laasqorayBridging Youth Gaps in Puntland Garowe
Youth From Alula, Buhoodle, Towfiiq and Las-qoray
(15th May 2014):

Every year on 15th May, the Puntland government commemorates the Somali Youth Day. The Somali people honor the memories of their youth who overcame colonial powers with wit and dialogue. Even after 71 years, the legacy of the Somali Youth League (SYL) members and their role in the liberation of Somalia lingers on in the minds and hearts of the Somali people. This year the youth day was marked through a 3-day series of events that brought together youths from the farthest outpost of Puntland through the joint efforts of MOLYS and its principal partners PDRC and Interpeace. The principal partners were awarded a medal of honor by the President in recognition of their “honesty and commitment” to communities in Puntland. The main event of the 3-day process was the commemoration held at the Puntland parliament where 500 participants – including high ranking executives of the Puntland cabinet and the Presidency – wiped away tears and stood up in multiple ovations to respect and honor the achievements of the SYL.

H.E President Abdiweli Ali Gaas made a key speech (elaborated in the later parts of this article) at the event which centered upon persuading the Somali youth to emulate the SYL, dissuading the youth from illegal migration and reiterating his campaign promise of creating employment for Puntland youth. The president promised to attract investment from foreign nations and entities with vested interests in Puntland State, Somalia. The Puntland president postponed all his state engagements including the weekly ordinary cabinet meeting to preside over the event and celebrate the history of Somali youth. This was an expression of commitment to the youth whom he called “the backbone and hope of the nation.”

Meanwhile, the Minister for Youth, Labor and Sports in the Federal State of Puntland H.E Mr. Abdirahman Sheikh Ahmed commended event organizers and supporters confessing that the event’s procedural results exceeded their expectations.

The event brought together youth – divided by geography and infrastructure limitations – who would never have met.” The minister said. “During their 3 days of interaction, they have built cohesion and friendships.”

PDRC Programme Director Mr. Ali Farah said “It is PDRC’s tradition and practice to work and serve communities in hard-to-reach areas in Puntland.” Adding “For the last 4 years PDRC’s decentralization program has worked in remote districts; such as Jarriban, Bender Beyla, Ufeyn, Bargal, Galdogob and Eyl.”

He explained that areas off the tarmac road, often lacked basic social services, had limited law enforcement capacities, and a weak presence of the government’s institutions characterized by poor functionalities. These limitations are expounded by the poor infrastructure that further inhibits access for the government and international aid agencies.

The following is a summary of proceedings during the 3 days of the youth day celebrations in Puntland State, Somalia;

Preliminary Events: Somali Youth Day Eve (13th -14th May 2014)

PDRC and MOLYS conducted a series of preliminary events that were aimed at establishing cohesion among some of the alienated districts of Puntland. The alienations are structural issues caused by the lack of infrastructure and the vast distances of Puntland’s territory.

I have never been to the capital of Puntland State, Somalia” one event participant from Alula said. “Thank you (PDRC and MOLYS) for giving us the opportunity to interact with each other and learn our brothers and sisters from the other districts.”

Another participant from Buhoodle gave a distinct remark that clearly outlines youth disparities in the districts “You can tell our disconnectedness from our cuisine style, in Buhoodle we eat camel meat and in Alula they eat fish.”

70 participants attended the events of the Somali Youth Day eve from 4 districts of Puntland State, Somalia. The districts were known as “Gaariwaa”, the unreachable land; a name that still exemplifies the current realities of infrastructure and transport limitations, economic hardships and the vast distance of Puntland’s territory. The inter district cohesion and familiarization events included literary competitions, exposure tours to governmental institutions, a public rally and village twinning efforts between villages in the capital city with villages in the Gaariwaa territory.

 The Public Procession

Even with the danger of public convention in light of recent bombings and IEDs in Somalia, the spirited Puntlanders thronged the town square to pay homage to the Somali youth day. At 6:00 am event organizers, the Puntland Ministry of Labor, Youth and Sports (MOLYS) and the Puntland Development Research Centre (PDRC) began the mobilization of the youth, dignitaries, artistes and literary personalities for the first event at the town square. By 9:00 am, the hopeful faces of Puntland youth were lined up at the town square in Garowe. The Puntland State band led the procession of cabinet officials, PDRC researchers and executives, distant district groups (in the order of Alula, Buhoodle, Las Qoray, and Towfiq districts) and youth groups from all over Puntland in a colorful procession. Crowds waved to the colorfully dressed processions that were clad in national and traditional wear. The procession walked in rhythm from the town square to the parliament hall where MOLYS ushers and members of the presidential guard guided people to their designated seats.

