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Tension is rising in the Galmudug region of central Somalia. Politicians, elders, presidential candidates and the current administration are in the middle of multiple conflicts about the upcoming elections for the region.
Former politicians are in middle of the races, the city's hotels have transformed into campaign headquarters and bases against the current administration, current leaders are divided into two wings, Galmudug warned politicians against holding meetings without permission, and some elders demanded a deadline for the current president's term while other elders opposed it.
Galmudug officials are in disagreement about the time of the elections, creating conflict among the administration and its parties as well as other candidates hoping to run for the president. Despite the lack of an official election date, campaigns have already started in the congested city of Galkayo (Galka’ayo), the capital of the region.
Galmudug is a regional state in Somalia and was established at the end 2006 when Mudug and Galgudud regions merged, as authorized by the Traditional Federal Charter. Galkayo is divided in half with Puntland operating the north and Galmudug controlling the south. The chaotic and crime-ridden city, often compared to America's old 'Wild West', connects the southern parts of Somalia to the north-east.
The city's airport can be used by either administration, however, the Puntland government controls the airport operations. Two Danish Demining Group aid workers, who were eventually rescued, and an American journalist who is still in the hands of captors were kidnapped independently while en-route to Galkayo airport which has also been the base of clan warfare.
The Roots of the Conflict
Galmudug President Mohamed Ahmed Alin and members of his administration including Interior and Security Minister Abshir Diini, Deputy Parliament Chairman of Awke Shiekh Abdirahman, some traditional elders and members of the high court believe the election will be held in February 2013, while Vice President Abdisaman Nur and Parliament Speaker Hassan Mohamud and other elders disagree and believe the elections must be held in early August of this year.
To get around this, Galmudug's vice president named a nine-person committee for the elections while President Mohamed Ahmed Alin was out of the state last month.
“Today we are announcing the election committee of Galmdug as well as committee of expanding the administration into the other parts of region. There will be nine election officials and the committee will conduct their task of the administration fairly and work for the elections. It is important to prepare for the elections in August,” Mr. Nur Guled said in a session with Galmudug parliament.
The nine person committee was approved during a parliamentary session which chaired by the Galmudug Parliament Speaker Hassan Mohamud at end of last month.
“Twenty parliamentarians attended the session. 16 of the sitting parliament approved it while two rejected the plan and two other MPs kept silence on the motion. The committee has been approved. They are legal and they can do their work starting immediately,” MP Mohamed Ahmed, member of Galmudug parliament, told Somalia Report.
One group of elders endorsed the electoral committee and urged an end to the current president's term.
“The outgoing president’s time is up on July 31st, and the elections will be held in August. We welcome the committee named by the vice president for election and suggest that another committee for preparing and organizing the election must be created," said elder Yasin Mohamed Gani, the speaker of Galmud Elders’ Chamber.
The vice president announced last month that he is running for the presidency of Galmudug, sparking conflict among the region's influentials. On June 12th high court officials, Islamic scholars and some elders announced that the election committee was illegal and demanded the approval must pass through the high court. The court also called on the governments to distance itself from any matter that can create disagreement. The two vice high judges, Ma’alim Adam and Sheikh Hussein Abdalla, urged the committee to consult with the high court, as the high court chairman of Galmudug was absent that meeting.
“The election committee was illegal and it is being named by a person who does not have any authority without consulting or informing the president. A person who is running himself (referring to the vice president) for president, both president and his vice must consult with the high court before naming any committee for the election, in order to prevent another conflict in the state. All things related with the election must brought to the court. Every step being taken must be based upon the Islamic Sharia and the constitution. Also we must agree to a specific date for the election that must be set and the time of current president is up in February next year,” Sheikh Hussein Abdalla told Somalia Report.
Upon the basis of the conflict, officials of the state are dived into two groups: a group expecting the election to be held in August of this year, and other group which believes the elections must be held next year.
“The president wants the elections to be held in beginning of the next year, and he is not going to leave the seat. Recently he was outside of the country when the vice president named the electoral commission. This is where the conflict started, but there is a resolution committee that will sort out all these conflicts. If this is not resolved, it will create division among tribes of this state," Abdi Mo’alin Askar, a politician in Galmudug, told Somalia Report.
