Halfooley, HirShabelle, Somalia –
The tensions between the Hawadle and Abgal communities are rising following a recent land dispute in Halfooley, a village situated on the administrative border between Hiran and Middle Shabelle states. The conflict has been fueled by weeks of antagonistic rhetoric from the Abgal community, who claim that the Hawadle have unlawfully seized their land and established a village in the area.
The Somali Digest interviewed several residents from the Abgal and Hawadle communities. Both sides are asserting their rightful ownership of the disputed land.
“This land belongs to us,” stated an Abgal community member assertively. “There are poems that prove our ancestral ownership of this land. In the past, Hawadle [community members] would come to graze their cattle during the rainy season and then depart. However, now they have constructed homes and water storage facilities, insisting that the land is theirs,” the resident explained.
On the other hand, a Hawadle community member strongly emphasized that “Halfooley is located in Hiran and falls under Jalalaqsi, and therefore cannot be claimed as Abgal land.”
History of tensions
The disputed land lies on the border between the Abgal (of Middle Shabelle) and Hawadle (of Hiran) territories. It was initially uninhabited, and the land held no particular significance. Nevertheless, clashes erupted between nomads from both clans as they grazed their animals in the area.
“In 2009, both clans started asserting ownership, and the conflict over Halfooley arose. A lasting resolution was never achieved,” added another resident.
These tensions have resurfaced since the liberation of most of the territories from the control of al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgency group that used to operate here. Paradoxically, during al-Shabaab’s strict rule, there were no land disputes in this area between the two clans. Nonetheless, the current crisis can potentially lead to violence between the two communities that now share the area.
Deadly clan clashes over pasture and water resources also erupted in January 2019 in several villages along the border of the two states. At that time, about 1,000 families were displaced and faced hunger and lack of access to basic services. They ended up camping in Elbaraf town with little humanitarian assistance.
The current crisis
The current dispute comes in the context of the former governor of Hiran, Ali Jeyte Osman, establishing a new state named Hiran State. While this new entity is not recognized by the Federal Government of Somalia or other Federal Member States, it enjoys the support of Hiran residents, who currently control Beledweyn, the regional capital.
The longstanding rivalry between the Abgal of Middle Shabelle and the Hawadle of Hiran has been a persistent undercurrent shaping the region’s politics. Local land disputes, even if limited to small areas such as Halfooley, have the potential to deepen this already existing rivalry.