Friday, December 22, 2017 0 comments

Jubaland wins Somalia Inter States Football Tournament



Mogadishu, December, 22 2017 - Thousands of Somali football fans thronged the Stadium Banadir in Mogadishu to witness the finals of the second edition of Inter States Football tournament organized by Somalia Football Federation and which pitted last years winners Puntland against the loosing finalists Jubaland who went a step further this year by winning the match one goal to nil to lift this year trophy in a scintillating match watched by Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre and other leaders.

The match was aired live by Universal TV, a Somali satellite channel and relayed by other Somali satellite television stations including national broadcaster Somalia National Television SNTV. A Somali music band including the police band was at hand to entertain the thousands of fans who came to watch the final match with patriotic songs encouraging peace and a special Somali version of the 2010 South Africa World Cup official anthem song Raise Your Flag by Somali Canadian Hip hop star K'Naan.

Jubaland's triumph brought back memories of their yesteryear's record of 8 regional trophies they won during the past in Somalia cementing their maestro as Somalia's best region in football. The Jubaland win today was confirmed by a brilliant goal scored by their captain Yonis Abdirahman Mohamed in the 74th minute after the first half ended in stalemate. the Jubbaland goal scorer unleashed a beautifully curved culling shot outside the box after a brilliant run evading two Puntland players.


Jubaland displayed a mature game and withered a Puntland pressure hitting their opponents with deadly counter attack football that could have resulted in several goals had they took the many chances they created. As time elapsed Puntland seemed to have accepted the outcome and never really threatened the Jubaland goal.

"We scored a beautiful goal. Am really happy we won this tournament making it overall 9 times winners of the regional cup in Somalia. We will be celebrating our win and wish to thank Puntland for their professionalism and grace in defeat. We deserved to win today because our team played very well," Jubaland fan Abdulkadir Ali said.

The referee blew the whistle after 3 minutes of extra time much to the jubilation of Jubaland fans some of who run into the stadium to join in the celebrations giving heavily armed security officers a hard time in containing them.

A medal ceremony was quickly set up and immediately Prime Minister Kheyre was joined by Minister of Sports and Youth Khadija Mohamed Diriye, Mogadishu mayor Thabit Mohamed and Somalia Football Federal President Abdiqani Said Arab to hand over medals to both teams including the winning trophy to Jubaland which also walked away with the top scorer's trophy handed to their number 9 striker who scored 3 goals to finish as top scorer in the two week long football bonanza that saw 5 Federal States and the capital Banadir Region compete.

Speaking after the game SFF President Abdiqani Said Arab said the tournament was a good indicator that Somalis love footbal and was glad the federation successfully hosted the tournament.

"We are thrilled for organizing this tournament which brought together all the regions. Football is a very important that unites people and you saw how many fans have been thronging the stadium whenever there is a tournament. People don't realize that there are no entertainment opportunities for Somalis and football can play a key role in healing the nation. We urge the government, private sector and the donors to support football," he told this blog.



Monday, December 4, 2017 0 comments

Mogadishu reunion

Two days ago I was reunited with Mogadishu again, a city I developed an affinity for sometimes back during my heydays as a journalist.

This time round I have decided to live in Mogadishu and again experience what it's like to live here.

As a war correspondent who covered Mogadishu and Somalia's biggest wars of 2016 until very recently, my re-connection now with the city would not have come at a better time.

The city these days enjoys an unprecedented relative peace except of course that peace is shuttered by the local franchise of Al-Qaida, called Al-Shabaab.

Just recently a gruesome attack in a busy intersection claimed the lives of over 500 and more than 300 others wounded after a suicide bomber blew a truck laden with powerful explosives.

Although Al-Shabaab has not owned the attack, many Somalis here say the attack carried their signature and all the hallmarks and cruelty associated with the group.

Such attacks are rare these days compared to the past dark days when clan militias battled each other for control of the city and later when government, Ethiopian forces and later African Union peacekeepers battled Al-Shabaab militants in the streets of Mogadishu until 2009 when Al-Qaeda linked Somali militants were removed the city to momentatily give residents a breathing space.

