The Horn(horn)- in an exclusive interview with Geeska Afrika , the Somaliland foreign minister discusses DP World contract for Berbera port management, incoming UAE military base, Airspace control dispute with Somalia, among their issues
Below verbatim excerpts
GEESKA AFRIKA- Information is rife that the Ethiopian government which formerly utilized Djibouti for its imports and exports intents to strengthen activities in Berbera while pursuing Port Sudan too, are you aware of this?
FOREIGN MINISTER- Ethiopia is a landlocked country, that solely depended on Djibouti for it is international sea based Trade.
Being one of the fastest growing economies in the world Ethiopia also requires more ports to service its large population, therefore the said strengthening of Berbera port use as well as scouring others like port Sudan and Lamu in Kenya is understandable and justifiable too.
With its big economy and large population Ethiopias use of Berbera port is assured thence pursuit of others avenues shall not in anyway affect both our relations and revenue from port use.
In a nutshell the Somaliland authorities are not only aware of this Ethiopian quest but actually support and wish it success.
Q- since DP World assumed its contractual obligations at the main Somaliland port of Berbera, never ending complaints from port users and employees are a daily occurrence.
Since you have been personally been involved with this 30 year contract worth $422m awarded the Emirati firm, what is wrong or not working properly?
FM- While acknowledging the said difficulties encountered, let me stress on the fact that port operations are ongoing properly.
Yes, difficulties have been there since DP World assumed portfolio occasioned by introduction of new concepts of management.
Fortunately most have been streamlined and the few remaining are in the process of culmination as both sides come to grips with the new concepts of modern and local port administration
Q- what of the UAE military base in Berbera?
FM- Though Somaliland awarded the UAE rights to establish the facility at Berbera, Negotiations are ongoing and hopefully in the last phases of completion.
In the meantime it is worthy mentioning that contrary to some, that the award of this military base to the Emiratis does not bear intent on the side of the two governments towards impinging on any one countries security but rather it actually strengthens stability in the entire horn region.
Q- A recent meeting between Somaliland and Somalia Intellectuals in Turkey ended disastrously
This disasters was occasioned by Prof Bulhan being sole Somaliland representative since two colleagues failed to show up, allegedly due to finances that were not forthcoming from your ministry.
Is this a fact or just malicious rumour?
We are a country of laws and rules not to mention various protocols, that must be observed at all times.
While even a government might at times lack funds to fulfill this or that commitment either locally or internationally, to my understanding the sole presence of Prof Bulhan at the Somaliland and Somalia intellectuals meet in Turkey had nothing to do with lack of funds.
Q- The Somalia federal authorities have claimed that ICAO is transferring it full control and management of Somaliland airspace, what is your take?
As far as I aware the entire airspace of the former republic of Somalia that dissolved in 1991 is still under the management of ICAO as per an over two decades arrangement with the United Nations.
Though several meetings have been held in relation to subsequent withdrawal of ICAO from this managerial position, officially no decision has been reached.
To this effect it is suspect where Somalia gets the audacity of alleging imminent assumption of current ICAO responsibilities.
Finally let it be known that no country can ever assume control and management of not only the Somaliland airspace but any other aspect of its jurisdictional authority.
Q- As we near November slated presidential elections what is your message to political parties and members of the public?
First let me stress on the fact that this elections shall be conducted as slated and in a transparent manner.
To citizens of Somaliland I urge them to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner during the campaign period thence reflect their nationalism.
To the three political parties I call upon them to strictly adhere and observe not only the Somaliland election laws but portray our democratic and political maturity as well
Finally I am optimistic that this will be the last elections we held with international recognition as a sovereign nation
Q- The international community has on several occasions indicated displeasure with numerous election postponements.
Now that all systems are go what should be expectations from the IC?
First let me express gratitude to members of the IC that have been involved in the Somaliland democratization process, a large measure of success being owed them.
As for the November presidential elections I urge full support be it financial , material or technical thence anticipated transparent exercise.
At the same time, it is imperative that a large number of international election observer mission be put in place in order to ascertain that whoever is elected president of Somaliland came via a Free and fair ballot.
Q- What of funds, has the IC partners chipped in as in the past or is NEC operating with only funds availed by the government of Somaliland?
Due that the numerous postponements effected the elections for one reason or another , budgetary needs have also increased.
To this effect and despite IC support the government is footing all the extra expenditure incurred by NEC.
Q- An enhancement of relations with Gulf countries is discernible. Why the change and what of past good relations with western nations?
It is true that we have enhanced realtime with gulf countries that has seen diplomatic missions established in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE among others.
You are also aware that we recently appointed a Somaliland representative to Kuwait and Oman it to mention lengthily relations with Egypt.
Despite all this it is not true that we have diverted attention from the west to the Arab world, this is entirely implementation of the foreign policies put in place by the administration of president Silanyo
Finally it is worth mentioning that my ministry is pursuing relations with any country we deem important in promoting our international recognition and national development, while not only sustaining but strengthening existing relations
Q- Recently a number of Somaliland citizens were killed in Hawadey town, are you in contact with Ethiopian government authorities on the issue?
Ethiopia is one of Somaliland’s biggest friends and despite the Said deaths of our citizens discussions between our two governments are ongoing while relations remain strong as never before
Geeska Afrika , thank you foreign minister for talking to us
Dr Saad Ali Shire – It is always a pleasure