Hargeisa — Hargeisa residents say they have high expectations of the newly elected municipal council's ability to clean up the piles of garbage strewn in the city's streets.
The recently elected body started work on January 5th, vowing to address residents' needs and complaints, with a focus on public service, said council member Ahmed Siad Muhumed.
"We will focus on sanitation, strengthening public neighbourhoods and district boards that will work with the municipality on peace-keeping and development, as well as improving the beauty of the city," he told Sabahi.
The previous council, which was in power for 10 years, was not effective in addressing the city's garbage problem because it was mired in internal conflicts, said Hargeisa-based analyst Bashir Haji Ismail, adding that the issue has become a public health concern.
"Past experiences must be a lesson for the newly elected representatives so they can address the true needs and grievances of the public," he told Sabahi.
The city has been working with four privately owned garbage collection companies -- Sabowanaag, DHIS, Tabsan and Keeps -- said Khadar Yusuf Ali, director of the Department of Social Affairs and City Beautification of Hargeisa Municipality.
Sabowanaag and DHIS had been the only two companies operating under a public-private partnership since 2007, but when performance issues arose and complaints about garbage continued, Tabsan and Keeps were added in 2012, Ali said.
Using public-private partnerships to collect the city's garbage has sped up collection, strengthened job creation and stimulated the private sector, Ali said. "Up to 70% of our goal has been realised, but the problem of garbage has not been eliminated."
In the last five years, the municipality has created two garbage sites seven kilometres from the city for dumping and burning garbage. As part of its campaign to improve public health, the municipality has also burnt 140 tonnes of expired food, drinks and medicine collected from Hargeisa businesses in 2012, Ali said.
"We are making an effort to preserve public health. We routinely monitor food, drinks and medicine centres in the market so that expired goods are not sold to the public," he said.
Mustafa Mohamed, an inspector with Sabowanaag, said his company services assigned areas twice a week as per contract, collecting 1,000 Somaliland shillings per pickup.
"We collect garbage from residential homes, business centres, offices, the sides of roads and take it to designated dumping sites to be burnt," he told Sabahi. Residents who dump their garbage in undesignated locations without facing legal punishment constitute a recurring problem, he said.
But residents who spoke to Sabahi said the city needs to increase the number of designated garbage collection sites, add more pickup days and monitor the collection companies' performance.
Halima Yonis, who operates an eatery in Wahen market, said she would welcome improved garbage collection services since the companies have failed to come often enough to be effective.
Yasin Alase, a teacher at the University of Hargeisa, said the problem is that the private companies limit pickup in residential areas and focus more on busy markets, where they get more business.
"The companies are delivering services with profits in mind," he said, adding that better public awareness and more oversight from the city would help improve services and keep the city clean.
On Saturday (January 19th), the municipal council met with representatives of the private companies involved in garbage collection and with other city officials to discuss some of the challenges the city is facing.
Council member Ahmed Siad Muhumed told Sabahi the council has not yet made any concrete plans and that it is still consulting with the parties involved to develop comprehensive plans.