FAO Somalia procurement unit: group’s tireless effort in helping avert one of the biggest famines

In Somalia, 3.3 million people are facing acute food insecurity due to a persistent drought that is expected to extend for five consecutive seasons. FAO Somalia has played a major role in averting famine through the combined efforts of its technical and procurement units.

The procurement unit smoothly facilitates the humanitarian assistance delivered by the technical units. One of the main challenges this year was sourcing the necessary inputs and services to support FAO’s interventions, coupled with the ongoing security threats and limited number of land and sea entry points. The severe drought in Somalia negatively affected the food production capacities of the country, limiting families’ ability to overcome the crisis.

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FAO’ s Water trucking helped more than than 38 million animals

To address these challenges, FAO Somalia’s procurement unit engaged with international markets to deliver aid in the shortest possible time. By early December 2017, the total amount of purchase orders and contracts had exceeded USD 110 million and LoAs reached USD 16 million. This is the largest procurement delivery in Somalia in the ten years. Stoyan Nedyalkov, the head of the procurement unit says FAO Somalia’s delivery this year has been incredible: “More than 3 million people were reached with life and livelihood saving support particularly in rural areas where people were families were worst affected” he says.

Pastoral communities were among the hardest hit by the drought. In response, FAO launched its animal treatment campaign, to purchase 14.5 million doses of vaccines and 56 tonnes of drugs to treat more than 38 million animals. Healthy animals help protect livelihoods and prevents the migration of rural populations to urban areas.

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Some of the local livestock teams trained by FAO helped during the animals treatment campaign

For the first time, FAO Somalia purchased range cubes and molasses, enough to feed more than 900,000 animals during the drought. The organization also resolved the challenge of water shortages by contracting with local authorities to truck 54 million liters of water across Somalia.

The procurement unit secured the purchase and distribution of 2 million storage bags for beneficiaries to keep their seeds. Three Somali money vendors were contracted to handle money transfers under voucher schemes for agricultural inputs, cash-for-work and unconditional cash interventions, totalling more than USD 50 million.

This success is due to the excellent collaboration between FAO Somalia’s procurement and technical units. Huge support from FAO headquarters procurement services for the large purchase orders and contracts was also a key factor in achieving this tremendous humanitarian support.

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Five things to avoid when dating a lady from a strict family

I’m not on a mission to proclaim myself a relationship counsellor, but I’m trying to fit in their shoes (the counsellors) and poke my nose into their business and give my worthless two cents. Hehe, talk of nosiness!

Talking of shoes, have you ever been on the receiving end of a shoe? It is a drama when the perpetrator of this is a woman, more so, a Somali woman. Trust me, women from my Somali community trust their sandals more than any other weapon. Is it a scorpion? Yeah. Use the sandal. A snake? The same. A stubborn kid? The same. The sandal works.

Without wasting time, let me give you the don’ts when dating a lady from a strict and conservative family.

 

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Image Credit: Google

Continue reading Five things to avoid when dating a lady from a strict family

Let’s Indulge in Shah Caano Geel (Tea with Camel Milk)

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in his novella, Notes from Underground. I think there is no one who doesn’t know what tea is or who has never taken it. Tea is a popular drink and is known to be one of the greatest stimulants ever discovered. Drinking tea (or is it taking tea?) gives you that sensational feeling of getting your brain bombarded with an unknown substance that cleans and relaxes it with excitement and ease.

Hardly will a day pass without me having two or three cups of it and the trend is the same for many Somalis who consider tea as a number one drink. Forget about those wannabes who pretend coffee is what makes their brains function. Those wannabes who move around with small cups (I don’t know what they are called) and take sip after sip bragging about their never-ending relationship with coffee – something they have seen after leaving their villages for the cities.

See, unlike the coffee, the tea gives you that type of excitement that even makes you forget your two-minute-old heartbreak that crumbled your world and happiness to your feet. But here is what you have to know; tea with camel milk gives you that who-the-f**k- cares-about-what-is-going-on-in- the-world feeling when you take the first sip. It literally makes you bow down and give your salutation to the cup that is holding it, the thermos that kept it hot and most of all, the person who made it.

