By Faisal A. Roble
A fire like the Waaheen one in Hargeisa can burn buildings; what it cannot break is the will of a united and confident people like those in Somaliland.
Only two days after Hargeisa buried one of its giant and most recognizable citizens, Abdiqadir Hashi Elmi, who came to the City following Somaliland’s declaration of “independence” to build the first world-class hotel, Mansour hotel, a devastating fire consumed the historic and a century-old but modernized Waaheen marketplace.
As I monitored reactions to the fire, three things emerged from this historic loss in Hargeisa:
First, the supreme confidence of Somalilanders in their self-help attitude to rebuild their city, and their organic unity in the face of a mighty adversity are insurmountable. The heroic small but mighty fire fighters battalion, the mother running with a bucket of water to put off the blaze, and the women feeding the working men and women on site while fire is blazing, the legislator who out of pain could not hold back his tears, the local newscaster who reported by the minute are all exemplary works of a united people preserving what they had built together brick by brick to fashion a coherent downtown out of a historic swap meet called Waaheen,. Both the re-creation of the Weehaan market place after the civil war and the collective effort to save it from today’s fire are a testimony to the psychology of the people of Somaliland, which is to pull themselves by their bootstraps. Alas, they have not seen any meaningful help from the world community due to regid international protocols designed in the 1920s as an international tool to preserve “peace” and “coexistence.”
Second, the world-wide appreciation of what Somalilanders have thus far achieved is reflected by the reaction from different governments. Presidents Farmajo, Ismail Omer Ghele, and PM Abiy shared their collective grief over the loss experienced by the people of Somaliland, Hergeisa in particular. To find that Horn of Africa rulers speak with one voice is no small feat, especially in this era when political disarticulation and a decline in democratic ethos define the region more than any other condition. The grief over Somaliland’s loss seems to have rightly albeit temporarily united the feelings of the leaders of the region, of course with the possible exception of the ruler of Eritrea. Even a small gesture is appreciated. Admirably, the far flanked Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson, tweeted his readiness to help Hergeisa rebuild.
Third, Hargeisa is to date closer to Addis diplomatically than it is to Mogadishu. Ethiopia sent a ministerial delegation, including the highest ranking Somali in Prime Minister Abiy’s administration, Ahmed Shide, Minister for Finance, to share a personal message from the Prime Minister and his administration. Also, an admirable and timely practical hand was given to Hargeisa by the Somali regional government which in the wee hours of the night sent as many as four fire trucks. On the other hand, Somalia is understandably off limits and, given the political entanglement between Hargeisa and Mogadishu, could not send any level of official delegation to Hargeisa. However, President Farmajo promised to help in any manner possible.
We expect that the USAID and the European Union would extend a timely economic aid to the traders and businessmen and women who had lost all that they owned. Most of the loss belonged to small traders.
I personally owe Hargeisa a lot for I have a deeper affinity with its people, and in due course I will offer my input from an urban planner’s point of view. Waaheen may need a two pronged recovery plan: a financial investment, mainly to come from donors to help those who lost their business, and a safe and better planned way to reconstruct Waaheen marketplace. Until then, in God we trust and a better and brighter re-imagined Waaheen will re-emerge as the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of fire.
Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.
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