Article is written by Axmed Xasan and edited by Suldan Mohamed
12.3.2022: Waajid, Bakool
Waajid town strategically located in the region of Bakool determined its fate by being at the forefront of various chapters of Somalia post 1991. Waajid location sits primarily in between major cities- its distance is evenly spread, 90km to Xuddur (Bakool), 90km to Baidoa (Bay), 90km to Luuq (Gedo), and 90km to the Somalia/Ethiopian border town. Waajid residents derive from the Jiroon sub-clan of the Mirifle clan line, having a strong presence in Bakool due to their foothold on all the various routes to Waajid. The welcoming and protective temperament of the Jiroon clan has allowed various sub-clans from Digil iyo Mirifle, Dir, Darood, and Hawiye to reside within Waajid and the areas surrounding it. A curse and a blessing.
History of Waajid & Clan Tensions
The collapse of General Siad Barre’s government led to chaos in Bakool, ‘A free for all, everyone for themselves whomever they are aligned to whether clan militias or union militias, vile death becoming a normality and a taboo to talk against’ Aliyoo Abdow M’Med (Waajid Resident). Waajid was subdued by the Jiroon Malaaq after scuffles with clans encroaching Jiroon territory, exponential killings of Jiroons, and theft of livestock/grain. The clan chief created an alignment with the UCS. A move that created peace as it influence the region’s politics through power. A move strongly condemned by the Digil iyo Mirifle clans creating an enemy of the RRA movement (1994-2000). His unionist mindset and alignment with the USC eventually led to offensive attacks against Jiroons, heavy conflict which saw thousands killed in Bay, Bakool, and Gedo. The killing and human rights violations escalated against innocent civilians. No calls for mediation or intervention, ignored by both local and international actors.
The clan chief Malaaq Ali Boor ceased the alignment with the USC, turning the tide for the RRA and leading to the defeat of the USC in Bay and Bakool. The consistent spur of conflict from (1991-1998) forced to Malaaq to reject any alignment proposal and imposing a self-management governance in Waajid. Self-management policy from (1998-2008) allowed Waajid and its resident to enjoy relative peace, attracting INGO to operate and improve living standards. However, the political formulation train of Somalia continued and the Malaaq decision led to a lack of representation in the newly formed Transitional Federal Government. Exclusive conferences stripped Waajid and many communities of their rights, creating a forgotten community.
Al-Shabab and FGS Battle
More turmoil ensued once the Transitional Federal Government backed by foreign forces entered Somalia trying to establish authority. At this point Al-Shabab (AS) held large swathes of land and ruled without question. Muktaar Roobow the current Cabinet Minister once served as the deputy leader of AS was in charge of Bay, Bakool, and Gedo due to his local knowledge and affiliation. Between 2008 and 2014, left with no choice, the population of the region was forced to accept militant rule over Warlord militias and banditry.
Power struggles after the establishment of the FGS under the heavily criticised 4.5 clan system affected Waajid and its population who suffered between their entanglements. Once more, innocent lives lost without considerations. The FGS infiltrated Waajid in 2014 alongside AMISOM’s Ethiopian contingent, removing Al-Shabab from the town. However, like many other regions in southern and central Somalia, Al-Shabab only fled to a few miles and remained within close proximity to the city, enforcing its own rules and policies – effectively acting like a shadow government.
Waajid in 2023 lacks all the basic governmental services. Essential emergency services have also been strained by the conflict against Al-Shabab – services previously provided by local residents, the diaspora community, and INGO’s. All roads are closed off from public/business use, enforced by Al-Shabab since 2014, using the presence of ATMIS to justify the blockade leaving only one mode of transport- local flights.
A single ticket from Waajid to Mogadishu costs $160. This denies the majority of the locals access to medical services and increasing food inflation. The fate of Waajid is not an anomaly, many surrounding towns and cities in the region are suffering the same fate. Even though cities and towns of Bakool are under government control, the war has stagnated.
Since 2014, the Federal Government and her partners have not attempted to reverse this through offensive-attacks or dialogue. With the current offensive in Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle against Al-Shabab, the Mahmoud Government must strategise towards utilising this momentum to eliminate Al-Shabab influence in South West. Otherwise, many cities and towns will join a forgotten community in South West State leading to more isolation and suffering.
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