Ghana, Togo to sign maritime boundary treaty 2019

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The timetable is one of many provisional arrangements from the second joint Ghana-Togo Maritime Boundary Delimitation Meeting held in the Togolese capital, Lome, last week.


The two parties also agreed that pending the final resolution of the boundary delimitation, provisional arrangements be implemented to allow both countries to continue activities within the disputed area, in accordance with the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Briefing the Daily Graphic, the Head of the Ghanaian delegation to the Togo meeting, Mr Lawrence Apaalse, said the latest meeting was an advancement of the first meeting held last June in Ghana which ended with various disagreements.

“I must say that today we have various points of agreement, which is a huge milestone in our deliberations. The two countries have agreed on a timetable that will result in a final maritime boundary treaty by the end of the second quarter of 2019,” he said.

2019 target

Mr Apaalse served as technical advisor to Ghana’s legal team on the Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire maritime boundary dispute arbitration at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and was also the National Coordinator of the Ghana Continental Shelf Project that made the submission to the United Nations for the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

He said although the timelines were ambitious, they were achievable.

“The 2019 target is an ambitious programme, but with the commitment and determination shown by both sides, it will be achieved,” he added.

He said in order not to limit the interaction between the two countries to only scheduled meetings, the two sides had nominated permanent focal persons to facilitate regular communication on a day-to-day basis.

The two sides, Mr Apaalse said, had also agreed to propose an agenda that would deal with the purely technical issues of the negotiations, with the technical session slated for the middle of this month.

Joint communique

In a communique signed by Mr Apaalse and the Leader of the Togolese delegation, Mr Stanislas Baba, the two countries stressed that dialogue was essential in the process, “considering the special bonds of kinship, brotherhood and friendship, as well as solidarity, which existed between Ghana and Togo, sustained through our history, geography and culture”.

The communique said the two sides had committed themselves to negotiating in the spirit of friendly relations and good neighbourliness on the basis of a special bond which would ensure the maintenance of peace and stability between the two countries.


Ghana’s upstream oil and gas activities toward its eastern border with Togo have, in the recent past, met firm opposition from Togo, leading to the cessation of activities between December 2017 and May 2018.

Officials from Togo also stopped two vessels from Ghana from undertaking seismic activities to acquire data.

Togo had claimed ownership of the disputed maritime boundary.

This comes on the heels of the landmark resolution of a similar impasse between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire over a maritime border demarcation.

Uganda to set up new force to make Kampala safe

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About 6,000 LDUs are currently being trained to help the security forces curb crime following a wave of high-profile murders. Critics have memories of the last time a civilian militia existed. Some of its members were accused of abusing their positions, and becoming criminals themselves.

LDUs are expected to patrol neighbourhoods, pass on intelligence to police, and give them back-up when they are dealing with incidents of crime. Recruits are being promised a monthly salary of 200,000 Uganda shillings ($50; £40). There is an enormous queue – typical of any recruitment drive in a country where there is a shortage of jobs.

Soldiers are spearheading the recruitment process, weeding out those who do not have the right paperwork. The hopefuls are put through a physical test, including a run of 4km (2.5 miles). Security Minister Elly Tumwiine told the LDUs would “be accountable to the army and work alongside the police”. “It is a joint operation,” he added.

U.A.E. Military Base in Breakaway Somaliland to Open by June

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The U.A.E. is growing its military presence in the Horn of Africa to help protect trade flows through the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a key shipping lane used by oil tankers and other cargo vessels en route to the Suez Canal. Emirati footholds in Somaliland and Eritrea provide strategic locations as the U.A.E. supports the Saudi Arabia-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The surveillance system will be used to protect the base in the Somaliland port town of Berbera and monitor the territory’s 800-kilometer (500-mile) coastline, former ambassador to the U.A.E. Bashe Awil Omar said. Pirates have hijacked vessels off Somaliland’s coast, including the seizure of a vessel in March 2017.

