Somaliland: Waheen needs to resurrect from the ashes, and those impacted demand a robust response strategy and well-planned initiatives.

 

Residents in Hargeisa are concerned about who will be in charge of repairing the Waheen market, which was severely destroyed by a fire last week. Hargeisa citizens had little faith in the Hargeisa local government until June of last year. People used to demand that Muse Bihi, the president, taint the district councils by refusing to extend their term and abdicating their responsibilities. They have been in power for almost a decade, having been elected in 2012. During their time in Hargeisa, many considered the former municipal district councils were inept and unscrupulous.

Despite the fact that no local district councillors or municipality officials have ever been removed from office or convicted of corruption, the Hargeisa municipality is nonetheless connected with it. Residents of Hargeisa used to blame previous municipal governments led by Abdirahman Solteco for the city’s decline in splendor during their term, despite the fact that they continued to collect millions of dollars from the people. The revenue of the Hargeisa local government increased significantly during Mayor Solteco’s term. The entire revenue of the Hargeisa municipality in 2015 was 133,715,118,840,000slshs (equivalent to $ 13,371,511,884).)¹

Despite the fact that they generated a substantial amount of revenue, the city was neglected. The only thing they were lauded for was the establishment of the fire fighting department, not for good roads or other facilities like education, water health, or sanitation. Residents have completely lost faith in the municipality after former Hargeisa municipalitys Secretary Ali Hassan disclosed evidence in 2018 alleging ineptitude, dishonesty, and theft of public funds in the Hargeisa Municipality.<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr6XxPoTI3I">2</a>
<p style="font-weight: 400;">He revealed that the Hargeisa Municipality's real estate, including various markets in various locations throughout Hargeisa that are rented out to the public, remained in the hands of some Municipality high officers and councils via private individuals, rather than going to the municipality's coffers. He went on to claim that the local council at the time sold public lands planned for the building of possible hospitals, schools, marketplaces, police stations, and children's playgrounds, which he described as "obviously stolen public property."<b><strong><sup><a href="https://salaanmedia.com/2018/06/waraabe-hilib-lagu-rartey-dawlada-hoose-ee-hargeysa-june-13-18/">3</a>  </sup></strong></b></p>
<p style="font-weight: 400;">Resident
s distrust of the previous council was rooted in poor roads around Hargeisa, as well as the aforementioned difficulties, and they had frequently pushed President Bihi to sack them and choose a mayor who would be accountable to him.
What has changed?

Residents of Hargeisa elected the current 17-member councils in June of last year, electing Abdikarim Ahmed Mooge as head of the district councils and Mayor of the city.

In their short term, the new council, led by Mooge, has taken moves that have caught the attention and emotions of the people of Hargeisa. They argue that all of the money spent comes from taxes received from Hargeisa citizens, not from donations or bank loans, and that several expensive projects, such as high-quality roads, have been started and completed in the last eight months.

They’ve also made initiatives to improve the city’s image, such as implementing frequent trash-clearing and road-clearing campaigns. As a result, Hargeisa residents have acquired confidence in Mayor Mooge and his municipal council, and they are optimistic. Some Hargeisa residents and local vendors who were displaced by the fire have been protesting in recent days, demanding that the Waheen market be managed by Mayor Mooge rather than the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, as well as expressing their distrust of the Minister of Public Works and the president’s cabinet.

What triggered the protests?

Despite the fact that local government officials have stated that there are no conflicts or disagreements between the president and the mayor, or between the local government and the central government, there are still publicly unreported conflicts and disagreements between the central government and the local government. There are differing opinions on how to address the subject of reconstructing and restoring Hargeisa’s Waheen market. Abdirahman Cirro, a WADANI presidential candidate, made a statement demanding the government to hand over control of the Waheen market renovation to the Hargeisa District Councils

Perhaps they would have been assigned those responsibilities to each other if the central government had to rebuild it with its budget or if the local government had asked to cover the rebuilding funds for the devastated market, but the root of the problem is the management of the millions of dollars that are constantly arriving in the hands of the task force, and each side wants a legacy of the multimillion project’s outcome.

