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Life in Bosaso
Locals Worry About Piracy, Electricity, Militias, PMCs
By MOHAMED BEERDHIGE 03/01/2012
Bosaso
Bosaso
Bosaso is the largest city in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland and is the regional capital of Somalia’s largest region, Bari. Previously known as Bender Qassim, which means 'Qassim’s country,' of late Bender Qassim they city was called Bosaso. After the central government broke down in 1991 and civil war displaced many Somalis within their country, many headed to Bosaso. Bosaso has since become Somalia's third largest city, after Mogadishu and Hargeisa. It is also the commercial city of Puntland, most of Puntland’s income comes through the port in Bosaso.

The weather is hot and dry throughout the year, average temperatures during the days of the summer months could rise to 37°C, with low of 28°C at night. The weather is warm the rest of the year.

The seaport was constructed by the administration of former president Siad Barre in the mid-1980s for yearly livestock shipments to Arab countries. The Italian government started a three-phase development of Bosaso into a new deepwater port, but only phase one was completed due to civil war. At the moment, only Berbera, Mogadishu and Kismayo have deepwater ports. The economy of Bosaso depends on exports of livestock, and annually exports ten of thousands of goats, sheep and camels to Arab world.  

During the civil war, Bosaso was a small town and had a population of fewer than 40,000 inhabitants with low incomes. Bosaso has long been home for the Majeerten, Warsangali and Dishishe clans, but after the Somali government collapsed, the sub-clan of Darood started moving back to their ancestral Puntland regions. Together with those Somalis who were fleeing the conflict in southern Somalia, Bosaso became is one of the most developed cities in the province with an estimated population of 650,000, at least 60,000 of whom are internally displaced people (IDPs) who fled the conflict of south and central Somalia.

Bosaso Businesses And Activity
Mohamed Beerdhige
Bosaso Businesses And Activity
It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of foreigners in the city, but the number has been increasing recently, due to oil exploration now underway, several hundred kilometers south of Bosaso. Along with the increase of foreigners have come attempted assassinations, bombings, and inter-clan conflicts, which have increased fear inside the city . “We are not afraid any particular person, but we have seen hundreds of businessmen, high level officials, scholars and other people were murdered in Bosaso. All these attacks were well calculated, and the intent of some of these murders are to humiliate our society. Now we are ready to work with police to protect our lives and those of others,” Ahmed Cagey, a traditional elder in Bosaso, told Somalia Report.

Bosaso has a number of institutions of higher education including East Africa University, Mogadishu University, and college like Bosaso Collage, PIDAM (Puntland Institute of Development and Administration of Management ). Bosaso has more than 30 primary and secondary schools, as well as madrassa Imam an-Nawawi, a Quranic school with 5,000 students.

Bosaso’s power supply was established in 1988 by funds donated by the Danish government. It consists of three engine generators, which provide electricity for 14,000 households in Bosaso. The company has a labor force about hundred employees and charge the customers $0.8-Kw/H. There are other private entrepreneurs such as Golis telecom and Dahabshil money transfer which provide electricity services to the customers, but demand remains higher than supply.

Street Children in Bosaso

Street Children in Bosaso
Mohamed Beerdhige
Street Children in Bosaso
There are thousands of street children, most who lost their parents due to the civil war in southern Somalia. Most work in menial jobs where they earn low wages such as shoe-shining or porters, and are extremely vulnerable. Many of them dropped out from early education, some of them use alcohol and are homeless. “I come to Bosaso in 2009, fleeing from Mogadishu. I live in Bosaso, I am happy as my life is not bad. Usually I can afford food,” said Abdallah, a 13-year-old orphan who lost both parents in fighting in Mogadishu.

The Puntland Agency for Social Welfare (PASWE) was created in 2009 to help vulnerable groups in Puntland including street children and orphans, and to promote the rights and welfare of the poor, helpless and destitute. They have been working to create a structure for socioeconomic growth for those marginalized in Puntland.

How Pirates Affect Bosaso Business

Pirates have negatively affected trade in Bosaso. Pirates hijacking trade ships carrying goods from Arab states to Bosaso port were particularly harmed since commercial vessels charged higher transport costs due to security expenses.

“We are worried about our goods and boats, because Somali pirates have accelerated their attacks on our commercial ships, and they are hijacking commercial boats near Bosaso port," said Liban Dheere, a well-known businessman in Bosaso.

“Pirate attacks may seriously harm Bosaso’s business sector if Puntland and international navies do not act seriously to prevent such attacks. Some businessmen have left Bosaso after they lost a great deal due to pirates activities in the region," Mohamed Artan, a businessman in Bosaso, told Somalia Report.

Recent Events in Bosaso

Three recent events remain marked in the minds and hearts of Bosaso residents:

On February 5, 2008, bombings struck the district of Bosaso where many Oromo lived, after fleeing to Puntland to escape persecution due to their national identity in Ethiopia. At least 20 people were killed and over 100 people injured, including women and children, when two explosions (suspected grenades) hit an area near Bosaso seaport.

On December 3, 2011, a massive fire broke out in Bosaso's biggest market, which caused severe damages to numerous people and businesses. One person was died and several others were seriously wounded.

On December 5, 2011, a well-known Somali Islamic cleric Dr. Ahmed Haji Abdirahman was assassinated in Bosaso by unknown gunmen. Ahmed was a well-known scholar in Somalia, since he returned to Somalia in 1999 and establish East Africa University in Bosaso. His funeral was thousands residents gathered to pray for him and condemn his murderers.

What Local People Think of Atom's Militias and Private Military Companies

Bosaso Airport
Somalia Report
Bosaso Airport
The Puntland government accuses the militias loyal to Mohamed Said Atom of links to al-Shabaab, accusing them of killings, assassination and bombings. Similarly, many people in Bosaso believe Atom's militia are criminals who need to be watched. “Since I was born in 1978, I lived in Bosaso peacefully without fear, but ever since Atom's militia started in the Galgala area, the security of Bosaso has gotten worse, with more killings, bombings and assassinations. Despite my love for Bosaso, I moved to a small village called Rako,” said Mohamed Warsame.

The Puntland government says that private military companies are making a significant contribution to the establishment and training of Puntland marine forces, according to the guidance and restrictions issued by Puntland government, and some locals agree. “We know that pirates and smugglers have established bases in the Puntland region. I believe the Puntland government have a right to call private companies to give training and equipment to fight against these gangs. We support the government’s efforts," Abdihakim Adde, a social worker and resident of Bosaso, told Somalia Report.

Other residents disagree with the presence of private military contractors. "Private companies have increased armed conflict in Puntland through payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed tribal militia groups, mainly in the Bari region. As we know since they came to Puntland, inter-clan conflicts have increased. I believe Puntland is not able to control them or to make them leave," said Ali Hassan, a Bosaso resident.