The sight of it been poured from the thermos with its aroma – aided by the spices added to it – wafting through the air gives you that unexplainable feeling of merriment. It will have you drooling unknowingly.

Now let’s indulge in shah caano geel, Shall we?

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A group enjoying tea at a joint

Relaxed Mind

As I have said, tea with camel milk relaxes your mind and makes you, for the whole period of drinking, forget about your woes and day to day worries. The moment you take the first sip, your concentration will have an-all-ears moment on the cup of tea travelling in between your lips and the table and you become relaxed with no worry in the world like a one-year-old baby suckling his mother absent-mindedly. Your clogged brain will automatically get itself rid of all the decomposing thoughts and uncertainties and tosses them to the nearest bin. Look, when I take an afternoon nap and wake up feeling dull and angry, the second thing I go for after praying is a hot cup of shah caano geel with good spices and boy, has there ever been a more joyful moment than that?!

Tea joints

There is nothing more fulfilling and exciting than having shah caano geel with friends at tea drinking joints on 10AM Saturdays and Sundays or 6PM of every day. If you have been taking it at home and have been getting distracted easily by the missus or the kids after the first cup (the first cup is always a starter for many), then your perfect refurbishment is the tea drinking joint.

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That sight will always have you drooling even if your crush is right beside you

I always enjoyed tea outside than at home and that is why I go out every evening and spend an hour or two having tea and discussions with friends. It has, in a way, become a ritual for me since 2012 and it looks like it will be an everyday-think for me till I sink into the deepest abyss of senile-hood. You see, here, friends come together, form a circle with a cup of tea in front of everyone and the discussions made cover every topic. The best thing about these Kamukunji shah sessions is that you will have as many as three cups and still get the appetite to have more. And remember you have thrown away all your woes and worries. Aaaaah, see how sweet that is? No matter how many cups of tea were drained down the throat, there has to be one person who takes the responsibility of paying the bill. Here, the rule is clear: do not split the bill!

Take it to the study

Whether you are reading an intriguing and complicated Robert Ludlum novel or writing an article that has to beat a deadline, a cup of shah caano geel makes it easy for you to navigate through it. Take a small flask that carries four cups of tea accompanied by a cup and drink away to that task. Wear a kikoi for it and fold it up to your thighs as you sip it quietly and read/write. Make sure you put the lid on the thermos tightly so that the tea doesn’t get cold as you slowly take one cup after the other and have your assignment done/novel read. So people, indulge in shah caano geel as you fold your woes and worries and toss them into the nearest dustbin.

Haiku Poem

On Thursday, May 4th 2017 Somalia’s youngest minister ever and one of the brightest youths the country has seen was shot dead in what authorities termed as ‘accidental shooting’ by the bodyguards of the country’s auditor general.

Abass had a lot of ambitions and his journey was cut short by irresponsible, trigger-happy guards whose intentions are still blur.

Below are two Haiku poems I dedicate for Abass.

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For Abass (RIP)

1.

eerie evening

Somalia’s blazing torch

thrust into wet sand

2.

midday insanity

the young athlete dropped

before the finish line

My Northern Sojourn: encounters I will never forget

I have always wanted to travel to and write about North Eastern region of Kenya, a province inhabited by the Somali community (my people). It is my only way of telling the world the type of neglect, hatred and torture the region is facing from the Kenyan government and the other communities living in Kenya. Communities that believe we (the people of the North) belong to a lesser world of a lesser god.

All I ever wanted to do is write about this unfortunate state of neglect. Neglect from a country and a government we feel we belong to. Neglect from communities we feel and believe we share the same country and government. It is my only respite from this unpleasant treatment inside the country we feel we belong to.

It is on a journey to this part of the country when one will feel and see the reality about this overlooked region. So when a local daily sent me to do a story in the area, I knew I would encounter a lot and it would be the perfect time to highlight it.

