by Ismail Akwei
Hiiraan Xog, Apr 20, 2018:- Russia is in talks with breakaway Somali region, Somaliland, to set up a naval base of at least 1500 men outside Zeila, a city near the border with Djibouti to offer support to warships and submarines patrolling the strategic stretch of coastline.
Reported by Somaliland and other international news outlets, the base is expected to be home to two destroyer sized ships, four frigate class ships, two large submarine pens, two airstrips that can host up to six heavy aircraft and fifteen fighter jets, and other facilities.
However, local media Qaran News said on April 2 that in return, Russia will assist Somaliland in gaining international recognition as a sovereign state through a resolution. It also reported that Russia will ensure security in the breakaway country by training the Somaliland military.
If this happens, then Russia will join the list of powerful countries with bases in the Horn of Africa region which is strategic for so many reasons including proximity to the Middle East and influence over the Gulf of Aden.
The United States, France, Japan and China have military facilities in neighbouring Djibouti while Turkey recently established a facility in Somalia which has strained relations with Somaliland.
Russia has bases in only nine countries including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Syria, Tajikistan and Vietnam.
Somaliland’s president Muse Bihi Abdi said in March that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will train Somaliland security forces as part of a deal to establish a military base in the Somaliland port city of Berbera.
Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia on May 18, 1991. The territory had been under pressure to hold talks with Somalia which have so far been futile.
27 years of diplomatic isolation has made it difficult for Somaliland to have access to loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.