The<strong>Library</strong>

TheLibrary

The <strong>Art Gallery</strong>

The Art Gallery

Hargeysa<strong>International Book Fair</strong>

HargeysaInternational Book Fair

Somaliland: The Abaarso story

During this presentation our academic dissuasion was guided by a project work that focuses on one of the academic success stories from Somaliland; Abaarso Tech school. Mr. Harry Lee an American Filmmaker who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Education at Harvard University. He has spent three years in Somaliland teaching at Abaarso School and shared with us his findings on challenges and opportunities for the students to join the highly reputed institutions in the West.

The feature-length documentary which he made with his partners Ben Powell and Kate Griendling, about five Abaarso students who are applying to American schools with a lot of collective dreams and expectations on their shoulders set the discussion on multiple direction including appreciation for of artistic presentation of significant stories that shapes westerns understanding of developing nation. It was also used as a way to reflect the need to come up with a well-researched achievement stories that can inspire young Somalilanders through the voice of youth they related too.

The story detail follows Abdisamad, Roda, and Amaal who are students at Abaarso School of Science and Technology outside Hargeisa. Abaarso is an American-run school where Somaliland students attempt to secure scholarships to US universities so they can be better prepared to lead their country. Each of these three students has different motivations and dreams while at Abaarso. The odds are stacked against them as they apply to American schools but they hold out hope for a better future.

Conclusion

As it has become a prominent space for academic discussion, this forum has grown in number of area covered and attendants. Even though its weekly based aspiration is challenged with the fact that it is not possible to have PhD presentation every week, expanding its domain by having presentations of related published articles, masters research works that have strong relation to a project in the PhD level has gave the chance to hold the sessions on consistent base.

The range of participant is still mainly PhD students but once in a while when we have international scholars who could be benefit not only to the PhD circle but the overall academic development in Somaliland so as to make sure appropriate information collection strategies and locations are used for research which usually puts a question on how international researcher get local context in an objective manner directs our decision to incorporate such studies. this is well assured by making such presentation a public event in comparison to the closed PhD days presentations in order to reach every interested academic community member to takes part in it. the practice of making it a public event also is applied to presentations of internationally renowned scholars whose experience is significant to the wider community. The case of Dr. Severine Autesserre   Dr. Michael Walls and Dr. Scot Pegg’s presentation nights are worth mentioning here.

The growing number of attendants and mailing list members is another encouraging fact that tells how much the forum is attaining its objective of identifying research works on progress, connecting researches, sharing experience and developing collective responsibility of assuring quality research works practice are utilized in researching socially significant matters. On an average we have had 245 participants with local and international mix with young Somalilanders taking the higher portion for attending most of the presentation even though our November presentations brought more of international participant due to the election observation mission for the presidential election. The gender balance seems to be more of male dominant both in number of researches presented and also attendants for the events which we hope will have a different future turn out.

All in all, the forum is going in the right direction which will yield the aspired input for the 40th Somali Studies international congress.

Life is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara’

“Life is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara’ directed by Iara Lee

We screened ‘Life is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara’ directed by Iara Lee to lead the way for another intellectual dialog.
Four decades after its people were promised freedom by departing Spanish rulers, the Western Sahara remains Africa’s last colony. While a UN-brokered ceasefire put an end to armed hostilities in the territory in 1991, the Sahrawi people have continued to live under the Moroccan armed forces’ oppressive occupation, and what peace exists in the area is fragile at best. Tens of thousands of Sahrawis have fled to neighboring Algeria, where over 125,000 refugees still live in camps that were intended to be temporary. In spite of these difficulties, a new movement, with youth at its center, is rising to challenge human rights abuses and to demand the long-promised referendum on freedom. Today’s young generation is deploying creative nonviolent resistance for the cause of self-determination. In doing so, they’ve had to persevere against a torrent of conflicting forces. While risking torture and disappearance at the hands of Moroccan authorities, they’re also pushing back against those who have lost patience with the international community and are ready to launch another guerrilla war. The new film from director Iara Lee will examine these tensions as it chronicles the everyday violence of life under occupation, giving voice to the aspirations of a desert people for whom colonialism has never ended.