Politicians divide the population into tribes and clans whenever there is a power struggle between members of the government or between the government and opposition groups. Politicians and opposing parties use popular sentiment to gain an advantage. Tribalism has recently been used by opposition parties to divide the population, they should have presented alternative agendas and manifestos to the public in opposition to the ruling party, and garnered support for a campaign that will deliver answers and progress to the country without jeopardizing Somaliland’s democratic culture, as well as the unity and solidarity of its people.

Who has the authority to run Waheen market and reconstruct it?

From a legal perspective.

Hargeisa district councils have full power over the reconstruction and renovation of the Waheen building as well as the management of the entire city, according to the Regions & Districts Self-Management law 23/2019. This law replaces the previous 2003 legislation governing Somaliland local government, which was considerably revised in 2007 and took effect on January 2020,

The district Councils with grades of “A” and “B” are responsible for providing development services in all parts of the constituency under Article 15 (Widening Self-management) of Law23/2019 (15). (1). “The services referred to in paragraph 2 of this article shall be administered, constructed, maintained, and managed by district councils in grades A and B.” It is also apparent in line with Article 38 (1, c) (iii), which specifies that local council`s Public Works Committee is responsible for “preparing plans for the construction, renovation, and management of the municipality’s buildings.”

District councils, on the other hand, can delegate some of their responsibilities to the cabinet and vice versa  According to Article 34 of the (Law on the Delineation of the Organization of the Government and of Independent Public Bodies – Law No. 71/2015), the Ministry of Public Works is entirely responsible for government buildings and land. This is also specified in Article 2 of Act 17/2001 on Urban Land Management. However, Article 34 (5) of the Law on the Delimitation of Government and Independent Institutions Act 71/2015 states that the Ministry of Public Works is responsible for the maintenance and construction of Government buildings, which many have interpreted to mean that the Ministry of Public Works is responsible for the reconstruction of the burned Waheen market, but the building has been under local government and will be legally managed by them.

According to Article 34 of Law 71/2015, the Ministry of Public Works’ responsibilities include: Fulfilling the government’s responsibility to the land as a public property and protecting public property, which includes developing policies, standards, and regulations that govern the entire country’s urban land and buildings, working to establish government offices in the branches of government to fulfil their duties to the government, and maintaining public property.

Conclusion

The Ministry of Public Works has nothing to do with the management of the Waheen market restoration; the responsibilities of local governments and the Ministry of Public Works are separate.

At this point of the disaster, it’s unfortunate that relief efforts, fundraising, and administration of the fire tragedy and its aftermath have become politicized. I’d want to remind the Hargeisa district council, the government, and political parties that Waheen market needs to rise from the ashes, and those who have been impacted demand a robust response strategy and well-planned initiatives.

The poor women vendors were the hardest hit by the tragedy, although they have demonstrated resilience and ability in re-establishing small vending activities, it is unfortunate that soldiers are harassing and bullying them. Surprisingly, the umbrellas donated by companies to these women are sold by soldiers for $10 each  Despite the fact that the government, large business companies both inside and outside of Somaliland, some neighbouring countries, well-wishers, and Somali diaspora from all over the world have launched fund-raising campaigns and deposited millions of dollars into the task force emergency account, nothing has been done for those mothers. Instead, the Hargeisa municipality continues to extort money from those women in the form of taxes and other ambiguous fees.

Despite public trust in the mayor and his fellow district council members, the mayor has not exempted underprivileged women from the daily tax collected by local government during this crisis and the holy month of Ramadan. At the very least, he could have ensured that the umbrellas donated by the companies reached the women, If the soldier`s harassment and bullying of those mothers continues, Mooge will lose public trust, which will hurt his recently obtained political reputation.

 

Yousef Timacade has a master’s degree in law and a master’s degree in executive management, and has been working with national and international organizations for the last 10 years in the areas of program management, research, and human rights.

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