- Saudi Arabia has announced its intention to lift a four-year ban on livestock imports from Djibouti, Somalia and possibly Somaliland, according to a report by the London-based 'Asharq Al Awsat' today. The ban, imposed after a terminated outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, has had enormous economic consequences for these Horn countries, where the livestock sector is dominant.
In a story filed by 'Asharq Al Awsat' reporter Zeid Kammi in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabian Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghaneim announced his country's intention to soon lift the ban on the livestock of the Horn of African countries and to allow it to be imported through Djibouti. There was no talk of direct imports from Somalia and Somaliland, however.
In a statement to the press while visiting an agricultural project in Hard, 250 km south of Riyadh, on Tuesday, he said the Saudi move was in response to a request by Djibouti to set up a specialised quarantine centre in Djibouti to check livestock before it is exported to the Saudi Kingdom.
He added that a Saudi Committee, representing the Ministries of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and Health would pay a visit to Djibouti to inspect the quarantine centres there and ensure that the animals were free from epidemic diseases.
Mr Balghaneim, however, pointed out that he didn't expect the ban to be lifted before end of the Ramadan and the Hajj festival, saying that his government needed enough time to put proper procedures in place in terms of inspecting the health condition of the animals and safeguarding the health and safety of the Saudi people and animals.
He said that the Kingdom didn't face any meat or livestock shortage at present due to its diversified sources of import, adding that the establishment of quarantine centres in Saudi Arabia would all play a significant role in monitoring animal health and planning imports to the Kingdom.
Earlier, the self-declared republic of Somaliland accused Djibouti of trying to control its economy following a proposal by Djiboutian authorities aimed at making its ports as gateway for Somaliland’s livestock exports to Arab Gulf countries, according to a report by the UAE based Arabic daily 'Al Khaleej' on 14 September.
'Al Khaleej' quoted Somaliland Livestock Minister as describing Djibouti's plan to export Somaliland's livestock through its ports as an "unacceptable attempt aimed at controlling his country's economy." Somaliland has its own regional port at Berbera, but given its status as a non-recognised state, it has not been successful in its plea to Saudi Arabia and other states on the Arabian Peninsula to resume livestock imports directly from Berbera.
Quoting sources in Somalia, 'Al Khaleej' said Djibouti's proposal came as a result of its consultations with some Gulf countries, which showed their desire for Somali livestock. The sources added that the proposal gives the Djiboutian government the right to examine livestock and export them through its ports. The paper added that some Somali businessmen had welcomed the proposal, hoping that it would end the long ban on Somali livestock exports to Gulf countries.
Meanwhile, Somaliland businessmen contacted by 'Awdalnews' in Dubai expressed their rejection of the move by Djibouti. One the businessman who asked to remain anonymous claimed that Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh had sold the idea to Southern Somali businessmen whom he invited to a forum he recently held in Djibouti. He alleged that President Guelleh had even "bribed" some Somali businessmen by issuing Djiboutian passports to them.
Somaliland Interior Minister Ismail Adam Osman also repeated his call upon Arab countries to lift the ban on the exports of Somaliland livestock and to accept its citizens to travel with Somaliland passports. In an interview with the UAE official Arabic daily 'Al Ittihad' on 12 September 2004, Mr Osman said that his government was fighting over the last six years for the ban to be lifted.
- The ban has caused a great suffering to Somaliland whose economy depended mainly on livestock export, said Somaliland Minister Osman. "We invite Arabs to come to our country and to see by themselves that our country is free from the Rift Valley Fever which has been used as a cover for the ban," he added.
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