19 May 2007 04:19

SOMALIA WATCH

 
Column
  • Title: [SW Column](Faarah M. Mohamed) God Bless Bosaaso! 
  • Posted by/on:[AMJ][Friday, February 9, 2001]
  •  
  • Opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of SW.


    By Farah  Mohamoud Mohamed

    Richmond; VA

    Mmfaarax@aol.com

    Intelligence is an attribute of using common-sense, it is not virtue that you're born with, or behavior that is an act of an individual. It is the utilization of facts and making responsible judgment based on committing the brain and exploring the reality that develops into making choices, based on righteous and sensible outcome of a decision.

    Where is the common-sense of our people, when we are supporting and making arguments for Arta faction, claiming they are the only alternative to the current status of our country in general?

    Puntlanders in particular need to discuss these issues in depth, and analyze the situation deeply, put the personal feelings aside and really understand seriousness and the gravity the situation demands. The decisions we come up with, and the choices we make, will have effects on the lives of generations to come. Are we simply prepared to pass the problems to the next generation to solve, are we to repeat the mistakes that our fathers and grandfathers created when they moved from their home villages to Mogadishu, and build the place as if it was their own. Did they foresee the consequences of their actions? Were they wrong in trusting their fellow countrymen? All of those question's answer is NO, they were simply acting in good faith, they could not see what lied ahead and could not predict and make judgments based on nothing.

                    On the other hand, our generation have the best teacher there ever was: History. We know what happens when you're not prepared. We know what we went through when we were massacred, and driven out of our homes. We came back into a land that has been laid to waste and neglected, underdeveloped and almost uninhabitable. We pulled ourselves together worked hard, and helped each other and finally, succeeded in creating ourselves, "Allhamdu-lillah", a decent more secure and developed place than when we had a government that only consisted of Mogadishu.

                    The only difference between a wise and a fool person is the ability of the wise to learn from their mistakes and avoid repetition. History serves one objective and that is to learn from it. And if we don't it will surely repeat itself over and over until you learn, as a good teacher always does. Are we willing to divide ourselves and tolerate the irresponsible actions of some of us?

                    Are you willing to burn Bossaso, in order to build Mogadishu? If that is what you decide my condolences to you ungrateful. The pride of all of us, including those of us who have never been there. Our promise to our faithful ever reliable Bossaso is we will never abandon you, we shall never let anyone burn you, loot you, or even discredit you, my beautiful city in the sun, you have too many sons to defend you.

    EARLIER ARTICLE:

    [SW Column](Farah M. Mohamed) United we stand, divided we fall 

    LINKS:

    [SW News] ( Maxamed-deeq Cabdulqaadir - Sahan, Bosaaso) Mudaaharaad ka dhacay Boosaaso

    War-Saxaafadeed uu Soosaaray Mohamed Abdirashid


    Akhri warka oo dhan Feb 8, 2001

    ___________________________________________________________________________________

     
    The Washington Post.
    Sunday, March 3, 1996.

    Boosaaso: A Somali City Thrives Without Aid

     

    Stephen Buckley.

    Boosaaso, Somalia --For much of its history, this dot on northeastern Somalia's mostly barren desert landscape has been a dreary, underdeveloped outpost with a battered economy, few government services and virtually no infrastructure.

    Then, in 1991, Somalia's government fell. The country tumbled into an ongoing civil war. And Somalis were left to fend for themselves.

    In Boosaaso, that has meant harnessing community resources and talent to jump-start its import-export-based economy and provide crucial services. A businessman has established a citywide telephone system. Teachers work for no salary. A volunteer police force has been created. Boosaaso's council of Muslim elders effectively acts as the town's judiciary.

    Today Boosaaso, without a formal government, has become a boom town, with one of Somalia's busiest ports, a burgeoning population and the kind a daily stability envied by much of this deeply troubled East African country.

    Boosaaso's story is increasingly common throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where many communities, abandoned by governments that either dissolved or hopelessly dysfunctional, have had to forge their own paths to survival.

    In Liberia, paralyzed by six years of civil war, rural residents have banded together to improve food-growing techniques, working on each other's farms to make planting and harvesting more efficient.

    Rural Nigerians, victim of a vicious economic downturn that has brought prohibitively high prices, have fashioned food-sharing schemes to ensure that their communities do not starve.