Elders are also divided over the issue. One group endorsed the electoral commission and supported the August elections, while second group opposed the committee and announced that the election committee is illegal and it must be named by the president not the vice president, according to the constitution.
The Culture Council of Galmudug also claimed that the approval of committee and selecting the new parliament is their work.
“To select the new parliament, it comes from the elders. Each tribe’s parliament will be selected by his elder, since the administration is composed of tribes and the parliament elects the president and his vice president,” Mr. Hassan, the chairman, told Somalia Report.
Other elders urged peace.
“The naming of the committee was illegal and they are not based upon the constitution. They are not representing the Culture Council of Galmudug and they cannot endorse that issue. To select the new coming parliaments is elders' work and we also have to approve the electoral committee. We are not supporting any wing. Our tasks are not related to political conflicts; we are mediators between all the people and we are calling on the people of Galmudug to avoid anything that can cause conflict. What is being required by us is to mediate and solve all the conflicts and problems, and return the unsolved issues to the Culture Council,” said peacemaker Jama Mohad Halane. The Galmudug parliament speaker sent home the parliament on June 31st telling them their time has ended and another new parliament will be selected.
“The state has a constitution and charter which tells us everything about the state and we must follow it. The parliament's time ended on the 31st of June. Thus, the parliamentarians were not on duty when we elected the electoral commission. The president’s time will end on the 31st of July and from the first of August elections will start. After naming the parliament there will be a president and vice president they will take the seats after inaugurating them on the 15th of August,” Hassan Mohamud Hayd explained to Somalia Report.
“There are elders for the state and they follow everything. As state officials, me, the president, Abdi Hassan Qeybiid who is a presidential candidate, and four of our elders singed a mutual agreement that was about the ending time of the current president and everybody singed it. We agreed the elections will take place in on the first of August. From that agreement, we must fulfill it and there must not be changes. To say the elections will be held in 2013 will never happen and it is a personal desire that we will not accept. This country is not one man and one vote; the elders for all the tribes make up this state and what they endorse and will work on,” he added.
But the deputy speaker of parliament opposed sending home the MPs and rejected the speaker’s claim of dissolving parliament.
"The parliament of Galmudug is working and they didn’t leave the office. Is it only for the speaker to say that we send away the parliament without knowing his authority? It is authorized only by the president to do so and speaker doesn’t have any power to dismiss the parliament,” said Mr. Awke Abdirahman, the deputy speaker.
On the other hand, Galmudug Interior Minister Abshir Diini held a press conference in Galkayo claiming the electoral committees are illegal and called for them not to start any activity related to the elections. He said the president’s time will end in 2013.
“In 2010 the Culture Council added three years to the president's term and he will stay in office until January when his time ends. It has not yet reached the election time and there will not be preparations. The parliament of Galmudug can only be sent home by the president and the speaker doesn’t have the authority to send home the state parliament. I also call upon any political party planning to hold a meeting in Galkayo that they must inform the interior minister,” said Mr Abshir Diini.
Sources close to the president who requested anonymity told Somalia Report that the president is completely against any election in August and he is not preparing for it.
“There is conflict among the tribes of Galmudug and every tribe is trying to take the president’s seat. That is why they are regrouping and creating tension in the region. The president is not going to hold elections in August, which is why vice president named the electoral committee without informing the president. There are political leaders who want to dismantle the Galmudg tribes, and the president believes his time has not yet finished until February next year," said the source.
Galmudug has been in conflict since Mohamed Ahmed was elected president at the end of 2009 where each side has sabotaged the president's agenda, according to Mr. Shakur H. Ali, a local politician.
“The current administration isn't effective because of people who have political interests are crippling the current administration. I want to tell those people who are demolishing it to stop their bad actions against the current administration. I believe that the president’s time is up next year. If the parliament speaker resigns his position it is up to him. He can resign, but he cannot send home the parliament; only a presidential letter can send home the parliament. I call upon the parliament to come and sit and elect a new chairman in order to continue their work,” Mr. Shakur stated.
To date, eight candidates are expecting to run for the presidency of Galmudug.
