Henley Borama Friendship Association

In 1980 Henley began to contemplate twinning with European towns in the conventional style; Falaise (France) and Leichlingen (Germany) were chosen. Councillor Allen Jones initiated the idea that a link with a Third World town should be forged in addition. Eventually the idea of Borama (Somalia) emerged, and in October 1981, Malcolm Page (who was visiting Somalia as a guest of the government there at the time) was deputed to visit Borama to put the proposal to the people of the town. They liked the idea, after initial suspicions had been overcome, and following a report to a town meeting on his return, the formal link was established when, in 1983, the then Mayor of Henley on Thames (Dr Noel Snell) visited Borama with Joanna Shepherd (Now Cary) of the Henley Standard.

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<< School for Deaf Children - Borama

Borama is on the western boundary of the former British Protectorate of Somaliland (now the unrecognised Republic of Somaliland - see map). It is some 3500 ft above sea level, in the foothills of the Ethiopian massif. It enjoys an equitable climate and has about 10 inches of rainfall per year. However, it does have the benefit of a good piped water supply from the deep wells at Amoud (means 'dust'), about four miles from the town. The wells were sunk by Chinese engineers in the period 1960-75. OXFAM has developed the supply system since then.

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<< The lady butchers of Borama, with their Association banners

The Somali people are a mix of Cushites who migrated from the Nile valley and Arab people who entered the country from Arabia from the 15 th Century onwards. The people of Borama belong to the Gadabursi clan, who - with the Esa - trace their origins to immigration from Arabia, that established itself on an island off the coast of Zeila. The Somali people are a single linguistic entity, but they were split up during the 'Scramble for Africa' at the end of the 19th Century, and were divided between Djibouti (was French), where they are 60% of the population, Somaliland (was British), Ethiopia, the former Italian Colony (later UN Trusteeship territory) of Somalia, and Kenya (Northern Frontier Province ). The two l00% Somali territories united after independence in 1960 and eventually became the Democratic Republic of Somalia, However this disintegrated following the civil war that ended in 1991. The former British Protectorate declared itself independent as the Republic of Somaliland - although it has yet to gain international recognition.

The majority of the Gadabursi people live to the West of Borama, in Ethiopia. The head of the clan is Ugas Haji Jama Mohamed Elmi. Ugas is his title; other clans have sultans, in the main.

Some 60% of the Somali people are pastoralists, with herds of camels, sheep and goats. In the Borama region, however, agriculture is the main activity, with cattle, sheep and goats not far behind. There are some camels in addition. Borama was established in the early 1920s, in an attempt by the then British administration to open up a trade route into Ethiopia, in competition with Djibouti's port and its railway to Addis Ababa. But the port of Zeila was inadequate and the investment in roads was too meagre. Borama is a sturdily built town, constructed mainly of local stone, but there are many more simple huts too.

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It was recognised from the outset that the Link would be different in nature to the European ones, because of distance, language and relative prosperity. Support and encouragement were seen as the areas where Henley could assist Borama. The biggest project in cost terms was the re-equipping of the town's power station with two Dale 250 kva generator sets. The equipment was procured in UK through the good offices of Derek Gilbert (then Vice Chairman of HBFA), and installed under his direction. The funding was £15,000 from Henley, £10,000 from HM Ambassador in Mogadishu and £10,000 from the people of Borama. The last was primarily in kind (e.g. work, local materials).

In the University library. David Brooks (centre) taught at the Hargeisa Trades School(1959/60) as a VSO volunteer >>

The Association provided £ 2,000 of assistance in 1984, following an Ethiopian air raid on the town. Joanna Shepherd of the Henley Standard was in Borama within five days of the raid, dispensing aid. When a cyclone struck the town in 1996, we were able to raise £ 1,000 quickly for emergency relief. In addition we have supported the orphanage, the school for deaf children, the hospital (mainly by the gift of books for the doctors), the old people's home and the University.

The last has been established on the campus of the former Amoud Secondary School, under the Presidency of Professor Sulieman Gulaid. It has some 300 students so far, with faculties for Education and Business Administration. Faculties of Agriculture and Islamic Studies are being planned. The Society was able to secure generous donations of textbooks from Book Aid International for the fledgling University, which now has one of the biggest and best libraries in Africa.

The Africa Education Trust and ICD/CIIR have assisted the University and the reestablishing of education in the territory following the civil war. Fortunately, Borama escaped the ravages of both the war between Somalia and Ethiopia (1976/77) and of the civil war (1987-91). However, in both cases the area became swamped by refugees, which led to the depletion of the vegetation and consequent erosion of the soil.

Visits between Henley and Borama have been relatively few, and were hampered by the loss of communication during the civil war and its aftermath. However, a delegation visited Borama in 1992, to re-establish the link. The re-habitation of the power station became an early priority. Most recently (March 2001) a team led by the Mayor of Borama visited Henley to study local government in action at town, district and county levels, ending with a visit to the House of Commons.

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For more information about the Henley Borama Friendship Association, please contact one of the following:

Allen Jones tel: 573930
Peter Beedham tel: 572903
Malcolm Page tel: 578712

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Further Details

Allen Jones
Tel: 01491 573930
Peter Beedham
Tel: 01491 572903
Malcolm Page
Tel: 01491 578712