I leave the capital, Nairobi one Tuesday morning with a local bus that plies the Nairobi – Garissa route (Garissa is the headquarter of North Eastern province and links the region to the capital) ready for a long drive that would later involve numerous security checks, bad roads, overcrowding passengers (this starts after you leave Garissa to the next destination) and unbearable hot weather that will see you sweating all over the body.

The road from Nairobi to Garissa is tarmacked but unlike other tarmac roads in Kenya, it is narrow and has cracks which makes it dangerous for speeding and overtaking vehicles.

After nearly an hour and a half, we come across the wreckage of a saloon car that is lying on the left side of the road. The car was trying to overtake a lorry in front of it when it collided with an oncoming bus.

We reach Garissa town after six hours and before we enter the town, we are stopped at a roadblock manned by security officers. They stop the bus and tell all of us to alight and stand in two lines — one for men and the other for the women — with our identification cards/passports in hand (in Kenya, all vehicles coming from and going to the Northern part are inspected). Two of the officers go inside the bus to frisk our luggage, one goes round the bus with a metal detector to see if there are explosives carried in the bus while two others, a man and a woman, start checking our identification cards/passports. The inspection took roughly an hour before we proceed to Garissa town to drop some passengers and have lunch to take us through the remainder of the journey.

By the time we reach Garissa, the sun is too hot and inside the bus, the subtropical heat is pressing in on us. I am sweating a lot to an extent the collar of my shirt becomes wet and the handkerchief I am carrying is no longer useful. It is wet and wiping it on my face will result in more sweat on my face. Opposite my seat a small boy is crying and his mother is trying to soothe him by pouring cold water on his head.

I spent the night in Garissa town and the following day — using another bus — we set off for the remainder of the journey, and the next six hours will be something that will forever be etched in my mind. We encounter another roadblock just ten minutes after leaving the stage in Garissa and, unlike the one we saw before, security officers manning it are harsh and very demanding. They check everything and frisk all our luggage, but instead of releasing us, they ask the bus conductor for some bribe which he reluctantly gives them and they wave us bye.

By now we are out of the good tarmac road and what we are driving on is a rough, dusty, narrow and dangerous road with lots of potholes and turns. The roads in Northern Kenya have been overlooked since the country gained independence from Britain and successive governments have promised the people of better roads only to forget when they are voted in. The speed of the vehicle is truncated and we are now going at a slow pace because of the situation of the road.

On several occasions, the bus leans towards one side of the rough road while avoiding potholes and every time this happens the passengers wail and rage with kids crying out loud in fear. In a nutshell, a journey on this road is a fifty-fifty one. You can meet your death anytime if your driver is not composed and careful.

We reach one of the refugee camps in Kenya after a journey of do or die. The Dadaab refugee camp — which consist of Hagardera, Ifo, Ifo 2, Hawa Jubeey and Dagahley camps — is the largest refugee camp in the world and is situated between Garissa and Wajir Counties, two of the three Counties making up the North Eastern region of Kenya. So when you are traveling from Garissa to Wajir, you will pass through the refugee camps (one of the two routes used to travel between the two Counties) and if you are a first timer on that road trip, you will hate everything about it.

First, when the bus stops at the stage, the waiting passengers will start scrambling to board the bus even before the other passengers alight notwithstanding it is already full to capacity. This results in unbearable hotness inside. Here, the bus crew usually allow passengers to alight for 20 minutes refreshment but it is not easy to alight with all the awaiting passengers scrambling at the door to come in and secure seats although there are none vacant. It is simply hectic.

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Passengers scrambling to board Sabrin Bus. Source: NEP Journal.

In Hagardera, the first refugee camp we stopped for refreshment, there are a good number of hawkers, 10 to 20, who run towards the bus waving different refreshments ranging from sodas to chewing gum. They struggle to outsmart each other in convincing and luring the passengers in the bus to buy their foodstuff by engaging them via the windows. One can easily notice the sheer passion and optimism on these refugee faces despite the blistering heat. Hopeful faces. They all have kids and they need to put food on the table to support their family.

