Somaliland Solidarity: #HargeisaMarketFire Appeal

Aftermath of the Hargeisa Market Fire

Wales’ longstanding Somaliland community have been devastated by the news this week of the fire which has destroyed the main market buildings in the capital city of Hargeisa. WCIA and internationalists Wales-wide will want to extend the hand of solidarity, as Wales Somaliland Link have launched an Emergency Appeal to support people in need, through their extensive networks on the ground.

The cause of the blaze that gutted the sprawling Waheen market – the lifeblood of the city and home to an estimated 2,000 shops and stalls – is not yet known. A lifeline for many poor families who depended on the market to make a living, the fire began just a few hours after the month of Ramadan began – when food business traditionally booms. Though no deaths have yet been reported, over 20 people have so far been confirmed seriously injured; and community leaders estimate that the fire may have destroyed potentially 100,000s of livelihoods, with losses estimated to the region of £2 billion pounds.

Ali Abdi of Wales’ Somaliland Link said: “Our community have been devastated by the news of the major fire incident that took place over the weekend in Hargeisa, Somaliland.  There are many of us here that have family who have been impacted by the disaster and the destruction it subsequently caused to small and medium sized businesses and livelihoods.  As a community we are actively supporting efforts to help those most in need by collecting funds and raising awareness of the scale of the devastation with a view to generate assistance with rebuilding efforts too.”

In addition to the Wales Somaliland Link community fundraiser, a UK-wide appeal has also been launched by Somaliland UK Relief. As donations progress, the intention will be to pool contributions towards maximum impact and support ‘on the ground’.

Hargeisa’s Mayor Abdikarim Ahmed Moge told reporters at the scene: “The town has never witnessed such a massive calamity, This place was the economic centre of Hargeisa and even though the firefighters did their best to contain the fire, the market is destroyed.”

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford extended the empathies of all in Wales, with the support to rebuild.

Cardiff’s Somalilander Community is one of not only Wales but the UK’s longest established diaspora communities, originating from the early days of the Coal Trade between South Wales and the Horn of Africa – where Berbera was a key ‘bunker’ port for coal shipments onwards across Africa and the Indian Ocean.

Today, over 15,000 people in Wales have direct ties to and extended family in the Horn of Africa. The diaspora community have been instrumental in advocating for Somaliland’s formal recognition as an independent state since as long back as the 1960s, when it was formally independent for 5 days – having been a British Colony with a population similar to Wales – before being confederated into neighbouring Somalia (formerly an Italian Colony). However, Somalia descended into civil war in the 1990s from which it has never recovered; and from 1991, Hargeisa declared independence from Mogadishu’s failed state. For 30 years since, Somaliland has functioned as a stable, independent democracy, albeit one still yet to receive UN and diplomatic recognition – beyond Wales itself.

Wales Somaliland Solidarity

In May 2021, to mark the 30th Anniversary of Somaliland’s declaration of independence from Somalia (in 1991), Wales’ Millennium centre and Cardiff Castle were lit up in green white and red in solidarity and celebration of the deep ties between the people of Wales and Somaliland.

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Wales Somaliland Link and WCIA organised a joint event on the “Past Present and Future of Somaliland,” addressed and supported by a number of leading public figures.

In 2017, contemporaneous with WCIA’s ‘Wales for Peace’ project, volunteers with Horn Development Association produced this short film clip about the heritage of Wales’ Somalilander Community:

If you can assist with awareness or fund raising in Wales, the contact for Wales Somaliland Link is Ali Abdi, on 078 3504 2574

On Twitter, follow @WalesSomaliland and use hashtags #HargeisaFireSL / #HargeisaMarketFire

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