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Somaliland’s Neglected Infrastructure
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- Somaliland’s Neglected Infrastructure

- May 1988

Eng: Abdirizak M. Farah (wiiwaa), Oakland, CA, USA

As one of the regions of the envisioned greater Somalia, Somaliland was neglected by both the civilian governments in the early 1960s and later the dictatorship regime of Said Barre. The only exception occurred when Bile Rafle was the Governor of Togdheer and later the Northwest region of ex-Somalia. Since the days of the British rule only the late Bile Rafle had the vision to improve the infrastructure and I have great respect for that, Pay credit where its due (in Somali Gaal dil gartiisana sii). Although Bile Rafle is not Somalilander by birth and his administration in Somaliland was short time, his legacy includes many tangible improvements in both Buroa and Hargeisa. 

As an example, I can remember how crowded and difficult it was to walk through the old huts "Aqal Somalis" in Dumbuluq. As a child growing up in that vicinity, I frequently ran to the Hargeisa football stadium when there were games or other activities to watch. It was a nightmare to go from one side to the other, even though the area was less than two square kilometers. The same location today houses the Edna Maternity Hospital, the National Teachers Training Center, a police station, ex enji warehouses, and other important buildings. Although the streets created by Bile Rafle in Hargeisa are still usable, some of them are now blocked or narrowed by houses recently erected by our own people with no regard for the city’s plans and esthetics. 

Since the liberation of Somaliland, our cities and territories have deteriorated and there is no evidence of a plan or vision to improve the infrastructure, which has been neglected for so long. It’s true the country was destroyed by the old regime and the Somaliland government has done lot of work in other areas, but it could have done more if it had implemented a reasonable plan to improve the infrastructure of the whole nation.

All thought Berbera to Hargeisa, Kalabaydh corridor is a major route but we shouldn’t have put more emphasis and neglect rest of the country’s roads. 

In this article I’ll just touch on some of the infrastructure of our country and what solutions could be found within our own people.

Deteriorating transportation is the most visible problem, one that is noticed by both residents and visitors. The roads and the streets of our country don’t need a huge investment but rather smart investment that can be home grown. For example, each city that has enough revenue can contract out the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their roads, streets and drainage system.

The contractor who wins the bid for that task would be paid from the city’s general fund with a preset amount of contract value. If the contractor can’t meet the requirement of the contract, then he/she wouldn’t get paid for that month until the contractor meets the requirement of the specific task.

The contractor or contractors would have to invest the first month’s material and labor, and each city must have a fund that is payable to any contractor who invested in the city’s infrastructure. A preset amount should be placed in an escrow account that will not require endless approvals or the nightmarish bureaucracy that currently exists today. It is my hope that the private sector will be eager to invest when they see the benefit to them and to their cities.

On all the major roads in Somaliland you will find more potholes than pavement. As I drove around the country recently and had discussions with the authorities I became aware of the extent of the problems facing the Somaliland Road Authority and the Ministry of Transport and Public Housing. Somaliland’s government cannot improve or rehabilitate these conditions unless the private sector is willing to assist in developing and improving the country’s infrastructure, something they would benefit from on a daily basis. The private sector can assist in the development of the country by either funding or opening their own construction companies, manufacturing plants, and industries to produce or provide the materials needed in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. For example, bringing heavy equipment into the country would greatly facilitate the rehabilitation of bridges or construction of new structures that is so badly needed from one region to another. The government could utilize the equipment and construct infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, drainage systems, ports, airport tarmacs, etc.

As of today the main route between Berbera, Hargeisa, and Togwajaleh has been completed, yet is plagued with thousands of potholes and bumps that are constant nightmares for drivers who travel daily on that route. The rest of the country needs continued effort to rehabilitate and maintain roads from Berbera, Buroa to Las Anood, from Hargeisa to Buroa and from Buroa to Ergavo. I am very excited about the EC’s assistance to the Somaliland Road Authority but we need to put lot of effort in planning to implement all the projects that can be included with the limited funds donated for Somaliland roads. 

Water resources and supply system of the country have been ignored by everyone in power including the old regime, the present administration, the UNDP, and even the NGOs who are supposed to provide assistance. According to the yearly budget of the SACB, Somaliland’s share of funds for 2002 was twenty five million dollars ($25 Million out of $110 million dollars for all Somalia that was collected from donors); however, there is little to show for that money. To this day, the nightmare shortage of water in Hargeisa continues as was reported by the BBC reporter in Hargeisa on May 22, 2003.

I was very happy to hear the director of the Hargeisa water agency Mr. Boobe announce the centralization of the power system for the wells in Geedeble and the addition of one more supply pipe to the two existing twelve-inch pipes that currently must supply the city of six hundred fifty thousand residents. The most important thing is not the additional pipe and the storage tanks but how it’s managed once the supply system is in place. Only time will tell that.

As one of the Diaspora visitors to Somaliland I was very disappointed to learn that planes cannot land at night on the runway of Hargeisa International airport due to the lack of runway lighting. In talking to a pilot who frequently flies to Hargeisa I was also surprised to learn how much was paid for landing rights. A runway lighting system could be installed within a week and would cost the airport administration less than a couple of weeks’ worth of the fees collected from those who utilize the airport facilities.

There is also a simple way to provide a lighting system without the need for a generator to supply energy. Solar-powered runway lights can be purchased by anybody for little more than conventional runway lights, and eventually the system would pay itself. In contrast, a generator would burn fifty gallons of diesel each night. These will also help the passengers who fly from Dubia/Sharijah to Hargeisa who needlessly spent four hours in those terminals instead of starting their journey early and arriving Hargeisa before dawn.

The new terminal for Hargeisa international airport is great addition to the airport facilities but what is frustrating about this project is how long it took to be completed, if ever (started date 1999 still waiting interior work). A project this size shouldn’t have taking three years to be completed, rather six to nine months. Its part of the construction management to contract out portion of project that are different from the usual construction items but each portion of contract should had a time limit and liquidation damage, if the contract is not complete on time. As I understood or was told, its open contract and each item is contracted out and starts after completing the proceeding. The inefficiency the whole country is facing when it comes a project that been managed either government or NGOs.

As a concern Somaliland citizen and an engineer who had an enough experience in the design, construction and management of infrastructure, I feel obligated to point out the needs of our people and suggest any reasonable solution or suggestions that I can honestly share without pointing fingers to individuals.

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