Somaliland: Balligubadle Grand Conference Unites People From Across Three Countries

The Grand Sultan of the Arab Clan
The Grand Sultan of the Arab Clan
The Grand Sultan of the Arab Clan
The Grand Sultan of the Arab Clan

A grand conference held in the border town of Balligubadle between Ethiopia and Somaliland united members of the Greater Arab clan from across Somaliland, Ethiopia’s eastern region and further afield in the Bakool region of Somalia.

Hundreds of delegates from various sections of the Arab community including women, youth, intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians of all shades from the political divide descended on the historic town of Balligubadle for a conference that lasted for four days.

Among the many issues discussed in the conference include financial contribution towards the ongoing construction of an asphalt paved road that connects between Hargeisa and Balligubadle- the capital city of Haud Region.

The participants of the conference successfully raised over eight hundred fifty thousand US dollars, with almost half of the donations being cash money whereas the rest will be paid in the form of livestock mainly sheep and camels.

Other important issues affecting the Arab communities living in these various territories were discussed but political speeches and rhetoric were banned from the conference for fear that it might polarize the community. Politicians merely acted as observers.

Historically, Balligubadle served as the headquarters of the armed struggles waged against Mohamed Siyad Barre’s military junta and remained the seat of the Somali National Movement (SNM) rebel commander, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo- today’s President of Somaliland republic.

But Balligubadle is not only known to have been the headquarter of the SNM, it was also the first and only place where the Somali National Movement (SNM) radio station was placed because the SNM leaders could not trust their own personal security and equipment with any other clan in what was then known as northern Somalia [today’s Somaliland] due to secret government informants that infiltrated communities across the spectrum.

Balligubadle was also the first place where its community leader, Suldan Mohamed Suldan Farah, crossed the border into Ethiopia and officially defected to the SNM rebels. The defection was considered as an official declaration of war by Arab on the then dictatorial government.

After years of hit and run guerilla warfare tactics, the SNM forces finally launched their lightning attack on Barre’s mighty army in Hargeisa and its environs.

Again, Balligubadle fighters were at the forefront of this attack albeit it has failed to dislodge Barre’s heavily mechanized troops from Hargeisa. For all intents and purposes, the attack was dubbed suicidal because of the sheer fire power at Barre’s disposal. It wasn’t long before the entire SNM forces were entirely laid to siege by Barre’s troops.

As hundreds of SNM fighters were lying under a baking sun, parched with excruciating thirst, racked with fever, and agonized with pain, the Balligubadle Cavalry [Nageeye Battalion], mostly skilled sharp shooters and skirmishers, appeared on the horizon and rescued the besieged SNM fighters.

It’s a day that remains etched in the minds of all those who witnessed it.

Balligubadle was the town where the new Somaliland Republic was born in April 1990 after the SNM Central Committee formed the first Somaliland government and elected the first Somaliland President, Abdirahman Mohamed Ali, and his Vice President, Hassan Essa Jama.

Hassan Essa, who hails from Balligubadle, was guest of honour at the conference, enjoying the fruits of Somaliland’s political independence.

The declaration of Somaliland as an independent state and sovereign state was later confirmed in Burao conference chaired by Hassan Essa on 18 May, 1991.

Several years later in 1994, under the Presidency of Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, a civil war has gripped the country and seriously damaged the relationship of trust and confidence between the brotherly clans in Somaliland. At this critical juncture, when every clan and sub-clan was armed to the teeth and decommissioning of clan militias was an insurmountable task, president Egal emotionally appealed to various Somaliland clans to decommission in order to lay down the foundation of a viable state.

It was only after the Balligubadle community leader, Suldan Mohamed Suldan Farah, unconditionally agreed to surrender all his clans’ heavy weapons to the government of Egal that other clans followed suit. It was another historic moment for the people of Balligubadle.

More than two and half decades ago, the veteran broadcast journalist, Abdillahi Haji of the BBC Somali Service, held an interview with the then SNM leader, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo, about the lack of rebel forces’ attempts at advancing into government-controlled areas.

“Barre and I are fighting in a pitch-black room and one us will be thrown out of the window. Just look and wait who gets thrown out of the window”. Silanyo said to Abdullahi Haji in one of the most memorable interviews at the height of the SNM armed struggle against Barre.

Eventually, it was poor Barre who was thrown out of the window, bruised and battered. He had never recovered from Silanyo’s mortal blow and the brutal dictator was soon ousted from power.

Almost two and half decades later, Silanyo was elected, democratically of course, as president of the new Somaliland republic. He revisited his old Command Centre in Balligubadle and erected a temporary monument in memory of the fallen SNM heroes who liberated Somaliland from the jaws of dictatorship.

The Balligubadle conference which was the first of its kind ever held in Somaliland was concluded on Friday with a happy note.

Jamal Madar



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