Friday, October 14, 2016 0 comments

Somali heritage week event kicks off in Nairobi to celebrate the community

The city of Nairobi for the second year running hosted a cultural event dubbed Somali Heritage Week with organizers hoping culture enthusiasts could come together to learn and celebrate the Somali community, engage with the challenges facing the community, promote unity and respect between Kenyan cultures but most importantly try to defuse the misconceptions and stereotypes held against the Somali community.

Those attending the event at the Kenya National Theatre and which is scheduled to run from 13 to 16 October 2016 will surely enjoy a week of inspiring conversations featuring some of the best known thinkers, writers, performers and story tellers as well as the book fair and some nice Somali food, among a host of other activities through round table discussions, musical performances by Somali traditional dancers, storytelling for kids, Somali heritage regalia on display including dressing ,camels and the famous camel milk revered by Somalis.

The event is organized by Heinrich Boell Foundation and their Somali partner Aw-Jaamac Culture and Reading Centre based in the Eastleigh neighbourhood of Nairobi inhabited by the Somali community. Some of the funders for the event include the Rift Valley Forum, EU, CISP, German embassy, UNESCO, Swedish agency SDC among others.

The event was officially opened by Honourable Yusuf Hassan, Kamukunji member of parliament and the first Somali lawmaker to be elected in Nairobi. Yusuf, himself a famous journalist who worked with the local Voice of Kenya (VOK) which is now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and later for the BBC and VOA, reaffirmed the importance of culture in fostering peace and harmony among communities.

The first day of the event also saw other prominent Somalis who are role models for many young Somalis taking the stage to take part in open discussions and debates on culture, leadership, education and generally the status of Somalis in Kenya.

What captivated many however is the rich cultural regalia on display at the Kenya National Theatre. A traditional Somali hut, Somali traditional mats, storage containers for milk and women and a man wearing the traditional Somali attires with a spear and of course his camel, a revered animal amongst the Somalis who are traditionally nomadic.

The event is trending on social media with Twitter followers sharing updates on the event through the hash tag @SHW2016.

One Kenyan non-Somali man who attended the event says he was really impressed by the rich Somali culture on display and thanked the organizers.

"I have never though of the Somalis as a people with such a rich culture. This event has helped to change my perception of this community. It was inspiring to hear from Hon. Yusuf Hassan, IEBC Chairman Isak Hassan, Former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and also seeing the beautiful Somali Dhaanto music and dance. For the first I also tasted a camel milk. This is a wonderful event and I thank the organizers," he said declining to give his name
Thursday, September 29, 2016 0 comments

Lessons for Somalia from Rwanda

Somalia and Rwanda share a lot. They are both African countries, located in Eastern Africa and unfortunately both countries suffered a bloody civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

But Rwanda has since turned the page and we can safely say it is in another league now. A visit to the tiny hilly African country reveals a very different story. Rwanda of today is safe, clean and developing so fast. The capital Kigali is so clean you can easily drop food on the road, pick it up and safely consume it without any fear of catching a bug or disease simply because the streets are unbelievably very clean you'd think for once you are in another world and not in Africa.

Sometimes last year I visited Kigali, the Rwandan capital city, locally known as the city of 100 mountains and I was really impressed by what I saw. I could not stop thinking back not many years ago when Rwanda, just like Somalia was bleeding. But now, there is plenty of peace, fresh milk, honey, fresh fruits and vegetables.

The questions that lingers in my head is how Rwanda managed to lift itself from the abyss of the 1994 hopelessness, fear, war and hunger while unfortunately countries like Somalia and Africa's youngest and most troublesome State, South Sudan, are both by far still bleeding and in perpetual self-destruction mode. The Rwanda that degenerated into genocide in 1994 is not the Rwanda of today which seems to have put its act together and started its journey to recovery and forgiveness up to where it is today, becoming a ray of hope for many war shuttered countries in Africa and around the world.

"Why can't we transform ourselves and turn around our problems into solutions that work for us like it worked for the Rwandese"? This has to be the hard question every sane Somalis and South Sudanese national ought to be asking themselves.

While in Rwanda, I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum, which really shook me. I rarely cry in public but I must admit I was moved by the sad memories and testimonial's of victims of the 1994 Rwanda massacre in display and perfectly archived at genocide memorial centre. The horrifying tales by the survivors and witnesses will shake even the hardest of hearts and so I could barely stop the tears. The memorial is set a side to remind everyone who visits the city including its own inhabitants of the unimaginable killings that engulfed the city and country during the 1994 genocide.

For anyone who has never set foot in Rwanda or its hilly capital city Kigali the image they have of Rwanda I believe is that of war or blood, perhaps of machetes and those old horrific images that blurred our TV screens in 1994 during the massacre when neighbours, relatives and acquaintances turned against each other and within a 100 days tens of thousands of Rwandese mothers, boys, girls and even men from the Tutsi minority tribe were butchered to death in one of Africa's most gruesome violence known as the Rwanda genocide which unfortunately the rest of humanity simply sat and watched as close to a million if not more innocent souls were cold bloodedly murdered leaving behind a river of blood to flow like a normal river.

