Sunday March 12, 2023
Mogadishu (HOL) - The Prime Minister of Somalia, Hamza Abdi Barre, visited the Ministry of Religion and Endowment on Saturday to discuss the management of companies that want to offer Hajj services. During the meeting, Prime Minister Barre was briefed on the competitive bidding process and informed by ministry leaders that the ministry requirements would not burden people who wish to embark on Hajj this year.
The Minister of Religion and Endowment, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Ali, also met with Prime Minister Barre and expressed his concern over the unnecessary fees charged by Hajj agencies that seek to profit more from pilgrims. Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every financially and physically able Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. It is considered the most spiritual event a Muslim experiences, observing rituals in the most sacred places in the Islamic world.
The Prme Minister criticized Hajj agencies for adding these fees and explained that government officials should not set up illegal checkpoints to extract money from people who have sold their farms, homes, or businesses to perform Hajj. These illegal checkpoints, locally known as "isbaaro," are a form of extortion whereby officials abuse their positions to extract money or resources through bribes from citizens.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs recently announced new criteria for companies willing to compete to provide Hajj services. Prime Minister Barre assured that his government would transparently manage and monitor the companies delivering Hajj services. He also expressed his frustration at the high cost of Hajj for Somali pilgrims compared to the rest of East Africa. According to him, while neighbouring countries charge $1,600 for Hajj, a Somali person has to pay $5,500 to $6,000, which creates an obstacle for someone who wants to worship God and perform the Hajj.
The Prime Minister's visit to the ministry comes after his criticism of the high cost of Hajj and days after the appointment of his brother, Ibrahim Robow Ali, as the secretary for the Hajj bidding process committee by Mukhtar Robow, the Minister of the Ministry. In 2022, 899,300 people made the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is still below the pre-pandemic average, despite relaxed travel restrictions, according to Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics.