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Hargeysa<strong>International Book Fair</strong>

HargeysaInternational Book Fair

Academics married with Art

February has a special place in the hearts of Somalilanders specially with young and change seekers are the center of attention for all of the activities in Hargeysa Cultural Center most importantly for the Academic Dialog Session. Looking forward for the celebration of Somaliland youth day on February 20, we Started the month with the session on “Migrants on the Margins: a research project of the Observatory of Conflict and Violence Prevention (OCVP) an institution that is serving as a member of international research partners to the Royal Geographical Society’s Field Research Program that is under way in collaboration with researchers from UK Universities (Sussex, Durham and School of African and Oriental Studies at University of London) to investigate the vulnerability and opportunities of internal migrants from rural and pastoral areas of Somaliland. The research focused particularly on refugees those who are living in three Internally Displaced Camps(IDPs) in Hargeisa (Statehouse, Digaale Camp and Camp A). This three years field research project is simultaneously taking place in four of the world’s most pressured cities, including Hargeisa(Somaliland), Harare(Zimbabwe), Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Dhaka(Bangladesh) with the hope to draw on systematic and comparative data on how these patterns and management techniques vary from one city to another.
To present the research’s current status along with basic findings and methodological aspects, we had Dr Laura Hammond (SOAS) and Dr Benjamin Dix (Positive Negatives, an arts-based company working with the project) along with Ms. Ayan Yousuf (OCVP). The objective of the research is to understand the experiences and challenges that the displaced face in moving into the city and trying to find sustainable livelihoods. The research also considered the challenges faced by municipal authorities in responding to this issue.

As a background and basic findings, the researchers presented that Hargeisa city has nearly one million inhabitants and its economy is mainly dependent on remittance and livestock export. Indicating the fact that the local authority is also struggling to improve the city’s infrastructure and public services which are either absent or in a poor condition, cyclic droughts in the country is stated as a factor that further complicated the situation and have forced many rural and pastoral communities to move to the city in search of survival. The researchers further elaborated that whenever there is drought in the country there are new arrivals, who often find themselves in informal settlements. The three sites house IDPs who are mainly from rural and pastoral communities, but the camps differ in proximity to the city Centre, access to services (including water, education, transportation and work), time of establishment and population which made the challenges faced by the IDP to vary accordingly. The State House, established in 1991, is believed to be the oldest IDP camp in the city, housing 4,500 families at the Centre of Hargeisa. In contrast, the newer Camp A looks like a temporary camp: residents live in simple huts of plastic and old cloths with the hope they will be resettle in a permanent location. Finally, Digaale camp, established in 2012, has an estimated population of 900 families and is located 6km outside the city. Unlike the other two camps, the residents live in permanent metal houses built with the support of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC).


On the aspect of the research methodology, the research is using the Q methodology which was devised to allow an individual to represent his or her vantage point for purposes of holding it constant for inspection and comparison. The key to this approach is to consider data in terms of the individual’s whole pattern of responses, a self- reference rather than looking for patterns among people. People and not tests are the variables is the fundamental perspective of the methodology (McKeown & Thomas 1988).
With this methodology, participants are asked to decide what is meaningful and significant from their perspective by using a Q-sort. From this process an essentially relative set of evaluations is produced. The data from several people are then factorially analyzed; this reveals groups of individuals who have ranked characteristics in the same order. This was explained by Ayan Yusuf the senior researcher of the local partner who further stated that they followed the principle to have an appropriate set of statements that come from the concourse that exists around the issue under consideration, as these are the essence of the subjectivity that will later emerge from the sorting of statements by the participants in addition to making sure that the statements used in Q methodology to be representative of the topic so that there are statements that people can agree with and statements that people can disagree. The other aspect of the research which is expected to have unique presentation is that the statements collected and agreed by the informant on the bases the Q-sort method will later be presented as a story line. This was explained by Dr Benjamin Dix from Positive Negatives, an arts-based company working with the project who has been using comic art as a way of presenting research outcomes.


As the research is a work in progress, findings in a generalized form were not part of the presentation. However, the methodological uniqueness and observational issues were part of the follow up questions and discussion. The night also had another mission of providing information on the MSc scholarship at SOAS explained by Dr. Laur Homound the leading coordinator of the scholarship which was an interesting point for the young Somalilanders who has become a major participant of the platform.

The Issue, The Day and The Presentation
Our second presenter for the month was Ebba Tellander a Doctoral Researcher at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and International Institute of Social Studies in the Hauge (Erasmus University Rotterdam) whose PhD project focuses on civic mobilization in Somaliland’s recent history.