(Editor's Note: Somalia Report does not endorse any candidate and the list below is in no particular order.)
Colonel Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdiid
Tension in the city further increased when former warlord and former TFG Police Commissioner Colonel Abdi Hassan Qeybdiid arrived at Galkayo's airport on July 2nd and hundreds of his political supporters turned out to welcome him.
During a well organized ceremony at the Embassy Hotel in the capital, Colonel Qeybdiid laid out his political agenda.
“If I win the president of Galmudug, I will rebuild the roads of the city and I will beautify it. I will develop the security of the state and prepare a powerful army. I made an agreement in Dubai with Hobyo International Port Ltd in order to build the port of Hobyo, and it will start it September of this year," Mr Awale told supporters.
“Within a year a lot of things will change in terms of good governance, credibility, justice, reconciliation among affected war tribes, the economy and roads. We will not move higher until we are unified and develop our territory. Today I stand in this position in order to work for my people and my region,” Colonel Abdi Awale added.
He also emphasized that the election must be held at August.
The former warlord was born in 1948 in Galkayo where he attended primary and intermediate school as well learning the Quran. From 1959-1964 he attended the Italian College of Orphan Maschile in Mogadishu and then joined the Somali National Army and was trained in Hallane Training Camp. From 1972-74 he went to British College in Nairobi and then rejoined the Somali National Forces. From 1980-88 he was transferred to Somali High Commission in China. By 1989 he returned to Somalia and was employed as the defense minister but he left and joined the guerrilla movement fighting against Somali government where he joined United Somali Congress (USC), led by General Mohamed Farah Aydid.
By 2001 he became member of parliament and then became a warlord in Mogadishu during the reign of the Islamic Courts Union. In another turn of events, he became Police Commissioner of the Somalia Police in 2009 and then in 2010 he became the minister of energy and water for the transitional government.
During his time of office for the TFG, he facilitated the training and payment of 120 Somali police with the help of the UNDP. He also found support to build the police station in Galkayo and recruited the local militia to become security staff for his home town of Galkayo.
Abdisaman Nur Guled
Abdisaman Nur Guled was born in Galkayo in 1960 and attended primary school at Saqawidin and then moved onto Omar Samatar Secondary School in Galkayo. After high school he went to Mogadishu where he joined Mogadishu Management College earned a degree in management.
In 1982 he founded Africa Transportation and Courier Company, based in Nairobi, and served as the CEO for the company more than 20 years.
In 2005 he returned to his hometown where he started to work to establish Galmudug as a state and became one of the first MPs as well as the second deputy of the parliament speaker. After a week he became the first deputy of speaker and after the speaker of the parliament left the position. For a year and a half he served as president when Mohamed Warsame Kiimiko left the country and went abroad.
He has a close relationship to the elders of the territory and is an active businessman. Colonel Ali Baashe Mohamed
The colonel was born in Harardheer (Xarardheer) in Galmudug region. After his high school in Mogadishu, he studied at Buroa Technical Institute and then joined the Somalia National Army (SNA) where he trained in Soviet Union from 1970-1976. Between 1976-1978 Colonel Ali Baashe Mohamed was worked at Camp 26 of Somalia's Military in Hargaisa, one of the biggest bases during the 1977 war against Ethiopia.
In 1979 he served as the defense minister of Somalia and then in 1985 he became a colonel in the Somalia National Army. During the civil war he went moved to London. While there, he started his campaign and met the diaspora of Galmudug in Europe.
“My plan is clear: if I am elected the Galmudug president for the August elections, I will enhance and tighten security. I will look for the unity and the history of Galmudug society. I will rebuild and reorganize offices and the buildings of the government. I will do a lot of about the education, health and sanitation. I will take care of the poor people, disabled people, women and children and I will make sure to improve the security personnel of the region,” Colonel Ali Bashe told Somalia Report.
Hassan Mohamed Ga’aliye
Hassan Mohamed Ga’aliye serves as the current Fisheries and Sea Resources Minister of Galmudug. On July 15th he declared his intentions to run for president while at the Nomand Hotel Palace in Nairobi, Kenya.
