Putland’s President Abdiwali has pledged to improve economic opportunities for people in Puntland, Somalia. Putland’s President Abdiwali has pledged to improve economic opportunities for people in Puntland, Somalia. Image credit: Garowe online

During my short visit to Galkayo, in Puntland, an autonomous region of Somalia, at the end of December 2015, an impressive development caught my eyes. Roads and infrastructure were being constructed in the town. I was further excited by the drastic construction of business centres by the government. Upon his election in 2014, Puntland’s President Abdiwali pledged to improve the opportunities for Puntland’s people. In this regard, Abdiwali is fulfilling his commitment to economic development and political stability in Galkayo.

Peace and conflict in Galkayo

Galkayo is a cosmopolitan city with a culture of integration, coexistence, and of hosting people displaced by the conflicts and prolonged droughts in many parts of Somalia. Galkayo too has tasted the experience of displacement recently. Armed conflict erupted between the Puntland government and GalMudug in November and December 2015.

At a glance Galkayo is a divided city shared by two administrations: Puntland (in the north, east and southwest) and GalMudug (in the south). The town has been relatively calm since 1993 after a peace agreement signed between the two traditionally warring factions that predominantly inhabit Galkayo district. However, Galkayo experienced three successive armed clashes at the end of 2015, as Puntland and GalMudug forces clashed.

The conflict was triggered by a dispute over the construction of a feeder road that connects the north to the main highway at the south-western part of the town. This brutal conflict was a challenge and serious setback to statebuilding.

Galkayo communities are among Somalia's most vulnerable populations. There is poverty and scarcity of resources, both of which contribute to conflict. I believe that the economic and business development promised by the President will boost employment in Galkayo, thus helping to alleviate poverty and strengthen sustainable peace and prosperity for the town.

Challenges to statebuilding

Following the collapse of the state government in Somalia, people occupied government land and took control of buildings to establish businesses such as hotels and garages. President Abdiwali’s administration has a policy of demolishing these old government buildings and reconstructing them to serve as public institutions for the whole community.

The government has faced strong opposition to this policy from those occupying the buildings. One of those evicted has gone so far as to engage armed militias to attack government forces.

Armed militias threaten security, economy, and local governance in Somalia. This, coupled with the proliferation of arms among civilians, presents a serious challenge to statebuilding since the police are rarely the strongest force in disputes between the public and the state.

Another challenge to statebuilding is the widespread use of traditional methods of dealing with crime and administering justice. This has undermined law enforcement institutions’ responsibility in maintaining law and order. As a consequence armed youth are encouraged to commit crimes with impunity.

Given these challenges, President Abdiwali’s administration has the responsibility to rebuild the trust of a society torn apart by war. I believe Abdiwali’s commitment to economic development deserves to be commended. The fruits of these initiatives will be bourne long after Abdiwali leaves his presidency.

Abdiwali has been criticised for focusing too much on one small part of Puntland. I disagree. While he has spent much time in Galkayo, he will soon be pursuing his agenda of development elsewhere. And one thing that Somalis lack is the forbearance as the development comes gradually - Rome was not built in a day.

I believe that development and good intentions introduced by the President is key to preventing conflict and paves the way for lasting peace and prosperity. In addition to this there needs to be a concentration of efforts at all levels for genuine disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration. The is not an easy process and needs to be undertaken alongside genuine reconciliation that focuses on issues of land disputes, restoration of security throughout Somalia and most importantly elaboration of national and local frameworks for DDR.