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.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar within the Arab-African Horn

“Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar within the Arab-African Horn: The recent multi-faceted breakthrough of high-profile and heterogeneous Gulf foreign policies (1990s-2017)”

This presentation was a follow up on the interesting topic of our previous presentation on Berbera basing politics: Understanding actors, interests, and animosities by Najah M. Adam. We had Mr. Brendon Novel, who is doing his research on “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar within the Arab-African Horn: The recent multi-faceted breakthrough of high-profile and heterogeneous Gulf foreign policies (1990s-2017)”. Mr. Brebdon Novel is a Master II student at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po Paris) within the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA). He is currently undertaking field work in the Arab Gulf and the Horn of Africa to document my Master’s thesis.

Summery

To what extend have Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha increased their own distinct political, military and economic presence through newly shaped offensive foreign policies in recent time, bringing about important multidimensional dynamics between both shores of the Red Sea?

The objective of this very piece of work is to show the extent to which the state-centric projections of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, characterized by high- profile, personalized and heterogeneous foreign policies towards the Arab-African Horn countries have established numerous, strong, weak and sometimes destabilizing dynamics in the “Afro-Middle Eastern sub-region” (Woodward, 2002). I argue that the Arab-African Horn is a proper field where Riyadh is projecting itself as the historical Middle Eastern Hegemon, whereas Abu Dhabi is doing so as an offensive new-comer qualified as a Gulf little Sparta, while Qatar has been propelling a long-standing mediating role. These countries, according to their own interests, strategies and windows of opportunity through the 1990s-2017 period, have developed different relationships, at different time, on different levels of robustness, with their African-Arab Horn partners. They have consequently established major macro inter-states dynamics — quite often with the help of a wide range of fully state-controlled actors/tools that serve their objectives. The dissertation also puts the analysis into a highly important historical perspective and highlights major catalytic events which have spurred the three Gulf countries to increase multidimensional interactions with Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia over the analysis period.

This stage had the objective of assuring a connection between ongoing PhD research and feeding masters as a building stage for a collaborative work among researchers which is the core aim of the ADIH platform. During the presentation key directions for methodology and ethical consideration for research work were discussed as a way of guiding the young researcher in dealing the significant but complex research area he is working on.

International Peacebuilding and Local Success

International Peacebuilding and Local Success: Assumptions and Effectiveness.

Our second phase of Academic Dialog in Hargeysa series sessions started with Dr. Severine Autesserre   who is an expert in war, peace, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and African politics Who is a Professor of Political Science, specializing in international relations and African studies, at Barnard College, Columbia University (USA). Her presentation was on her new research she is working on International Peacebuilding and Local Success: Assumptions and Effectiveness.

Summery

Existing research on war and peace lacks analysis of what allows peacebuilding to succeed at the subnational level. Instead, most scholars focus on peacebuilding failure and macro-level dynamics. This is unfortunate because the obstacles to peacebuilding are such that the most puzzling question is why international efforts sometimes succeed, rather than why they fail. The lack of focus on success is also problematic because it results in ambiguous findings. On the one hand, there is an emerging consensus that local conflict resolution is crucial to building peace. There is also an agreement that, all else being equal, international support tends to increase the chances of successful peacebuilding. On the other hand, when international actors have tried to back local initiatives, they have often generated counterproductive consequences and worsened the situation. Should international actors support local peacebuilding processes? If so, how can they actually do this?

Drawing on in-depth interviews, field and participant observations in nine different conflict zones, and document analysis, this article takes the first step in explaining whether, how, why, and under what conditions international interveners (including donors, diplomats, peacekeepers, and the foreign staff of international and non-governmental organizations) can contribute to successful local and bottom-up peace efforts. It makes three central contributions. First, it shows that the policy and scholarly literatures suffer from a dearth of findings on successful international support to local conflict resolution. Second, it emphasizes the critical—and under-researched—role of assumptions in shaping peacebuilding initiatives. Third, it develops a theoretical framework to analyze how assumptions influence international peace efforts. By way of illustration, the article analyzes three widespread assumptions about peacebuilding and the role of peacebuilders. In each case, it challenges assumptions that international interveners take for granted but that are actually unfounded and detrimental, while identifying assumptions that promote peacebuilding effectiveness.