“As you are aware, Galmudug is in transition time and it is preparing the elections for a new parliament and president and his vice president in August. I want to declare here that I am contesting the president of Galmudug. If the people of Galmudug elect me the president, I promise I will develop the justice in the state. My political and economic plans I will display the coming days," said Mr Hassan Mohamud.
Dr. Mohamud Abdi Ilmi
Dr. Mohamud Abdi Ilmi was born Mogadishu. Before the civil war broke out in Somalia he worked in the Central Bank of Somalia and then joined Somali politics in 2008. When Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) of Somalia was established in the central regions of Somalia, he became a secretary general for two years in Galguduud later he joined ASWJ in Gedo region where he became a secretary general. In his candidacy, he resigned as the secretary general of ASWJ in order to run for president.
“After a serious meeting between me, the ASWJ, and Kenya, they suggested I run on behalf of them. The ASWJ supported me to run in August. My plan of piracy is clear and it is to fight the pirates on land so that they cannot operate on the sea,” Mr. Mohamud Abdi told Somalia Report.
Abdirisaq Hussein Gedi
Abdirisaq Hussein Gedi is a Canadian who has lived for the last twenty years in Toronto. He arrived in Galkayo last month where he announced his plans to run for president. During that time, he held consecutive meetings with elders, youth, women and politicians in the capital and then returned to Canada.
Khalif Mohamud Timokalajeh
Khalif Mohamud Timokalajeh is a politician and started his campaign for presidency in Galkayo where he took meetings with elders. He is very close to the ASWJ, which is aiding the government in its battle against al-Shabaab.
Abdiqadir Ali Jama (Qalabxoor)
Abdiqadir Ali Jama (Qalabxoor) announced his candidacy in London. Although he was among those who founded the Galmudug administration, he lives London and is not well know in local politics.
Insecurity in Galmudug
Meanwhile, due in part to the political conflict, insecurity is on the rise in parts of Galmudug and illegal checkpoints have sprung up in between towns and villages where gunmen bribe travelers while pirates have moved from their seaside bases into the city.
Galmudug police forces conducted a massive security operation on the road that connects Galkayo to Gelinsoor on July 14th to arrest gangs harassing travelers on the route. One civilian was killed during the operation and five bandits were arrested.
“We were aware that bandits were harassing the people in the road so we chased them. Five of them were put in the hands of the police. This operation is not only on the roads, we are securing the whole region from the youth who are harassing the people also we are conducting operations in the capital. I request our society to support and inform us of any insecurity matter in order to maintain the law and order," Colonel Abdi, police chief, told Somalia Report. Clan violence has also increased in recent weeks. Earlier this month two tribes from Galmudug and Himan Heeb states clashed over land and water rights, leaving two people dead and one injured in Miro-Awleed in Galgadud.
Assassinations and violence have also increased in recent months, including the beheading of a young boy last month in the capital. The body of Jama Ali Madobe, the fourteen year old victim, was dumped in an street behind the Galkayo Hospital.
“Both his hands and legs were tied, but there were no injuries on the other parts of his body except that his head was cut off. He was slaughtered like an animal. Sometimes it my happen to an adult, but this is first time a young boy has been beheaded," Ahmed Ismail, a witness who saw the boy's body, told Somalia Report.
Galmudug Police investigated but nobody has been arrested in the attack.
Meanwhile pirates, prevalent in Galmudug, have also been creating further instability in the city forcing Puntland to conduct a massive operation on July 23 of this year.
“The forces are conducting operations that will improve the security of Galkayo whether the insecurity is caused by pirates or other factors, our forces are committed to securing the city of Galkayo,” Police Chief Colonel Jama Mohamed Ahmed told Garowe Online.
In the midst of the conflict security has been beefed up in Galkayo's hotels which are serving as campaign headquarters, forcing the interior minister to issue a statement warning against unauthorized political meetings.
“We aware that the meetings are being held in the city hotels that are against the government. We will not accept meetings unless they notify the interior and security ministry. In order to authorize meetings, we will give out letters. I am commanding the owners of the hotels to take it seriously. Action will be taken against anyone who does not obey the rules and regulations," he said in a statement.