Welsh fundraisers rally around Somaliland after fire devastates capital Hargeisa

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Communities in Wales have launched a number of fundraising initiatives to assist people in the East African country after a devastating fire swept through a market destroying thousands of shops and injuring dozens.

The blaze ignited near Waheen Market in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa on Friday April 1, before it rapidly spread through thousands of shops.

Although the fire has since been extinguished and there were no fatalities, the destruction caused is expected to have a longstanding economic impact on the city, which is the financial hub of the country.

In response, Wales’ Somalilander communities, many of which have been established in Wales for more than 100 years, have rallied around UK-wide fundraising efforts to help rebuild the damage.

Ali Abdi, a Welsh Somalilander who founded Wales Somaliland Youth Links, told ITV Wales: “Honestly, it is extremely frightening seeing the scenes of the the aftermath.

“It was really devastating to be able to witness more or less firsthand the real tragedy. There were a lot of emotions both from the younger generation who who have parents and families still out there, but also those who saw it as reminiscent of the Civil War, the eighties and nineties, when there was real devastation in the city.

“We’re really lucky that no lives were lost. The materialistic things can be replaced, builders can be rebuilt.

“But in the aftermath, the damage has been estimated to cost in the region of between £1.5 and £2 billion. The market is like the Wall Street of Somaliland. It was where business was conducted, people would come from outside of the city and nearby villages to spend money there.”

There has been a Somaliland diaspora in Wales since the nineteenth century, with most living in Cardiff.

A former British colony, Somaliland briefly gained independence in 1961, but merged with Somalia five days later after Mogadishu gained independence from Italy. After years of conflict, Somaliland declared independence on May 18, 1991.

Despite not being recognised internationally as independent of Somalia, Somaliland has political relations with several countries including its neighbours Ethiopia and Djibouti, non-UN member state Taiwan, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Cardiff has particularly strong links with the country, and in 2015, the city’s council became only the second in the UK after Sheffield to recognise Somaliland.

Following the fire in Hargeisa, both Mark Drakeford and the leader of Cardiff Council sent messages of solidarity with people in the city.

Ali continued: “There are people here in Wales who have real close families who’ve lost everything.

“People can feel that pain so we were really pleased to see and have our first minister share solidarity and go as far as saying Wales is ready to help with rebuilding efforts.”

A fundraising campaign has been launched by the Wales Somaliland Community to collect money here in Wales.

Meanwhile across the UK, public figures with Somaliland heritage, such as Sir Mo Farah and ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omar have also launched fundraising campaigns.