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Lyndon Peters

UAE's friends on UN Security Council are allowing it to act with impunity

The UAE's sovereign wealth funds have transformed it into an important investor [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2019

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Comment: In Africa, the UAE, like the P5, works alongside autocratic regimes to expand their strategic interests, writes Lyndon Peters.

In Libya, Yemen and Sudan, the influence of the United Arab Emirates is plain for all to see. But how can this small Gulf state have become so influential on the world stage?

One major factor is the UAE's sovereign wealth funds, which have transformed the Emiratis into an important investor in key states in Europe, Asia and North America. Their importance as a trading partner strengthens their hand vis-à-vis the P5 - the UK, France, Russia, China and the USA - who play a decisive role in international politics as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

While the UAE has been rapidly cultivating bilateral ties with the P5, as well as with IndiaIsraelEritreaEthiopia and Nigeria, they have been making enemies at an equal rate. Opponents of the UAE now include Turkey, Qatar and Somalia, as well as pro-democracy movements in Egypt and Sudan, and the victims of their interventions in Libya and Yemen.

In February 2019 
Morocco withdrew from the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and has recently accused the UAE of supporting the secessionist Polisario Front.

On issues which concern Muslims throughout the world, particularly the struggle for self-determination in Kashmir and Palestine, the UAE is now clearly taking the side of the oppressors.

They have failed to condemn India's annexation of Kashmir, instead 
commending Narendra Modi with the Order of Zayed. Likewise the UAE has become an enthusiastic supporter of normalisation with Israel at a time when Palestinians suffer ever-increasing persecution.

The UAE has been rapidly cultivating bilateral ties with the P5

Mohamed bin Zayed's leadership seems a world away from that of his father, Sheikh Zayed, who initiated the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

The UAE has long since abandoned the causes that are close to the hearts of Muslims around the world, instead they have become a neocolonial power in the mould of the P5 states.

In Africa the UAE, like the P5, works alongside autocratic regimes to expand their strategic interests. Dubai Ports World operate ports and logistics hubs in Algeria, Egypt, Somaliland, Rwanda, Mozambique, Senegal and Mali.

Because the UAE are not a historical colonial power they have taken control of ports without much fanfare. The case of Yemen's decision in 2012 to scrap DP World's contract to manage two container terminals in Aden should act as a cautionary tale. The UAE responded by invading and occupying Aden; just as the British Navy did in support of the East India Company in 1839.

In 2018, Djibouti cancelled a contract with DP World claiming that their national sovereignty had been compromised; in April a London court ruled that DP World were entitled to $385 million compensation.

Read more: UAE ignores Kashmir's plight to preserve 'special relationship' with India's Hindu nationalist government

DP World runs Berbera port in Somaliland where plans for a UAE military airbase were recently abandoned. In DR Congo a former DP World employee revealed to PPLAAF how DP World's plans to construct a port in the city of Banana would personally enrich former President Kabila.


DP World would own 70 percent of the port, and the remaining 30 percent would belong to a state owned company, 51 percent of which would belong to the DR Congo state. The other 49 percent would belong to a nominee of Joseph Kabila (the president at the time) or to a private company in which Kabila had shares directly or indirectly.

The UAE's military interventions have typically been supported in one way or another by P5 states. In Libya the UAE alongside the USA, France and Russia have backed Khalifa Haftar. In Yemen the UAE is supported by the US, France and the UK. In Sudan the UAE has backed Hemedti's Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The RSF grew out of Janjaweed militias notorious for carrying out killings in Darfur. The Khartoum Process of 2014 provided Sudan with a key role in EU migration policy with the RSF in charge of intercepting migrants on Sudan's borders with indirect support from the EU. 

They have become a neocolonial power in the mould of the P5 states

The EU denies ever funding the RSF who are now equal in power to the regular army. Hemedti has provided thousands of mercenaries from the RSF to fight in Yemen and Libya. The RSF control many goldmines in Sudan. According to the UN, between 2010 and 2014 an estimated $4.6 billion dollars of gold was illegally exported from Sudan to the UAE.

In June when RSF linked mobs massacred Sudanese protesters, the UK and Germany pressured the UNSC to condemn the killings; reports suggested that China and Russia blocked the adoption of the text.

The P5's collective failure to condemn atrocities whether in Sudan, Libya or Yemen ensures that the UAE, like Saudi Arabia, still acts with impunity.


Lyndon Peters is an independent activist and researcher. His work focuses on the UK's relationship with the Gulf states. He has worked with human rights organisations on many issues relating to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.

Follow him on Twitter @LyndonPeters01

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff. 

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