The Somali government has released $9.6 million it confiscated from a United Arab Emirates plane in Mogadishu four years ago, in an effort to improve ties that have been at an all-time low since then.
“The money has been released and it is on its way to the Emirates,” Somali Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala told VOA Somali.
Other government sources said Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, leading a delegation, flew to Dubai Wednesday to deliver the money in person.
The money was returned three days after Somali lawmakers elected a new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed refused to release the UAE cash. Observers say it appears Roble acted independently in returning it.
A dramatic incident
The money was seized in April 2018 when Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency seized three suitcases at Mogadishu’s international airport from a Boeing 737/700 operated by the UAE's Royal Jet Airline. The suitcases contained $9.6 million in cash.
Several Somali security officials told VOA at the time they seized the money because it was illegal and was intended to disrupt the country’s security.
Ambassador Mohammed Ahmed Othman Al Hammadi, the UAE envoy to Mogadishu at the time, denied the accusation. “The money is for the ministry of defense. It’s for the salary of the Somali soldiers,” he told VOA.
After the incident, diplomatic relations between Somalia and the UAE plunged to their lowest point in history, prompting the UAE to immediately end a military training mission in Somalia. It also closed a military facility and the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Mogadishu.
Since then, the two countries have frequently exchanged angry political rhetoric. After President Mohamed's term officially expired in February 2021 and lawmakers extended his term, an Emirati Foreign Ministry statement called the Somali president's government as an interim administration.
The president accused the UAE of interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs, instigating political divisions and attempting to upset the nation’s stability.
PM Apologized for Seizure
In April, 2022, Minister Roble offered a public apology for the 2018 seizure of the UAE money, pledging that the cash, which has been in the Central Bank of Somalia, will be returned.
"We want to accept that we were wrong and seek forgiveness from our brothers [UAE]. We are two brothers and whatever has happened, let us look forward," Roble said in a video posted on Facebook.
After the came came back, UAE's Foreign Ministry thanked Roble for his “initiative” to settle this dispute.
And that apology also prompted the Emirates to send tons of aid to Somalia to help the sub-Saharan country as it tries to cope with a severe drought.