When all the scramble and frenzy is over, I alight from the bus and manage to sit with and have a conversation with a woman hawking cakes, samosas, bottled water, juice, pancakes, soda, and chewing gum. She looks like she is in her early 30s or late 20s, 5.4” tall and has a small round and dark face. She is dressed in a casually tailored dress with pink and bluish colour and has a long, brown and oversized veil that reaches slightly below her waist. Her shoes, though new, look like they have seen their better part of life. They changed to brown and dull because of the dusty hot sand.

Hagardera has one of the worst soils to walk on. She tells me her name is Rahma and is a single mother of four children. Rahma is no longer leaving with her husband after they divorced. Her ex-husband wanted to take two of the children but she refused and now is faced with the task of upbringing them alone. One can easily notice the uncertainty and restlessness on her face as she narrate to me her life as a single mother. Rahma cannot look at me directly as we talk. Her eyes are fixed on the bus windows where other hawkers are selling their snacks and refreshment to the people inside the bus. At first I think she is shy but I notice she is unsettled because she wants to sell her stuff and reach her target.

I apologized for wasting her time and halting her opportunity to fend for her children. I give her the money I owed her for the snacks and a bottle of water and ask her two more questions. She tells me her daily target is two dollars and she now has1.6 dollars. Rahma tells me two of her kids are in school and hopefully one will join them next year before bidding me goodbye and hurrying towards the bus windows to look for other buyers.

Our short spell at Hagardera comes to an end and we leave, unaware of what the road ahead has in store for us. We pass through several deserted farms that were once used and now no longer usable because of the dry season. The roads between the refugee camps are all brown and dusty forcing us to shut all windows of the bus. This denies us the fresh are from outside and once again, we all start to sweat profusely.

By now I am tired, sleepy and the sweat on my face has my eyes in tears and rubbing them has worsened the situation. A middle age man sitting next to me helps me with a small clothe when he realized my situation and seeing my wet handkerchief resting on my lap. He tells me of how these journeys are boring, risky and uncomfortable especially for first timers (I’m not a first timer but the man thought I was because I was sweating a lot, something I’m known for.)

He says the situation of the roads in the region will forever remain like this and I inquisitively ask him why. He says because the government of Kenya will never reward Northern Kenya with any development project despite being one of the largest regions in the country because it is inhibited by Somalis who are viewed as outsiders. The man’s answer left me in deep thought and for a moment, I forget about the blistering heat waves and the dust that made my eyes turn red.

We pass through three other refugee camps and every time the bus stops, people rush towards it; some with foodstuffs, others with wheelbarrow-loads of assorted take-away for sale while other with the intention of boarding the bus to the next destination. The more people board, the more the bus becomes overcrowded. By now I’m bored and tired out of my lungs. I start to think about the situation of the roads, the weather, and the neglect visible on the locals’ eyes and how the other regions in Kenya are enjoying development projects fulfilled by the very government that neglected my people.

Eventually, I reach the village I was sent to do the story and by now the sun is a bit cool for it is nearly dusk. From the movement of the people and few animals present in the area, one can easily conclude that the village is experiencing a harsh climate and a period of extreme drought. The locals’ faces all look dull and they look disturbed.

The region, which is hub for pastoral activities experiences continuous severe droughts. It has always struggled but thrived in its main source of livelihood’s upkeep despite facing a colossal task. Having known pastoral farming as their only way of earning their daily bread and in a region where the dry seasons are longer than rainy seasons which ranges 300-700mm per annum, the people never gave up on pastoral farming.

The following day, after I finished the interview for the story, I board the next bus and leave for Nairobi. The journey back was the same with the rough and dusty roads, blistering heat and rogue security officers manning roadblocks all taking center stage.

A lady in her early twenties is remanded after we are stopped at a roadblock 20 kilometers from the capital, Nairobi. She has a waiting card which is issued before one gets their identification card and just like the identification card and the passport, one can use it to pass roadblocks and use it for other transactions. After a long consultation and pleading from the bus crew, the lady is finally released and we arrive in Nairobi tired and hungry. For the people of Northern Kenya, it is a trend they are well versed with and learnt to live with, for a visitor though, it is a nerve wrecking experience.

