Somalia: Barawe's $4.3 million airport runway washed by mild rains
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Mild rains swept away newly renovated Barawe airports' runway in Southwest state, reports indicate, an incident which has reignited corruption claims on the facility which cost $4.3 million, majorly funded by the European Union.
On Mar. 10, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, who commissioned the facility, said the renovation was part of the FGS' "responsive initiatives to rebuild infrastructure and enhance productivity, security and public mobility" as Somalia struggles to fasten its economic growth.
Federal government ministers joined Mr. Khaire and Southwest leader Abdiaziz Lafta-Gareen during the function, with most lauding the European Union's choice to open the town, which his located around 200 kilometers South of Baidoa, the region's administrative capital.
The European Union has been a major financial partner of war-torn Somalia, funding several development projects since the inception of the federal government, which took over from the transitional authority in 2012.
But even after the multi-million renovation which was first launched in 2017, the mild rains dismembered most sections of their airport, triggering social media onslaught against both the FGS and the federal government of Somalia.
"The $4.3 million Barawe airport with the sand-colored tarmac runway after a light rainfall. Where are the guys who were defending this corruption?" asked Sharmarke Ashraf, who accused the government of abetting corruption.
"This is the Barawe 'airport' the EU ambassador to Somalia insisted had a "sand-colored tarmac". A reminder that it cost a whopping 4.3 million dollars. Not Somali Shillings. This same ambassador is one of the major forces behind 'debt-relief'. A lie so fluffy it took 1 rain," added Fatuma Abdullahi.
Another social media user, Ibrahim Abdi, added, "I hope the thieves are in self-quarantine with their loved ones. I hope this and any pictures will haunt them. Debt relief is another devil in town."
Throughout its stay in Somalia, the European Union has often initiated a number of mega infrastructural projects, with the hope of opening interior parts for quick service delivery, officials said.
For instance, the Barawe airport projects were supervised by Nicolas Berlanga, the European Union ambassador to Somalia. During the Mar. 10 commissioning, he was among dozens of envoys who attended the functions.
"The airport is already fully functional. During the opening, an aircraft landed from Baidoa. The figure of the cost is correct," Berlanga said while defending Brussels-based body from corruption accusations.
"New Barawe airport. An effort of determination: the work together will win the future," he added, dispelling claims that finances had been embezzled from the project.
Mayor Aden Madobe was some of the regional leaders who backed the project, arguing that it presented an "equal" development opportunity with interior parts of Somalia in his interview with VOA after the commissioning of the project.
The office of Somali PM denied the FGS role in the project, despite the fact that it was launched and commissioned by Mr. Kheire, arguing that the agreement for construction was reached between the donor and implementing agency.
"The construction contract was not signed by FGS, FGS had no role in terms of the project’s financial management, details were agreed between donor and implementing agency," Abdurahman Sharif, an advisor to Khaire said.
Until now, Mr. Berlanga is yet to issue a statement following the erosion at the airport, despite millions paid to the contractor. Instructively, he's one of the major campaigners for Somalia's debt relief program.
Last week, the EU pledged €43 million towards the debt relief program after Somalia became eligible for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries [HIPC] initiative. The country has close to $5.2 billion in debt.
EU is one of Somalia's key development partners, has provided the country €286 million for the period 2014-2020 to support different areas such as stabilization, state-building, security, basic services, and job creation.
The debt relief, Berlanga said, would help facilitate "dialogue between FGS/FMS and good preparations of elections to give voice to citizens" in a tweet after last week's financial security progress.