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Galgala: Farole`s Waterloo
By Mohamud Haji Ahmed
August 28, 2010


Abdirahman Farole, the president of Somalia`s Puntland state, is a latter-day Somali politician of the ilk that ruined Mogadishu and much of the south. Take the inanity of his indefensible tactics concerning the Galgala conflict—a confrontation that is largely of his making. Rather than addressing the legitimate grievances of a Puntland community that he and his predecessors exploited or shunned, he chose to silence their voices by opting for a shooting war. Interestingly, President Farole made this decision after turning his back on peace overtures from a wide array of community leaders, over a period of five months.

The community leaders wanted to defuse a potentially explosive situation brought about by Farole`s labeling an entire sub region of Puntland a haven for wild-eyed radicalism. He called their defensive militia dangerous and an existential threat to Puntland. To this end, Farole and his minions began to make early pronunciations of unfounded, propagandistic claims against Galgala which is located in western Bari region of Puntland. In particular, the Farole regime started to vilify Mohamed Said Atom, the leader of the militia that seeks to defend that community from all kinds of harassment going back to the inception of Puntland in 1998. But the record shows that it was Farole and his predecessors that singled out that community for callous abuse that took many forms: arbitrary arrests, attempts at intimidation and, worse of all, targeted episodes of land grab.

So it was after being variously ignored, boycotted and generally besieged by the regime that a defensive militia began to emerge in the western Bari community`s mountainous area of the previously hospitable Galgala town and its surroundings. There, members of the community sought to organize makeshift defenses led by the now famous or infamous (depending on one`s point of view) Mohamed Said Atom.

Contrary to the Farole propaganda machine, this militia is, according to knowledgeable sources, recruited from within Puntland and the overwhelming majority of its members hail from the hamlets of the western Bari sub region. Their leader, Mr. Atom, is not a radical individual nor is he, unlike President Farole, given to dictatorial tendencies. Those who know him well say he is a mild-mannered, thoughtful person. Nor is his philosophy particularly anti-Western in outlook, as the regime would have the world belief.

The reason Farole`s Puntland is hounding him has to do with his unwillingness to leave the fate of his community to its acknowledged tormentors. For example, in a recent speech to his sub clansmen, President Farole counseled the besieged community to “vacate [their ancestral] land—which happens to be endowed with substantial natural resources including oil and minerals—and “move elsewhere”!

The mountain villagers are largely traditional farmers or they raise livestock. They supply substantial farm products in the form of fruits and vegetables to the city of Bosaso. They are known for being peaceful but also fiercely independent. The reason that Farole and his predecessors continue to harass this community is not well known to the general public in Puntland or to the wider Somali community, for that matter. Most of what the media picks up is the much rehearsed propaganda speaking points mouthed by Farole and underlings. But the truth is entirely different than what they say, as it will become clear later.

After refusing all manner of peaceful settlement of the artificially created conflict, President Farole, suddenly and without prior notice, called for an all out war against the defenders of Galgala town and nearby settlements. It is ironic that in the subsequent assaults, the regime paid a heavy price in the loss of both men and material.

It is note-worthy that President Farole`s clan-tinged call for an all out war was not fully heeded by the people of Puntland. But that too did not faze him as he went ahead anyway to use the State`s military and economic resources under his disposal: first to isolate the target community and then to launch a number of vicious attacks on their villages.

Predictably, many lives were lost, mostly on the side of the attacking forces. Throughout the crisis, the regime made baseless claims each of which is more outrageous than the previous one. President Farole claimed for example that the entire western Bari sub region was infested with Al-Shabab militants; a charge that turned out to be blatantly untrue, as the regime has to date produced not a shred of evidence to back their scurrilous charges. He repeatedly stated that Mr. Atom was a radical, dangerous individual linked to known outlaws who must be stopped by force. But in interview after interview, with all kinds of media outlets, including the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Company, it turned out that the opposite was indeed the case. Atom himself insisted that he is in no way linked to any of the radical groups operating in the South such as Al Shabab, Hizul Islam, etc.

When Horseed Radio in Bosaso, in an interview with Atom, broadcasted this fact, the director of that prominent Puntland media outlet was arrested and given an extrajudicial sentence six years in kangaroo court, dictated to by President Farole.

President Farole vehemently rejected peace offerings and negotiated settlement that would have removed all hostility between the peaceful people of Galgala and nearby settlements, and his administration. Instead he issued more threats sprinkled with wild, unfounded claims all the while urging the international community to support his unilateral declaration of an internecine war within Punland—a move that boggles the mind.

Imagine! All this holier than thou attitude and righteous indignation coming from a man whose campaign for president was principally financed with cash from pirates headquartered in his hometown of Eyl. It is there that an internationally known band of criminals enjoy the tacit acceptance if not the full support of the Farole`s Puntland regime. There is a reason to believe that President Farole continues to cuddle those same pirates that elude international capture. Under the nose of the Puntland regime, the same pirates operate from bases and sanctuaries not only the pirate den of Eyl town but also in Garowe and other locales in the State. This is the kind of support system that allows pirates and their cohorts to launder ill gotten ransom moneys from the owners of the commercial vessels they routinely commandeer in the high seas. It also enables them to hide from the reach of international law.

