(13-03-23) Mogadishu – President Ahmed Madobe of Jubaland State in Somalia is facing criticism over allegations that he has been conducting secret negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the leasing of two Somali islands near Kismayo. The deal is reportedly worth $800 million, and concerns have been raised over its legality and legitimacy.
Sources within the Somali government have disclosed that the lease agreements cover Koyama Island, valued at $450 million, and Chovaye Island, worth $350 million, and that both islands will be leased for 35 years. The revelation of the agreement has sparked outrage in Somalia and the international community.
Koyama Island is a 6.38 km² island in the Jubaland region of southern Somalia, situated only 1.5 km from the mainland coast of Kismayo. Chovaye Island is a 5.46 km² island that is part of the Bajuni Islands and does not have a permanent population, only migratory fishermen.
The UAE’s intentions for the islands remain unclear, and there are concerns that they may be used for military purposes. Ahmed Madobe, who is currently in Kenya, is expected to travel to the UAE to finalize the deal, which has raised questions about his loyalty to Somalia and his motives for agreeing to such a deal.
The Somali government has not yet issued an official statement on the matter, but condemnation and calls for action have been widespread. This news follows reports of the UAE deploying drones and troops in Somalia and training Somali men as part of a clandestine initiative.
The relationship between Somalia and the UAE has been tense in the past. Disputes led to the Somali Parliament banning DP World, a state-owned ports operator. The UAE responded by closing a military facility and a hospital in Mogadishu and disbanding its military training mission. President Mohamud, who began his second term, has made mending diplomatic relations with the UAE a top foreign policy priority. Since assuming office in May of last year, he has visited the country three times and signed a military and security pact with the UAE. However, this latest development has cast a shadow over the relationship between the two nations.