“The U.A.E. military base will help the whole region — piracy, illegal fishing, toxic dumping: we don’t have resources to watch our coast,” Bashe said in an interview in Somaliland’s main city of Hargeisa. “The U.A.E. has become the hub of the whole region in terms of trade. For the U.A.E. to secure that strategic position, it cannot do that if it does not secure the lifeline of trade.”

The 42 square-kilometer (16 square-mile) facility will consist of a naval base and two parallel runways, he said. Situated adjacent to a port operated by state-owned DP World Ltd., its first runway of 4.9-kilometers is almost 60 percent complete, according to Bashe, who moved to the post of ambassador to Kenya in August.

West Africa security forum opens amid funding concerns for G5 Sahel force

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Less than a quarter of the roughly €400m pledged for the G5 Sahel force has been forthcoming, French defence minister Florence Parly said on Sunday. “At the moment, [pledges] are materialising very slowly,” Parly told reporters in the plane taking her to Dakar. She said only 10%-25% of the funds have been disbursed.

The G5 Sahel is a French-backed scheme conceived in 2015 to roll back jihadism and lawlessness in five states on the Sahara’s southern rim. Bringing together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, it aims to become a 5,000-strong joint force to restore authority in areas grappling with jihadists and brutal gangs. But the project, which brings together five of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries, has run into problems of financing, poor equipment and lack of training.

In February an international donors’ conference in Brussels pledged about €420m. Saudi Arabia made the biggest single promise, totalling €100m in the form of equipment, but it has yet to be delivered, Parly said.

The Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security, launched in 2013, is a French-supported initiative gathering several hundred political leaders, military officials, international organisations and think-tanks, mainly from West Africa and Europe.

It was opened on Monday by Senegalese President Macky Sall. French foreign minister Jean-Yves Drian is expected for the final day on Tuesday.

Sall, whose country is one of the most politically stable in Africa, said “strong and resilient states” were the key to lasting security.

“When the state is weakened it loses its role as a protector, the trust of its people and its partners,” Sall said in an opening speech.

In her speech, Parly said security and development “are two sides of the same coin”.

“To want security without humanitarian aid would be absurd and dangerous. To want respect for rights, property, access to education without being willing to ensure security and peace would be vain,” she said.

Since late 2017, the G5 Sahel has carried out only six operations, with three more in the works. It also has yet to win over civilians who fear retribution from the rebels if they provide support.

On June 29 the G5’s then headquarters, in the central Malian town of Sevare, came under suicide attack, causing three deaths, two of them Malian soldiers. Its commanding officer, Malian General Didier Dacko, was replaced by a Mauritanian, Hanena Ould Sidi, who in September ordered the headquarters be moved to Bamako, Mali’s capital.

“The goal [of the Dakar Forum] is firstly to maintain the priorities on [G5 Sahel] operations… The joint force … is not equipped as it should be,” Parly said in her remarks on Sunday.

“The rainy season is coming to an end, so it’s important to get operations going again. Some have already been planned.”

The five Sahel states are struggling against a jihadist revolt that began with a Tuareg separatist uprising in northern Mali in 2012. The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

But large stretches of Mali remain out of the control of Malian, French and UN forces, which are frequent targets of attacks.

Jihadist violence, meanwhile, has spread from northern Mali to the centre and south and spilt into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, often worsening communal conflicts.

Parly added that a spate of recent attacks in Burkina Faso — for which the country twice had to call on support from French troops last month — was a cause of “much concern”.

India’s Seychelles 2018 military base plan hits choppy waters

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Seychelles is of strategic importance to Asian powers India and China.
Opposition declares agreement between two governments ‘dead’ against backdrop of contest for influence in Indian Ocean.

India’s plans for building military facilities in Seychelles have hit choppy waters, with the Indian Ocean island’s political opposition blocking efforts to ratify a deal reached by the two governments.

Seychelles and India signed a 20-year agreement in January to build an airstrip and a jetty for its navy on Assumption Island.

This week, the opposition in Seychelles, led by Wavel Ramkalawan, declared the deal “dead”.

