Somalia: IRIN Special Report on Central Somalia, 5/13/99

Somalia: IRIN Special Report on Central Somalia, 5/13/99

SOMALIA: IRIN Special report on Galgaduud and southern Mudug 13 May, 1999

GALKACYO, Somalia, 12 May (IRIN) - Galkacyo, capital of the central Somali region of Mudug and founded in the colonial era, translates roughly as 'Where the White Man Ran away'.

Given the minimal presence of humanitarian agencies in southern Mudug and the neighbouring region of Galgaduud this decade, the name seems fitting.

The mainly nomadic economy of Galgaduud and southern Mudug is currently reeling from the impact of severe drought. The short Deyr rains failed at the end of last year. The main Gu rains arrived late at the close of April. Some areas remained dry and it is still unclear how good the total Gu rainfall will be.

IRIN reporters saw the carcasses of dozens of sheep, goats and camels. As is customary, the young men had driven the clans' camels to chase news of rain and browse. They had moved into Ethiopia or far-flung parts of Mudug and Galgaduud.

The rest of the families, the elderly, women and children, had moved on behind with the sheep, goats, pack camels and belongings. Some of these groups claim to have suffered severe losses of sheep and goats and now had flocks of less than 40 or 50 strong.

Women and children are also pitched in dozens of makeshift huts on the edge of towns such as Galkacyo, Cadaado and Dhuusa Mareeb. These family groups said they had lost their small stock and in some cases, their camels too. Their men were off herding the surviving stock or looking for work. The women and children were left behind to seek the assistance of relatives in town.

The drought has caused a critical shortage of water for both humans and livestock. Prices for water at the borehole pump are high and some nomads have had to pay for bowsers to truck water out to rural water catchments - if ICRC has not been there to help them.

As in the rest of Somalia, the partial collapse of water infrastructure due to vandalism and neglect since the civil war will make chronic shortages worse in the future unless investment is spent on repair of catchments and borehole equipment, as well as management of resources and range.

Apart from the efforts of ICRC, Galgaduud and southern Mudug have received little attention to cope with this emergency. Agencies have drawn attention to the drought in other regions, notably in the Northeast, or Puntland. For example, on 30 April, UNICEF launched a US $1.3 million appeal for Puntland - north Mudug, Nugal, Bari, Sool and Sanaag.

Galgaduud and southern Mudug were devastated in the civil war, first in the fight to overthrow long-time president and dictator Siyaad Barre, then in the feuding between clan militias until 1993. The hardy and thinly spread population - mainly from the Habar Gedir, Marehan, Abgaal, Murusade and Dirr clans - have escaped many of the crises of other regions, notably the south and Somaliland. The local nomadic inhabitants are extremely tough and their clan system has proved an effective safety net in times of drought - which returns in a regular cycle.

Their home may be arid and subject to erratic rainfall, but it is rich in that it is the livestock heartland of Somalia and the entrepreneurial spirit in these regions is traditionally strong. A local joke says when the Americans landed on the moon, they found a Habar Gedir had already opened a tea shop there.


Local Somalis say they deserve some of the international aid going to other areas of the country. Other than ICRC, ADRA and the much-appreciated AMREF hospital in Abud-Waaq, agencies have barely visited since 1994, often citing insecurity. A visit by one UNICEF officer in March was a local talking point.

The Habar Gedir played a prominent role in Somalia's fighting this decade. They are now convinced the international community is punishing them for backing Maxamad Farah Caydiid when he feuded with UNOSOM troops in Mogadishu in 1993.

In 1994, Caydiid's militias attacked the Zimbabwean contingent in Beledweyne, murdering one and robbing the rest of all their weapons and belongings.

"It's wrong to abandon a whole region because of one man (Caydiid). It seems agencies in Nairobi are keen to help the Gurti (elders) in other areas, but not here. They see this as a hyena's den," complains Dhuusa Mareeb's Habar Gedir Ayr's 'Governor' Yusuf Hassan Iyow.

Many humanitarian workers in Nairobi told IRIN that southern Mudug and Galgaduud were insecure, but during IRIN's six-day mission the region was extremely quiet. Even though security in Somalia is notoriously difficult to predict, it appears information is often out-dated even before it has arrived in Nairobi, capital of neighbouring Kenya where most aid operations for Somalia are based.

Islamic courts are functioning in most of the area visited, save for the Habar Gedir Sacad territory south of Galkacyo. The courts' militias have cleared most armed roadblocks on the road south from Galkacyo as far as Guri Ceel.