Somaliland’s fishery sector and its development initiatives

Somaliland’s fishery sector and its development initiatives, exploring the various economic, social and epistemic networks

As the forum is centering Somaliland/Somalia based research with internationally acknowledged methodology and research practice, the three presentations we had resonated on Somaliland statehood and mechanisms for development that coincided with the election the state was on. The third presentation was by Miss Amanda Møller Rasmussen who has a background in Social Anthropology of Development (MA) from the School of Oriental and African Studies as well as in African Studies (MA) from the University of Copenhagen. She has been affiliated to the Centre of African Studies at Copenhagen University as a research assistant and project coordinator. Her research has mainly focused on Somaliland’s fishery sector and its development initiatives, exploring the various economic, social and epistemic networks that surround Somaliland’s fishery development on both a local and global level. During her presentation she stated that although fisheries in Somaliland have seldom caught the attention of scholars or international actors, the successful articulation of a linkage between “Somali piracy” and regional fisheries have led to more and more development attention, resources and technologies targeted at the Somaliland fishery industry. She argues that this has resulted in linking both local and global actors in an effort to securitize the region. Her presentation reflected more upon how these narratives are used to address issues of poverty and fishery development. At the same time, she investigates how these narratives have made the Somaliland fishery industry – a marginal and often unnoticed industry with little influence on the global community – into an arena from where different local and global actors are able to negotiate their interest, positions, and the allocation of development resources in a globalized world. In such a process establishing, appropriating, and re-establishing ideas about potential dangerous fishermen and the legitimacy of international development by linking up to local desires, global agendas, and the development epistemic communities that surrounds fishery development in Somaliland is mandatory was her point to take from the presentation. As always her presentation was also followed by supplementing perspectives and challenges that shadowed fishery which is an industry Somaliland has a wider opportunity for national development.

Presentation by Mr. Yusuf Serunkuma

With the well ignited appetite by Dr. Pegg’s presentation, we had our following Wednesday dialog with the young scholar Mr.Yusuf Serunkuma who is a PhD student at Makerere University Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University in Kampala. His work focuses on exploiting the craft and aesthetics of popular culture (poetry, nationalist music, monuments, popular narratives and practices, national celebrations, fliers and symbols of statehood such as the national flag, and recent ethnography, 2015) mostly through ethnography, discourse and literary analysis, Yusuf’s work examines the ways in which Somaliland political identity and national consciousness is mobilized as an independent nation state seceding from Somalia. Using the case study of Somaliland, as a form of de-imagined nationalism, Yusuf then attempts to theorize secessionist nationalism (Eritrea, South Sudan, Pakistan, Biafra, Catalonia, Scotland etc.) as it is distinctly different from other forms of nationalism especially anticolonial nationalism. Participants were impressed with the diverging perspective he was trying to illustrate how identity depiction matters by negating the traditional ‘I am this because I am not that’ which he said unless aspiring nations start centering their self-determination in a way that starts and ends in what they are, he said will still be in a continuous challenge of waiting. In his explanation he stated that in Somaliland’s nationalist project he has two arguments: Firstly, he presents that through its “officially sponsored” popular cultural items (such as the symbols of statehood, monuments, nationalist music and poetry, select events such as the arrest of the Horn Stars returning from Mogadishu in 2015 etc.), Somaliland has constructed a public identity that thrives on an intimate juxtaposition/foil with Somalia. He argues that is perilous as there is potential for nationalist amnesia/violence once the foil disappears. Secondly, that although most of scholarship rightly celebrates the peace and stability in the country of the last 26 years, sustaining the images and histories of violence in its public identity and institutional symbolisms suggests it has remained a country at war.  He asserted that Somaliland ought to build a national consciousness without Somalia as its referent. “my suggestions include monumentalizing cultural and SNM heroes, first presidents, significant historical figures etc.”  Secondly, by defining itself in essentially internationalist terms (democrats, anti-terrorism, victims of a genocide), Somaliland surrenders both the power to define itself in its own terms (say, cultural-traditional) to the international regime of power, which defines those terms.  As well, this has potential to plunge the country into cultural/nationalist amnesia once the terms of the debate shift. On the bases of this presentation participants provided pro and critics by giving example of struggle all over the world which lighted up the discussion. Among the core comments were the international principle of state recognition being binding to have a referent state be it as a mother state or patron which are central in the self-determination process. well his argument popular culture shall be used to identify what Somaliland is as it stands on its own description was concluded with a performance by HCC Cultural Dance team that played ‘Hobbay’.