That war might have been won against Al-Shabaab but certainly not the battle and hence their frequent hit and run attacks including planting mines, roadside bombs and carrying our suicide attacks and assassinations of government forces and officials. Sadly the group has started targeting civilian's as well.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

The Mogadishu of today is much different from the old, war-battered and bullet-strewn city of 2005 when I first came. Many Somalis from the diaspora have returned to rebuilt their houses,open up busineses, visit their families while some have since decided to stay put home forever and have permanently moved here.

The city now enjoys all the hallmarks of a capital city. Clogged traffic jams, neat tarmacked roads, well lit streets packed with shoppers and revelers who seem oblivious of the negative connotations associated with this city.

Today if a foreigner visits Mogadishu, unfair titles like the world's most dangerous city will certainly not match what he or she sees. Such negative connotations will for once be a figment of their imagination.

If you drive or walk you will certainly see police officers patrolling, traffic officers controlling flow of vehicles and humans, children going to school, supermarkets open full of shoppers, women and men hawkers selling different merchandise. It's no difference with any other city

The calm and peace you experience might make you question whether this is the city over 500 people were mercilessly killed by a suicide bomber. That unfortunate blast is said to be the biggest and most dangerous.

The only thing you might once in a while hear is a sound of a bullet echoing in the blue skies of Mogadishu which compared to what this city has gone through will sound like a distance whistle.

There is no question Mogadishu city is slowly regaining its elegance and status. New sky crappers are rising up, elegant apartments are increasing by the day and fancy hotels mushrooming along its new well lit roads.

That's not all.

The Mogadishu of today has everything to offer. If you want the latest Toyota car model, iPhone or Samsung mobile phones relax! Your needs will be dully met.

For those interested to visit, the place to be in Mogadishu is its oldest district Abdulaziz. Its home to the city's Liido beach and a chain of beach hotels where revelers go to eat out while enjoying the cool breeze from the Indian ocean and its stunning beach front and sandy beach.

A walk into the picturesque Hamarweyne district or the Old town of Mogadishu will take you down memory lane for once you might assume you are walking in Kibokoni, Mombasa city's old town which has similar rich architecture.

Watch this space for more opinions on Somalia.
Friday, October 14, 2016 0 comments

Somali heritage week event kicks off in Nairobi to celebrate the community

The city of Nairobi for the second year running hosted a cultural event dubbed Somali Heritage Week with organizers hoping culture enthusiasts could come together to learn and celebrate the Somali community, engage with the challenges facing the community, promote unity and respect between Kenyan cultures but most importantly try to defuse the misconceptions and stereotypes held against the Somali community.

Those attending the event at the Kenya National Theatre and which is scheduled to run from 13 to 16 October 2016 will surely enjoy a week of inspiring conversations featuring some of the best known thinkers, writers, performers and story tellers as well as the book fair and some nice Somali food, among a host of other activities through round table discussions, musical performances by Somali traditional dancers, storytelling for kids, Somali heritage regalia on display including dressing ,camels and the famous camel milk revered by Somalis.

The event is organized by Heinrich Boell Foundation and their Somali partner Aw-Jaamac Culture and Reading Centre based in the Eastleigh neighbourhood of Nairobi inhabited by the Somali community. Some of the funders for the event include the Rift Valley Forum, EU, CISP, German embassy, UNESCO, Swedish agency SDC among others.

The event was officially opened by Honourable Yusuf Hassan, Kamukunji member of parliament and the first Somali lawmaker to be elected in Nairobi. Yusuf, himself a famous journalist who worked with the local Voice of Kenya (VOK) which is now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and later for the BBC and VOA, reaffirmed the importance of culture in fostering peace and harmony among communities.

The first day of the event also saw other prominent Somalis who are role models for many young Somalis taking the stage to take part in open discussions and debates on culture, leadership, education and generally the status of Somalis in Kenya.

What captivated many however is the rich cultural regalia on display at the Kenya National Theatre. A traditional Somali hut, Somali traditional mats, storage containers for milk and women and a man wearing the traditional Somali attires with a spear and of course his camel, a revered animal amongst the Somalis who are traditionally nomadic.

The event is trending on social media with Twitter followers sharing updates on the event through the hash tag @SHW2016.

One Kenyan non-Somali man who attended the event says he was really impressed by the rich Somali culture on display and thanked the organizers.

"I have never though of the Somalis as a people with such a rich culture. This event has helped to change my perception of this community. It was inspiring to hear from Hon. Yusuf Hassan, IEBC Chairman Isak Hassan, Former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and also seeing the beautiful Somali Dhaanto music and dance. For the first I also tasted a camel milk. This is a wonderful event and I thank the organizers," he said declining to give his name
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Thursday, September 29, 2016 0 comments

Lessons for Somalia from Rwanda

Somalia and Rwanda share a lot. They are both African countries, located in Eastern Africa and unfortunately both countries suffered a bloody civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

But Rwanda has since turned the page and we can safely say it is in another league now. A visit to the tiny hilly African country reveals a very different story. Rwanda of today is safe, clean and developing so fast. The capital Kigali is so clean you can easily drop food on the road, pick it up and safely consume it without any fear of catching a bug or disease simply because the streets are unbelievably very clean you'd think for once you are in another world and not in Africa.

Sometimes last year I visited Kigali, the Rwandan capital city, locally known as the city of 100 mountains and I was really impressed by what I saw. I could not stop thinking back not many years ago when Rwanda, just like Somalia was bleeding. But now, there is plenty of peace, fresh milk, honey, fresh fruits and vegetables.

The questions that lingers in my head is how Rwanda managed to lift itself from the abyss of the 1994 hopelessness, fear, war and hunger while unfortunately countries like Somalia and Africa's youngest and most troublesome State, South Sudan, are both by far still bleeding and in perpetual self-destruction mode. The Rwanda that degenerated into genocide in 1994 is not the Rwanda of today which seems to have put its act together and started its journey to recovery and forgiveness up to where it is today, becoming a ray of hope for many war shuttered countries in Africa and around the world.

"Why can't we transform ourselves and turn around our problems into solutions that work for us like it worked for the Rwandese"? This has to be the hard question every sane Somalis and South Sudanese national ought to be asking themselves.

While in Rwanda, I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum, which really shook me. I rarely cry in public but I must admit I was moved by the sad memories and testimonial's of victims of the 1994 Rwanda massacre in display and perfectly archived at genocide memorial centre. The horrifying tales by the survivors and witnesses will shake even the hardest of hearts and so I could barely stop the tears. The memorial is set a side to remind everyone who visits the city including its own inhabitants of the unimaginable killings that engulfed the city and country during the 1994 genocide.

For anyone who has never set foot in Rwanda or its hilly capital city Kigali the image they have of Rwanda I believe is that of war or blood, perhaps of machetes and those old horrific images that blurred our TV screens in 1994 during the massacre when neighbours, relatives and acquaintances turned against each other and within a 100 days tens of thousands of Rwandese mothers, boys, girls and even men from the Tutsi minority tribe were butchered to death in one of Africa's most gruesome violence known as the Rwanda genocide which unfortunately the rest of humanity simply sat and watched as close to a million if not more innocent souls were cold bloodedly murdered leaving behind a river of blood to flow like a normal river.

Thanks God now the Rwandese rivers are fresh and clean water devoid of blood or even dirt. Now, that is a transformation and a miracle, believe it or not. Leaving behind a captivating beauty of Kigali that will simply leave you mesmerized. The city, set on a picturesque range of green mountains is scintillatingly beautiful.

But what really caught my eyes is the development, the well prawned lawns across the smooth roads and the clean streets. You will never think you are in an African city when you are in Kigali. You might easily think you are in a European city!

"Kigali is the Switzerland of Africa," shouted my expatriate colleague.

Looks like Rwanda's quick turn around has even caught the eyes of other Africans too.

"You can never believe this city was littered with corpses in 1994 during the genocide. Now you have the cleanest, safest and most progressive city's in Africa. Rwanda has turned the page and is now a model country for many war tone countries including the likes of Somalia, South Sudan and other hot spots in Africa," said a Kenyan expatriate working in Rwanda who did not wish to be named.

As Somalis and South Sudanese continue to senselessly annihilate each other and destroy their lives and country, Rwanda is developing with state of the art buildings sprouting up in the hilly green town. Everywhere you go there is construction going up. At night the various parts of the city several dotted across mountain tops that together make up Kigali city makes you wonder why people there killed each other in 1994.

