Opening a superbly upgraded and renovated Berbera International Airport, today, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Somaliland, Musa Bihi Abdi, prophesied that BIA will become a passenger and cargo hub in league with older and long-established African air gateways.
“BIA now boasts of having – perhaps – the longest runway in Africa. Along with the burgeoning, greatly developed port, I envisage a great future for Berbera Airport as one of the busiest, most used airports in Africa given its strategic location in the region,” president Bihi said.
The president recalled a time when a great many of the country’s leading politicians opposed the development programs the then government of Somaliland signed with the United Arab Emirates only a few years back. The former Chairman of the Somaliland National Party -Waddani, and its current presidential candidate in the upcoming elections, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi, was among the most ferocious opponents of the Berbera-centred projects.
“Abdirahman, particularly, called for the an arraignment of the then President, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud ‘Siilaanyo’, in an international court and for me as the Chairman of the leading party – Kulmiye – to resign,” he reminisced.
The President, however, put his words in a matter of fact manner attributing the peaked opposition to a difference of an opinion and a vision that did not give justice to the true potential of the projects.
“Abdirahman,” he added “corrected his views and came to see the viability of the projects in time. He said as much in his address of the recent convention his party held. Indeed, it is a mature politician that recapitulates a wrong stand. That is a commendable attribute”.President Bihi, on a contrasting tangent, profusely thanked the United Arab Emirates for building the airport. On the same token he lavishly thanked the then Foreign Minister, Dr Saad Ali Shire, and the Somaliland Head of Mission in the UAE, Bashe Awil Haji Omer, for the key roles they have played in securing the agreement on which the Berbera sea and air ports were built.
“Both of these gentleman had bore the brunt of sustained insults and hurtful attacks on their persons. May Allah grant Dr Saad a healthy, long life. And, here, present today is Bashe Awil who had received the short end of vengeful and insidious backlash at the time. Without their insistence and determination the projects would not have come off the ground,” President Bihi said.
Berbera International Airport Commissioning Exercise. @flyethiopian became the first airline to land the newly renovated Berbera International Airport. #Somaliland pic.twitter.com/FbKUvVQyx1
— Abdirashid Ibrahim Abdirahman (@cabdirashed) November 20, 2021
FlyEthiopian became the first craft to touch down at the renovated runway starting a three-day weekly shuttle between the Red Sea port and the capital, Hargeisa.
Berbera International Airport was first built in the mid-70s by the then Soviet Union but was later, in 1980, rented by the Unites States’ NASA for an emergency landing facility for its space shuttles until the collapse of the military regime in 1991.
in 2016, the government of Somaliland started talks with the United Arab Emirates. The two sides eventually worked out a memorandum of understanding which gave the Dubai-owned ports manager, DP World a 30-year concession to develop Berbera sea port. The same agreement granted the UAE the right to construct a naval base in Berbera using the existing airport facilities as a launching point.
The development proposal met with stiff often rancorous and spiteful resistance form law makers, Berbera residents and a media hellbent on painting the project as an ominous, avaricious exercise on the part of President Siilaanyo’s government.
President Bihi, elected in 2017, signed the agreement in 2018 succeeding to later turn the airport back to civilian use. The UAE agreed and continued to upgrade the runway, the terminal and the airport grounds into a world class, state-of-art facility.
Berbera runway is currently the second longest in Africa at 4.8 kilometres which permits it to accommodate both narrow- and wide-body aircrafts and jets of any size and velocity. South Africa’s Upington airport is 4.9 km long. Harare International Airport trails third at 4.725 km.
The new built Berbera International Airport opening today. pic.twitter.com/uA4TsQkeXm
— Mohamed Ali Bile (@BilemohamedAli) November 20, 2021