July 2, 2012 ·0 Comments
Welcome to our weekly roundup of some of the stories that made headlines across Somaliland this week. In no particular order here they are.
The week started on an interesting note. The first direct talks between Somaliland and its southern neighbour, Somalia, created a big fuzz in the country. This was the first face-to-face contacts between the two in more than twenty years after a thirty-year-old union collapsed in 1991. It was a nervous moment for most citizens who wanted to settle difference with their Somali brothers but did not want the country in the path of a reunification.
Another news that captured the media’s attention was the drought that is currently ravaging many coastal communities in Somaliland.
Ethiopian Airlines resumes flights to Somaliland
In a bid to expand its African network dominance, Ethiopian Airlines has resumed operations to Somaliland via Addis Ababa with new daily flights to Berbera, a port city in the northeast.
After four years since scrapping its services, a Q400 aircraft, carrying full passengers, arrived in Berbera on Sunday afternoon where it was greeted by officials.
Mohamud Hashi Abdi, the Somaliland Minister of Aviation, was among a high-profile delegation on board the flight from Addis Ababa including senior representatives from the Ethiopian national carrier and investors from both countries.
Speaking at the welcoming ceremony, Mr. Abdi said the new route will increase trade ties between the two Horn of African nations.
Abdirisaq Khalif Ahmed, the minister of commerce said the deal will contribute greatly to Somaliland and the region as more people return from abroad to rebuild and invest in the country.
Ethiopian said it is happy to service its customers after a long absence.
The airliner was welcomed to the port city by government ministers, regional leaders, business community and customers as well as the deputy representative of Ethiopia’s government to Somaliland.
The national flag carrier of Ethiopia suspended its flights to Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa in 2008 due to security concerns. Hargeisa has said they have resolved most of the airline’s concerns and there is an ongoing infrastructure upgrade in both Berbera airport and Hargeisa’s Egal airport. Ethiopian will resume flights to Hargeisa after works are completed in six months time.
Construction workers find suspicious device
Construction workers at Berbera international airport unearthed a suspicious device on Saturday while putting up steel posts for a new security fence.
Tekleberhan Ambaye Construction (TACON) suspended all redevelopment works on the site for several hours due to safety concerns. Thinking it was an unexploded mortar they immediately notified the local police describing their discovery as a “metal cylinder device”. The government dispatched a bomb disposal unit and a controlled explosion was set off.
According to eyewitnesses they detonated several explosives believed to be mortars left behind by the military dictator regime of the 1980s.The explosives were unearthed outside the airport where TACON is installing a security fence.
Before Somaliland withdrew its union with Somalia, Berbera was used by the Soviet military and the Americans from 1970s to 1980s. It’s not clear if it was them or forces of General Mohamed Siad Bare as they retreated in 1990s.
TACON, an Ethiopian company, tendered $4,396,486 to build a new terminal, tower and a security fence. The project is funded by the government of Kuwait.
Somaliland and Somalia agree to resume talks
Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo met on the sideline of a counter piracy conference in Dubai with the Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Thursday in their first formal and direct talks since 1991.
The purpose of the talks was to review and approve a proposed negotiation between the two sides. The international community, led by the government of UK, Turkey, EU, Norway and the UAE have called on the sides to clarify their relationship.
On Thursday, both men agreed to boost cooperation and continue the proposed dialogue signing a charter dubbed “Dubai Statement” in the presence of Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs.
The UAE government pledged its continues support for dialogue among all Somali groups. Earlier in the week, representatives from the two Somali states met near London on 20-21 June for the first preparatory talks which was facilitated by the UK government, along with the EU and Norway.
Talks will resume after August on number of critical issues while the two sides will work together to combat piracy, terrorism and other security threats for now.
Berbera Port deal denied
Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, the Minister for foreign Affairs, has denied reports of a secret deal made with the global maritime terminal operator, Dubai Ports World (DP World) on Sunday.
President Silanyo and Somalia’s Sheikh Sharif co-signed a deal that gives DP World operational control of Berbera port and airport, a newspaper reported, but Dr. Omar said it was untrue.
The local Waaheen newspaper revealed DP World signed an initial agreement with both leaders valued $25 million. It claimed the Dubai-based company plans to bring Berbera facilities under its Jebel Ali assets, the company’s flagship port. It said the deal, which the company kept high in its shelves for several years due to Mogadishu and Hargeisa’s relations, will expand the port and airports.
Dr. Omar did acknowledge that they were in negotiations with DP as a potential partner in “developmental for various ports” but called the report sheer lies.
The minister said development was priority for the country but it will not engage in secret deals.
Drought, famine or both?
President Ahmed M. Silanyo this week issued a call for an emergency aid after learning that more than 20,000 people are in critical situation of starvation.
He said many communities along Somaliland’s long coastline were experiencing the worst drought in decades. Parts of the regions of Salal, Awdal, Sahil and Sanaag have not had a single drop of rain for more than three years.
The drought has displaced hundreds of thousands and people are said to be struggling with the worst food and water shortages since 2009.
Local media reported at least two people have died of starvation so far and there is a serious crisis in those affected areas.
The president has urged the international community to come to their rescue before it spreads.
July 2, 2012Follow @somalilandpress