"It's true that we had roadblocks everywhere. Now we have established Islamic courts. We're open for business," said Hassan Muxamad Arole in Cadaado.

"Technicals" - vehicles converted into battlewagons and a hallmark of Somalia's lawlessness - were still visible in villages. But most heavy weapons were at checkpoints between sub-clan territories

Clearing of the south-north highway, the 'China road', allows trade to run virtually unhindered. IRIN saw convoys of goods such as fresh fruit from Lower Shebelle heading for Somaliland. Despite the absence of repair this decade, the highway is in remarkably good order, as are most local tracks.

Aid workers have been killed or taken hostage at one time or another in most other parts of Somalia since 1991. Nevertheless, these areas, to a lesser or greater degree, have continued to receive aid.

To be sure, humanitarian operations have been disrupted in Galgaduud. In June 1994, European Union-donated drugs worth of US $120,000 were stolen from a CISP warehouse in Dhuusa Mareeb and the EU representative reported 'attempted attack on an ECHO plane' around the same time.

The drugs were never returned and no culprits were prosecuted. Unfortunately this is a story familiar to any region of Somalia. Many disreputable Somalis now regard humanitarian agencies and expatriates primarily as a cash cow which can easily be milked - not primarily and only as a source of emergency or development assistance.

At a cost of some $200 daily, aid organisations often hire a succession of cars, OEguarded' by gun-toting youths, from different clans in order to move around the country. Political analysts point out how deeply ironic it is that expatriates routinely travel in the company of men other Somalis recognise as gangsters. Elders claim they are powerless to stop this extortion. It benefits their clans.


Despite the absence of humanitarian dollars, conditions in Galgaduud and southern Mudug appear similar to other parts of Somalia where aid may have poured in. But the recent drought and the disruption of livestock exports to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have depressed the general economy.

Local administration - of everything from justice to rubbish collection - is embryonic. In the absence of a state, Somalia has been reformed into dozens of ethnic-based, 'pocket handkerchief' territories. Power shifts among prominent individuals, clan elders, businessmen, gunmen, religious figures and intellectuals.

Yet the towns and villages of central Somalia have made modest progress since the cessation of regional hostilities in 1993. Dhuusa Mareeb, built around local wells and the highway and devastated in the civil war, is rebuilding itself. New tin roofs glint in the sunshine. The markets are full of food goods, although purchasing power is limited. Six HF radio businesses function in town, vital for livestock marketing and the remittances transfers from expatriate Somalis. Convoys carrying goods from Mogadishu pass daily - but otherwise vehicles are rare. At evening, cafes on the main street are lit up (from a generator at 2,000/- per bulb a day) as men sit about, telling their beads, listening to the radio.

The Somalis' natural entrepreneurial spirit is asserting itself again. In Caabud-Waaq, in as remote a spot as one can imagine in Somalia, a $150,000 satellite telephone system has been recently installed for commercial use. At $1.50 a minute to anywhere in the world, prices are better than most African and even European services.

Somalia's telecommunications revolution is spectacular and not matched by other developments to infrastructure. But as Daud Drir, an investor in the Caabud-Waaq system told IRIN, it is important:

"I am here to make money but also to help my people. Communication is important, for business and remittances, but also to put people here in touch with the rest of the world. We are no longer isolated from the world."

The success of private business is not reflected in local initiatives to establish social services such as schools and health.

This is where Somalis expect international agencies to step in. IRIN saw two notable examples of development projects that are both popular and successful in Galgaduud and Mudug.

AMREF runs a 40-bed hospital and network of health posts in and around Caabud-Waaq. AMREF's methods have been tried and tested by their experience in Entasopia, Maasailand since 1959 and also Luuq, Gedo region, since 1983. The efficient, laboratory-equipped hospital, funded by the EU and established in 1998, runs on a cost-sharing basis. Funds collected are being saved to help the operation stand on its own feet. A Kenyan expatriate oversees operations and a team from Kenya's Kikuyu Eye Unit visits to perform eye surgery. The hospital also has a programme to treat and control TB - a major health problem across Somalia.

The AMREF hospital serves a community of some 70,000 inhabitants and in some months treats 1,000 patients. In March, there were 388 patients, the most common ailments being malaria and upper respiratory tract infections. Despite the drought, there were zero cases of malnutrition. There were 28 cases of accident and trauma - perhaps a comment on the relative security of the area.