REWARD RWANDA
If I were the chairman of the African Union Commission, I would have rewarded the Rwandese people with the crown of being Africa's jewel capital city. Yes, we should consider moving the African Union headquarters in Kigali as our token to the people of Rwanda for their magnificent turn around and the hard work they have put in turning their country from a human butcher to a place where everyone would simply love to live.

Back to the not so cool genocide story, If you ever visit Kigali or Rwanda, you can never boost you have been to the country of gorillas without visiting the Kigali Genocide Museum, a simple and yet well planned historical site that acts as a remembrance, healing and educational centre as well as a mass burial site for a quarter a million victims of the massacre that remains to date in the memories of many people.

During my recent visit there, as I held back tears from the moving stories and the remains of the genocide, I gathered strength to speak to the head of the genocide memorial site focusing my discussion on Somalia rather than Rwanda.

"I believe Somalis have a lot to learn from Rwanda," I struggled to say in a low broken voice.

"Yes, you are absolutely right my brother," responded the Rwandese youthful head of the Kigali Genocide Museum.

"You need to bring those Somali boys and men who continue to kill their mothers, brothers and sisters here in Rwanda so that they see for themselves what kind of history they are now writing with the innocent blood of Somalis. If they have an ounce of mercy in them am sure they will be awakened by our dark bloody past. After coming back to normal and they see how Rwanda is fast developing they will go back to Somalia with a different mind-set and I am very certain if they have a normal human heart they will never hurt anyone again, even a fly," he said, choosing his words very carefully.

I think we should do that. Round off all those brainwashed boys and their evil masters and take them to a healing trip in Kigali.

Sometimes I wonder why we fight and kill one another because when two Somalis meet, peace is part of their greetings. "ii waran?" - How are you? one owuld typically say, and the other person will respond by saying, "nabad" - Peace

Guess what? even in the Islamic greetings - Assalamu alaikum - the word peace is there too.

So where is all these violence coming from when if both our religion and culture advocates for peace?

Sober up my people and stop fighting. Make love instead and spread love and peace in the land of the poets - Somalia.

Thursday, September 22, 2016 0 comments

EU response to UN report on freedom of expression in Somalia


Local EU Statement

EU response to UN report on freedom of expression in Somalia

EU Heads of Mission in Somalia issue the following statement
Nairobi, 22 September 2016 - The European Union and European Union Member States congratulate the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for having issued their first report regarding the state of freedom of expression in Somalia. The EU and EU Member States strongly believe in and encourage freedom of expression: it is a key foundation stone of democracy and a fundamental right of every human being.
As the report makes clear, killings, beatings, harassment, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, lack of due process or fair trial guarantees, and closure of media outlets continue to take place across Somalia, often based on the accusation of spreading "false news" punishable under the Somali Penal Code.
We remain concerned that the large majority of these cases are not being investigated. The EU and EU Member States see the State as having an obligation to respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and therefore look to State authorities to systematically respond, investigate and prosecute such cases so that so that impunity gives way to respect of human rights. We also recognise the need to repeal laws that criminalise the "dissemination of false news" and ensure that NISA is regulated with effective oversight mechanisms and accountability measures.
The EU and EU Member States advocate that in the coming weeks an enabling environment for public participation in debates linked to the democratic transition is enabled – including by guaranteeing the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly – as contribution to a more democratic and inclusive process.
We welcome the recent passing on the law to establish a Human Rights Commission and call upon the FGS to ensure this independent body is created as quickly as possible so that it can carry-out its critical role in the promotion and protection of human rights for all, including the right to freedom of expression.
The EU and EU Member States stand ready to support the implementation of the recommendations provided in the report and invite the Somali authorities and other partners to use this as a tool to address essential issues related to Freedom of Expression in Somalia.
END
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Muslims shield Christians in the face of death - Mandera's bravery revelation.

I have been dormant for sometime after recently changing jobs. Well, this is to break the ice and lull in doing what I like to do, write, so expect much more from this space!

Back to our story and its eye catching title, Muslims shield Christians in the face of death - Mandera's bravery revelation. Your guess is as good as mine. I smiled, yes, as weird as you might think when I first read about what transpired on Monday in a remote area of the restive North-eastern Kenya bordering Somalia.

