Somaliland has announced plans to turn the UAE military base into a civilian airport. President Muse Bihi Abdi revealed the plans and said that the partly built project will be handed over to a new company for construction “The Berbera airport which was being built by the and designed to be an air and naval military base will become a public airport for civilians,” said President Bihi.
The UAE began construction of the base in 2017 in the port city. It was intended to patrol the Bab el-Mandeb strait covering the mouth of the Red Sea, between Yemen and Eritrea. Under the terms of the deal, the UAE was to stay for 30 years and in return train Somaliland’s armed forces.
Berbera is less than 300km south of war-torn Yemen, where UAE troops have been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group since 2015 as part of a Saudi-backed coalition. The UAE, concerned about rising tensions with Iran and Western criticism of the Yemen war, it scaled down its military presence there in June.
Upon completion, the development will give Berbera, a city of around 61,000, two airports and a state-of-the-art seaport. Berbera’s existing airport was built by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, with a 4km runway. The runway is one of the longest in Africa.
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The runway was rented by NASA at a cost of US $40m per year, and used as an emergency landing site for Space Shuttles from 1980 until 1991, when the government of former President of Somalia Siad Barre collapsed.
In 2012, Somaliland’s Ministry of Civil Aviation contracted the Tekleberhan Ambaye Construction Plc (TACON) to build a new terminal and perimeter fence at the Berbera airport.
The project’s design was conceived by the International Consultants Technocrats and Marco Construction firms and was constructed on a 3,200 square metre plot and has various facilities, including public address and communication equipment, laggage transfer and checkpoints, security checks, a water tanker, 200kg capacity scales, and an asphalt road leading towards the runway.