Her research is affiliated with the Societal Transformation in Conflict Contexts project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council. She was a Researcher at the Social Dynamics Department and a Communicator at the Communication Department at PRIO. Her previous research focused on the role of the Somali diaspora in Norwegian foreign policy towards the Somali region. Even though she is in her initial stage of her research work, the topic she is working on has managed to pull in many issues and aspect in Somaliland. It couldn’t have been in a better timing to talk about her research area as Somaliland National Youth Day is commemorated every year on 20th of February in remembrance of the youths who play a huge role in the ongoing development in the country. More specifically the researcher is taking the UFFO group as her case study owing to the fact that those youths who were all locally educated initiated a volunteerism program at the Hargeisa Group hospital under the banner of UFFO with the objective of creating sanitary conditions at the then northern Somalia main health facility. This was as struggle and resistance against the then Somalia dictatorial government of Mohamed Siyad Barre who in the 20th February of 1982 arrested and sentenced to death a number of youth in Somaliland that escalated to crackdown by the dictator’s forces accompanied by security agents from the National Security Service-NSS elicited anger by local youths in Hargeisa through unprecedented protest demonstrations. It is in honor of UFFO members and their activities that stimulated resistance to Barre’s oppression by ordinary locals, the government of Somaliland declared 20th February as a national youth day. This is how the presentation of Ebba intertwined with the commemoration as her research is aspiring to investigate peace development through volunteerism-based resistance movement. The feedback from the youth association members who were attending the discussion along with UFFO members themselves enlightened the academic dialog and assisted the researcher to obtain a more digested foundation for her work progress.

Double Celebration for the month
February went more interesting considering the third week dialog session which was held on the commemoration of the International Mother Language day whereby we lunched the first Somali language audio book a translation of “We Kissed the Ground” a dramatic firsthand account of a migrant’s journey from Somaliland to the Mediterranean published by the Rift Valley Institute in 2017.

We also had the launching of Dhaxalreeb (1st issue of 2018) our quarterly bilingual magazine (English and Somali) that will serve as another platform to provide literature, academic dialog and traveling information about Somaliland as you are reading it now. Music performance was also part of the entertainment educational structure of the event.

Concluding the month with the thought provoking documentary of The Life of Malcolm X which has a dimension that has not been given much attention.

The documentary presents how Malcom X played as one of the influential Muslims. The platform has once again served its intention of linking scholars from all corners of the world who has taken Somalia, Somaliland and Horn of Africa as their area of interest with a strong sense of developing academic discussions in Somaliland lead and owned by local scholars and youth. It is not a surprise then that we have grown to 258 people in our mailing list which we are certain will grow more. The attendance by young Somalilanders who the vibrant voice of the discussion are assures the sustainability of this platform as they will be the next presenters with the rising academic aspiration they have. Well with such a celebratory mood of the month of February that shed a light on the academic discussions we had, we are looking forward to the coming presentation with open hand and heart to anyone who is heading to Hargeysa Somaliland to join our sessions be it as presenter or an attendant.
Note. Please notify us if you or anyone in your academic circle is heading to Hargeysa so that we can set a time table for them to be part of the presentation sessions. info@hargeysaculturalcenter.org or tirsit.yetbarek@redsea-online.org

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.

  • CARRADA AYAAN DHUNKANNAY (AUDIOBOOK)

‘The Africans: A Triple Heritage’ – ADIH Documentary Night

Documentary Screening of June

‘The Africans: A Triple Heritage’ By Dr. Ali Mazrui

ADIH Documentary Night

With the start of the Independence Day celebration for many nations in Africa, June shines up as a month of wish come true for many African countries specially for the Horn of Africa with Somaliland being the first to get its independence on 26th of June from its British protectorate status. Hence, what perfect timing will there be to talk about the issue of independence, indigenous knowledge and identity of Africans than this month even though the quest for answer seems a vicious circle with more than a finger count can do to answer it.  Who is an African? Where are African indigenous knowledge and wisdoms? Where does Africa fit in the ever-changing global system? Many more “where” “what” “Who” and “How” for Africa and Africanness are questions been in search for answer as long as the age of the organization of the continental union which has its foundation on the dreams of the early Pan-African advocates which include leaders such as Haile Selassie, Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Muammar Gaddafi, grassroots organizers such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, academics such as W. E. B.

Did we get the answers? Not yet even closer in spite of all the changes such as a name and amended vision for Organization of African Unity (OAU) to Africa Union (AU) along with the current initiatives such as African Solutions for African Problems (AFSol), establishment of Panel of The Wise (PoW) as one of the five pillars for AU and its regional organization, nothing yet seem to give a resting point for the quests. The number of people asking “do we even need to define Africanness at this day while aspiring for global citizenry?”  to “What does the African Solutions for Africans Problem really stand for?”  with the inseparable mix of the western and other cultures thanks to the globalization which has a tilted field structure that slides and roll down western norms more on Africans than the things it dropped on the west for countless reasons.

