STORY: KISMAYO AIRPORT REFURBISHED
SOURCE: AU/UN IST
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DATELINE: (File) 02 OCTOBER 2012/19th AUGUST 2013/ 02nd MARCH 2014 KISMAYO, SOMALIA
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Kismayo International Airport, previously in shambles and run down by the al Shabaab terrorists has now been refurbished and is fully functional. The Airport was a major stronghold and headquarters for the insurgents until its liberation by Somali Forces and AMISOM troops, under the command of the Kenyan Defense Forces in September 2012. The liberation of Kismayo allowed for normal operations to resume at the airport but without basic structures.
Decades of civil war, coupled by the al Shabaab insurgents had destroyed the facilities that were in place at the airport, leaving the building in terrible condition.
Today, the Kismayo International Airport is shining bright, having undergone a face-lift. The new look has been championed by the Jubba Interim Administration with the support of the Federal Government of Somalia and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) ensuring that security is not compromised.
Major Emmanuel Aptiony, in-charge of security at the Airport says AMISOM will work continuously to ensure that the airport is secure for its travellers.
“We ensure that we secure the outer perimeter and make it safe for all users, all aircrafts coming in to fly and make it safe for commerce to take off. That way even AMISOM and other agencies like the United Nations are able to use it. We sieve civilians at the main gate to ensure that hostile elements or wrong elements in that regard are not getting into the airport,” he says.
For the people in the airline industry and other frequent traders operating in Kismayo, this comes as a major relief, especially for those that have had to endure years of a dysfunctional airport.
Captain Ibrahim Mahad, a pilot of with Freedom Airlines says the revamping of the airport is a hugely welcome development.
“We have been coming to Kismayo over the years, personally I have been operating from 1991 from Kismayo and Somalia generally. Security in Kismayo seems to be much better compared to the previous years, the Jubba Administration and the KDF are doing a great job and I would encourage them to keep it up and hope it continues but for now, everything seems to be very good,” he notes.
The Management of Kismayo Airport asserts that this is only the beginning if major works that are to be undertaken. Arab Ahmed Ali, the Manager Kismayo Airport says they will work uplift the standards of the Airport to international standards.
“Another thing we are planning to do in the future if Allah wills, is to expand the airport runway and build terminals. Our Airport is at international standards; when it comes to the parking area it’s considered one of the largest in Africa or Somalia. We therefore intend to finish what we have started and also start on what we haven’t worked on and build on it, this includes anything that needs to be repaired on the runway and airplane parking that has been destroyed or damaged by mortars.”
For the travelers through Kismayo Airport, simple comforts such as a clean room and a place to rest is not taken for granted as Abdulaahi Xasshi shares:
“Honestly, if you compare the airport to earlier years, there has been a lot of changes, if you look at a couple of years ago, we didn’t have this waiting area, we use to wait for the airplane outside but now we have an indoor waiting area, we feel welcomed, so the change to me is evident,” he says.
Kismayo was the al Shabaab bastion with the airport used as their headquarters, while the seaport provided financing for their operations.
With its recovery from the al Shabaab, AMISOM troops embarked on pacifying the area and this has since allowed for administrative structures to be set up including the Jubba Interim Administration.
The administration was recognized by the Somali Federal Government in August 2013 and its Executive Council inaugurated early this year. Its set up followed months of IGAD brokered talks that saw an agreement eventually signed by both Jubba Interim Administration and Federal Government of Somalia. According to the agreement, the management of both the Airport and Seaport in Kismayo are to be handed over to the government and revenues generated to be utilized and invested in priorities identified in the Jubba areas. For the people of Kismayo and travelers, the operational Airport now creates the much-needed link to the rest of the world and is undoubtedly a symbol of the rebirth of Somalia.