Al-Kabaab militants sprayed bullets on a Makkah bus headed to Mandera town from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, precisely between Kotilo and El-Wak villages. However that was not the news that brought satisfaction among all those who heard about this tragic incident that unfortunately claimed two innocent lives.

Coincidentally, Makkah is Islam's holiest city in Saudi Arabia. The bus where this miracle survival took place is also called Makkah Bus Service!

However, the story is not in the attack but rather the real story was in the reaction of the majority Muslim commuters on the bus who came to the rescue of the minority Christians travelling alongside them.

When the heavily armed Al-Kabaab militants stormed into the bus the Muslims passengers were ready to die while defending the few Christians on-board. First, they gave them Muslim attires to wear and later on when the militants sought to segregate Muslims from Christians in order to cold-bloodedly kill the Christians as they have done in the past in Kenya, to be precise in Mandera, Mpeketoni, Nairobi and Garissa. But that was not the case this time after Muslim passengers dismissed them and defied their order.

What a beautiful thing to do! I have no words to describe this rare, wonderful, kind, brave, honest and love depicted by helpless people overpowered by evil but who did not despair or loose hope but instead stood their ground to say no even with guns pointed at their heads.

"This time round the notorious Al-Kabaab gang loathed by many in this part of the world for their cruelty and complete disregard of shame, faith or reason were in for a rude shock! Muslims on the bus defied their order to flush out Christians amongst their midst even at the face of death leaving the gun tooting Al-Kabaab vagabonds in limbo and total bewilderment," You can quote me on that!

They could not believe the Muslims defying their order while still urging them to kill them first. This unprecedented move was not only share bravery unheard of but was also a wake up call for those naysayers who were always quick to jump into conclusions when these savages calling themselves Al-Kabaab, who mind you do not represent true Islam, go about their murderous acts of killing in the name of religion because they hide behind the veil of Islam, which coincidentally means peace.

What our wonderful Muslim brothers did in the face of adversity to refuse to sell out their Christians brothers and sisters needs to be applauded and imitated by all other true Muslims because it will simply render the bad intentions and madness of the few blood letting losers like Al-Kabaab, useless. This is will kill them because this goes against the whole reason why they are going into their killing spree targeting Christians which is intended to solely create mistrust among Muslims and Christians.

For those who bought into the cheap propaganda of these murderous thugs like Al-Kabaab, believing that Islam is at war with Christianity, then this rare act of bravery by our Muslim brothers and sisters on the attacked bus who stood against injustice, is proof enough that Islam does not condone violence or hatred and that true Islam has nothing in common with terrorism because it is a peaceful religion maligned by these freelancers whose masters are unknown!

Can we please salute these brave Muslims men and women, who defended humanity, defended justice and defended true Islam in the face of adversity.

Peace, salam, nabad!


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mogadishu by night




My last day in Mogadishu couldnt be better than a ride at night across the white-washed seaside city to sample what it has to offer before I momentarily leave the city for an international assignment.

It was reassuring to see police checkpoints at all intersections in Mogadishu thst required pedestrians to stop, unwind their car windows and put lights on so that all passengers are seen and in some cases they'd ask you to open your car boot for security check.

I found the armed security personnel manning the various government checkpoints to be alert and respective except one big checkpoint on your way to the airport which is manned by intelligence officers who are at times rude to pedestrians and at times seen pointing the gun at people without any cause of alarm.

Apart from that little hitch up, the streets of Mogadishu are well lit at night by street lights allowing businesses to open until late as residents go about shopping in the much cooler evenings as others sat outside coffee shops sipping capuchino and tea as they engaged in lively chit chats.

Unlike other major capitals in the world, crime is not rampant in Mogadishu unless of course the militants suicide bombing attacks which has also drastically reduced thanks largely to the war weary residents closely cooperating with security agencies by reporting any suspicious characters.

I cannot imagine how Mogadishu will ultimately look like with permanent peace and no fear of militant attack.

It's long past midnight now and I have to rest because I have an early morning flight tomorrow to catch before leaving Mogadishu or Xamar Cadey! the local name for this wonderful old city overlooking the Indian Ocean.