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My Reflections on Gaalkacyo City as an Emerging Peace Hub

By Dr Yusuf Sheikh Omar
Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Galkcayo Book Fair                       

I was honoured to participate in the Gaalkacyo Peace Book Fair Conference held on October 11th–13th, 2022. The city of Gaalkacyo is located in the heart of the Mudug region. This conference enabled me to see the positive side of the city that I have rarely heard about. As soon as I arrived, I was inspired. Immediately, my intuition whispered in my ears that this was the real Gaalkacyo and not the one in my perception. Whilst still in the airport, I observed a city that is becoming the hub of peace, acceptance and dialogue that will reflect across Somalia. That was the opposite of what I used to hear since my childhood, of a city of clan warfare and the centre of Somalia's protracted political mess. It is a city of dual-effect. Any violence in it may incite a nationwide conflict. In contrast, its stability symbolises Somalia's stability. As Michael Keating, the former UN representative in Somalia commented “If you can have peace in Galkayo, you can have peace anywhere in Somalia”. 

As the ancient wisdom tells “history is a torch for the future”, it is worthy to know that Gaalkacyo was initially divided by Italian colonialists that demarcated it on clan bases known as the “Tomaselli” line. After the collapse of the military regime, the colonialist fault line remerged.  And the city has experienced a deadly flashpoint. The 1993 peace agreement between the two communities brought relative stability until 2015–2016’s deadly violent conflicts. The community has learnt since. And the fault line has now changed to jidka nabadda (peace street). The vision of the people of Gaalkacyo is to build Guriga Nabada (Peace House) which includes both sides of the Jidka Nabadda. The house will be a hub for peace practitioners and reconciliation conferences. 

 Dr Yusuf Sheikh Omar Standing in Jidka Nabbada (Peace St)

Since my visit to Gaalkacyo, the preconceived negative perception I held in the past has been expelled from my mind. I observed a dynamic, flourishing, beautiful, bustling, and booming city. The generosity and cosy welcome were unparalleled.  I noticed, during discussions, that the people of Gaalkacyo are born with a natural eloquence. They are so talented in their ability to create hal-kudhagyo (slogans) that can quickly travel across Somali society. The city that was labelled with the inciting proverb "ku qabso ku qadi mayside" (dispute another's the property and you shall end up gaining something out of it) has now coined the opposite, peace making slogans including "Inta nool ayaa nabad u baahan" (those who are still alive deserve peace), "aan isweheshano walaalayaal" (Oh brothers/sisters let us cosily be connected). During the conference, some people shared that they run "Shaah iyo Sheeko" (Tea and Tales) informal sessions through which, they share their experiences and stories both bad and good, promoting living together in peace, love, tolerance, community solidarity, and shared future aspirations. Through Shaah iyo Sheeko, they instil and spread peaceful messages. This shows how the reconciliation process is organically taking root in society. 

The people of Gaalkacyo have learnt from the previous top-down political fixes that have not brought the sustainable peace they craved for. So, they have taken things into their own hands. For the last two years, the city has steadily experienced home-grown peace processes initiated and led by its people from both sides, particularly the young generation who in the past were both victims and agents in clan warfare. Now, they are agents of peace and social change.

Galkacyo Sunrise

The city is reinventing itself,  undergoing enormous social transformation and a mindset shift towards stability, community dialogue, and critical social discourse. As a result, the city has attracted peace practitioners: be they individuals or organisations. That said, the city cultivates seeds of peace, and constructive thinking on how reconciliation processes inspired by indigenous mechanisms and perspectives could look in the future. 

To achieve peace, people have formed different yet complementary committees and groups of peace pioneers in order to advance reconciliation processes and social harmony in the city and beyond. Each group is comprised of members from the Galmudug and Puntland sides of the city. The groups include; the youth, the elderly (both men and women), security forces known as iskudhafka ciidamada nabadgelyada (integrated security forces), businesses and so on. As the Somali proverb says "Xog helaa xal hela" (who gets accurate information, finds solutions", the people of Gaalkacyo are in the process of establishing "hoyga xogta" (Home of accurate information) so they can gather useful and correct information that enables them to resolve conflicts.   

One of the most interesting and appealing panels to me was presented by 3 young women and 3 young men authors. They shared with the audience their imaginative publications which mainly reflected social issues ranging from the challenges in the past, a transitional period marked with uncertainty to a bright and potential future. 

Youth Panelists

As I mentioned, I think the city will continue in its current direction and take even further steps to consolidate its peacebuilding activities. As a result, it will become a beacon of peace and hope that will positively shape and influence other Somali regions.  

Dr Yusuf Sheikh Omar (Yididiilo)
Managing Director, ILAYSNABAD: Dialogue & Development Initiative (IDDI) 
Twitter @yyididiilo 
Muqdisho, Somalia  


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