By Kaleyesus Bekele
Berbera, Somaliland, October 10, 2009 – In the west cost of the Gulf of
Eden five ships have docked at the port of Berbera, one of the nine tiny
ports in the Republic of Somaliland. The ships are unloading cooking
oil, wheat flour and other edible items in the boiling weather, which
reaches up to 47 degree celsius. There is also one vessel waiting for
goats and cattle to be transported to the Middle East.
Native people say Berbera is the name of a tree that used to grow near
the coast. When the camels eat this tree they get fat.
According to the port authorities, Berbera is a natural port. It has not
been developed so as to accommodate several ships and cargo at a time.
But if is developed Berbera could serve as an alternative outlet for the
landlocked Ethiopia. The depth of the water is 30 meters and the port
can accommodate up to six ships at a time depending on their size.
The Republic of Somaliland, is closely working with the Ethiopian
government on areas that could strengthen its business tie with the
Senior officials of the Ethiopian and Somaliland governments are holding
talks on possibilities that would enable Ethiopia to maximize its
utilization of the Berbera port. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdillahi
Mohamed Duale, last week told a group of Ethiopian journalists who were
visiting Somaliland that Ethiopia had signed an agreement with his
government which enables Ethiopia to use the port. He, however, noted
that due to the poor road infrastructure that connects the two countries
Ethiopia was unable to properly use the port.
“Ethiopia is our number one ally. The people of the two countries have
historical ties. We are more than happy to serve Ethiopians at the port
of Berbera,” Duale said. “We have an extradition agreement and a
full-fledged trade agreement with Ethiopia. The relationship of the two
countries is strategic. Berbera port is near and suitable for Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is not a landlocked country because there is Berbera.”
The ministries of Transport and Communications, Trade and Industry, and
Foreign Affairs as well as the Ethiopian Roads Authority have conducted
three rounds of meetings with Somaliland officials in Addis Ababa and
Hargeysa. The third round meeting was held in July in Addis Ababa Hilton
Hotel. The officials said they held a constructive meeting on port
utilization. The officials deliberated on port utilization and the
construction and rehabilitation of the Berbera corridor.
Head of the Ethiopian trade office in Hargeysa, Wubeshet Demissie, said
that Ethiopia has been importing some of its import cargo via Berbera.
However, he conceded that due to the poor road network and the limited
capacity of the Berbera port Ethiopia was not using the port at a large
scale. In the words of Wubeshet, the international community's refusal
to recognize Somaliland has made it impossible for it to obtain loans
which could be used to construct the roads and develop the Berbera port.
Nonetheless, Ethiopia is using the port to import some shipments through
this port. He also said that the trade relation between the two
countries was growing. According to Wubshet, the port tariff is minimal
while customs duty is almost zero.
“There is nothing that Somaliland produces. Everything you see in the
market is imported. One of the major source of foreign currency for
Somaliland is remittance and the people have the capacity to buy
consumable items. There is a substantial market for Ethiopia’s
agricultural products,” Wubshet said.
Ethiopia exports cereals, vegetables, fruits and khat. Khat is the major
In an effort to improve the road that connects the two countries the
government of Ethiopia is expediting the construction of the
Harrar-Jijiga-Togochale road. Togochale is a town that lies on the
Ethiopian side of the border between the two countries. The Ethiopian
government is also under preparation to construct the 20-km
Togochale-Calabed road inside the territory of Somaliland. The road
would be a concrete asphalt.
The Ethiopian government is further contemplating to upgrade the 290-km
Calabed-Hargeysa-Berbera road with its own financing which the
Somaliland government will repay within a few years. The Ethiopian
government hopes to solicit the fund from international lending
A technical committee drawn from the Berbera Port Authority, Roads
Authority and Ministry of Finance will soon come to Addis Ababa to
further discuss the matter.
Director General of the port of Berbera, Ali Umer Mohammed, told
Ethiopian reporters that the port can handle up to 1.5 million tons of
cargo per annum. However, currently the port is handling 750,000 tons
per year. In the current fiscal year, the port handled 50,000 tons of
Ethiopian food aid.
“We have good relations with Ethiopia. We call up on the Ethiopian
business community to use the Berbera port," Mohammed said.
Mohammed claims that the Berbera port tariff is lower than that of the
port of Djibouti by as much as 40 percent. He said his authority plans
to handle 40 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo shipment.
Somaliland declared its independence in 1991 after a protracted civil
war with the Siyad Bare dictatorial rule. The people of Somaliland
affirmed that they did not want to live with the rest of Somalia in a
referendum held in 2003. In the same year they endorsed a constitution.
Somaliland has a proper government structure. It has its own currency,
army and police force. It holds a presidential election every five year.
It is peaceful and stable. In fact, it is more stable than many African
Source: The Ethiopian Reporter, Saturday, October 03, 2009