After he kindled a needless war in which his forced suffered heavy losses, Farole`s jackbooted militia was able to take Galgala. But that is due to the fact that the defenders vacated the town to spare the community the kind of destruction that would inescapably result from mechanized combat in a population center. Not surprisingly, President Farole`s forces were unable to show any kind of evidence or proof of Al-Shabab or other outside fighters ever being there. This put the lie to the regime`s claims that Galgala housed fighters from all over the Somali peninsula and beyond. It was also discovered that the man Farole called public enemy number one was not the monster he insisted on painting falsely. He turned out to a local Sheikh with a militia force estimated at 60 young men and boys recruited from the Puntland sub region.

What followed in the next few weeks surprised Farole and his regime. It was reported that Atom got a substantial support from the surrounding settlements, which allowed him to stage daring attacks of his own that took the wind out of the sail of the regimes army. This forced Farole`s army to retreat to hastily Karin after the spectacular Madarshoon battle in which his forces beaten rather badly. Subsequently, soldiers from almost all Puntland regions, began to abandon their posts and desert the regime`s armed services, which they saw as oppressors. They got wind that they were being used as cannon fodder for a secret war aimed legitimating attempted robbery involving land and natural resources. But it was the sudden resignation and departure from the battle scene by the regime`s top military officer, Tutaweyne, that sealed Farole`s fate in the looming protracted war.

To add insult to injury, President Farole`s forces proved to lack the most basic training in dealing with civilians regarding humanitarian considerations. As a consequence, they left a searing tragedy in their wake. It is reported that Farole`s occupation forces plundered the small town of Galgala and surrounding hamlets. They destroyed houses. And, they tragically burned to the ground historic farms of old growth date palms and other fruits trees that were planted and nurtured by local families in more than one hundred years of toil. The would-be occupiers also forced the people of the town to flee their houses in order to avoid the harm from unchecked military onslaught by the regime`s army. Consequently, Galgala, the oasis of the Bari desert, became a virtual ghost town, for a while at least, with its residents scattered, to fend for themselves in the rugged mountains of eastern Al Madow. This is particularly onerous since the Galgala conflict will probably continue, even escalate, unless cooler heads prevail on President Farole or he is impeached, by the rubberstamp parliament, both of which are highly unlikely.

The situation is in some ways becoming a quagmire. Its unforeseen consequences are already indicating dire circumstances for Puntland under President Farole. One particular concern is the spillover effect in the form of the shooting war that pitted two branches of President Farole`s immediate constituency around the Puntland capital of Garowe. This armed confrontation already claimed substantial casualties. Clearly, events of this sort can only spell bad news for the weakening authority that the rapacious Farole regime exercises in many parts of the Puntland State.


The Root Causes of the Conflict:

It is all about the natural resources, stupid

As mentioned before, the western Bari region of Puntland in which Galgala is located is endowed with untold riches in minerals and petroleum oil—resources that if properly developed would make not only Puntland but the whole of Somalia a wealthy nation. Moreover, the people of Puntland share kinship and are not given to pursuing mindless conflicts. With good leadership, they would be happy to live in peace side by side as they have done for eons. It is the insatiable, greedy ruling elites that are behind the conflict that is negatively impacting on the brotherly citizens of the Puntland State.

President Farole`s is the last of three regimes led men whose arrogance is only exceeded by their awfully short-sighted and self-serving policies. He and his two predecessors, Abdullahi Yusuf and Ade Muse were never accused of being visionaries. They are typically egotistical and exceedingly condescending to all communities outside of their immediate circle of affiliation. They are also war hounds who do not entertain peaceful co-existence prior to their realization of certain defeat at the hands of their opponents!

As heads of autonomous, “self-governing” state, they somehow got hold of data indicating the riches laden in parts of Puntland, including western Bari sub region, Sanaag, Haylan, Sool, among others that fall outside of their immediate constituencies. They dreamed that perhaps the folks in those parts could be hoodwinked and their territories exploited at random for the benefit of the circle of ruling elites and their associates. So they tried to exploit the discovered oil in Holhol area of Sool a few years ago but were soon turned back on their heels. They then went to Majiyahan and a war ensued in which the Puntland regime was badly beaten by a local militia that included Mohamed Said Atom as one of the defenders.

Today, President Farole has a deadline to meet and Puntland State has a date with destiny. His charge [see the above maps] is to clear a certain area of Puntland by a date certain, say the Fall, 2010. Reliable sources indicate that this would signal African Oil, a Canadian firm, to make an initial payment of $2.8 million dollars to regime for “making the [target] area safe” enough to start drilling the “discovered” oil well at (Ceel) Maroodi near Galgala.

But that short-sighted plan, like others before it such as Mijiyahan, is likely doomed to failure. The reason is simple. President Farole is committed to facing his waterloo in the off chance of hitting pay dirt by illegally authorizing a fly by night Oil Company to drill oil on land area the residents of which were never so much as consulted. They would not under the circumstances let that happen.

Therefore, the Farole regime`s increasingly incoherent propaganda notwithstanding, the struggle for the soul of Puntland State would continue! But the good news is this. The eastern Al Madow mountain folks, having justice on their side, will prevail and in the end the Puntland State will be better for it.

Mohamud Haji Ahmed

(Description of Source: in English -- California-based independent news website targeted at Somali and international readers; URL:


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