“I hope I have made it clear that this is the end of the Assumption agreement and that I don’t expect to see it on any agenda between President Faure and the opposition,” Ramkalawan said in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The opposition coalition holds a majority of seats in the National Assembly, and the country’s law mandates that the agreement must be ratified by this body.

Seychelles, known internationally for its picturesque beaches, is of strategic importance to both India and China.

Asia’s biggest economies are drawn to its Indian Ocean location along some of the world’s busiest sea-lanes.

Asian power rivalry
India and China are locked in a thinly veiled contest for influence across a vast part of Asia.

China last year inaugurated its first overseas military base in Djibouti, situated on a global shipping point that links the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

India’s plans for a military base in Seychelles was first announced during a trip by Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, to the islands in 2015.

“This agreement would potentially allow for a greater arc of surveillance to curb piracy and other illegal activities in the exclusive economic zone of Seychelles. It would also burnish India’s credibility as a collective security stakeholder,” told Uday Bhaskar, retired Indian navy officer and defence expert.

But the project has faced public protests in Seychelles as activists argue that the country cannot afford to be drawn into a regional conflict involving nuclear powers India and China.

“It is clear that India wants to establish a military base in Assumption to monitor the traffic in the Mozambique channel in the Indian Ocean and to especially monitor the energy transport of China around the world,” Ralph Volcere, a political activist who has led demonstrations against the pact in Seychelles, told Al Jazeera.

“Seychelles, a small island with only 90,000 people, cannot afford to be taking sides. We are not pro-India, anti-India, pro-Chinese, anti-Chinese. We are only pro-Seychelles.

“We know the rivalry between China and India to have influence over the Indian Ocean. The Chinese also wanted to build a base here, but we turned that down. Now we can’t have India station it’s military personnel in our country. It doesn’t matter if they are American or English or German – we don’t want foreign military personnel here.”

An email from Al Jazeera to the office of Seychelles president, Danny Faure, seeking details about the pact went unanswered.

Leaked pact details
The protests and demonstrations against the project led to the India-Seychelles agreement being amended in January this year.

Safeguards including a no-nuclear weapons use were included in the renegotiated pact that also prohibited India from using the base during war.

Earlier this month, details of the classified agreement between India and Seychelles surfaced on the internet along with a YouTube video, complete with maps and the location of proposed facilities.

Following the leak, local news-media reports quoted President Faure as denying that land on Assumption Island was sold to India.

His government has since ordered a probe into the leak.

“Maybe the two governments should have made the text of the agreement available to the public. Secrecy has only roused suspicions that Seychelles interests will be harmed. But if you read the text of both the old and the new agreements, they are quite reasonable,” Manoj Joshi, a Delhi-based foreign policy analyst, told Al Jazeera.

India has said it intends to invest $550m in building the military base.

Also earlier this month, Seychelles Vice President Vincent Meriton said the deal is “still in the conception phase, and there is no clear cost attributed to it at the moment. It will cover about a quarter of the remote island about 1,140 southwest of the Seychelles’ main island of Mahe”.

India’s waning influence
In any event, India’s influence, from neighbouring Nepal to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, may be waning, according to a number of Asia experts.

“India is facing a lot of blowback in the region. China is a subtext in India’s troubles in both Maldives and Seychelles,” Joshi told Al Jazeera.

“For small countries, China offers a leverage against a big neighbour like India. Indian diplomacy must find ways of dealing with China’s rise in the Indian Ocean.”

As China expands its sphere of influence in Sri Lanka, building and operating ports in the country, India has bid for operating an airport on the island nation’s southern tip.

Like Sri Lanka, Nepal, a landlocked country between China and India, too has turned to Beijing for investments. According to some, it’s “a natural fit”.

“Look at our roads, our infrastructure. There’s popular demand for infrastructure investment,” Swarnim Wagle, a former member of the National Planning Commission of Nepal, wrote recently in the South China Morning Post.

“Our debt-GDP ratio is 22 percent. The average for low-income countries is 43 percent. We can raise borrowings substantially, but too much of internal borrowing crowds out the private sector. So there’ll be need to look at funds from outside, and China is a natural fit as it’s eager to invest abroad.”