    In Zaire, where citizens have suffered under three decades of one of the continent's most corrupted regimes, businessmen have stepped in to pay salaries of soldiers and policemen.

    "Throughout the continent, governments have been conspicuous in their absence," said Rakiya Omaar, a Somali who heads the london-based African Rights organization. "They have not provided basics such as water, schools, hospitals. For a large percentage of people, government has just not been there. They have to learn to cope on their own."

    In some cases, Africans have revived, or strengthened, traditional cultural habits and institutions that dominated their lives before Western-style governments came to their countries.

    Much of this fractured country has not found peace, as fighting between groups loyal to clan leaders Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mohamed Mahdi continues. Since U.N. peacekeepers left Somalia a year ago, Mogadishu, its capital, has remained the country's most unstable area. Mogadishu's port, once Somalia's most important, is closed, and thousands of the city's residents have bolted for the countryside.

    Burst of fighting still ripple through Somalia's rural areas, but some communities have carved out a semblance of normalcy. They have formed governing authorities. Schools are open. Police forces are set in place. Perched between desert wasteland and the stunning blue vastness of the Gulf of Aden, Boosaaso, 905 miles north of Mogadishu, shimmers with evidence of its economic and social success. Hotels, some with satellite dishes, have sprouted all over town. Piles of rock, signifying places where residents are about to build, litter the city. Trucks, hauling goods and construction material, clog roads.

    Boosaaso's population estimated at 100,000, has increased fivefold since Somalia's government disintegrated. Although members of the Darod clan historically have controlled the city, Boosaaso has lured Somalis from other major groups, unusual in a land riven by inter-clan tensions. The central city in a region called Bari, Boosaaso also has attracted refugees from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

    Tens of thousands of former Mogadishu residents have flocked here. They are people like Amur Ahmed Mohamed, who traveled nine days-- mostly through bush to avoid bandits--with his wife and three daughters before arriving here last June.

    Mohamed, a tailor, could not leave his home in Mogadishu without being robbed or shot at. Three of siblings died during the war. His wife and children lived at the mercy of thugs who camped in front of Mohamed's house and sometimes offered food. He rarely had money.

    Today he works 12 hours a day, six days a week. He takes home $50 a week, a fortune for him. He is planning to build a house and is looking to buy a car. And although his clan originates in southern Mogadishu, he said he has had no trouble in Boosaaso.

    "This place is like Somalia's United States," said Mohamed, 23. "It has been nine months, but I feel as if we just came yesterday. I cannot say how happy we are. When you have peace, you can have a life."

    Boosaaso's primary source of revenue is its port, build just as Somalia's government was collapsing. The facility on the shores of the Gulf of Aden crackles with daily activity, as dhows and ships from Arab states bring a bevy of goods that fill Boosaaso's stores and markets.

    Boosaaso relies on exports of livestock, annually sending tens of thousands of goats, sheeps and camels into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    The port contributes to the upkeep of the town's police station, schools, hospitals and power stations. A handful of U.N. agencies and local and international aid groups also provide financial support.

    The port helps keep institutions such as the Haji Mire primary school running. At the school, Boosaaso's largest, every student has pen, paper and workbooks. Their teachers have chalk. Such basic tools are often missing in sub-Saharan Africa's schools.

    Teachers and administrators at the 900-pupil school work for food supplied by two U.N. aid groups, but most supplement that "income." Headmaster Mohoud Aheol Mohoud said community elders help supply his food. A host of relatives provide shelter. Yet he shrugs off his hardship. "When we had government, we were not paid very much anyway," he said.

    The city also has a reliable power supply and, thanks to businessman Ismael Abdi Ahmed, a telephone system for the first time in its history. Two and a half years ago Ahmed, 35, bought a satellite dish and opened the Netco phone company with 20 lines. Today there are 260 lines throughout the city, and two buildings where residents line up at phone booths to place local and international calls.

    Ahmed, the town's wealthiest businessman, has established a business where employees come 10 different sub-clans. In Somalia, entrepreneurs typically saturate their companies with members of their own groups.

    "I do not look at what [sub-clan] they belong to, which is very abnormal in Somalia," the businessman said. "They just have to be professionals--people who are educated and smart. The main thing I'm interested in is whether they can do the job."

    Like other Boosaaso businessmen, Ahmed want a government that will oversee the Bari region. As the city grows, residents say they need the structures of a formal local government to keep law and order and to provide essential services.

