According to multiple sources privy to the military aid unveiled by China’s Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Mr. Xue Bing, the equipment provided was more than the handful of trucks and military ambulances presented at the event, instead, the shipment included thousands of AK47s, ammunition, cellular communication surveillance equipment and portable surveillance drones to the Federal Government of Somalia.
China’s Embassy to Somalia valued the shipment, which it describes as high mobility trucks, military ambulances, and water tankers, at five million US dollars.
The People’s Republic of China has appointed Mr. Xue Bing as its Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa in late February and this is the first trip to the region and Somalia.
Although a weapons embargo is in effect in Somalia under United Nations Resolution 2607, there are exceptions for armament intended for the development of the Somali National Army. It is unclear why the shipment of weapons was not shown in the transfer ceremony or if the People’s Republic of China reported the transfer of the military equipment to the United Nations Security Council as required by the resolution. China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has abstained from voting on Somalia’s weapons embargo resolution.
Shortly after the transfer of weapons by the Chinese Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa to Somalia’s top military commander, General Odowaa, and the Minister of Defense Mr. Abdiqadir Jama, sources report that Somalia’s Prime Minister has ordered the immediate seizure of the military equipment.
It is unclear why the Prime Minister has confiscated the equipment, but there has been an ongoing rift between Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdillahi Farmajo and Prime Minister Mohamed Roble. Farmajo’s attempt to extend his term after it expired in February 2021 plunged Somalia into further political turmoil.
China’s transfer of weapons to Somalia comes in the middle of President Muse Bihi Abdi’s high-profile visit to the United States, where he met various government officials from the Departments of Defense and State and members of House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees.
On Thursday, March 17th, high-ranking members of the US Senator introduced the Somaliland Partnership Act to require the Department of State to report to Congress on engagement with Somaliland and to conduct a feasibility study, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, regarding the establishment of a partnership between the United States and Somaliland.
The Somali Federal Government and the People’s Republic of China found their interests aligned when Taiwan and Somaliland established diplomatic ties in June 2020, and China’s effort to court Somaliland was rebuffed by President Bihi. Somalia and China claim Taiwan and Somaliland as part of their territories.
The only response to the arms transfer by China from the Somaliland government came as tweets from the Minister of Health, Mr. Hassan Gafadhi and from the Director-General of the Presidency, Mr. Mohamed A. Bile. Both officials pointed to the timing of the weapons transfer and called China’s action provocative.
Efforts to reach Somaliland government officials for comment on China’s transfer of military equipment to Somalia and if this signals a turning point in China’s approach in ratcheting pressure on Somaliland to give up its budding diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The former Chairman of Waddani and presidential candidate, Mr. Abdirahman Abdillahi Irro, has criticized the Somaliland government for its bilateral ties with Taiwan and stated that China would have helped develop Somaliland as it has done in much of Africa. Officials from the Waddani party, including Hersi Haji Hassan, the Chairman, did not respond to questions about their view and the party’s stance on China’s transfer of military equipment, including large quantities of small arms, to Somalia.