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Somali Civil Aviation Authority confirms denial of Ethiopian Airlines flight into Hargeisa

Wednesday January 17, 2024

Flightradar24's tracking of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET8372 shows it departing Addis Ababa at 8:32 AM, diverting near Jigjiga, and returning to Addis Ababa by 10:20 AM amid tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia. Credit: Flightradar24.

Mogadishu (HOL) - The Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA)confirmed on Wednesday that it denied access to an unscheduled Ethiopian Airlines flight, citing a lack of "authorization to utilize Somali airspace." The flight, Dash 8-Q400, flight number ET8372, en route to Egal International Airport in Hargeisa, was compelled to turn back. This latest incident reflects the escalating diplomatic tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia caused by the contentious Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Ethiopia and the self-declared independent region of Somaliland.

Flight tracking service Flightradar24 observed that the flight left Addis Ababa at 8:32 AM. It appears the aircraft was redirected near Jigjiga in Ethiopia's Somali region before making its way back to Addis Ababa by 10:20 AM.

Flight ET8372 appears to have no prior recorded flight history.

The SCAA, in their statement, affirmed, "In compliance with the International Rules of the Air and Somalia's own SOMCARS regulations, it is mandatory for flights to secure permission from both the countries they traverse and those at their intended destinations before their departure."

The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Mesbi Tse, conceded to the BBC Amharic Service that an Ethiopian Airlines flight bound for Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, faced an abrupt turnaround before entering Somalia's airspace.

Tse clarified, "The aircraft bound for Hargeisa had to return because there were doubts regarding the required permissions from Somalia, even after it had already commenced its journey." The CEO declined to provide further information regarding the aircraft that experienced a turnaround and the passengers on board.

The MoU, signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi on January 1, 2024, includes a 50-year lease of a 20-kilometer stretch along the Gulf of Aden coast, likely in the Awdal region, for military and commercial purposes. This agreement also grants Somaliland an undisclosed stake in Ethiopia's state-owned flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, a significant move given Somaliland's lack of its own airline.

Redwan Hussein, national security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said that despite international pressure, negotiations detailing the stake in Ethiopian Airlines are expected to conclude by the end of the month.

Wednesday's incident with the Ethiopian Airlines flight comes amid reports from BBC Somali that Ethiopian presidential guards arrived in Hargeisa on Tuesday, ahead of a high-level Ethiopian delegation, which includes the nation's deputy prime minister and key government ministers.

In response to the unscheduled flight, the Somali government temporarily suspended all inbound flights from Ethiopian Airlines, a move lifted after the flight's departure. A scheduled Ethiopian Airlines flight landed in Hargeisa.

The Somali Civil Aviation Authority reassured travellers that regular flight operations continue as usual, maintaining a strict policy against unauthorized aircraft in Somali airspace.

Hargeisa's Egal International Airport is predominantly served by Ethiopian Airlines, which holds a 45.9% weekly market share by scheduled capacity. The airport sees traffic from various international destinations, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, despite its contested status.


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