It was in 1996, when I became aware of the existence of late Garaad Saleemaan Mohamed (RIP). I was a young intellectual working with the National Salvation Council (NSC), the Sodare Group of Somalia’s political factions based in Ethiopia. The Group was trying to reconcile conflicting armed groups in Somalia, following a vicious civil war. Only Salbalaar, Hussein Aideed’s group, was outside the Sodare Group. One day, one of the NSC Co-Chairmen of five, Abdullahi Yusuf, asked me to draft a letter addressed to Garaad Saleemaan then in Laas Caano. Being a young naive intellectual from the Diaspora, I had no idea who was Garaad Saleemaan beyond him being a Dhulbahante elder. I started my letter with the words: “Salaan diiran”, to which Abdullahi Yusuf corrected it to “Salaam diirran”. Note the double RR in the word “diirran”. “Who is he?”, I asked Mr Yusuf. ” He is the Garaad of Mohamud Garaad/Naaleeye Ahmed”, he responded. What I also didn’t understand at the time was the fact that Abdullahi Yusuf was laying the groundwork for his political comeback as the undisputed leader of Northeast Regions of Somalia and future president of Somalia.
Garaad Saleemaan Mohamed, Garaad Abdiqani Garaad Jama, Islaan Mohamed Islaan Muse, among a few more elders constituted the founding pillars of Puntland State. Not many in Puntland appreciate this historical fact. At Consultative Conference in Garowe to debate about the potential creation of a state called “Puntland”, Garaad said, “it is now or never Harti would come together”. He was responding to the position of SSDF Executive Committee led then By SSDF Chairman, General Mohamed Abshir Haabaan, opposing to the participation of Sool and Sanaag Regions in the Conference. Delegates from all regions of Northeast, Sool, Sanaag and Buhoodle overwhelmingly rejected and defeated SSDF plans and proposals on excluding Sool and Sanaag in the establishment of Puntland State. Abdullahi Yusuf wasn’t a member of SSDF Executive Committee then. He was NSC Co-chairman, who was demanding Sool and Sanaag involvement in the formation of “Puntland State”.
Later, as I came to work with the Garaad on important community issues and consultations involving cabinet formation, parliament representation, among other issues we needed for his support, I noticed that the Garaad had an unenviable job as a leader of Dhulbahante. That is why he was compelled to submit multiple letters of support to every Dhulbahante candidate for public office. He advised us to select anyone among his list he used to submit to the Presidency. His ways suited us well. But, one day while we were busy reshuffling the Cabinet, I advised the President to fire a deputy-minister on valid and plausible reasons. The President knew something I didn’t. He requested me to seek the support of Garaad Saleemaan in doing that. I approached the Garaad for the same. He advised me that he would get back to me on the issue soon. He never did. The President knew that the deputy-minister in question was a son-in-law of the Garaad.