By Ismail H. Warsame
In 1998 before the foundation of Puntland State of Somalia, GAROWE, the Capital City of the first Federal State of Somalia, was a squatter-like village of poor neighborhoods with no revenue or business income other than women’s stalls selling dark stale tea and street vendors of the stimulant green leaves Qat (Chat or Kat), imported from Kenya and Ethiopia, historically the neighbourhood enemies of Somalia. These were the only noticeable business life in the then dying village of Garowe, with no prospect for survival as even road travelers from Galkayo to the Port City of Bosaso didn’t brother to stop for a few cups of stale tea at street vendors ran by the ladies from the shanty huts along the main highway to Bosaso.
Most residents of GAROWE had left either to Galkayo or Bosaso where business activities and modicum of public service delivery were in their early stages of improvement.
Garowe had four places to spend a rough night sleeping on mats with blankets to shield off the dust and nuisance of swams of mosquitoes and persistent flies. They called themselves hotels and included the Daawad, Nugaal, Guureeye and Bulshaale. At least they had an abundance of mats to sleep on for their over-night staying guests.
In the village, due to shortage of business revenue, the two major sub-clan didn’t buy stuff from each other, only from their respective sub-clan clients. It happened so often that the teashop ladies failed to secure customers during the day and so, they pour lots of tea from thermos out into streets, feeding swams of flies and other insects, and thus adding to the problem of not staying on in Garowe. At time, there was not a single two-story building in the village. It is an amazing story to tell that Garowe City today is dominated by sky-scrapers and modern city towers of the 21st century equipped with lifts, escalators and state of the art restrooms. I didn’t see swimming pools as yet, but don’t get surprised if you would find one soon to cool off yourselves from the burning heat of 40 degrees Celsius.
Enter the establishment of the State of Puntland. The first smart move the residents of Garowe did was to willingly host the delegates to the two Founding Congresses of the new state-to-be with free accommodation and security militia for the venue of the meetings. It is a generous gesture leading to the status of Garowe as the Capital of the new state. Two ministers out of only nine State ministers were allocated for Nugaal Region alone, an unprecedented move by then the Late President of PL, AUN, Abdullahi Yusuf.
Garowe had suddenly been exposed to power, money and political influence of a Capital City. Within weeks following the creation of the State, one could see the yesterday’s village was experiencing dramatic changes in lifestyle, city’s ladies becoming keen and attentive to make-up, manicure and pedicure, nail coloring, with the beginning of socialites and urban decadence. The City started to grow and expand, becoming slightly multicultural with caution as they said, “Nugaali waa labada daamood” (Nugaal is between two hills), which implies that no trespassing is allowed on this hill from inhabitants of the other hill.
Unfortunately, that good reputation of Garowe has been tarnished at that time by an influence peddling group known as “Aaran Jaan” (The Kids of the Devil). How did they come about? A committee of Garowe youth had been appointed by Garowe elders with the consent of the Puntland Government to collect and audit the public debt incurred in Garowe in the duration of the Two Founding Congresses.
Garowe residents, despite their initial offer of hosting the delegates free of charge, went back to break their promises and demanded compensation for food and accommodation for guest-delegates. The Aaran Jaan-to-be Youth Committee collected public debt, mismanaged and misappropriated funds upto the exorbitant amount of two and half billion Somali Shillings (about US dollars two hundred and fifty thousand, a lot of money at the time). The Group composing today of a few core individuals from the original group was born out of corruption, theft of public money, illegal business contracts and political influence peddling. They have even infiltrated into and established their influence in the Offices of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre and President Farmaajo, acting as spokesmen for Puntland interests in Mogadishu, thus securing voice and influence in Federal appointments of personnel of Puntland origin. They now believe, and rightly is perceived by Puntland public that they had created not only the current Puntland Administration, but also run it through their man at the top.
Garowe today is a fast growing modern capital city with almost all facilities of 21st century. Its town planning is 2nd to none in Somalia. The peaceful environment of Garowe and the friendliness of its residents and their hunger for business deals makes it an attractive town to visit from all corners of Somalia, and mainly from Mogadishu and Hargeisa with considerable number of job seeking youth coming from Southwest State of Somalia and from various towns in Somaliland.
Welcome to the Capital City of Garowe. It is a pleasure to see you in town.
Ismail H. Warsame
Email: [email protected]
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