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The Galgala conflict and its misleading association with Islamic Extremism

By Ali H. Abdulla

I visited Galgala in 2005 while doing some volunteer work at the University of East Africa in Bosasso. It is a small village that is off the beaten track with no roads, hospitals or proper schools.

The people of Galgla are very industrious and are mainly farmers who use irrigation canals to cultivate all kinds of fruit and vegetable. The area is very fertile and is endowed with water resources in the form of springs that flow all the year round.

It took us around 5 hours to reach Galgala although it is around 60km from Bosasso, the commercial capital of Puntland. We traveled by a 4×4 vehicle that it inched its way slowly among huge boulders. There are no paved roads to Galgala which is nestled in a mountainous and rugged area. We had to abandon the vehicle and walk the last mile because of the steep incline that the driver had to perilously negotiate alone.

When we reached Galgala, we were surprised to find an oasis in the middle of the desert. Water gushes from a rock formation in the area and the people of Galgala built a small structure to protect the source from contamination and interference. They built irrigation canals from the source to small reservoirs attached to each farm in the area. The water is shared and each reservoir gets filled on a different day of the week.
The weather in Galgala is very cool and dry in sharp contrast to the hot and steamy weather of Bosasso. The change in weather is noticeable once one reaches a certain altitude in the steep climb to the village.

The people of Galgala are very generous and offered us plenty of food that tasted a lot better than the food we got used to in the polluted city of Bosasso which teemed with flies, mosquitoes and garbage.

We were given a quick tour of the area which is a gateway to the Golis range that stretches from Galgala in the east all the way to Borama in the west. Our guide introduced us to a lot of medicinal plants including ginseng. They told us of German doctors who visited the area regularly in search of certain medicinal herbs. Such visits alone disprove the claim of the Puntland administration of the presence of extremists in Galgala.

Given its pleasant weather, water resources and scenic mountains, the area can become a retreat that can attract tourists and adventurers in the future if the Somali state gets resurrected again under a democratic Federal System that encourages entrepreneurship.

Today, Gaglala is in the news, not because of its beauty and pristine mountains, but because of an ugly war that can displace hundreds of innocent families in the area. It angers me a lot to witness the unwarranted aggression that the Farole and his war cabinet have launched against the peaceful village of Galgala on the pretext of fighting against Islamic extremists. Conversely, it is a great relief for us all that the defenders of Galgala have made the wise decision of vacating the village in order to spare the women and children the horrors of war. Extremists would have put up a stiff fight in the middle of the innocent civilians just as they are doing in Mogadishu where hundreds of women and children get slaughtered when AMISOM forces respond with heavy artillery when attacked from residential areas in Mogadishu, the dying capital of the Somali Republic.

The world should not be fooled by Farole and his notorious Puntland Intelligence Service that is on the payroll of foreign spy agencies. Somalis in Bosasso have coined a new name for the PIS: “Ashahaada la dirir”, those who fight against the concept of the oneness of God. They routinely arrest, interrogate, torture and at times rendition innocent religious scholars without any credible proof of wrongdoing.

The conflict in Galgala has nothing to do with Islamic Extremism. It is about a local population that is trying to defend its resources against exploitation by greedy individuals and foreign companies. It is about mineral resources that can be compared to the blood-diamonds that Charles Taylor is being tried for in The Hague.

Farole and his newly formed war cabinet deserve to be put on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity. The Galgala war is a continuation of the war started by Farole’s predecessor who tried to use foreign companies to prospect for minerals in Majayahan without the consent and knowledge of the local population. Many people lost their lives in that conflict.

In the absence of a new Federal Constitution that regulates the exploitation of natural resources in Somalia by the regional administrations, these administrations have no right to prospect for oil or minerals without the knowledge and consent of the weak Federal Government that is being undermined by extremists and the regional administrations as well.

The International community should realize that the ugly scenes of blood-diamond will be replayed in Somalia unless they help the Somali people extricate themselves from the current state of war, divisions, bloodshed and piracy. Greedy, strong-men controlling vast areas known as the “lands” will only exacerbate the current situation. The current strategy of encouraging the “lands” will weaken the Somali State further and create a multitude of Charles Taylor‘s Liberia in which strong clans can prey on weaker clans in the struggle for potential mineral resources.

Ali H. Abdulla

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