The Somali government has retaken control of its air space after more than two decades. Air traffic over the Horn of Africa nation had been controlled by the United Nations from neighboring Kenya since 1992, a year after the Somali civil war broke out.
Inaugurating the aviation control center in the capital, Mogadishu, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo said this is a sign the country is moving forward.
“We are here today because we’ve worked together, stopped fighting among ourselves, we fought division,” said Farmajo. “As you know, nothing will work if there is division and people are fighting among themselves. Today we have continuity. We are building on other things and strengthening and making an effort achieving things for the country.”
The president and government officials toured the newly equipped center Thursday, the day Somalia formally retook control of its airspace from the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The U.N.’s aviation agency began controlling air traffic over Somalia after the county descended into civil war. Because of security concerns, the organization worked from Kenya.
Somalia’s aviation and air transport minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Salad, told reporters the entire process of controlling the country’s skies will be complete in early 2018. “From today, the airspace of Somalia will be controlled from here. In the next two months, we will be working with others in Nairobi,” said Omar. “This is not an easy process like moving from one house to another. It will require some time.”
Some critics say Somalia is still not safe, as al-Shabab militants continue to carry out attacks against the internationally recognized government and civilians.
Airplanes have been avoiding the southern part of the country, instead flying into the north and northeast, where there is relative peace and stability.
President Farmajo urged al-Shabab to let the whole country have peace.
“To those who are against peace, Somalia is moving forward, and it’s not going to stop for anyone,” said Farmajo. “We are building the army and day after day they are getting better. We are telling you to stop what you are doing, killing your people. Come back to your people so that you can take part in rebuilding the country.”
Government officials say they will provide training to air traffic controllers and improve security at the Mogadishu airport, where the African Union mission in Somalia, which is fighting al-Shabab, still has a heavy presence.