In Dhuusa Mareeb, ADRA has assisted the reconstruction of the school on the southern edge of town. Originally constructed by the Peace Corps, looted in the civil war, the compound buildings now have fresh paint, new tin roofs and furniture. Abdi Hakim Mohamed Salah, a doctor and private clinic owner who says he is helping UNICEF oversee health and education services in Galgaduud, says the ADRA-assisted school will soon open for some 17 teachers and 1,300 children, studying the old Somali syllabus.

IRIN saw a school in session in Guri Ceel, with students studying from the Kuwaiti syllabus. Most children only attend Koran school. "At the moment, our communities cannot themselves pay teachers or to send their children to school," says Abdi Hakim.


It is widely accepted that in recent decades too many livestock water points were developed in Africa's arid areas, including Somalia, with disastrous environmental consequence. Yet in the 1990s, the water infrastructure in Somalia has partly collapsed due to vandalism in war and the lack of maintenance.

The bimodal rainfall pattern, with the long Gu and short Deyr, is unreliable in central Somalia. The Deyr often fail, but nomads say it is when the Gu fails that really bad drought sets in. This year the main Gu rains arrived in April. They were overdue by a month, patchy and followed a serious drought due to the failure of the short Deyr rains in late 1998.

Nomads depend on four sources of water. First are the shallow wells, from which young herders raise water in leather buckets, chanting songs as they work. The second are the open water holes, pools or shallow pans that hold rainwater for up to three months. Third are the berckad: these harvest rain by a system of channels, leading to the cement or rock tank the size and depth of a small swimming pool (some 200,000 litres). Fourth are boreholes, which also serve most of the townspeople. All villages here are founded at sites of boreholes and shallow wells. In this region boreholes have to reach a low water table, often well beyond 120 metres - which complicates their repair.

Notably the ICRC, but also ADRA and the Italian NGO CISP have in the past assisted with water services in southern Mudug and Galgaduud. Before the main Gu rains arrived in April, ICRC organised the trucking of water to catchments (berckad) in droughted areas, assisting thousands of nomads. The ICRC is also repairing berckads. Elders in most villages told IRIN they lacked spare parts for boreholes.


Galgaduud and Mudug are one of the great nomadic areas of the world, at the heartland of Somalia's livestock industry and on the eastern margins of the Haud pastures that extend into Ethiopia. The bush here is flat, on sand or limestone, and generally dotted with classic camel browse such as Acacia species, Ballanites and Salvadora persica.

The range is depleted in some areas. The burning of charcoal for export to the Gulf is causing widespread deforestation, particularly of important Acacia tortillis. Elders claimed they have tried to stop the trade, but IRIN saw trucks stacked with charcoal bags destined for Bossaso. Elders said charcoal burners had to be given alternative sources of income. The trade earns Somalis a pittance - at the most, $1.50 per gunny bag.

Pre-war figures estimated there were 500,000 camels, 2.2 million goats, 700,000 sheep and 300,000 cattle. This is fine camel country, but too arid for cattle - many of which have died off this decade in the war and due to drought.

Camels are valued primarily for their milk, the staple food of nomads, but are also a source of meat, work as beasts of burden and provide hides too. There is an export market for camels, but the bulk of trade is in sheep and goats for the Arab market.

Sheep are sold to Saudi Arabia both for religious sacrifice and across the Middle East for the table. The fatty Somali black head sheep is favoured over Western breeds. The short-eared Somali goat from this region is also popular.

The livestock market has been disrupted since late 1997, when foreign veterinarians in northeastern Kenya declared an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever among livestock and humans. Saudi Arabia subsequently banned livestock imports from Somalia though there was scant evidence local livestock was infected. Exports out of Berbera and Bossaso have resumed to the Middle East. But traders said the market had yet to recover in prices and volume. Sales have also been disrupted by the drought.

Elders at Galkacyo said that exports of meat direct to Dubai by aircraft from the town had been disrupted due to complaints about disease or meat quality. They said private businessmen planned to construct an abattoir and refrigeration plant at Galkacyo, where meat will be checked and passed by veterinarians.

Many Somalis told IRIN they wanted assistance with the livestock industry to improve their reputation with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. "We cannot take the livestock ourselves to prove to the Saudis our meat is healthy. The best thing is for an international body to intervene on this," Dhuusa Mareeb elder Muxammad Omar told IRIN.