    Businessmen want an investment code to protect the international entrepreneurs, who currently balk at bringing projects to Boosaaso because it has no such shields. Civil servants want salaries. Truckers need an organized road system. Builders and merchants need regulations for constructing homes and establishing businesses. Justice authorities need a regional court system.

    A body of politicians, elders and businessmen has strained for two years to form a regional authority that would address such issues. Last week the groups began final negotiations, and it hopes to have a governing council in place within weeks.

    For now, Boosaaso's clan elders and sub-elders are the closest thing to government, mediating a range of disputes from criminal acts to traffic arguments. If one Boosaaso resident slays another, for example, elders decide whether the aggrieved family will receive a payment of camels or whether the accused will be executed.

    "We have tried to encourage more execution in order to discourage people from killing," said Baldogle Ali Farah, of Boosaaso's council of elders.

    Yet Farah said the elders know they cannot carry the society on their shoulders. "We definitely need at least a local government, because the elders are confined only to solving problems," he said. "We just cannot provide the kind of administration that governments provide."

    ___________________________________________________________

    The Copper Wire 

    Ali A. Jama - Toronto 1992 

    Television cameras and the extensive coverage Somalia was subjected to after the arrival of the US led multinational forces in Dec 1992, has exposed many sides of the country. Somalia never saw such intensity of media. For the newsman covering these operations it was a thrill, an exotic thing to be doing in a far away land. This is the country that for so many years was a taboo to any western media and in which so much has happened unnoticed, and so much is unaccounted for. For years Somalia had been living in a total isolation from the rest of the world so that a lot of unholy things could be carried out behind the screens. The fabric of the society was slowly and meticulously disassembled for a period of 20 years. What started as standard dictatorship in a third world country soon became a clan dictatorship. A dangerous new page has been opened in the history of Somalia. The assumption that a state and its properties are owned by a clan is far more dangerous than the standard dictators that other parts of Africa has seen. Clan dictatorship in Somalia believed, naively or otherwise that it is okay to have everything for the clan and nothing for the rest or perhaps the rest will collect the crumbs and be satisfied. They believed that it is okay to have a portable generator to keep the beer cold while the rest was toiling to make ends meet. They believed that it is okayto have children at schools in London and Washington while the school system was halting to ground in the country. Just in case, buy a house in the US or Europe. They believed that it would not be necessary because of the special forces, the omnipresent national security services and special of the special forces, the "77" brigade, the notorious Lanta Burr. They believed that dismantling the very fabric of the society, they would have an excellent chance of always staying in power. Sure they did dismantle the fabric of the society, but gone with the society was the power. Power, the driving force for the demise of country, was gone when there was no body left to rule. Is this difficult to figure out? I always thought that people in responsible positions can analyze things rationally. But that is not the case with clan dictatorship. It would seem quite obvious from the outside, but you know people quickly forget. The guys with the portable generators for the beer did not know that people were starving to death in many parts of the country including Mogadishu from early 80's.

    The world has woken up with shock and horror to discover at last that not everything is alright in the country. For years Immigration Canada had hard time understanding what the frightened Somalis were telling them. In the absence of any mechanism for proving or disproving the stories the Somalis were telling about the atrocities back home, they adopted a cautious approach which essentially says that unless you are proven wrong you are okay.

    It is understandable that the world has some problem comprehending exactly what went wrong. How could people who are supposed to be the most homogeneous group that formed a nation in post-colonial Africa, could do so much of self destruction ? How could this happen in an era when human rights is taking increasingly important role in business and political lives of nations. How could normal people let five hundred thousand of their folks starve to death and still put a happy face at the glare of TV camera lights. What actually constitutes humanity? And when you are a powerful "warlord" who are you accountable to? My father, as simple as he was, was very righteous man. He always asked me not to eat in front of the hungry. I thought sometimes he tended to exaggerate the extent of other peoples problems. Why should you care other peoples problems anyway? He would tell me that once other peoples problems ceases to be yours you lose your reason for being a human. I thought that was being too idealistic or even naive. But 30 years later I think he was right. We, Somalis let 500000 of our people starve to death, therefore by extension there is no reason for us to claim humanity. Or is it? I have made extensive study in the economics of process industries. Does it make any economic sense to strip the copper wires of electrical distribution system of Mogadishu and sell them as scrap? How about the underground water pipes and the telephone cables. If you add the cost of manpower needed to dig up and opening up 1/2 m ditch to remove inch carbon steel tubing, cut to size, ship them and sell them, I do not understand how this operation would ever make any economic sense in this world we live in. What use do you make of old telephone cables anyway ? So this operation is not predicated by any economic considerations, so what is it ? I am not sure if I can answer all the questions around this strange actions, but I will try nevertheless to give you some of the things that went wrong.