Meanwhile, in the Maldives, once seen as one of the closest allies of India in the Indian Ocean region, India is struggling to mend frayed bilateral ties.

‘Degree of discord’
The Indian and the Maldives foreign ministries traded barbs over an extension of the state of emergency in the country last month.

“India has traditionally had a very robust, empathetic relationship with the Indian Ocean island states. This is currently in some degree of review, and there has been a degree of discord,” Uday Bhaskar, the Indian defence expert, told Al Jazeera.

“In Seychelles, the opposition party has voiced certain concerns about the military infrastructure in the Assumption island.

“But there have been protests in Sri Lanka about China’s infrastructure projects as well. One can expect that there will be a degree of competition between India and China in the Indian Ocean Region over the next decade.”

For now, the proposed Indian military base continues to generate anger in Seychelles.

Demonstrators carrying “Hands Off Assumption” placards have protested in the capital Victoria every Saturday since January.

As a battle for hearts and minds, this is an issue that reverberates far beyond Seychelles, all the way to New Delhi and Beijing.

Mauritius and La Reunion Islands are preparing themselves for intense tropical cyclone Berguitta

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Mauritius used to have major cyclones more or less every ten years. Last major one was in 2002. We may assume this year will be the bad one. Mauritius experienced 2 similar cyclones on the same track, which were named Firinga and Dina; Both really hurted Mauritius.

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[td_block_text_with_title custom_title=”Cyclone Firinga (1989)”]The cyclone Firinga passed near Mauritius with wind gusts up to 190 km/h. Much of the island lost power, water, and telephone access; the water system was disrupted when cleaning systems were damaged. The storm destroyed almost all the island’s crops, including wrecking 5,000 metric tons of sugar. In addition, Firinga destroyed completely 844 houses in Mauritius and damaged thousands. Throughout the island, the cyclone killed one person, injured 507, and left about $60 million (1989 USD) in damage.[/td_block_text_with_title]
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[td_block_text_with_title custom_title=”Cyclone Dina (2002)”]During the second cyclone on the same track in 2002, Dina, 4 people have been killed. Power and communications across the island of Mauritius were crippled by the storm, with 90% percent of inhabitants losing electricity. For several hours, the country was cut off from the outside world, with all communications disrupted. About 50,000 of the nation’s 280,000 telecommunication lines sustained serious damage, resulting in prolonged power outages.Schools sustained significant damage and as a precautionary measure, all classes were canceled during the following 9 days.About 25 percent of the island was left without running water; agriculture sustained considerable losses as a result of the storm; Property damage from the storm amounted to US$100 million. Owing to the effects of Cyclone Dina and several other meteorological factors, the economy of Mauritius suffered significantly in 2002 as a whole. Annual growth dropped to about 1.9 percent from approximately 5 percent in 2001.[/td_block_text_with_title]
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[td_block_text_with_title custom_title=”Cyclone Berguitta (2018)”]Mauritius and La Reunion islands are in cyclonic alert. Schools are closed in Mauritius. During the last night intense tropical cyclone Berguitta has intensified further. At 0400 hours, it was centered at about 480 km to the east north east of Mauitius, that is, in latitude 18.2 degrees south and longitude 61.9 degrees east. It continues to move in a general west southwesterly track at about 10 km/h. On this trajectory intense tropical cyclone Berguitta is approaching Mauritius and represents a direct threat to the island. 1-minute sustained winds are at 105 km/h and would increase during the day.[/td_block_text_with_title]
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Qadium will find you

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Qadium’s platform is akin to a Google Street View for the Internet of Things, helping customers find devices on their network they never knew were there and close off any loopholes that hackers might find a way through. Founded by Junio and colleagues from their days doing cyberwarfare research for the Department of Defense’s research arm, Darpa, the company is now revealing  a portion of its customer list, from major government deployments to big names in the private sector. They include a $500,000 contract with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and a sale to the U.S. Cyber Command, as well as deals with Dell, PayPal, CVS and Capitol One, amongst others.

