(Ahmed Deeq Hussein)
Kebri Dahar is one of the oldest towns in the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia. For many years, it served as a key military garrison—since 1931, when the first military camp was established to serve fascist Italy that invaded Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
Kebri Dahar was first designated a full blown district in 1934. However, both under the Haile Selassie and the Dergi regimes, it remained a mere military garrison with no developmental projects initiated. In view of its military strategic and geographical location, Kebri Dahar was left to remain a center of military operation both for internal control of Somali—Ethiopians and for monitoring the long border between Ethiopia and its neighbor to the east.
It is only the current Ethiopian government that seems to be giving more attention to other socio-political aspects of the area by building more infrastructures such as asphalt roads, telecommunication facilities, and higher education learning centers such as colleges and university institutions. Focusing on development as opposed only to military infrastructure is in line with the country’s developmental policies, goals and strategies.
Kebri Dahar is among four city administrations of the Somali regional state of Ethiopia, and it is about 990 km to the east of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. In the last few years, the city has become home for asphalt as well as all-weather roads, telecommunication projects, a new commercial bank, three hospitals including a military hospital and one that is currently under construction and in the final stages of completion. Besides, there is a huge drug distribution hub that should keep, store, distribute and supply sensitive drugs to health facilities of 4 zones.
In addition, the city has five elementary schools, two high schools, three college campuses including a Teacher Training College, a Polytechnic College and a Health Science College. Also, a detailed project proposal for the completion of Kebri Dahar University is shovel-ready and construction is expected to start soon. Then various construction companies have secured the final bid and already started construction of University.
The new and improved, renovated and upgraded Kebri Dahar Airport is aiming to attain “international status”. Upon meeting the international standards airport designation, the airport, with its technical experts and resources will alleviate the air travel needs that have been missing in the Somali region for many years. The Kebri Dahar project has been successfully accomplished and was inaugurated as of June 4, 2016. Although the Federal government’s assistance in this project has been beneficial in many ways, all the capital budgeted for this project comes from the Somali Regional government (DDSI). The bulk of the source of the budget is solely from the region’s revenue; specifically collected surplus tax income. This makes the Somali region a unique model region. The Kebri Dahar Airport officially began flights as of October 14, 2016.
Therefore, the Ethiopian-Somali region has successfully realized that the international standard airport at Kebri Dahar is by far one of the most substantial development projects for the region to date. This indicates a gargantuan leap and an increase in the carrying capacity of the Ethiopian-Somali region to implement mega projects on its own in terms of logistics, resources, and materials like heavy machineries and professional expertise (man power). Ironically, the engineers were young people from the region who graduated from the universities in the country.
A total of 560 million Birr budget is being spent on the construction of airport – that was from domestic resources i.e. a surplus revenue income of the Somali-inhabited region. The facility has 2.6 KM runway concrete asphalt, 60 meter width and modern standard terminal ground plus two others. The airport has the capacity to accommodate Boeing 737 airplanes according EBC (Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation).
Kebri Dahar Airport is the 3rd standard airport for the Somali region and 23rd in Ethiopia. The country has a plan to increase standard airports up to 30, according to the Growth and Transportation Plan II (GTP II), said Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu Transportation Minister.
Potential Transportation Hub
As we know, transportation is one of the key factors that drive a region’s economic growth especially when there is a reliable and efficient transportation system. This is mainly due to the fact that a well-developed transportation system provides adequate access to the region which in turn is a necessary condition for the efficient operation of manufacturing, retail, labor and housing markets, as stated in Dr. Mustapha Muktar’s, article: Impacts of Transportation on Economic Growth.
Transportation is a critical factor in the economic growth and development. It is a wealth creating industry on its own. Inadequate transportation limits a nation’s ability to utilize its natural resources, distribute foods and other finished goods, and integrate the manufacturing and agricultural sectors and supply education, medical and other infrastructural facilities. There is the need therefore, to maintain and improve the existing transportation system and build new infrastructures for increased national wealth. The national wealth is the Growth Domestic Product (GDP) which is an indicator for measuring the rate of economic growth.
Inauguration proceedings event
Kebri Dahar Airport was officially inaugurated on June 4, 2016, by a retinue of leaders including HE Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael, the Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinator of the Finance and Economic cluster and the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, H.E Abdi Mohamoud Omer, Ethiopian Somali Regional State President and H.E Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, the Transportation Minister.
At the inauguration ceremony, President Abdi briefed the participants how the region remained challenged in terms of peace and security in the past for many years. He noted that there were no good transportation facilities both on the ground and in the air; basic services including health care, education and water were ineffective and insufficient due to the overwhelming insecurity threats. He addressed—the region faced critical shortage of water in most of the region. Thus, when peace and security stabilized, the regional state made provision of water its 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th priority agenda so as to improve water access for the people of the region. The president mentioned that the region ensured reliable peace and security through region’s special force (Liyu Police) together with the national defense force.
HE Dr. Debretsion expressed his grateful thanks to the Ethiopian Somali Regional State and the people of the region. He acknowledged that the region has realized significant progress during recent years in road constructions, telecommunication, water and other basic services. He added the region has stabilized its security on its own through the creation of the special security force which in turn started to accelerate developmental projects that would ultimately contribute to the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan II.
Dr. Debretsion maintained that the people of Somali region will keep their airports secure and that the Ethiopian Airport Enterprise will also play its vital role in functionalizing and maintaining air transportation services. He also noted that the National Government will remain committed to providing any possible support.
On his part Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, the Transportation Minister mentioned how transportation infrastructure is critical to the sustainment of economic growth, and how it is a pathway to improving the living standards of the regions’ residents. Therefore, he concluded by saying that the Somali Regional Government (DDSI) has become a poster child for improving its communication and transportation infrastructure by building or modernizing new and existing facilities. The region has become an exemplary model and a leading beacon for the rest of regions to copy. What the Somali region has been doing is in line with the country’s developmental policy, strategies and plans like (GTP II).
During the ceremony, Somali region’s president handed over airport certificate of ownership to the Ethiopian Airport Enterprise, likewise; Ethiopian Airport Enterprise awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to the President of the Ethiopian Somali region. Realizing the completion of Qabri Dahar Airport has been the result of the dedicated leader, HE Mr. President Abdi Omar and his administration, whose commitments, efforts, creativities, innovations and positive thinking consequently created an impressive development that will benefit millions for the foreseeable future.
Kebri Dahar Airport is a major legacy project for President Abdi Omar.
* Ahmed Deeq Hussein is an independent writer, based Jigjiga, the Somali Regional State (DDSI) can be reached via this email [email protected]