It was in December 1997 when the Somali National Reconciliation talks in Cairo had just collapsed. National Salvation Council (NSC, the Sodare Group) Co-Chairmen, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and General Aden Abdullahi Nur Gabyow, had managed to get out of Cairo and safely arrived Addis Ababa, the temporary HQ of the NSC.
A group of men from North-eastern Somalia were staying at Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa. These included Abdullahi Yusuf, Hassan Abshir Waraabe, Said Caduur, General Abdullahi Omar “Ina Libaax Sankataabte”, Ambassador Azhari, myself and a few others. We were all seated in my hotel room as we were drafting some papers concerning our responses to the failed Cairo Conference. Suddenly, Hassan Abshir informed us that Islaan Mohamed Islaan Muuse phoned him up the other night to re-lay to our group that they should travel to Garowe to participate in a “Harti Conference” to be held soon. We discussed on the issue for more than one hour. Hassan Abshir recommended to the group that he could ask the Islaan to put off this conference while we were tied by other pressing issues in Ethiopia. Most of the group responded positively to Hassan’s proposal. Abdullahi Yusuf was non-committal. I, the youngest of all, took an exception to the proposal. I asked the group a question, which I believe, turned things around: “Why General Caydiid and Cali Mahdi were considered as the most powerful warlords in Somalia at the time?”. The group looked at each other and stared at me. I answered my question. “Because they don’t run Mogadishu by a remote control like the way you are suggesting now. We have to drop down everything we are doing here in Ethiopia and all go to Garowe and hold this meeting”. It took the next two days to decide to travel to Bosaso and onwards to Garowe.
In the meantime, a group of Dhulbahante men led by Abdullahi Shariif organized a meeting to sort out any personal and political differences or frictions between Abdullahi Yusuf and Mohamed Abdi Hashi. In that meeting, Abdullahi Yusuf asked Mohamed Abdi Hashi what was the problem or grudges he held “against me”. Mohamed responded that Abdullahi went alone with General Caydiid, the bad man of Somalia, while he (Mohamed) preferred Cali Mahdi, the better man. Abdullahi looked around and asked Mohamed, “is that all, Mohamed?”. Mohamed responded, “yes”. Abdullahi told that group. “I will tell you why my cousin, Mohamed, was upset about me. During the time we each belonged to different warlord camps, Mohamed Abdi Hashi came up to me and advised me “if Majertaines were unable to lead this time, they should hand over that role to us”. At that time, I responded to Mohamed, perhaps unwisely, you should belong to either Farah Garaad or Mohamoud Garaad to suggest that to me. As a Qayaad man, you shouldn’t”. There was a hilarious laughter and commotion in the meeting room. With that soft note, reconciliation between the two men was complete.
That was how the Consultative Congress of Puntland Foundation was held.
The 2nd fateful night of Puntland came when Abdullahi Boqor Muuse “King Kong” and Ugaas Yaassiin of Ahmed Harti (Dashiishe) phoned up Abdullahi Yusuf from Bosaso, who was then in Galkayo, after the end of the Consultative Congress. They urgently asked him to come down to Bosaso as the SSDF Executive Committee members were obstructing fund-raising efforts for the Constitutional Congress with the inclusion of Sool and Sanaag regions.
We left for Bosaso upon the Elders’ request. By the time we reached Bosaso, the SSDF Executive had almost succeeded in foiling fund-raising efforts for the forthcoming Congress, and had persuaded Bosaso business community to refuse any levies ear-marked for the Conference. For Abdullahi Yusuf and his Committee members, it was an uphill battle to counter the SSDF sabotage. Finally, Said Caduur, a Fund-raising Committee member, suggested to Abdullahi Yusuf to resign effective immediately amid unbeatable resistance from SSDF Executive Council. That meant all our efforts to hold the Final Phase of Puntland creation (The Constitutional Congress) were in jeopardy. One day, we were having a lunch in our residence in Bosaso when Abdullahi Yusuf told me, his wife Hawo Abdi Samater and a guest, Muuse Diibeeye, a trader, that he was about to resign from the Fund-raising Committee Chairmanship. It was a shock to me. I asked him: “How could you resign when you are on the brink of a great victory?” He responded: “What victory? There is only defeat and humiliation here!”. I argued, and basically, quarrelled with Mr. Yusuf on the issue during the entire course of that lunch and long after. At the end, he didn’t resign. We eventually won that battle with SSDF Leadership by raising the first Sh. So. Three hundred million for the Congress and handed it over to Islaan Mohamed Islaan Muuse in Garowe successfully. Victory!
That was how we held the Founding Congress of Puntland.
By Ismail H. Warsame