Thanks God now the Rwandese rivers are fresh and clean water devoid of blood or even dirt. Now, that is a transformation and a miracle, believe it or not. Leaving behind a captivating beauty of Kigali that will simply leave you mesmerized. The city, set on a picturesque range of green mountains is scintillatingly beautiful.

But what really caught my eyes is the development, the well prawned lawns across the smooth roads and the clean streets. You will never think you are in an African city when you are in Kigali. You might easily think you are in a European city!

"Kigali is the Switzerland of Africa," shouted my expatriate colleague.

Looks like Rwanda's quick turn around has even caught the eyes of other Africans too.

"You can never believe this city was littered with corpses in 1994 during the genocide. Now you have the cleanest, safest and most progressive city's in Africa. Rwanda has turned the page and is now a model country for many war tone countries including the likes of Somalia, South Sudan and other hot spots in Africa," said a Kenyan expatriate working in Rwanda who did not wish to be named.

As Somalis and South Sudanese continue to senselessly annihilate each other and destroy their lives and country, Rwanda is developing with state of the art buildings sprouting up in the hilly green town. Everywhere you go there is construction going up. At night the various parts of the city several dotted across mountain tops that together make up Kigali city makes you wonder why people there killed each other in 1994.

If I were the chairman of the African Union Commission, I would have rewarded the Rwandese people with the crown of being Africa's jewel capital city. Yes, we should consider moving the African Union headquarters in Kigali as our token to the people of Rwanda for their magnificent turn around and the hard work they have put in turning their country from a human butcher to a place where everyone would simply love to live.

Back to the not so cool genocide story, If you ever visit Kigali or Rwanda, you can never boost you have been to the country of gorillas without visiting the Kigali Genocide Museum, a simple and yet well planned historical site that acts as a remembrance, healing and educational centre as well as a mass burial site for a quarter a million victims of the massacre that remains to date in the memories of many people.

During my recent visit there, as I held back tears from the moving stories and the remains of the genocide, I gathered strength to speak to the head of the genocide memorial site focusing my discussion on Somalia rather than Rwanda.

"I believe Somalis have a lot to learn from Rwanda," I struggled to say in a low broken voice.

"Yes, you are absolutely right my brother," responded the Rwandese youthful head of the Kigali Genocide Museum.

"You need to bring those Somali boys and men who continue to kill their mothers, brothers and sisters here in Rwanda so that they see for themselves what kind of history they are now writing with the innocent blood of Somalis. If they have an ounce of mercy in them am sure they will be awakened by our dark bloody past. After coming back to normal and they see how Rwanda is fast developing they will go back to Somalia with a different mind-set and I am very certain if they have a normal human heart they will never hurt anyone again, even a fly," he said, choosing his words very carefully.

I think we should do that. Round off all those brainwashed boys and their evil masters and take them to a healing trip in Kigali.

Sometimes I wonder why we fight and kill one another because when two Somalis meet, peace is part of their greetings. "ii waran?" - How are you? one owuld typically say, and the other person will respond by saying, "nabad" - Peace

Guess what? even in the Islamic greetings - Assalamu alaikum - the word peace is there too.

So where is all these violence coming from when if both our religion and culture advocates for peace?

Sober up my people and stop fighting. Make love instead and spread love and peace in the land of the poets - Somalia.

Thursday, September 22, 2016 0 comments

EU response to UN report on freedom of expression in Somalia

Local EU Statement

EU response to UN report on freedom of expression in Somalia

EU Heads of Mission in Somalia issue the following statement
Nairobi, 22 September 2016 - The European Union and European Union Member States congratulate the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for having issued their first report regarding the state of freedom of expression in Somalia. The EU and EU Member States strongly believe in and encourage freedom of expression: it is a key foundation stone of democracy and a fundamental right of every human being.
As the report makes clear, killings, beatings, harassment, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, lack of due process or fair trial guarantees, and closure of media outlets continue to take place across Somalia, often based on the accusation of spreading "false news" punishable under the Somali Penal Code.
We remain concerned that the large majority of these cases are not being investigated. The EU and EU Member States see the State as having an obligation to respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and therefore look to State authorities to systematically respond, investigate and prosecute such cases so that so that impunity gives way to respect of human rights. We also recognise the need to repeal laws that criminalise the "dissemination of false news" and ensure that NISA is regulated with effective oversight mechanisms and accountability measures.
The EU and EU Member States advocate that in the coming weeks an enabling environment for public participation in debates linked to the democratic transition is enabled – including by guaranteeing the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly – as contribution to a more democratic and inclusive process.
We welcome the recent passing on the law to establish a Human Rights Commission and call upon the FGS to ensure this independent body is created as quickly as possible so that it can carry-out its critical role in the promotion and protection of human rights for all, including the right to freedom of expression.
The EU and EU Member States stand ready to support the implementation of the recommendations provided in the report and invite the Somali authorities and other partners to use this as a tool to address essential issues related to Freedom of Expression in Somalia.