Somalia lends support to Saudi-led fight against Houthis in Yemen
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud offers up his country’s airspace, territorial waters and land to coalition battling to stop militia’s advance on Aden.
Somalia has approved the use of its airspace, territorial waters and land for Saudi-led air strikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
According to security sources in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, gave his consent to the military action during last month’s Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Abdisalam Hadliye, Somalia’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday his country had “officially approved its airspace, land and territorial waters to be used for the air invasion to prevent the Shia Houthis’ takeover of Yemen”.
He added: “We are worried about the situation in Yemen. Somalia shares the same crisis existing in Yemen and we cannot watch what is going on there. Houthis are trying to topple a legal government so it is the responsibility of the Arabs to protect, and Somalia is playing its role to that end.”
Sources in Mogadishu said Bosaso in north-east Somalia and the Berbera seaport in the breakaway region of Somaliland are to be used for the operation because of their proximity to Yemen. They said: “The approval came with a leasing of Somalia’s airspace by the oil-rich Gulf states.”
During the Arab League summit, Mohamud met the leaders of several countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. Addressing the summit, he said his government would not hesitate to support the legitimate government in Yemen and prevent the spread of extremist militia there.
Hassan Nuur, a Somali analyst, believes the country’s support for Yemen did not come without a price. He said: “Of course Somalia needs the money while this invasion is led by the richest Arab countries so it is a way of making money.”
There are more than 150,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, where the government has asked Somalia to repatriate them. Nuur added: “Somalis are Sunnis while Huthis are Shias so supporting the current Saudi-led invasion could endanger Somali refugees in Yemen as they could be seen as enemies instead of refugees.”
The fighting in Yemen pits allies of the president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies, military units loyal to Hadi’s predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi-led coalition, which supports Hadi, has been carrying out air strikes on the Houthis to halt their advance on the southern city of Aden.