage to the confidence of the public. Secondly, Bashe Awil, the son-law of the president and close relatives has been televised accompanying with you ever since the deal came to light. That alone jeopardized the whole deal by making it a “family-vs.-dynasty family” agreement rather than being done for the benefit of the public at the nationwide level.

Thirdly, the most important thing, the clanwise resources sharing structure in place in Somaliland since the ’90s has been thrown out of window. Look at Isse Muse clan, the major one in Berbera seaport town. Her supposed role in the agreement and the ultimate dividend was marginalized systematically by the president’s agents conspicuously since the agreement says Bashe and the finance Minister’s brother have been included into the list of Board of Directors of the Port for the next 30 years.

The President’s clan is said to divide all subsidiary contracts that fall under DP World from cleaning to porterage leaving Isse Muse and Habaryonis out of the agreement. That denies their natural roles in the running of Berbera.

The little Bashe’s travel back and forth from Dubai severely damaged the deal as well. But the agreement can be saved if we work together and tell fascist vested groups that are running as the timeline is going to expire soon to hand off. Let’s postpone the whole agreement to post election and sit back for a second to focus the technicalities of the agreement.

Let’s keep the port in balance to avoid competitors from taking over! What about that Your Excellency? Remember sir, that Berbera National Cement factory investment failed for similar reasons when the president assigned 60 percent to his clan and the remaining 40 to the rest! The president is supposed to learn from his mistakes but he seems determined to enrich his clannish backers before he dies. Your Excellency, I know your tiny emirate helped Somalis in so many ways but be cautious in moving multimillion machinery from Jabel Ali to Berbere which is awash with guns, until the clans, not few ministers and bribed sultans, give you the go-ahead.

I suggest the deal can succeed if a few things are done:

Switch the roles of the signatories. Let Ali Hoor and Saed Shire and Abdirahman Mohamed Abdilahi ‘ Iro” our Hon. Speaker of Parliament be consulted. Your Excellency, the anti-Ethiopiansim sentiment is all time in Somaliland since state media exaggerated the minor accident in Gaashamo Ethiopia especially by Horn Cable TV irresponsible yellow journalism that signed a contract with evil forces to destabilize Ethiopia. “leave Hebasha as they left you” Sahih Bukhari Hadith. It’s time to deescalate the prejudice against our neighbor and return Imams to their natural roles in society. Ethiopia is as important as the port if not more important because without the consent of Ethiopia to use Berbera port, the whole initiative would be in vain!

Your Excellency, since an Arab the cousin of the prophet, you lecture Hargaysa Imams on faith and tolerance and the deep ties between Semitic tribes prior to Islam and afterwards.

It’s easy to deal with a few individuals selling their real estate or mansions; but Berbera port has been built with all Somalis’ tax money from Kismay to Mogadishu and Western aid. The stakeholders therefore are many and stubborn. But sir, you must be well informed of the state of the affairs before investing in a multimillion dollar project like this one.

My letter in no way suggests you halt your investment in Berbera expansion port but to make the deal more inclusive clanwise and do further consultation with Dubai policemen with Somaliland origin whose fathers hailed from this part of Somalia. There comes Habaryonis clan as the second inhabitants of the port. For instance, the deal as it is currently constituted looks hijacked by vested interest groups to me and probably to many fellow citizens of Somaliland.

Two out of seven members of the proposed Directors of the port to manage it in the immediate future are neither Isse Muse nor Habaryonis, and the deal violated the rule of the game here. “Put Isse Muse First and Habaryonis the Second Act.”

Remember recognized Somalia uses a power sharing formula of 4.5 for the clans to keep the sensitivity of the hostile clans there! Dubai or Ra’s al Khaymah are clannish Sheikhdoms based on British initiated federalism, likewise here. In the early ’40s Great Britain ruled British Somaliland on clan lines to mitigate the unnecessary hostility among clans. I wish your ideality of dealing with Amina Waris and her son-in-law to be true and consistent with the bitter reality here and that’s done, I wished to be the case without clannish red tape. There are blocks over blocks that need to be dealt with in one way or another. That may very discouraging but that is what it is.

Today, Berbera, Sheikh Abdal, Oodweyne, Erigavo, and Borame are shaken by riots and tyres were burnt down in symbolic opposition to the current form of the deal of the perceived unfair share of the cake. No one however chanted to cancel the investment but amend in a way to please all stakeholders and remove the doubt that surrounds the agreement not to mention the rumors that 14% is possessed by the First Family which hard to affirm or refute. Somalilanders gave the contract on faith grounds, and that denied firms that appear to have more experience than yours.

From the Somaliland side, the signatories were Presidential Affairs Minister Hashi, the First Lady, Amina, the son-in-law the endorser Bashe Awil, and shadow reluctant figures from Berbera Eng. Ali Hoor Hoor, Foreign Minister Saed Shire, politically ally with his interest heedless of the alarm by his fellow Isse Muse to halt the deal until concerning parties agree on its terms. Given these things, the deal is so shaky and impossible to implement on the ground, not by a Silanyo-led government or anybody else.

The ideal signatories could be what Somalilanders in Dubai suggest to you on social media.

The other element that complicated the deal is Somalia’s president’s silence over the deal. It reinforced the version of the story that says Sheikh Hassan had signed the agreement on behalf of Somaliland not the president Silanyo of the autonomy.

So it isn’t too late to amend the terms of the agreement by clarifying the terms to wary Somaliland and cynical Berberawis, and reexamine to please the Somaliland public and bring it to parliament for televised debate and hopefully approval. To know the reality Your Excellency, you walk alone with or without bodyguards in New Hargaysa or Berbera or Buroa or Erigavo but without ministers to get the right feedback.

Loving-Arabs-up-to-death Somalilanders will convey their message to you and what’s necessary to make the deal beneficial not just to the First Family and their spoonfed ministers but to the entire nation, and it’s up to you, Your Excellency, chairman of DP World to reshape and salvage the agreement using your available leverage.

Please remember there are genuine concerns to be addressed immediately before machinery and heavy equipment is moved in. Thank you Your Excellency in advance for reading my humble advice.

Abdirahman Mohamed Dirye is a Somaliland Activist and Political Commentator. He is a Senior Editor at Democracy Chronicles, and his articles also appear in Jerusalem Post, African Review, Big News Network, Toronto Telegraph, New York Statesman, Austin Global, Sudan tribune, Middle East Online, and International Policy Digest.