How Gaalka’yo Managed To Go From Persistent Troubles to an Oasis of Communal Harmony

Gaalka'yo Mereysane Media
Gaalka’yo communities living side by side in peace and harmony. | Photo: Mereysane Media


Gaalka’yo, the capital city of Mudug region, has served as a beacon of peace and stability for the past six years after successfully overcoming numerous war-related obstacles that repeatedly sprang up during and after the civil war.

Gaalka’yo was home to two warring clans, now two separate administrations, was known for having a “green line” or “red point” where it was dangerous to cross. The city now has overcome this challenge. The border between Puntland and Galmudug is almost non-existent and everyone, no matter where they’re from, is free to go wherever they want to and meet whomever they want to. Considering the numerous barriers that were present only a short while ago, this is significant and should not be taken for granted.

Gaalka’yo’s troubled past

Gaala'yo in 1991
Gaalka’yo during the civil war was a frightening ghetto.

Somalis are pastoral nomads who frequently quarrelled over grazing pastures and settlements. It is unknown when these grazing-related disputes first arose, but they have existed for generations and typically begin around the spring (April–June) and autumn (October–December) rainy seasons.

Although the history of Gaalka’yo’s troubles date back to before the arrival of the colonial powers, the deadliest conflicts took place after the Italians took control of the southern territories between 1898 and 1920. To mitigate the conflicts, the Italian authority divided the city into two and forbade the sides to interact.

The Somali Youth League (S.Y.L) made the city one of their key bases during the liberation era, and that has led to a social cohesion between the city’s communities. Suddenly they shared a cause that rendered their petty differences irrelevant.

The city reverted to a state of strife and conflicts. Troubles resumed during Mohamed Siad Barre’s military rule (1969–1991). In late 1989, just over a year before Siyad Barre’s administration was ousted, there was a large brawl in and around the city that led to the death of more than 100 people and the injury of 300 others.

Throughout the 1990s, Gaalka’yo has served as one of the primary battlegrounds in Somalia’s civil war. Soon after the collapse of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, a devastating war between the two local clans broke out in the city and resulted in the deaths of over 750 people. Once more, the two clans drew administrative lines through the city, lines that evolved into the modern day Galmudug and Puntland.

Authorities from Puntland and Galmudug continued to clash during the ten-year period between 2007 to 2017 over the political status of Gaalka’yo. In November 2015 a clash that resulted in 20 fatalities, 120 injuries, and 90,000 internally displaced people was sparked by the construction of a new road. A year later, in October 2016, a new clash over another construction in a contentious part of the city erupted, resulting in 50 fatalities, 116 injuries, and the displacement of more than 60,000 residents. Smaller clashes took place throughout the years including a one in 2017 that raged for several days at the border market between the two sides and was only resolved when a ceasefire deal was eventually reached to allow free movement of peoples and goods between the two administrations. This ceasefire was strengthened by the creation of a joint police force to guard the entire city.

The foundations of peace in Gaalka’yo

Jakarta HD
Gaalla’yo from ghetto to an oasis of peace | Photo: Jakarta HD

Gaalka’yo’s tranquillity can be attributed to a combination of the political stability in Galmudug and Puntland’s willingness to work with Galmudug. Both has put in place a peace pact in 2017 that is being upheld by the local inhabitants and administrators.

Furthermore, the residents of Gaalka’yo City have learned that without peace, fostering human development is next to impossible and is an impediment to the society as a whole. Therefore, residents have fully adhered to all the principles agreed in 2017.

Before 2017 there have been disputes in the majority of rural areas caused by old clan rivalries as well as over grazing pastures and land issues. These rural conflicts would spill over to previously peaceful cities. However, a united residents from both sides of Gaalka’yo have been taking every step possible to stop the conflicts between the surrounding villages.

For instance, conflicts have frequently broken out in Galkayo’s rural areas. The townspeople have been successful in containing the effects of rural disputes by acting swiftly and taking immediate measures against anyone who commits murder, robbery, or rape. For instance, the last two months, there have been numerous incidents of killings and livestock thefts in the rural areas surrounding Gaalka’yo, but the community has come together to control these incidents by turning in the perpetrators.

Galkayo City’s security forces from both Galmudug and Puntland work together, and as a result, many acts of insecurity have been stopped. This cooperation is the foundation of the peace the city currently enjoys.

A way forward
It would be immeasurably useful to create a single integrated administration that the Gaalka’yo communities vote for, when elections inevitably take place, in order to overcome the separation of the economic, infrastructure, education, and life in general. Sharing common interests deters frivolous and damaging future wars.

The city’s residents deserve praise for being more aware of the benefits of peace and the negative effects of conflicts. To maintain this, there has to be awareness campaigns and memorials about the effects of past conflicts and the benefits of the peace that they currently enjoy.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of this publication.

Mohamed Abdi
Mohamed Abdi
Mohamed Abdi is a researcher and a monitoring and evaluation consultant. He has Master’s degree of Peace Governance and Development from University for Peace. He writes about peace, environment, conflicts, and social related issues.

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