Sunday, October 01, 2023
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From Ruins to Revival: The Historic Inauguration of Garacad Port

By Ahmed A. Muhumud

The small remote coastal settlement of Garacad in Northeastern Mudug Region of Puntland Somalia, has seen many difficulties since it was first settled by a businessman from Lower Juba (Basso Juba) named Salaad Cabaas and his wife Fadumo Galti.  For a while it was a bustling trading hub rich in livestock, salt, and fishing. Much of that activity came to a screeching halt as massive urbanization started in late 1950s and 1960s first as the country sought independence from the European colonists and later gained independence on July 1, 1960.

Garacad Port, Garacad, Puntland Somalia

A short-lived effort to resettle thousands of nomadic herders and inject some life into the area during the infamous “Dabadheer” draught in the mid-1970s failed to materialize as the powerful military junta that was ruling the country at the time scrabbed the plan in favor of other areas mostly in southern Somalia. The homes built for the fishing cooperative stand in literal ruins today.

Garacad captured world headlines in the early the 2000s but for the wrong reasons! It became the defacto capital for pirates off the coast of Somalia. Poorly trained and equipped local fishermen in the area were no match for large illegal fishing vessels and initially organized as a self-defensive mechanism. Soon the noble self-defensive effort turned to massive international criminal enterprise that perfected the art of piracy in the high seas and with it brought in millions of ill-gotten fortunes. The newfound fame and fortune, brought along all kinds of vices including drugs, prostitution, and violence among each other and against innocent bystanders.

The initial euphoria and relative support they got from the community due to their claim to protect their waters and business activity they generated (pirates build new homes, bought expensive cars, and paid handsomely to satisfy their lavish lifestyle), soon gave way to open resistance by many in the community due to all the negative byproducts of their activity. NATO allies led by many European navy vessels started patrolling shipping and fishing ships off the Somali coast, many of the same navies belong to biggest illegal fishing countries by the way, killed and captured many of the pirates. Embolden by the foreign intervention, local leaders organized themselves and finally got rid of the last remaining pirates from the area in early 2010s.

Garacad port City

Circa 2016 and first real and tangible effort to build a modern port in the settlement. This seemingly crazy idea was not driven by government, weak as it might be, but by the local ingenuity of Somali businessmen and women that saw a remarkable opportunity not only to establish a successful business model but to transform an entire region that has seen little or no development for far too long. Several key contributing factors bolden these early pioneers to dare this novice idea. First, the strategic location of Garacad in the busy Indian Ocean with close proximity to shipping routes in both Asia and Middle East made this an ideal location. Secondly, Garacad is only a mere 300KM away from the border of landlocked Ethiopia with its 100+ million population. Third, Garacad offered unmatched potential as a deep-water port and had plenty of the natural resources needed to build the port (sand, gravel, etc.) almost onsite. These conditions along with an eager and willing local investors and the support of the Puntland government propelled the project to take shape.

In 2018, Former Puntland President Abdiwali Gaas along with local leaders led by Islan Bashir Islan Abdille held the groundbreaking ceremony and on October 22, 2022, the port officially opened for business with the first commercial ship docking the port. Both events were momentous but I’m focusing on the Inauguration of the first Phase of the project which I was fortunate to witness. Dignitaries from near and far (Somalia Federal Government President Hassan Sh. Mohamoud, Puntland President Said A. Dani, President of the Southwest Somalia Federal State Abdiaziz H Mohamed “Laftagareen”, President of the Federal Somali Region of Ethipia Mustafa Omar, Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden B Duale) along with so many other dignitaries attended the ceremony. It was a remarkable showing of the growing importance and financial muscle of ethnic Somali inhabitants in the Horn of Africa and the culmination of what henceforth seemed impossible for this remote coastal community.

The ones empty village of Garacad is now bursting at the seams with a mad rush to grab best spots for new hotels, restaurants, fuel depots, warehouses, and other activities. Local residents can’t keep their shelves fully stacked and you will have a hard time finding an empty mattress, let a lone a bed! Everyone now believe this is a new dawn and not a flicker of hope that might soon vanished as those before. Indeed, Somali businessmen and women have invested nearly half a billion dollars in first of its kind initiative to build a largely privately funded international seaport that will connect the landlocked Ethiopia into south-central Somalia through Wadaagsan Company, the anchor investment group.

Tuur-Dibi, Galdogob; Somalia

There are plans to build a tarmac road that would connect the port to the nearest big City Galkaio and to a dry port being planned at Tuurdibi at the Ethiopia-Somalia border merely 300KM away. The port itself continues to be expanded with four berths big enough to accommodate the largest shipping vessels in the region and when completed will serve as a container port. President Hassan Sh. Mohamoud’s pledge and announcement that the Federal Government has secured the funds needed to build the road that will connect the port to Ethiopia and the equally important news that Ethiopia will continue to expand their road networks further east into potentially the other side of the border puts the port’s trajectory on a fastrack. This could not have come at a better time for Wadaagsan which is working feverishly to complete the remaining two berths of the port and tap into the palpable enthusiasm from the large Somali diaspora to participate on an even larger level.

This was a remarkable and joyous moment to celebrate not only because it is clear manifestation of self-reliance and believing in each other but because it highlighted the potency of the Somali people as the glue that connects the region and for ones put the focus away from the many struggles and challenges facing our country into a more hopeful and positive future.

Congratulations to Somali people everywhere, to Wadaagsan and its shareholders and to all that played a key role in making this once distance dream, a reality! Garacad Community we join your joyous moment in unison. Maansha Allah!

Ahmed A. Muhumud
Email: [email protected]

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