Wednesday, 1 May 2013

After Borama

The Africa Research Institute is in a very handsome part of London, tucked away behind Smith Square in Westminster.


Smith Square



St John's, Smith Square

I went there for the launch of its latest publication, which is called
After Borama: Consensus, representation and parliament in Somaliland.

The place was packed. Luckily everyone had name tags. The one that jumped out at me was 'Sir Edward Clay', who made quite a name for himself as British High Commissioner to Kenya (he was declared persona non grata by the Kenyan authorities after he retired - it had something to do with his use of words like 'vomit' and 'gluttons').

The director of ARI, Edward Paice, thanked the panelists for coming, especially as they had experienced difficulties on their way to London. Somaliland's foreign minister, Mohamed Omar, had interrupted important meetings in Washington DC. Haroon Ahmed Yusuf - who works with Somaliland's women's network, Nagaad, had trouble with the border authorities, and the founder of the Somali/ British farm Degmo, Hamish Wilson had been kicked in the face by one of his sheep. 

Hamish started proceedings by showing us some wonderful photos he took at the 1993 Borama conference, which lasted four months and lay the foundations of the Somaliland state.


Hamish Wilson in full flow

 Ferocious row at Borama conference - as it becomes clear the interim president Abdirahman Tur (just visible) is not going to win the election.

Hamish described Somali society as being a "democracy on the point of anarchy" where there is a "God-given right that Somalis should be allowed to stand up and speak their mind". He said that "to the casual observer, the Borama conference was chaos" - but that it actually worked. He said the UN - which was busy trying to sort out the violence in south and south-central Somalia - was opposed to the Borama conference, which was largely funded by Somalilanders.

Somaliland's foreign minister, Mohamed Omar, then read a speech. He didn't depart from what was written down (and I slightly wondered whether it was him who had written the speech, or someone else).... He explained that Somaliland was not going to the Somalia Conference of 7 May because it was being co-hosted by Somalia, and this would compromise Somaliland's position.

We then heard from Haroon Ahmed Yusuf, who spoke a lot about the need to get more women into politics. It was refreshing to hear this coming from a man. Then there was a passionate contribution from Farah Jirdon of the Pharo Foundation. She said if anyone wants to understand Somaliland, they must go out of the cities and see how difficult life is for rural people. She said the World Bank had constructed 6 dams in Somaliland, but that these had fallen into disrepair. The Pharo Foundation is fixing two of them. Water and youth.

Edward Clay - sand dams.

Awdal State.

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