Investment in the latest round was led by IVP, followed by TPG Growth, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Thiel’s Founders Fund, Susa Ventures, and some unnamed angels. It takes the company’s total funding up to $66 million, $20 million from a Series A and $6 million from Thiel’s seed round. Thiel, whose previous investments include Palantir and Facebook, is not on the board of the company. Junio wouldn’t give the precise valuation of his company, but said it was in the hundreds of millions.

What Qadium does and doesn’t do

Right now, Qadium can reach every connected device in the IPv4 space — made up of the the millions on millions of IP addresses of web devices. Junio says Qadium isn’t focusing on the IPv6 space, which can contain many more IP addresses and should take over from IPv4, as the latter is running out of numbers to hand to new machines. But currently, the number of connected things in IPv6 is a tiny fraction of what’s on IPv4, says Junio.

That massive-scale scanning (or what Junio prefers to call web-scale sensing) can, thanks to improvements since last year, bring back results every hour, as the company aims to get as close to mapping the whole web in real time as possible. It’s comparable to Shodan, a search tool for connected devices, but turbo charged and closed to the general public, Junio’s previously said.

The ultimate aim of the service is to help companies determine if there are vulnerable devices on their network that could be exploited by malicious hackers, who could then pivot and compromise the whole organization. Customers are presented with a map to show what their network looks like, while custom notifications lets them decide what warnings they want about changes to their systems. Junio is particularly proud that none of his customers were infected with WannaCry, the ransomware that took advantage of vulnerabilities from NSA-leaked cyberweapons to spread across world. “We’ve had really good success with the latest internet-scale exploits,” Junio said.

Most of the $1 million up contracts are with government, Junio noted. Though such technology, which can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million per year, could prove powerful for governments trying to find out what vulnerable devices are sitting on enemy networks, Junio reiterated that Qadium is for defense only. To prevent any malicious use, the platform only shows what devices are on the customer’s network, not others, though Qadium, of course, can see everything. “We do not do any offensive cyber operations,” Junio added.

Russian travel writer accuses Mauritian worker of rape at resort in Seychelles

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The Russian woman, 39, said she was visiting Seychelles as part of a press tour organized by Six Senses Zil Pasyon resort on Félicité Island. She alleged in an email to media houses that her attacker raped her for 20 minutes and had used a knife as a weapon. She said that her attacker accessed her room through an open balcony door.
The woman, an experienced travel journalist, said in her email that she was “brutally raped.”
“After fighting back for at least 20 minutes, I managed to escape from the villa and run to the hotel reception. Due to the size of the resort it took me almost an hour to find the hotel security and report the crime to the management,” she wrote in her email.
The woman requested that her name not be used due to the sexual attack against her.
The Mauritian man, whose name was not made public in the police statement, appeared in court on Monday, the Police statement said. He was released but had to forfeit his passport. He is due back in court on Monday.
The police statement said the alleged attack happened last Thursday. The police said they were informed about the attack at 10 a.m. and arrived at 11 a.m.
The Russian woman said in her email that she believes hotel management purposely delayed contacting the police and getting medical assistance. The woman said police did not arrive for eight hours after the attack and came only after a colleague on the press tour called them.
A representative of Six Senses Zil Pasyon told SNA that the hotel would not comment on the case while a police investigation is ongoing.
The Russian travel journalist said when the police arrived she was helped by two female officers for the filing of her statement. The journalist has since left Seychelles and said she hoped to testify for court via Skype but had not yet been contacted by authorities in Seychelles.

The United Arab Emirates is engaged in deliberate efforts to expand its military tentacles across the Horn of Africa.

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According to a report by AP, the UAE has been building up a military presence in Eritrea at its port in Assab. In 2015, Emiratis signed a 30-year lease agreement for military use of the port of Assab and already UAE warplanes have been moved to the base.

Meanwhile, South of Eritrea, in Somalia’s splinter northern territory of Somaliland, the government has allowed the UAE open a naval base in the port town of Berbera.