These were the foundations for our Documentary screening of June “The Africans; a Triple Heritage by Dr. Ali Mazrui that guided our academic discussion for the Academic Dialog in Hargeisa session. The Africans: A Triple Heritage is a documentary history, written and narrated by Dr. Ali Mazrui in the early 1980s and jointly produced by the BBC and the Public Broadcasting Service (WETA, Washington) in association with the Nigerian Television Authority. The film series premiered in 1986 on BBC and controversially on local PBS stations throughout the United States. The documentary has a central argument and narration that the triple heritage of Africans is a product resulting from three major influences: (1) an indigenous heritage borne out of time and climate change; (2) the heritage of Eurocentric capitalism forced on Africans by European colonialism; and (3) the spread of Islam by both jihad and evangelism. The negative effects of this history have yet to be addressed by independent African leaders, while the West has tended to regard Africa as recipient rather than as transmitter of effects. Yet Africa has transformed both Europe and America in the past, Mazrui points out, and the difficult situation in which Africa finds itself today (economically dependent, culturally mixed, and politically unstable) is the price it has had to pay for Western development. The series was in nine parts even though the documentary has summarized in a precise manner which are 1. The Nature of a Continent 2. A Legacy of Lifestyles 3. New Gods 4. Tools of Exploitation 5. New Conflicts 6. In Search of Stability 7. A Garden of Eden in Decay 8. A Clash of Cultures 9. Global Africa.

Using the documentary as entry point discussions were directed towards  many point of interest as it touched up on a multilayered issues overthought the highly voiced issue was the state structure of Somaliland where by the indigenous knowledge of conflict resolution through the elders which now is a constitutionalized part of the state structure making the upper house of the parliament named as Guurti in parallel  with the multiparty western democratic system to create the Hybrid government system of Somaliland. Questions and reflections were how much effective this has been and what are the challenges it is creating for the fundamental principles of rule of law, separation of power and accountability among many others. Participant were firm on the fact that these layers of rule and regulations that are reflection of the triple heritage Dr. Mizuri was talking about are a real reflection of the situation in Somaliland now as the Islamic rule, the western rule and the indigenous justice system all are in place hard to say having an effective marriage and are serving the best interest of the community specially the youth and women who are significant part of the society.

Stepping out of the government structure arguments, discussion was also towards even on self-depiction of a Somalilander by proxy any African who has to deal with the same issue due to the colonial legacy, the globalization system and the wish to stay loyal to the cultures and norms of the indigenous founding fathers of the African nations. How do we dress? what language we speak? and what shapes our moral value? are questions that became pandora box than gained a solution in our interesting discussion of the documentary screening.

Of course, it would be an over ambition to address these questions which have been with us for more than 50 years celebrating their power for confusion and remain a question with unpreventable changes just like the years of independence days marked by independent days of nations in the continent. Will it have answer any time soon? we leave it as a question knowing many will keep on asking themselves and use it as a critical mirror to evaluate the changes happening around them until our next socially significant documentary screening of July.

By Tirsit Yetbarek

Academic Dialog in Hargeysa Coordinator

Doing research: a workshop on research approaches and methods

Somaliland is attracting an increasing number and diversity of research projects, offering interesting opportunities for researchers to participate in interesting and potentially valuable projects designed to better understand Somaliland, it’s people and its context. A significant number of young Somali scholars are also pursuing PhDs and other research degrees which call for a similar understanding of research methodologies. This workshop will provide an introduction, over four days, to the different approaches and methods used to collect data in academic and policy-focused research projects. It will cover both qualitative and quantitative methods, and will consider research ethics and the ontologies and epistemologies related to different ways of understanding the research process.
This workshop is being supported by the Development Planning Unit (DPU) of UCL (University College London), UK.
It will be take by Dr Mohamud Hashi Hussein and Dr Michael Walls.
Dr Mohamud Hashi Hussein is an economist with over 20 years of experience in industry, the public sector and research in the UK, and more recently in Somaliland. He has an excellent understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research in the Somali Horn of Africa, as well as in a wide range of thematic areas employing both quantitative and qualitative methods. His research skills and expertise include the quantitative analysis of business responses to regulation and market incentives, and qualitative analysis of behavioural drivers for the uptake of new technologies. Most recent work includes extensive research on the political economy of regulatory policies, including regulatory capture by industry interests.
Dr Michael Walls is a Senior Lecturer at UCL’s Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) and, 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 was Chief Observer for the international observation mission to Somaliland’s 2017 presidential election, and has also been a member of the coordination team for missions in 2005, 2010 and 2012 as well as the 2016 Voter Registration process. Michael was Principal Investigator for the ESRC-funded research project ‘Political Settlement in Somaliland: a gendered perspective’, and is currently part of the research team looking at Complex Land Markets in Somaliland and Uganda.

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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