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Does Garowe forfeit its privileged standing and thus have to lose its status as the capital of the Puntland state of Somalia?

By Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) PhD

‘There is a time that there is an overlap, that I am not one thing, but I am not quite the other’

The memory of the idyllic yesterday great capital city of Mogadishu, now in a ‘neither here nor there’ status but still ostensibly a phantom entity carrying the aforementioned appellation. As the expression country seat implies, there are attributes that distinguish the capital from other places of that particular entity, in this case as Garowe  stands from the rest of Puntland State, as it has a unique place in social affairs and among cities; thus, the place transforms once it becomes a capital.

Garowe, capital of Puntland

In terms of sociopolitical developments, establishing a new capital city is a critical decision. Consequently, it has occurred in Puntland administration formulation due to a variety of factors that created and transformed Puntland’s overall presence in Somali republic political patterns as the first and only functioning administration at the time. These developments are accompanied by two concurrent but seemingly incompatible tendencies. One of becoming cosmopolitan for all Puntland protagonists as far as clan allegiance and affiliation is concerned, or the other in which the capital befalls a victim of the dominant agnate’s claim to ownership and get into the trajectory of Mogadishu in the post-Siad Barre’s autocratic administration.

Based on the foregoing and the events transpired the disenfranchising Nugal region citizens lock stock and barrel, I mean notwithstanding of their affiliation as far as respective clans dwell in its entirety is concerned, by the dominant coterie political leaders Aran Jaan vis a vis ‘Isse Mohamud”, at least the ways the other clans share the region sees it, this article tries to weigh in on the event in which the aforesaid dominant clan thwarted the ballot casting for the Nugal citizens to elect their representatives and then tries to derive a comparison to the capital of the Somali federal government, Mogadishu. It tries to show that despite the differences, similarities can be pointed out in relation to political and social aspects.

When the central government disappeared in 1991, Somalis, who are prone to clan allegiance, then to citizenship and nation-statehood, and who share a common history, immediately restored their respective clan lines prior to independence. That triggered, having been almost one city (Mogadishu) nation-state, those who had made Mogadishu and its environs their abode to start to claim ownership and systematically cleanse the rest. Obviously, atrocities happened, but the rest retreated back to their respective regions in a painful and hard slog. To cut long story short, the sway of, Mudug region, Sool, sway of Sanag, Cayn, Nugal and Bari regions predominantly belonging to Darod clan established Puntland administration seven years into the civil war. Out of the number of candidates, Garowe, though comparatively less developed than other towns in contention at the time, had been selected as the capital city, the seat of Puntland government in that sense.

Over twenty years in the role its grown substantially and attracted investment (governmental, international and private), commerce, finance, diaspora, the media, higher education, and the benefit reaped by its dominant clan vis a vis ‘Isse Mohamud. That in itself made its leaders, traditional and political alike, head and shoulder above their beers of the similar roles due to that edge the capital city equates upon them. In other words, for them to show leadership in the initiatives for nation-building, of which democratisation is the first step of a legitimate administration throughout the state, and a consolidation of the role of their town as a sacrosanct capital. Rather, they and their entire region missed the boat big time. Fast forward and veer into the event transpired for the political leaders, the powerful few of Isse Mohamud, thwarted in a brazen fashion can be explained in two motives:

  1. Garowe, the capital city of the Puntland state of Somalia, as in the above definition, became the symbol of the state as it holds the state’s seat of government, its political power, and its main social and economic centre as well, especially Puntland, like former state-socialist ones, where a single person in the name of the president rules the roost; thus, the capital city has the ultimate power here. Over the years, right from the get-go with the first elected president in a plenary and his contenders, for some mysterious permutations, became Mohamud Saleeban Majeerteen sub-clan, namely Omar, Isse, and Osman Mohamud, and mellowed over the years as an accepted rotational understanding2 among them, and the rest didn’t challenge the erroneous habit.

    There came said Deni, and without further ado, they, Aaran Jaan I mean, given the lesson learned in Abdiweli’s tenure, engaged him and became stakeholders in the presidency. In a nutshell, Said, instead of giving them their fair share of the project or proceeds, he completely and wholly rescinded his presidency to them, and after four years into the lopsidedly shared presidency, they dislodged him for them to get ready for the Isse Mohamud rotation of the presidency for the next five years.  In that sense, based on Somali, with the exception of Adan Abdulle and Abdirizak H. Hussien’s tenure, leadership style in which only the president is in the driving seat the marriage broken down- a boat with two captains capsizes. Once they parted, Said and Aran Jaan, mind you overwhelming majority of Isse Mohamud wanted the local government election to take place, but the few in the driving seat called the shots, they had to thwart anything that came between them and the presidency. At this juncture, it’s the democratisation process for which the local government sets the foundation, and they proved it in major fashion by foiling the will of the people as they saw the presidency within striking distance.
  2. Penultimately, to make a long story short, once Aaran Jaan, who are the synonym of Isse Mohamud, made their position clear, as they manifested, to block the democratisation process that has been taking place throughout the Puntland state, immediately the question came into the fray: what will be the faith of Garowe, the current capital city? Obviously, as explained in the above, the capital city must be for everyone in which the power of governance is to be exercised without fear or intimidation by the majority of that particular abode. Otherwise, it qualifies as a clan stronghold, just like Mogadishu since 1991, and loses its legitimacy.

Finally, this, at least for the rest of Puntland stakeholders, implies the complexity of the capital city within its internal functions as well as inside a national framework at large. And does this logjam wherein few but significantly powerful in the sense of overruling the business of governance and conductivity of the capital city necessitate a decision to create a new one, an interim one for the time being, at least in the immediate future, be significant? Historically, capital cities have been shifted, and the similar challenges posed by the majority family or specific religious groups have not prevented countries from shifting their capitals from one city to another1.

Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) PhD
Email: [email protected]

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References and Synopsis of the essayist 

  1. Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) (PhD) (https://scholar.google.com/citations? U ser =n Nh5MQ4AAAAJ&hl=en). His work focuses on, inter alia, higher education management-cum-quality assurance, curriculum development, Applied Mathematics & Statistics, Computer Information systems, public health &epidemiology, Biochemistry, Environmental as well as Agricultural sciences. He has been research fellow or taught several universities and colleges including University of Glasgow, Somali National University, Technical University of Kenya, Camden College, East Africa University and Puntland State University. Guest lecturer: University of Helsinki, Michigan State University. Member of African Studies Associations. Dr Farah Dala’aan is also a traditional leader of seven generations4.
  2. Farah A. A (2019). Following the campaign trail of Puntland presidential hopefuls. Shttps://wardheernews.com/following-the-campaign-trail-of-puntland-presidential-hopefuls/
  3. Ghalib, Mohamed Tamer El-Khorazaty, Yehya Serag (2020). New capital cities as tools of development and nation-building: Review of Astana and Egypt’s new administrative capital city.
  4. Somalia: Storia della Somalia. L’Islām in Somalia. Il Libro degli Zengi. Enrico Cerulli
  5. Istituto poligrafico dello Stato P.V., 1957 – Arabic literature.  https://books.google.co.uk                     books/about/Somalia_Storia_della_Somalia_L_Isl%C4%81m_in.html?id=_j5yAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y  

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