I originally published the story on the NEP Journal website.

In Boniface Ongeri’s death, Northern Kenya was robbed off a cheerful journalist

It is about half past nine on a Tuesday morning in October 2012, and I’m sitting in the KNA newsroom in Garissa silently typing a feature story when a man of about 5.7 silently walks in unnoticed. I’m not aware of his presence in the room till he says, “sema warya.”I look up and see his bright face and say, “I’m fine, bro.” He has a Nikon camera dangling on his neck and a notebook in his hand. The guy walks past the three unoccupied desktops in the office and comes direct to where I’m sitting and glances at what I’m writing on my laptop.

The guy is Boniface Ongeri. The Standard Wajir Correspondent who sadly passed away on Monday.

The previous night, gunmen hurled a grenade at a police post in Bula Iftin, and Boni is looking for follow-up story about the attack. I ask him who he is and he calmly says Boniface Ongeri, Standard. Before that day, I only used to hear his name and see his stories in the Standard paper. He was a familiar guy through his byline but never met him in person. He asks me about the incident and I give him a brief recap of what happened before opening a minimised word document resting on desktop near me. He looks at it briefly, reads with his eyes and minimises the window.

He jolts down something on the notebook and turns to me to discuss the continuous terror attacks Garissa was experiencing during that period. We are later joined by some KNA colleagues where veteran KNA journalist and now Ijara Information Officer, Mohamed Dahir cracks some jokes and jokingly asks Ongeri where Standard online reporter Cyrus Ombati gets the news from Garissa before the journalists on the ground. That question has us all laughing and later Boniface leaves and bids us bye.

After that first encounter, I would later bump into Boniface on different occasions, and he always had a joke or two. During a certain Northern Journalists workshop held at Almond, Boniface came to our table during lunch where I was discussing something with two journalist friends, and wittily introduces a lady friend we all knew. He would say, “Meet my friend and do not snatch her.”  We all laughed because Boni didn’t know we all knew the lady and that she was even a close friend of mine. Abdirahman Arte, one of the guys with me, asks him, “Boni, do you know the lady you are introducing and the guys you are introducing her to? Chunga you may be introducing a woman to her husband unknowingly.” Laughter ensued and Boni joined our table.

I remember Boni talking about the ‘cleverness’ of the Somali people particularly the owners and managers of lodges in both Garissa and Wajir. He told us about the sandals in lodges where they cut the front part so that people do not steal them. “You guys are clever. Yaani mnakata viatu so that they aren’t taken? Haki I must steal this idea and take to my people,” he would say jokingly and we would all laugh. Boni was always cheerful and witty. He would always do all thing Somali in all the workshops we meet. During meals, he would choose and go for the food the Somalis eat unlike the other non-Somali journalists.

Weeks before the 2013 general election, Boni submitted my name to Standard so that I report from Wajir South constituency. He would later call me from Wajir and tell me to pick my equipment from G-coach office in Garissa and instructed me to head straight to Habaswein a day before the election. It was the only time I saw/heard Boni talking seriously. How cheerful a lad he was!

Outside of his cheerful life, Boni was a guy well versed with the Somali community. From politics to lifestyle, from culture to landscapes, he knew everything just like a typical Somali youth. His pieces about Wajir politics and his mouth-watering human interest feature stories were always something the educated elite in North Eastern looked forward to.

Boni’s death is something the entire elite in NEP will mourn and surely it’s robbed us off of an entertainer, educator, informer and, most of all, a true heroe who has put news from Northern Kenya on the map more than any other member of the fourth estate.

To Allah we belong and to him we shall return.

The identity crisis of Somalis in Kenya

“We are like ignorant shepherds living on a site where great civilizations once flourished. The shepherds play with the fragments that pop up to the surface, having no notion of the beautiful structures of which they were once a part,” Allan Bloom wrote in his book, The Closing of the American Mind. And while the author and academician mentions the barrier to long lost cultures, the solution is educating ourselves on it.
But how exactly can we revive our culture?

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Halima Hassan, a student from Kenyatta University drinks from the traditional Somali calabash.

