On 4th of April 2018, president Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas of Puntland disbanded Garowe district council with a presidential decree, citing bickering, infighting, irreconcilable differences and deadlock among district council representatives and the mayor. Although Puntland citizens are weary of the way district councils are dissolved by presidential decree, they concur that the work of district councils are so often crippled by infighting and wrangling between the council representatives and the mayors.
In a short survey conducted by Puntland Mirror revealed that the majority of Garowe residents characterize Garowe’s recent successive mayors as incompetent, parochial individuals, lacking of vision and planning skills. All of these mayors were alleged of corruption, cronyism and poor leadership, breach of election campaign promises, dereliction of duty and failures to bring meaningful reform and development to the city. They have failed to improve the basic council services such as security, environmental services, town planning and establishing firefighting department.
Engineer Mohamoud Farah Beereed, a Garowe resident, discussed the past mayors’ failures with Puntland Mirror. “Frankly speaking, the previous mayors’ failures are numerous but the most notable one is their inability to improve the basic council services, such as maintaining cleanliness and environmental health of the city”. He added, “No long term strategic plan was ever laid out for the city to manage its vital social services. Donor development projects were never properly and efficiently managed and utilized to benefit the city and its residents”.
Sheltering with Waste
In 2017, Puntland Mirror published an investigative report on the waste and environmental degradation and their potential health hazards in Puntland. Every corner of Garowe city is inundated with waste; dumped waste from households, businesses and industry. Heaps of rubbish, streams of sewage, chemicals and used engine oils make a familiar but ghastly sight of contaminated land.
It was too familiar to see mayors organize cleaning campaigns around the city in the first week of taking over mayor’s office, a disingenuous ploy aimed at increasing popularity and swaying public opinion. They have never considered maintaining cleanliness and environmental health as part of their role and a duty.
The Daily Dreaded Perils of Fire
On 30th of January 2018, a deadly fire broke out at a petrol station in Garowe and spread to the neighboring houses, claiming the lives of seven people and destroying properties. Said Abshir Yusuf, an expert researcher in social policy, believes that it is very unfortunate the city – all its hyped growth and glamour – does not have a firefighting department or fire engines. He said, “It is high time for the city to set up a fire department. One can infer from the government complacency that nobody considers fire station as a critical priority. We cannot afford to wait and talk about it when a major fire disaster occurs”.
Spectating the Deadly Land Disputes
In the last two years, nearly 10 people died because of land disputes in Garowe, as recorded in reports shared with Puntland Mirror by security agencies.
Hussein Haji Yusuf, a businessman in Garowe, argues that the main causes of deadly land disputes include widespread poverty, lack of employment and income compounded by the highly-priced value of land”. He added that “the notion of land as an income source, the notorious expression; “claim it, you will not go empty-handed”; encourages and fuels the disputes.
Hussein also apportions part of the blame on district authorities. “There is no comprehensive land management policies and systems in place to plan, manage, register and control land and at the same time there is no fair legal framework to solve land disputes”. Hussein warns the illegal avaricious land grab and fencing became so pervasive to the point it had spread to the grazing rural areas and valleys.
Said Yusuf describes the land dispute problems as one of the destructive legacies of the collapse of the central government. “When the central government collapsed in 1991, the land registers, documentations and systems to manage land in every town around the country vanished and the unoccupied land fell into the hands of civilian population, resulting in deadly disputes and conflicts. It is overdue to lay the foundation and the regulations to manage land but unfortunately land disputes are solved through traditional disputes resolutions and mediation”.
It is believed that the growth and development of Garowe city is impeded by the extortionate price of land.
Poor Financial management
District revenues could cover a significant proportion of the social services, argues Said Abshir Yusuf. “Garowe district council receives a considerable amount of money from various sources. There is a strong acceptance that this money is expended in shady transactions, corrupt deals and handouts”. The district has no formal transparent accounting, financial reporting and auditing systems”. He expressed optimism and added, “I believe that the revenues generated by the district, if properly managed, could enable the district authorities to fulfill their duties and pay for social services.
Is it a city or a nomadic settlement?
Garowe city is flooded with domestic animals, namely goats, becoming more than a mere nuance. Goats are wreaking havoc on the cleanliness and the trees and grass in public spaces of the city. No mayor has attempted to deal with this visible problem.
Other neglected social services
Previous mayors were not held responsibility for their failures to engage with the public and private sector to improve social services; security, health, education, water and electricity supplies. For instance, five different types of water with varying quality and health standards, and prices are used in Garowe city. The city council and its mayors has never engaged with water supply companies to set standards and ensure safe and regular supply of this vital resource.
Garowe’s only general hospital exist but a name. Garowe residents are suffering from the most preventable and curable communicable diseases. Middle class and affluent residents travel for medical treatment to Hargeisa, Mogadishu or abroad to Ethiopia, Kenya, Turkey, Malaysia and India.
Garowe residents complain about spiraling high electricity prices. The city council has never intervened in this unsustainable economic burden. The council has to encourage the establishment of smaller water and electricity supply companies to enter the market and end the parasitic monopoly of the present big companies.
Lack of Complaint Authorities
Garowe residents complain the afore-mentioned problems but are resigned to the fact that there is no authority to turn to for help or complain against the failures and negligence, corruption and cronyism.