Her presentation was during the time of the international peace day celebration for which we have got a wider public attending her session. Questions, comments and appreciation was high. Young students from local universities had the chance to converse with this international award winning writer and made use of the stage to create a l

Somaliland Presidential Elections

Somaliland Presidential Elections: Political Context, Electoral Standards and anticipated challenges (Research area currently working on it as a policy brief)

Mohamed is a PhD student in Peace, Governance and Development at the United Nations University for Peace, Africa Program in Addis Ababa. He has Bachelor Business Administration BBA, Post Graduate Diploma Peace and Conflict Studies and Master’s Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies- University of Hargeisa. He is also the Executive Director of Somaliland Non State Actors Forum (SONSAF) the largest civil society policy platform in Somaliland that coordinates all non- state actors. He has 17 years working experiences in civil society, institutional development, governance, peace- building, conflict resolution, democratization and elections. He was leading the largest domestic election observation missions in Somaliland 2010 presidential elections, 2012 local council and political parties’ elections and 2016-2017 domestic observers of voter registration and upcoming presidential elections.

Summery

Somaliland has succeeded to recover its post- conflict political polarization through indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms and constitutionalism. It is notable that multilayered political and social conflicts resolved in between 1991-1997 without external assistances and this has contributed Somaliland to establish inclusive governance and political consensus which was the premise of power sharing and broader political and clans reconciliation.

From this standpoint, the upcoming presidential elections has attracted local and international views how Somaliland will prevail consistent, transparent, free and fair elections and there are important questions that the general public and intellectuals raised:

  • What is current the political context, helpful or fragmented?
  • Does Somaliland fulfill the electoral standards of regional and international levels?
  • What is anticipated electoral constrains of the upcoming presidential elections?
  • What are the electoral dispute mechanisms that Somaliland has?

In this debate the participants discussed the above thematic areas which are central to the electoral process by aligning the past experiences of the presidential elections that took place in Somaliland 2003, 2010. In this regard, there are some fundamental electoral aspects which are needed to exam and explore the possibilities of the post- election conflicts and what were the tools used in the past elections.

 

K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN- directed by Iara lee

It was also part of our academic discussion to create a space for other forms of research and knowledge production areas. In this attempt w have had our first session of documentary based discussion using “K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN- directed by iara lee.

Synapsis:

K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN- directed by iara lee

Located on the border between Pakistan and China, K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth. For many climbers, it is an even greater prize than Everest, with limited routes, a steeper ascent, and a harder push to its summit. Nicknamed the ‘Savage Mountain,’ K2’s peak juts unprotected into the atmosphere, regularly exposing climbers and porters to life-threatening weather conditions.

Despite being paid at rates far below those received by international expedition leaders, such porters—whether they provide critical supplies to expedition base camps or take on higher-altitude tasks in support of ascending climbers—do some of the most difficult and dangerous work and these efforts make them worthy of recognition as the true heroes of mountaineering.

In K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN, filmmaker Iara Lee and team chronicle the lives of both Pakistani porters and Nepalese sherpas. The film also follows the first official all-Pakistani climbing team, made up of former porters, who successfully summited in 2014, in celebration of K2 60th anniversary. Amid breathtaking scenery, the film depicts the everyday sacrifices of porters and the courage of those indigenous climbers who choose to return to scale K2 in spite of past tragedies. In their striving to perfect their craft, these mountaineers provide a fresh look into the cultures and national traditions of Pakistan, a country typically portrayed in the foreign media as merely a land of conflict and sectarian strife

The discussion was worth the time since it has made it clear that such recording an knowledge production.

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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