Elders also urged assistance to revive their veterinary services (the Nomadic Health Auxiliary), once described as among the best in Africa. Nomads told IRIN they purchased drugs when they could afford it and if there was a supply in village pharmacies. Herders also use traditional veterinary methods, such as plants for dipping against ticks. A vet pharmacist in Caabud-Waaq told IRIN that he had a good market for his drugs, but that supply was a problem - especially to meet demand following the rains - and administration of the drugs by untrained livestock herders could be improved. Many Somalis applaud the ICRC veterinary programme that operated in the early 1990s. They said they wanted to retrain their para-vets, improve drugs supply even at commercial prices and restart dipping programmes.

Despite the vital importance of the livestock industry, there are currently no veterinary projects run by international organisations in Somalia, apart from the Italian NGO Terra Nuova, which has been operating in the troubled south.


A boy named Abdirazak with a fractured leg lies in his family's hut. His peers run about in the dust outside. The boy would like to be playing too, since there is no school to attend in Caabud-Waaq. But several weeks ago he found a grenade discarded from the civil war near his house. He picked it up and tossed it against a tree. It exploded. He still has shrapnel in his leg, now sceptic.

Years after the end of full-scale hostilities in central Somalia, minefields and ordnance scattered about the land remind people daily their traumatic recent history is not yet over.

There are at least 25,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, plus countless items of unexploded ordnance scattered in Galgaduud and southern Mudug, claims Caabud-Waaq resident Maxamad Cussein Jamah.

The governor of Dhuusa Mareb, Yusuf Hassan Iyow, was in a truck which was blown up by a mine in February 1992. He survived with severe burns on his face, arms and body, but he says 14 others were killed in the accident.

Local elders say mines were sown in two separate periods and locations. The first was on both sides of the frontier with Ethiopia and surrounding military camps after the 1977-78 Ogaden War, when Caabud-Waaq was the base for the army's 21st Division. The second was on most roads and in no man's land areas between fiefdoms of rival clan militias during the 1991-93 civil strife following the collapse of Muxammad Siyaad Barre's dictatorship.

New roads have been cut through bush to avoid mined roads, such as between areas under the Marehan and the Habar Gedir in Galgaduud, and the Habar Gedir and the Mejerteyn in Mudug. There are minefields and ordnance sites around Caabud-Waaq itself (at Bali'Ad, five km north west, at Daya'an three km east and Bali-Midgan, three km to the south).

IRIN visited a water hole on the outskirts of Caabud-Waaq where mines, grenades and other ordnance have been dumped on open ground. Nomads still water their animals at the spot. There are neither fences nor signs to warn people off and youths nonchalantly pick up scattered explosives.

Maxamad Cussein is associated with a Somali NGO named NER Minesweepers, formed at the time of UNOSOM, in which several previously rival clans were involved. Documents, obtained by IRIN, show that at the time of UNITAF, US Special Forces as well as Canadian troops based at Beledweyne made brief visits to the region to look at the extent of the Problem, but took no direct action.

The Security Council clearly gave UNOSOM a mandate to 'continue (from UNITAF) the programme for mine clearance in the most affected areas'. But UNOSOM contingents deployed at Beledweyne after UNITAF were from developing countries and were equipped only with metal detectors of Second World War vintage, according to human rights groups at the time.

UNOSOM funded a NER trial scheme in March 1994, when 1,338 mines and 223 other explosives were collected and destroyed around the Mudug town of Galkacyo. NER employed dozens of former fighters who had sown the mines themselves and were able to pool intelligence on mapping minefields. Local inhabitants also clearly know locations of mines and unexploded ordinance - though not accurately, as the continued accidents prove.

UNOSOM announced more funding would be given to Somali NGOs for demining. This never happened. Elders produce documents to prove they had filed a detailed project proposal and repeated requests for assistance with demining in central Somalia since 1993, most recently in a letter to UNDP Somalia in September 1998.

Jack Klassen is UNDP's Nairobi-based Somali Civil Protection Programme Manager, responsible for demining. He told IRIN demining was going on only in Somaliland's Burao. There is also a CARE project in the same area. Klassen said one reason no work had been done in Galgaduud/Southern Mudug was that there is "no functioning administration or recognised authority to work with".

UNOSOM handed over some demining equipment to NER in January 1995, but such operations need outside funds and a great deal of support that Somalis at local level cannot be expected to handle, including training, logistics, medical back-up, vehicles and equipment such as metal detectors.

Klassen complained of lack of funds for demining work. To get an idea of costs, IRIN approached the UK-based Mines Advisory Group, which said it deploys 15-man teams in the field at an annual cost of US$145,000.


Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 16:21:13 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: Somalia: IRIN Special Report on Central Somalia [19990513]

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific