Thursday 31 May 2012

The Queen and the 'Hyena'

I interviewed Somaliland's chief of chiefs, Haji Warabe, for a special BBC Newshour programme to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. He spoke about his long career as a nomad (100 years) and a chief (70 years), and the secrets of longevity. He also explained how he got the name 'Warabe' which means 'Hyena' in Somali.

Haji Warabe

You can listen to the audio by clicking on the link below:

And you can read Chief Warabe's story via this link:

I bet he remembers this stamp

Still going strong at '115'

The BBC correspondent in Somaliland, Ahmed Said Egeh, helped record the interview

The Fifth Hargeisa International Book Fair - my Somaliland book launch.

The Red Sea Cultural Foundation and its partners are pleased to announce that the Fifth Hargeysa International Book Fair (HIBF) will take place between 13th and 18th July 2012.
Jama Musse Jama, Director of the Hargeysa International Book Fair, says “The Hargeysa International Book Fair has grown exponentially over the past five years, both in size and significance. It not only represents the main platform for arts in Somaliland, but it is now one of the largest public celebrations of literature in East Africa”.
HIBF is proud to host and present the work of internationally based writers, journalists, scholars, independent thinkers and artists. We are excited to welcome to this year’s Book Fair Sheikh Maxamuud Sheekh Dalmar and Said Salah Ahmed. Said Salah Ahmed is a highly-esteemed playwright, poet and teacher who currently lives in Minnesota. Sheikh Mahamoud Sheikh Dalmar is a public intellectual, Islamic scholar and Radio and TV producer, who lives in the UK.

Last year, we were honoured to welcome to HIBF Yasmeen Maxamuud, author of Nomad Diaries. She delighted our many visitors with her talent for language and encouraged lively discussions around social taboos, which were featured in her book. This year’s programme will see a return of the critically acclaimed author of Black Mamba Boy, Nadifa Mohamed discussing her new book. We are also delighted to be hosting the Somaliland launch of the hard-hitting book Getting Somalia Wrong by BBC journalist Mary Harper, and welcome Dr Georgi Kapchits linguist and noted scholar on the Somali language together with many more other guests.
As visitors of the HIBF have come to expect, the week long discussions and events are centred around a theme. This year is no different - the book fair will explore the role of arts and culture in shaping our future. 
HIBF has, since its inception, been a creative space for visiting artists from neighbouring countries and this year we again see many prominent authors and artists from Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia present their work and contribute to critical thinking and artistic dialogue in the region.
The book fair consists of many exciting components including a return of the highly successful moving library tour which provides eager and engaged fans in the six regions of Somaliland with the unique chance to meet and access the visiting artists and books in their own cities and towns.
Because HIBF is committed to contributing to a culture of reading and writing in Somaliland, as part of its programming, we believe it is imperative to increase the skills and capacity of the many young and aspiring artists of Somaliland. In 2011 the book fair piloted a creative writing short course in order to increase the technical skills of participants and the outcome of the short course was such as resounding success that we are excited to provide it again to 18 young writers and journalist. We will undertake the second creative writing course to continue that spirit.
We are also pleased to announce that for the first time the book fair will be joined by Penguin Publishers who will contribute to the delivery of the creative writing course and provide aspiring authors with expert advice on publishing and the contemporary literary world.
Join us for a six day-long artistic production with book presentations, poetry recitals, plays and other performances of artistic expression.

For further information, please write to

(This is a press release from The Red Sea Cultural Foundation)

Sunday 27 May 2012

Puntland and Galmudug boycott Istanbul Conference on Somalia

President Alim of Galmudug and President Farole of Puntland

The Presidents of the semi-autonomous Somali regions of Puntland and Galmudug say they are not going to the forthcoming Istanbul conference on Somalia. I have just received a statement signed by both of them saying they are not going because, they say, "the Turkish role in Somalia is a) misbalanced, b) objects to consulting the Somali people, c) politically motivated in cohort with the foreign policy of some countries, and d) not transparent enough for the people to make a sound judgement."

Thursday 24 May 2012

The Somali Six (plus one)

Here are some photos of the six Somali leaders who are signatories of the process to end the seemingly endless political transition in the country. I met them in Addis Ababa where, with the 'help' of the UN, US, UK and AU, they agreed on a very tight and challenging diary to ensure the political transition will end on the deadline of 20 August 2012.

The President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed

Me with the Somali president (but will he be after the August 20 deadline for the transition to end?)

Prime minister of Somalia, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali

Me with the Somali PM who assured me the transition would end on time and wouldn't say whether he wants to run for president.

The Speaker of the (now defunct) Somali parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan

I asked the Speaker whether he still had a job now that parliament was officially declared defunct. He told me he did have a job because he was still a 'signatory'.

The President of Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole

Foreign companies are prospecting for oil in Puntland, President Farole told me he would be happy to share potential oil revenues with the rest of Somalia.

The President of Galmudug another semi-autonomous region. His name is Mohamed Ahmed Alin.

The Galmudug President told me he was very happy with the agreement.

The leader of the Mogadishu wing of the Sufi militia, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'a, 'Khalif' Abdulkadir Moalin Nur

The 'Khalif' is very tall and I am quite short.

Flt Lt (Rtd) Jerry John Rawlings, former President of Ghana, now African Union High Representative for Somalia

Flt Lt (Rtd) JJ Rawlings looked much more relaxed when I met him the day after the meeting was ended. He told me he hoped none of the Somali politicians would take advantage of the situation and spoil it for everyone else.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Full text of 23 May Somali meeting in Addis Ababa

Consultative Meeting of the Somali Signatories of the Process for Ending the Transition
Addis Ababa, May 23, 2012: the Somali signatories of the process for ending the transition held a consultative meeting in The African Union Headquarters, from May 21 to May 23, 2012.
The meeting was hosted by the African Union and facilitated by the Office of the UN Special Representative for Somalia (UNPOS).
The meeting was attended by the signatories of the process for ending the transition, including HE Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG); HE Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), HE Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Prime Minister of TFG; HE Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), President of Puntland State; HE Mohamed Ahmed Aalim President of Galmudug State; Khaliif Abdulkadir Moallim Noor , Representative of Ahlu Sunnah Wal-Jama’a (ASWJ) and the UN Special Representative for Somalia (SRSG) Amb. Augustine Mahiga.
The Signatories of the Roadmap have today received final draft copies of the Draft Constitution which was subjected to a constitutional review by a technical committee. They harmonized and incorporated the written submissions of the signatories into the final Draft Constitution
Considering the current political situation in Somalia as well as the need to urgently and fully implement the Roadmap to End the Transition based on the principles agreed upon in the Garowe I and II and Galka’yo consultations, the Somali signatories discussed at length the modalities of implementing the above- mentioned principles and agreements.
The Signatories took into account that the Transitional Federal Parliament in its current state is unable to pass the required amendments to the Transitional Federal Charter and necessary legislation to end the transition and enact the subsequent legislation required to allow the constitutional process to proceed. This comes at a time when the final preparations to table the Draft Constitution for provisional adoption are underway and the transition end date is three months away-20 August 2012.
Consequently, the Signatories of the process for ending the transition resolved to advance the process in consultation with the recognized Somali Traditional Leaders (Duubab), in accordance with Somali customary law, and have agreed:
1. To recommend that the President of the TFG provide, through a presidential decree, a legal basis to steer the constitutional process towards the adoption stage and to end the transition.
Addis Communiqué 23 May 2012
Page 1
2. To consequently convene a National Constituent Assembly as soon as is practicable, pursuant to Article 1 (g) of the Garowe I Principles. The signatories have agreed that the selection of National Constituent Assembly (NCA) delegates shall be finalized no later than 20th of June 2012 and the New Federal Parliament (NFP) members no later than 15th of July 2012.
3. To facilitate the implementation of the Garowe I and II, and Galka’yo agreements and the clauses above, by adopting:
a. A Protocol Establishing the Constituent Assembly and the
New Federal Parliament.
b. c. A Protocol Establishing the Technical Selection Committee
d. A Protocol Authorizing the Finalization of the Provisional Constitution with the Incorporation of the Harmonized Submissions of the Signatories to constitute the final draft for presentation to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA)
4. That the TSC will assist the recognized Traditional Leaders (Duubab) to ensure that the nominees of the NCA and NFP comply with the criteria set out in Garowe II. The TSC will support the NCA in management and dispute resolution. It is agreed to amend Article 5 of the Galkayo Agreement 26 March 2012, to revise the size and composition of the TSC. It is hereby agreed that the TSC will be made up of 27 Somali members, 2 members from UNPOS and 7 International Observers. The Somali members shall be selected by the Somali signatories on the basis of the 4.5 formula.
5. To amend Article 3 (e)(i) of the Garowe II Principles of 17 February 2012, regarding the nomination process for New Federal Parliament. The Traditional Leaders shall be required to nominate one candidate for every seat instead of two. This is reflected in the Protocol Establishing the Constituent Assembly.
6. To establish an Arbitration Board of the Traditional Leaders (Duubab) no later than 26th of May 2012 to resolve any disputes that may occur regarding the validation of the Traditional Elders. The Arbitration Board will consist of 25 Traditional Leaders, 5 from each Clan to resolve any issues or disputes arising from their respective Clans.
7. To recognize that the continuing responsibility for completing the process of ending the transition and implementing the principles of Garowe I & II and Galka’yo lies specifically with the signatories of the process for ending the transition.
Addis Communiqué 23 May 2012
Page 2
8. To establish a RoadMap Signatories Coordination Office in Mogadishu to ensure effective communication and information sharing.
9. Bearing in mind that the process to end the Transition shall end on 20 August 2012, the signatories agree to the following updated timelines in order to give direction to all stakeholders.
26th May 2012 1st Jun 2012 20th Jun 2012- 30th Jun 2012
2nd Jul 2012 10th Jul 2012 15th Jul 2012
20th Jul 2012 4th Aug 2012 20th Aug 2012
Arbitration Board of the Traditional Leaders shall be established Technical Selection Committee (TSC) established
TSC publishes the finalized (and fully vetted) list of NCA delegates. Selected NCA members to be present in Mogadishu; Copies of draft constitution to be received by the NCA delegates
NCA convened - Opening ceremony Provisional Constitution adopted TSC publishes finalized and fully vetted list of New Federal Parliament (NFP) New Federal Parliament members sworn in Election of Speaker and Deputy Speakers by NFP Election of President by the NFP
10.To recommend that the and Stabilization Plan 2011 – 2014 (NSSP) through a presidential decree, mindful of the urgency to institute a wholly Somali owned national security sector and given the fact that the current Parliament is unable to table a motion on this matter.
11.To urge the TFG and the International Community to lend support to Puntland and Galmudug and ASWJ-controlled areas with respect to the urgent security needs of these regions stemming from the Al Shabbab’s spillover northwards up to the Golis Mountains and piracy.
12. To urge the international community to provide in a timely manner, political good offices, facilitation and financial support for the process to end the transition and to that end, lift the arms embargo as appropriate.
13.To emphasize that no delay or obstruction will be accepted by the Somali people or the International Community, and spoilers will be identified and named, and appropriate joint action by Somali and International stakeholders will be taken against them.
Addis Communiqué 23 May 2012
Page 3
President approves the National Security
14.To encourage regional states and organizations –AU, IGAD, League of Arab States and OIC, to continue providing support for this process.
15.To thank the wider International Community and the UN agencies, UNPOS in particular, for their on-going support
16.Anything that is not clear in this agreement or the Protocols incorporated by reference herein shall be interpreted and applied in accordance with the Roadmap and the Garowe I & II Principles, and the Galka’yo Agreement.
Addis Communiqué 23 May 2012
Page 4

The latest Somali agreement

After three days of meetings - by day at the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by night in the sumptuous Sheraton Hotel - three Somali presidents (from Mogadishu, Puntland and Galmudug), one Somali prime minister (from Mogadishu), one speaker of one Somali parliament (Mogadishu) and the head of one Islamic militia (the Sufi one, Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama'a) have agreed on the latest way forward for the tortuous transition process.

After much debate, argument, shouting and hugging, they have agreed that on August 20 a New Somali President will be elected by a New Federal Parliament (which itself will be sworn in on July 20). In other words, they say they will meet the deadline (just).

The 'international community' (basically the Americans, the British and the United Nations) have spent a lot of time in the lobby of The Sheraton, either waiting for the six Somali delegations to arrive or huddling with different groups of Somalis, trying to get them to agree.

The member of one of the Somali delegations told me that the 'international community' told them they had a choice - meet the August 20 deadline or have the money supply stopped.

Before anything can happen, a couple of 'committees' or 'boards' have to be agreed and set up....

May 26 - Advisory Board of the Traditional Leaders who are supposed to select the constituent assembly (which will adopt the new constitution, itself a source of huge disagreement) and select the New Federal Parliament.

June 1 - Technical Selection Committee made up of 27 Somalis, 2 members of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and 7 international observers.

Then the real business begins:

June 20 - Final list of delegates of National Constituent Assembly who will be given copies of the draft constitution.

July 2 - Opening ceremony of National Constituent Assembly.

July 15 - Technical Selection Committee to publish list of members of New Federal Parliament.

July 20 - Swearing in of New Federal Parliament.

August 4 - New Federal Parliament elects Speaker and Deputy Speakers.

August 20 - New Federal Parliament elects New Somali President (I wonder if the 'new' one will be the 'old' one Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed or a new one. At least 20 Somalis have told me they are running for President, and I have heard rumours about dozens of other potential candidates, including at least 2 women.)

I will end by quoting Point 13 of the Agreement:

The 6 Somali delegations have agreed "to emphasise that no delay or obstruction will be accepted by the Somali people or the International Community, and spoilers will be identified and named, and appropriate joint action by Somali and international stakeholders will be taken against them".