 The Parliament and Arrival of H.E Abdiweli Ali Gaas

 The parliament is a testimony to the Puntland people’s will and commitment towards a democratic and decentralized federal Somalia. It’s no longer the dingy little room where Islan Mohammed (May His soul rest in peace) and several titled and political leaders from Puntland convened to establish Puntland as a cornerstone of a future Federal State Somalia. This year’s commemorators sat in district groups at the parliament in a show of inter district cohesion enhancement, which was one of the themes of this year’s commemoration and a major policy of the incumbent administration. The band, the government authorities, community groups of youth, women, religious scholars, young poets and artistes all sat in groups of variant colors in the parliament’s pews. H.E President Abdiweli Gas was welcomed with handclaps, ululations and a standing ovation from all the commemorators. The Speaker of Parliament and senior officials from the cabinet and the parliament flanked him at the stage.

Opening Remarks and Speeches

Recitations of the holy verses outlined the obligations of the youth and human rights in the Islamic scriptures. This was followed by an opening speech from the Director of the Youth Department at MOLYS to make the opening speech.

I wish to thank MOLYS and all the organizers for making this event a possibility” Director Ahmed Tigana said. “I especially thank the commitment of our principal partners PDRC and Interpeace for their support and the relentless efforts of the PDRC staff in making this dream a possibility”.

The Director clarified the theme of this year as “bridging the geographical gap that divides Puntland’s alienated youth from the four guest districts.”

Other speeches included speeches from ministers, PDRC representative, and representatives from the districts in focus, the host district authorities and personalitiesfrom the field of Somali literature

 The Puntland President’s Speech and Awards Event

H.E President Abdiweli Ali Gaas who presided over the ceremony and awarded medals of recognition and achievements to “the leading local organization PDRC” and other youth achievers commended the work of event organizers MOLYS, PDRC and Interpeace thanking the principal supporters for their generous contributions.

I wish to narrate to you a number of stories that I learnt about some of the SYL members ‘’. President Abdiweli Ali said. “The late Mrs. Timiro whose testimony you just watched in the SYL film, conceived a baby during her lengthened incarceration, the baby was given the name Birimo Agoosto”.

Another person you watched in documentary was the patriotic Mr. Muro who did an amazing act of sacrifice during the time of the Somali trusteeship while accompanying the first Somali Premier on a working trip, the hosting nation suggested vaccination to the Premier. At the time Somalis did not know about vaccination and got a bit worried for the life of the new premier. Mr. Muro who resembled the premier presented himself for the vaccination sacrificing his life for the premier’s.” Such was the fierce determination and protection of the interests of the state by the members of the Somali Youth League.

Meanwhile, four persons were recognized for their literary achievements in the series of commemoration during the Somali Youth Day celebrations. The four young poets were 3 males and 1 female recognized by a panel of experts for their excellence in the presentations of the Somali Youth Day Events. The President of Puntland personally awarded them for their excellence in literary performances marking the Somali youth day. In that occasion, the president had also awarded PDRC as an excellent peacebuilding institution.

Closing Ceremony: Sports Event

MOLYS and PDRC mobilized youth for a conclusive event of the Somali youth day through a soccer match. The match was organized between two youth teams competing under the titles of “the parliamentary team” and “the cabinet team”. Key government representatives and members of the civil society attended the soccer match where hundreds of supporters from the youth and residents of Garowe had gathered.

Alula youth delegate scored the first goal of the commemorative match in the 85th minute for the cabinet team. A minute later a prolific midfielder from Las Qoray leveled the results by scoring the first goal for the Parliament team. Both teams then played a defensive game until the referee, setting the scene for a penalty shootout to decide the winners of the contest, blew the final whistle.

The parliamentary team won the tightly contested match through a penalty shootout that saw the parliamentary team winning by 1 goal. The sports contest marked the end of the 3 daylong celebrations.

Conclusions

The incumbent administration in Puntland has made strong pledges and made commitments to Puntland youth. A policy to reach the unreached areas of Puntland has been put into practice, bridging the youth gaps has been effected and promises for youth jobs have been made.

These new recognition and governmental rapport with the alienated youth has reawakened hopes, established social cohesion and hopefully will set an impetus for continued inter-district youth collaboration for their betterment and for the return of Somali grace and unity.

For comments or inquiries, please contact:

PDRC Communications Unit

Garowe, Puntland State, Somalia