The diplomatic row between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours has exposed Africa’s lack of clear foreign policy, and is threatening to revive a war between two African nations.
When Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies announced severing of their ties with Qatar early June, accusing it of funding terrorism and maintaining relations with Iran, a number of Africa nations took sides and cut or downgraded their diplomatic relations with Qatar. They included Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Eritrea, Comoros and Djibouti.
Qatar termed the accusation ‘baseless’.
They made the decision without even understanding what the accusations were. Riyadh did not consult its so-called African allies when it reached the decision to isolate Qatar, as it did with other Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. It has now emerged, as reported by CNN, that Qatar made a series of secret agreements with its Gulf neighbours in 2013 and 2014, barring support for opposition and hostile groups in those nations, as well as in Egypt and Yemen.
But until now, no one among them is part of those seeking solutions to end the Qatar blockade.
Djibouti was the first to pay the price.
The decision by Djibouti and Eritrea to side with Saudi Arabia is threatening to revive a war between these two tiny neighbours. Qatar, which acted as a mediator and had peacekeeping troops in disputed border areas, pulled its soldiers.
Djibouti is home to the largest US military base in Africa. China is building its first ever overseas military base in there and Saudi Arabia is in the final stages of agreement to build its base there while the UAE has a base in Eritrea.
Eritrean forces moved in and took control of the Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island on the same day Qatari troops withdrew. The two countries are now on the verge of war and the matter is before the United Nations Security Council.
Somalia and Ethiopia called for calm and urged dialogue to resolve the crisis between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.
The decision by Somalia, a war-torn Horn of Africa nation, was unexpected. Last year, when Saudi severed ties with Iran after protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran following a prosecution of a Shia cleric by Saudi Arabia, Somalia announced the same but denied it did so because of pressure from Riyadh. Mogadishu said Tehran was a threat to its national security and accused it of spreading Shi’a ideology in the country.
Somaliland, a break-away region in northwest Somalia with no international recognition, said it is backing Saudi and its allies. UAE is building a military base in the port city of Berbera on the Red sea.
Some Gulf officials have been doing shuttle diplomacy around the continent lobbying for either side. Somali media reported the UAE has offered the Mogadishu government $80 million to sever ties with Qatar, and President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo rejected the offer. Gulf and Somali officials held talks but the alleged “$80 million bribe” is unconfirmed.
Muslim-majority African countries joined Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels — a Shia group backed by Iran which toppled the government there and some of them cut ties with Iran last year following Saudi’s footstep.
The world order has changed and so must Africa. The twenty-first century has seen the emergence of so many global powers; Russia and China being among those contesting against Washington and Africa should not be a subject of any power including soft powers from the Middle East.
It is time Africa to act global and should not take orders from others. Because of Africa economic status, it should not feel inferior and bow down to external pressure.