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Somaliland asserts control over airspace, proposes ICAO management

Monday March 4, 2024


Hargeisa (HOL) - Somaliland announced the appointment of officials to its Air and Airport Authority on Monday, asserting control over its airspace amid a prolonged dispute with Somalia.

"The people of Somaliland will not rest. Some young men and women were even more active than the agency itself during the process. They sent 100 letters to the ICAO," stated Omar Sayed Abdillahi, the Somaliland Air and Airport Authority manager, during a ceremony in Hargeisa to honour young men and women from the Air Force.

Abdillahi said that Somaliland has outperformed Somalia in aerial control and now "dominates its own airspace." He proposed two resolutions: returning airspace management to the ICAO or implementing the pre-agreed division of air management between the parties.

The contention between Somaliland and Somalia over airspace control has intensified following incidents such as Somalia's denial of airspace to an Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying a high-level delegation to Somaliland and allegations of frequency jamming. The escalation is part of a broader discord, accentuated by Somalia's rejection of a Memorandum of Understanding between Somaliland and Ethiopia regarding the Red Sea port of Berbera and disputes over the management and revenue sharing of air traffic control.

Somaliland alleges that more than $60 million in air traffic management funds has been misappropriated by the Somali government.

This airspace controversy has led to real-world consequences, including a near-collision by major airlines such as Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airways. The dispute has also had humanitarian implications, as highlighted by the claims of denial of an air ambulance destined for Hargeisa, exacerbating tensions between the two regions.

The Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) has refuted claims from Somaliland regarding airspace disruptions and mismanagement, emphasizing that Somalia's airspace remains under the control of the federal government in Mogadishu and is classified as "Class-A Airspace." The SCAA has been confirmed denying access to "unauthorized" flights bound for Hargeisa, further straining relations.

The ongoing dispute has resulted in operational changes, such as implementing a new communication device for aircraft flying over Somaliland by Somalia to enhance air safety amid the escalating tensions. Somalia said it is also considering redirecting international flights arriving in Hargeisa through Mogadishu. However, incidents of conflicting air traffic control instructions and frequency jamming continue to threaten airline safety, leading to airlines rerouting flights away from Somali airspace as a precaution.


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