Although Somaliland officials claim that the base would solely be used by the UAE military, there are reports that it is a launching pad of attacks against Yemen where UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition involved in a brutal aggression against the impoverished Arab state since March 2015.

Stoking regional tensions

The establishment of UAE military bases in breakaway Somaliland and Eritrea is bound to have regional implications. Ethiopia which has always been wary of a strong united Somalia would want to see the splinter region having more economic independence. This will be crucial in containing the ambitions of Ethiopia’s Somali ethnic region of Ogaden which has always wanted to secede.

However, the UAE base in Eritrea was not well received in Ethiopia, whose Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has warned Saudi Arabia and the UAE in January that there will be consequences if their military operation around Eritrea’s coast leads to the latter advancing plans to destabilize Ethiopia. Tensions still abound between neighbors Ethiopia and Eritrea who fought a war from May 1998 to June 2000.

This is not the first time UAE is seeking to engage in military adventures inside Africa. Abu Dhabi was believed to be involved in conducting airstrikes in Libya through a small air base, near the Egyptian border.

UAE was also involved the botched United Nations peacekeeping mission in the 1990s and this was probably the first active military engagement of Emiratis in Africa which points to a long-term strategy now taking shape.

Elsewhere, in Puntland, another breakaway region of Somalia, the UAE funded the establishment of a maritime police force by providing training and equipment.

In Somalia itself, the UAE has agreed to train and equip counter terrorism and security units in the war-torn country.

Somalis Reject UAE Presence

However, this has not deterred Somalia’s internationally-backed government announce plans to file a legal case against the rulers of the UAE for setting up a military base in the unrecognized breakaway republic of Somaliland.

In February Somali government’s Auditor General Nur Jimale Farah said Mogadishu’s plans to file the complaint against the UAE on charges of violating international law for entering a deal with the Somaliland government to establish the military installation in the port of Berbera.

He added that UAE had bribed officials in Somaliland to get the base and accused senior officials in Somaliland and the government of Somalia’s former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of approving the deal for the sake of “illegitimate private gains.”

In early March this year, several people demonstrated outside the UAE embassy in London in protest against the establishment of an Emirati military base in Somaliland.

Protesters carried banners in Arabic and English calling for an end to wars and for the funds to be redirected to aid projects rather than military warfare, “Somaliland needs aid not military base”, in reference to Somalia’s breakaway northern territory.

“We don’t want to be dragged into a war. Our country is stable. We don’t care if someone is Shiite or Sunni, we are all Muslim.”

Meanwhile, following the conclusion of its joint military exercises between the Saudi and Sudanese armies, Khartoum announced arrangements for similar military drills with the UAE. This points to close collaboration between Saudis and Emiratis in establishing military presence across Africa.

The ambitious United Arab Emirates

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Tucked away behind rows of tin shacks and unkempt acacia trees, a cluster of tumbledown villas, mosques and a synagogue conjures up the grandeur of a port that once marked the southern tip of the Ottoman Empire. “Berbera is the true key of the Red Sea, the centre of east African traffic, and the only safe place for shipping upon the western Erythraean shore,” wrote Richard Burton, a British traveller, in 1855. “Occupation [by the British]…has been advised for many reasons.”

After the British came the Russians and in the 1980s NASA, America’s space agency, which wanted its runway, one of Africa’s longest, as an emergency stop for its space shuttle. Now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Berbera’s latest arriviste. On March 1st DP World, a port operator based in Dubai, began working from Berbera’s beachside hotel. Officials put little Emirati flags on their desks, and refined plans to turn a harbour serving the breakaway republic of Somaliland into a gateway to the 100m people of one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, Ethiopia. Three weeks later the UAE unveiled another deal for a 25-year lease of air and naval bases alongside. The agreement, rejoiced a Somaliland minister in the hotel café, amounted to the first economic recognition of his tiny republic. It would fill the government’s coffers, and bolster its fledgling army. Businessmen sat at his table discussing solar power stations, rocketing land prices and plans for a Kempinski hotel.

