Somalia & Somaliland In Fresh Battle Over Control Of Airspace

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A new battlefront between Somalia and Somaliland is emerging over the control of the airspace.

This comes after Somalia signed agreements to transfer complete management of Somali airspace to Federal Somalia with International Civil Aviation Organisation and International Air Traffic Authority, the former having been responsible for its management and control for over 28 years.

The handover of the airspace includes the transfer of staff who were manning the operations under ICAO as well as all the revenue realized of airspace use and overflights which was previously managed by the international agencies.

While Somalia minister for Aviation, Mohamed Abdullahi Oomaar disclosed at the weekend that his ministry has signed agreements, the Somaliland government is crying foul and have lodged a complaint with the United Nations.

‘Alhamdulilah (Thanks to Allah),” minister Oomaar wrote on his Facebook page, “we have, today, successfully signed agreements with ICAO and IATA to transfer the airspace with the staff and all revenues to us. The agreement will be effective from 30th July.”

But Somaliland government said the signed agreements were against previous agreements and have already filed a complaint with the United Nations.

Somaliland ambassador in Kenya Bashe Omar confirmed the country had filed a complaint through the UN and other international partners and the matter was already being dealt with by the international community.

“The government of Somaliland have made an official complaint because Somalia has bypassed the agreements reached in Istanbul, Turkey when they {Somalia} and Somaliland agreed on joint airspace management. ICAO has not implemented the agreed set of protocol,” Bashe said in a statement in Nairobi.

Somaliland, a former British protectorate proclaimed independence from the rest of Somalia after the collapse of the central government of Somalia led by the late dictator General Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Somalia minister for Aviation, Mohamed Abdullahi Oomaar during the agreement signing.
Somalia minister for Aviation, Mohamed Abdullahi Oomaar during the agreement signing.

However, the international community is yet to recognize Somaliland’s sovereignty though the nation has diplomatic relations with several countries where it has liaison offices.

Somaliland is pushing for complete freedom from the rest of Somalia while the Federal Government of Somalia wants to retain the unity of Somalia.

The two countries have failed to agree on the control of airspace despite several meetings to resolve the issue.

Since 2012, there have been several meetings and talks between Somaliland and Somalia, including Istanbul II Communiqué, where the two parties agreed on establishing the Air Traffic Control Board (headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland) and four members of technical committee (two from Somaliland and two from Somalia).

This agreement was supported by the United Nations envoy in Somalia/Somaliland and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia at the time, Nicholas Kay, who described the agreement as a model for other areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.

The U.N.’s aviation agency began controlling air traffic over Somalia after the county descended into civil war. Due to security concerns, the organization worked from Kenya until 2017 when the government of Somalia took control of the airspace from ICAO.

In March last year, Somali government relocated 34 air control personnel who were working in Nairobi to operate in the Somali capital, Mogadishu before officially starting operations in August to the chagrin of Somaliland.

Because of tension between Somaliland and Somalia, Somaliland had banned all UN flights from landing at its airports and threatened to close its airspace to UN flights if the Istanbul II agreement was not implemented.

The ban was later lifted. The Istanbul agreement allowed for a strategy to manage the two countries airspaces through a joint body to be established in Hergeisa. The body was also to be responsible for equitable sharing of revenues.

BY ODINDO AYIEKO

Busiweek

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