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Golden Bentley

Here's a piece I did for From Our Own Correspondent on BBC radio and for BBC Online. It's about my ride in a $500,000 car with a Somali millionaire in Dubai. Here's the car:

You can listen to the BBC radio piece here: The Golden Bentley

You can read the BBC Online story here: The Golden Bentley online

Somali merchants at the port

 Paint waiting to be taken by dhow to Mogadishu

 Somali women's clothes for sale in Dubai souk

 T-shirt for sale in Dubai souk

Entrance to the gold souk

 The interview with the Bentley owner

 The Bentley

Wednesday 16 May 2012

The Somali port of Berbera

This is a BBC report I did on the port of Berbera in Somaliland. More live animals are exported from Somali ports than anywhere else in the world. As you can see from the photos, the main animal exports are sheep, goats and camels. Getting camels onto a ship is quite a task; they have to be winched up on ropes. The sheep and goats are more obedient, even though they are going to certain death, as their meat is much loved by people in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia.

Saturday 12 May 2012

The haves and the have nots

                                                                   Luanda, Angola

Thursday 10 May 2012

Somali women at work and play

                                                            Hodan - a Somali superwoman

The last time I visited Somaliland, I did a piece on women for the BBC World Service. You can listen to it here:

Edna Adan Ismail at home in the Edna Hospital 

Hargeisa's first art gallery, started by a woman

Editor of The Bridge magazine, Amal Ismail

                                                                 Women's gym in Hargeisa

Monday 7 May 2012

Mogadishu then and now

These pictures of Mogadishu through the ages will be on display in Turkey later this month and in Nairobi next month. The exhibition is the dreamchild of the Kenyan writer and photojournalist, Rasna Warah, who gives more details below.

A pictorial tribute to Africa’s most wounded city

4th to 24th June 2012
Alliance Française, Nairobi

For the last two decades, Somalia’s capital city Mogadishu has been portrayed as a war-torn no-go zone devoid of any history or culture.  However, the city has a long history that dates back to the 10th century when Arab and Persian traders began settling there. Historical documents indicate that the city was a traditional centre for Islam and an important hub for trade with communities along the Indian Ocean coastline for centuries. From the early part of the 20th century to the late 1980s, Mogadishu was known as one of the prettiest and most cosmopolitan cities in Africa.

Mogadishu, or Xamar, as it is known locally, literally means “The Seat of the Shah” (from the Arabic Maq’adul Shah). When the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Batuta arrived in Mogadishu in 1331, he described it as “an exceedingly large city” where prosperous merchants sold the finest cloth, silver and gold jewellery. In 1871, Mogadishu came under control of the Omani Sultan of Zanzibar, and twenty years later, was leased to Italy, when it became the headquarters of Italian Somaliland until independence in 1960. Development of Mogadishu to a modern metropolitan city continued under successive post-independence governments until the advent of the civil war in 1991, which saw various clans and factions fighting for control of the city. For the next two decades, bloody battles were fought on Mogadishu’s wide boulevards and in its historical quarters. Wars destroy cities, and Mogadishu is no exception. Everywhere, there are shells of once magnificent buildings that used to house government offices, museums, cinemas, hotels, mosques, cathedrals and libraries.

Mogadishu Then and Now is a photo exhibition that showcases Somalia’s capital city in all its splendour prior to the civil war in 1991 and contrasts this with some of the devastation and destruction that can be seen in the city today. The main aim of the exhibition is to allow present and future generations of Somalis to learn about their rich heritage so that they can work towards restoring and preserving it. It is hoped that the exhibition will also inform future urban planning and design initiatives, especially now that the international community is renewing and strengthening its efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia.

Mogadishu Then and Now was conceived by Ms. Rasna Warah, a Kenyan writer and photojournalist, who teamed up with Mohammud Diriye, the former curator of the Mogadishu Museum, and Ismail Osman, a US-based activist and telecommunications engineer, who helped organize and curate the exhibition. It was first shown in Istanbul during the Conference on Somalia organized by the Turkish Government from 31 May to 1 June 2012. Most of the photos in this exhibition are from the collection of Mr. Diriye, who has carefully and meticulously preserved them for years, while others are from Ms. Warah’s visit to Mogadishu in November 2011. The exhibition will culminate in a book that will be published in English, Somali and Turkish.

The Mogadishu Then and Now exhibition will be held at the Alliance Française in Nairobi from 4th to 24th June 2012. It is dedicated to Mogadishu’s children and youth, who have never known lasting peace, and is sponsored by Yildiz Holding, a group of companies based in Turkey.

For further information, contact:
Rasna Warah
    Ismail D. Osman
    Cell: +1 614 218 3540 
    or +254 708 273 194
Cell: (254) (0) 700 278166 or (0) 733 960269