The Somali Heritage Week took place in Nairobi mid-November this year and not only opened minds of Kenyans who love culture and know of its beauty, it also brought the opportunity to encounter and celebrate it openly.
For many, it was an opportunity and a refreshing time to unearth the not so known culture of the Somali people and have a taste of what may have been tossed into the dustbin, and a time to start reflecting on our similarities as the people of Kenya and appreciate one another.
“As a Somali, the Somali festival accorded me the chance to share and associate with many Somalis and communities from across the World,” says Abdalla Rashid, an activist.

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Abdalla Bash (in white robe) addresses the media. He says “There are two things people are confusing; Ethnicity and Nationality. Ethnically we are Somalis and Nationally we are Somalis”

There were many youths who came from as far as Europe to attend the festival to help them interact with different Somalis and other communities from different walks of life. And just like Abdalla, they got the opportunity to know about their culture better, which to them has been unclear.
Abdalla is quick to note that the Somali culture is quite unique in its own way and different from other African cultures, a fact that he is proud of.
Muna Ismail, a communication student in Nairobi, strongly feels that the festival was long overdue. The fact that this was the first time such a festival was being held in Kenya especially since Somalis both from Kenya and Somalia live here, nonetheless, relieved that it finally happened.
“It is really sad that the Somali community has been part of Kenya since independence yet not a single activity reflecting its culture has ever taken place. Like you will not see forums like this type and I cannot stress enough the impact activities like this can help in finding solutions for extremism within the region,” Muna laments. “But it is great that it at least happened and a start towards the right direction,” she adds.
Muna thinks many people are interested to take part in such festivals and would love the idea of holding it on annual basis so that it brings the Somali culture to the limelight. “The minute the festival was shared on social media, it went viral. Everybody started sharing and talking about it. The festival has a promising future and I would love to see it done often,” she says.
The festival, besides being a chance to introduce the Somali culture, was also an opportunity to speak about the Somali issues in Kenya today and far afield. It created a safe space where people shared their ideas and opinions on topical issues that the Somalis are facing. Extremism and radicalisation of the youth by terror outfits, discriminations of the Somalis by the other Kenyan communities, identity and many other pressing issues were largely discussed during the festival.
The issue of identity was and is always a problem for the Somalis living in Kenya and the festival saw many Somalis mostly of Kenyan origin discussing it with mixed feelings. Some are always against the phrase ‘Somali-Kenyan’ and would either prefer being called ‘Kenyan’ or ‘Somalian.’
It is a situation that has the Somali community in Kenyan between a rock and a hard place because some of them cannot tell their exact identity.
“There are two things people are confusing; Ethnicity and nationality. Ethnically we are Somalis and nationally we are Kenyans. I think that is where the confusion is,” Abdullahi Bash, a journalist and analyst says.
For Muna, it is good to accept who you are, and is saddened by the fact that the other Kenyans do not accept the Somali community as Kenyans and view them as outsiders. “However, being a Kenyan should not out shadow the fact that you are Somali ethnically. At the day though, we are still not all accepted as Kenyans by our brothers and sisters. And that is why you hear about the phrase ‘Kenyan-Somali. I don’t think that phrase would exist if we were fully accepted as Kenyans because you will not hear of a Kenyan Kikuyu or a Kenyan Luo or something like that. We are all Kenyans of different, yet vibrant and rich ethnic backgrounds,” she notes.
To most in Kenya, distinguishing between Somalis of Kenyan origin and Somalis from Somalia is a problem because of the similarities in everything.
“When the Somalis from Somalia came to Kenya fleeing conflict, they had no legal documents and couldn’t assimilate with other Kenyans because of language barrier and not indulging in each others cultures and roots. A lot of Kenyan communities do not know the difference between a Somali from Somalia and a Somali from Garissa, Wajir or even Mandera,” Abdullahi says.
According to Abdullahi, the Somalis from Somalia are bold and do everything with hope and enthusiasm hence very successful despite being stateless. “The Somalis from Somalia are risk takers,” he says.
Mr Bash also points out the angle of ethnical inclination where Somalis from Somalia interact with those North Eastern Province because of their ethnic relation. “You will see an Ogaden from Somalia related to an Ogaden from Garissa and Someone from Somalia related to another from Mandera or Wajir.
So the interaction among the Somalis has taken that inclination of whom do you belong to? Do you belong to Garissa people, Mandera or Wajir? But they are one and the same people.
This Kenyan-Somali and Somali-Somali thing is a confusion of identity. People are confused. Do you give allegiance to the people you are identified with or the country that you feel you belong to and yet is oppressing you?” he poses with a concerned face.
Abdullahi believes that the Somali Heritage Week extravaganza was a start for the Somali people to share their culture with other diverse communities in Kenya. “Everybody was happy about it. It was a historic moment for us and other communities will see the other side of Somalis. That Somalis are people with rich culture and heritage. It exposed the other narrative that Somalis are not as bad as they are perceived. They are lively, jovial and entrepreneurial. Mr Bash suggests that the Somali Heritage week be taken to other places other than Nairobi in the near future. “I think we need to share our widely rich culture and way of life,” he concludes.