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Berbera is but the latest of a string of ports the UAE is acquiring along some of the world’s busiest shipping routes. From Dubai’s Jebel Ali, the Middle East’s largest port, it is extending its reach along the southern rim of Arabia, up the Horn of Africa to Eritrea (from where the UAE’S corvettes and a squadron of Mirage bombers wage war in Yemen), and on to Limassol and Benghazi in the Mediterranean. Fears that Iran or Sunni jihadists might get there first—particularly as the region’s Arab heavyweights, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, seem to flounder—propel the advance.

“If we waited to prevent these threats at our borders, we might be overrun,” explains Ebtesam al-Ketbi, who heads a think-tank in Abu Dhabi. The UAE also worries that rivals might tempt trade away from Jebel Ali, awkwardly situated deep inside the Gulf. Rapid port expansion at Chabahar in Iran, Duqm in Oman and King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia all pose a challenge.

But as the expansion accelerates, observers are asking whether the UAE is bent on “the pursuit of regional influence”, as Ms al-Ketbi puts it, for its own sake. Most analysts ascribe this push to Abu Dhabi’s 56-year-old crown prince, Muhammad bin Zayed. He is the deputy commander of the UAE’s armed forces, and the younger brother of the emir of Abu Dhabi, who is also the president of the UAE.

On the prince’s watch, the UAE has gone from being a haven mindful of its own business into the Arab world’s most interventionist regime. Flush with petrodollars, he has turned the tiny country, whose seven component emirates have a combined population of almost 10m (only about 1m of whom are citizens), into the world’s third-largest importer of arms. He has recruited hundreds of mercenaries, and has even talked of colonising Mars.

Hurricane Muhammad

In 2014 he imposed military conscription on his pampered citizens, and sent dozens to their deaths in the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Before becoming America’s defence secretary, General James Mattis dubbed the UAE “little Sparta”. Join the dots of the ports it controls, and some even see the old Sultanate of Oman and Zanzibar, from which the emirates sprang, arising afresh.

The UAE has won Berbera and Eritrea’s Asaab base by agreement, but elsewhere it applies force. In July 2015 it defied doubters, including the Saudis, by capturing Aden, once the British Empire’s busiest port. “They have the only [Arab] expeditionary capability in the region,” oozes a Western diplomat, fulsome in his praise of the UAE’s special forces, who mounted an amphibious landing to seize Aden from the Houthis.

With the help of American SEALs, Emirati soldiers have since then taken the ports of Mukalla and Shihr, 500km (300 miles) east, and two Yemeni islands in the Bab al-Mandab strait, past which 4m barrels of oil pass every day. The crown prince has seen off Qatari interest in Socotra, a strategic Yemeni island, by sending aid (after a hurricane) and then construction companies, which a Western diplomat fancies may build an Emirati version of Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean atoll where America has a large military base. While Saudi Arabia struggles to make gains in Yemen, Emirati-led troops earlier this year marched into Mokha port and are setting their sights on Hodeidah, Yemen’s largest port and the last major one outside Emirati control.

The prince has also backed separatists in Somalia, helping to stand up both Puntland, by funding its Maritime Police Force, and Somaliland. And in Libya, he has sent military support to Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, an autonomous force in the east of the country. To Turkey’s fury, the UAE opened an embassy in Cyprus last year and is involved in military exercises with Greece and Israel.

But sceptics worry about the dangers of overreach and the potential for clashing with greater powers crowding into the Red Sea. On its western shores Israel, France and the United States already have big bases. China is building a port in Djibouti. Iranian generals look to establish their own naval bases on Yemen’s rebel-held coast. And though formally part of the same coalition in Yemen, some Saudi princes are looking askance at their ambitious junior partners. In February Saudi- and Emirati-backed forces fought each other over control of Aden’s airport. Saudi Arabia’s princes have also hosted Somalia’s president, who criticises the Emirates’ Berbera base as “unconstitutional”. Some wonder what the prince’s father and the UAE’s founder, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahayan, would have made of it all. “Be obedient to Allah and use your intelligence instead of resorting to arms,” he used to counsel when fellow Arabs went to war.