HARGEISA – The international ports operator, DP World which signed a 30-year contract with the breakaway northern Somalia republic of Somaliland to manage its largest port had laid off 250 local port workers last week, in what officials said heralds the beginning of the port’s workflow streamline, officials said on Saturday.
The controversial UAE firm’s $442 million investment deal which would see the company owned 65% of Joint Venture with Somaliland Government had sparked a strong debate among local population, who largely expressed worries over the impact it could have relations with neighboring states who have opposed the deal along with another deal which allowed UAE to establish a military base in the region.
Berbera port has over 950 workers, according to officials. So the cuts, disclosed in letters, will affect about 25 percent of its workforce.
Delivering the layoff notice, the firm’s new managers told workers that ‘their services would no longer be needed’ by the company which is expected to make a new shakeup that could affect a large number of the remaining staffers.
Having received the employment terminations notice, more than 200 of the workers vented their anger in the port town of Berbera, protesting against the ‘sudden’ layoffs, deemed by many as ’unfair’.
No comment could be reached the port’s administration and Somaliland’s government on the development which sent shockwaves among the employees still employed under the new port’s management firm.
It is believed the workers were summoned to the port last week where they were addressed by the port authority, which included representatives from DP World, who handed them letters of termination.
According to economic analysts, Berbera’s management by UAE is parts of retaliatory measures against Djibouti which annulled the Dubai-based ports operator DP World’s terminal contract followed by arbitration proceedings by the Djiboutian government over alleged corruption by the company.
The United Arab Emirates has since cut diplomatic relations with Djibouti and picked Somaliland as its alternative base other than Somalia which signed multiple agreements with Turkey, a long time strategic rival of UAE to run its key economic hubs including Mogadishu port and the International airport.
Ethiopia, a major ally for Somaliland is the only country to have an embassy in Somaliland. Other countries that have relations with Somaliland have merely maintained consular missions in the enclave.
Ethiopia also assists Somaliland in maintaining security in Somaliland, a region often considered an oasis of peace in the volatile region.
At last, Somaliland’s parliament has given the green light to a proposal by the United Arab Emirates to establish a military base in the region, ending a protracted dispute in the region.
The breakaway northern Somalia republic has declared a unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991; however, no country has so far recognized it as an independent state. Somali government considers Somaliland as parts of Somalia’s territory, an assertion long dismissed by Somaliland which considers itself as an independent state.
Somaliland also maintains its own separate army, currency and government.