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Somali traditional  artifacts on display at the Louis Leaky auditorium.

I originally did the story for Warya Post.http://www.waryapost.com/the-identity-crisis-of-somalis-in-kenya/

Art meets art lovers in colourful celebrations

All roads led to the National Museum of Kenya in the last two days where the Somali Heritage Week is ongoing. The event — the first of its kind here in Kenya hosted by Heinrich Boll Stiftung and Awjaama Omar Cultural Research and reading Centre — brought together different Kenyans of different background but mostly of Somali origins.

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Nanjala Nyabola moderating the Panel

The festival which runs till Saturday and with the aim of celebrating the rich Somali Culture saw artwork, music, Somali traditional dance, discussion of different topical issues by various panels as well as poetry all taking centre stage.

Abwaan Abdirisack Kabaxaay from Dadaab with his band entertained the audience in every start of every session with different traditional Somali dances with the popular Somali Saar leading the way. The group, all clad in the traditional Somali attire, left many an audience amused and thrilled with their scintillating performances.

 

Imaging the sound of the traditional Somali trumpet (buun) blown inside the Louis Leaky auditorium hitting your eardrums after the end of every session?  Or watching it being blown in front of you by a man in full Somali traditional attire? Isn’t that a sight to behold?

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Abwaan Abdirisack Kabaxaay with members of his band in full traditional Somali attire

In one of the most entertaining and educative sessions, popular Somali writer and poet Ahmed Farah Idaaja took the audience through the Somali Literature and Language where he mainly focused on poetry both written and spoken. Idaaja says, “The Somali literature is diverse and the most popular one is poetry and that is why Somalia is called the nation of poets. It is the biggest and strongest and it has to have meaning and needs prose escort.”

He went on to read some poems composed in the early 50s with some leaving the audience in the hall in stitches. Idaaja told of an unknown male poet who, when he first heard of the bra worn by the women, composed a poem to critic it and a reply by woman, an exchange that had the audience laughing for most part of the session. He also recited a poem in which a man pleads for a she-camel. Idaaja recited the poem in a manner that evokes the power of poetry among the traditional Somalis. The popular poet also described and narrated how poets used to send poems in form of messages to their relatives and far away friends.

In the museum’s exhibition centre, drawings, paintings and other artworks by Somalis and other artists in Kenya focusing on themes and issues affecting the Somalis were displayed. Works by Somali visual artist Deqa Abshir were put in all corners of the exhibition room as well as works by popular Kenyan photographer-turned activist Bony Mwangi, Hussein Mowlid and Georgina Godwin.

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Some of the Somali artifacts on display

The extravaganza continues today and tomorrow when the final curtains will be raised and with the broadness and richness of the Somali culture, I’m sure there are still a lot to see and showcase in the remaining days. A journey of entertainment and colourful celebrations beckons and I hope you will not regret going to the National Museum of Kenya to see a culture that will forever leave something in you to tell in generations.

Som

 

I originally posted this story on Warya Post.