Twenty Years of De Facto State Studies: Progress, Problems and Prospects

Our last three presentations also evolved with similar tone but even got a wider reception owing it to the fact that they were part of the historic, successful and democratic election Somaliland had. All the three presenters were part of the International Election Observation mission as a Sort term observer. First, we had Dr. Scott Pegg Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). His presentation on ‘Twenty Years of De Facto State Studies: Progress, Problems and Prospects’ surfaced issues centering on the struggle for self-determination with in the past 20 years research including Somaliland whereby he stated that the challenge remains constant starting from naming such entities, irregularities in international principles and limitation on new perspective of academic dialog on the area. He further asserted that fundamentally there remains a continued failure to reach agreement on the number of these entities that exist or have existed since 1945. The nuanced and empirically rich academic literature has also largely failed to advance journalists or policymakers’ understanding of de facto states. Yet, the prospects for de facto state studies remain bright. More diverse comparative work, renewed attention to how engagement without recognition might facilitate the participation of unrecognized entities in international politics, a renewed focus on parent state strategies, and increased attention to de facto states and conflict resolution are areas deserving of greater scholarly attention was the pillar point he wanted to pass. Recent developments from Catalonia to Somaliland were discussed with in this presentation framework which lead to heated, informative and interesting dialog night.

A Somali Nation-State

A Somali Nation-State: History, culture and Somaliland’s political transition

The presentation by Dr. Michael Walls was another critical presentation we had in developing academic space for research and knowledge transfer in Hargeyisa Somaliland. Michael Walls (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer at UCL’s Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), and for the past fourteen years, his research has focused on the political economy of the Somali Horn of Africa, including the evolving political settlement in Somaliland. He has also been a part of the coordination team for international election observations in Somaliland in 2005, 2010 and 2012 as well as the 2016/17 Voter Registration process, and was Principal Investigator for the ESRC-funded research project ‘Political Settlement in Somaliland: a gendered perspective’. Michael is currently heading the international Election Observation Mission for Somaliland’s 2017 presidential election.

Summary of Presentation

Somaliland is attracting increasing attention for its stability and the cycle of elections that has taken place since a constitution was formally adopted by referendum in 2001. This event will consider research conducted by Michael Walls, culminating in the book ‘A Somali Nation-State: History, culture and Somaliland’s political transition’. In that publication, Walls argues that, rather than undergoing a process of what is frequently described as ‘democratization’, Somaliland can more accurately be seen as negotiating the difficult transition from a discursive system of extreme democracy to a representative one more suitable for nation-state governance. That transition has proven difficult in other societies that have experienced it, and many of Somaliland’s own challenges can be better understood from that perspective than the one provided by more common narratives.

Walls’ own research on this has spanned almost a decade and a half, and in the early days took a constructivist approach, with consequent impact on the methodologies employed. Relying heavily on qualitative and interview-based methods, the research relied on triangulated narratives to build a picture of the understandings of participants as to the processes that have supported Somaliland’s transition. This session will consider both methodological approaches and the findings of that research.

Participant of this presentation stressed the relevance of such spaces specially with well experienced presenters like him as it has helped attendants from all domains of research and academic space. The PhD researchers who are in their data collection, analysis and presentation have got the experience shared from his activities and young attendants who haven’t started their research even were benefited from process of topic selection, framing, scoping and methodologies as a way of assuring objectives attainment for their academic inquiry.


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About

The Hargeysa Cultural Center was opened in August 2014 in Hargeysa, Somaliland. The Center was established by Redsea Cultural Foundation (RCF). Since its establishment, the Hargeysa Cultural Center has become an important feature in Hargeysa’s cultural landscape. The success of the center owes much to the respect that RCF has gained from its work on running the annual Hargeysa International Book Fair, which, now in its eighth year, has become one of the most admired cultural events in the region.

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