    You could roughly divide the Somali population into 80/20 ratio between pastoral, nomadic and urban agricultural. So it is the former group that sets the social and economic life of Somalia. It is the trade of livestock and their products that sustain the economies of overwhelming majority of urban centers. Trade with the outside was mostly based again on livestock. Centers like Berbera and Bossaso owed their whole existence to livestock trade. Urban agricultural sector provided in turn commodities that the pastoral sector needed. There was a continuos demographic movement from the country side to the urban centers in the south like Mogadisho, Merca, Brava, Kismayo, where there are large permanently urban population mostly based on agriculture, the so called urban dwellers in most of the centers in middle and northern parts of the country were mostly of pastoral background and have some presence in both setting ; thus the line that divides the 2 is blurred.

    In the harsh reality of the pastoral setting where life is a continuos struggle with natures elements, a set of relations have been developed to help one combat these elements. These are kinship relations further expanded into tribal relations where one is expected to share the burden of protection of the group. This relations are not something that has been invented by anyone, but they evolved automatically from the needs of the group to achieve a common objective. And so came the tribes, and clans. The desire to identify with a clan is greatly diminished as one goes to urban more agricultural based areas, as the elements become less and less severe.

    Coming back to why the copper wire has been stripped, we have to go back to schools of the nation in the 70's and 80's.

    When the military regime took over the country in Oct 1969, the institutions were functioning well and the schools were teaching students useful education. Our students were competing, with honorable results, in many educational institutions around the world. They were being taught in schools to love their neighbor and do no harm to anyone. Learning was a pleasure because it was rewarded. The dollar was trading at 6 shillings in the banks. There was no black market on currency exchange. Average government salary was 300 S.Sh. The nation was not in debt. Mogadishu population was 400000.

    In 1989 the number of school buildings had increased by 200-300 %, the nominal student body has also increased by almost the same factor. But by then dollar was not available for trade in the banks, the black market price was 2000 S.Sh to the dollar, the average government salary was 1200 S.Sh. On the average the student was attending 2-5 % of the class lectures. The rest of the time they were either selling cigarettes to complement the meager family income or go and eat Qat. For parents school and education was no longer a priority. Schools totally ceased to be educational institutions, they transformed, perhaps unknowingly, into a dangerous breeding grounds for soldiers of a new kind. Soldiers that learned only one thing, get rich at any cost. The regime in Mogadishu lost control of the northern parof the country. Maiirtenia, Mudug and Hiran for all practical purposes had undeclared autonomy for some years. The nation had billions of dollars in debt. What remained of the national institutions like banks, police, armed forces, etc were only serving privileged few. Despite all the economic difficulties land in " Boli Qaran " was a premium and there was construction boom. Some homes had several cars parked in front. Mogadishu had the only working telephone system in the nation. Mogadisho had also 2 million people, roughly 50% of the nations population. AND REMEMBER!, it is not a happy, normal 2 million people. The whole fabric of the society was bursting at the seams. We reached the critical mass. Give any social scientist these leads and ask for possible scenarios. In fact you don't have to be a social scientist to understand what a potential time bomb this is. 

    For so long the government, the offices, the good cars, the running water, the telephones, and anything else that functioned in the country was associated with very privileged few. The ordinary masses hated these objects of privilege just as much as the people who enjoyed them. When the final meltdown happened early 1991, the chronically deprived majority targeted what they have been deprived of, pipes that carry running water, telephones, the copper wires that feed electricity to the privileged, governmental offices, the computers and the joysticks that only few had access to, the files and the filing cabinets that sustained the bureaucracy of the country. In other words everything and anything the ordinary street man ever associated with the ruling junta. The slogan was if we cant have them nobody will. 

    That is at least some of the reasons the electrical copper wires were stripped. A form of protest, a powerful protest . End


     

     

     


    [Column]

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