Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Permission to party from the moral police

In Hargeisa, Somalis are not allowed to attend parties at houses occupied by foreigners!!! Apparently, few Somalis have been turned away from such parties, male and female. Foreigners by law have to employ special police personel to guard their residential and work places and these so called police seem to also be the moral police to keep Somalis from being "corrupted" by foreign parties. This despite the fact that there is a growing number of expatriate Somalis returning from Europe and North America to work or resettle back. Some don't even speak Somali well and don't identify with the culture that strongly.

I am one such Somali, holding a foreign passport, working for an NGO and living in Hargeisa. I share house with 6 colleagues from: Kenya, Uganda, USA, Denmark and Zimbabwe. I also have few expatriate Somali friends and I am organising my first party at the house. My Somali friends told me not to organise the party at the house coz of the embarrassment of being turned away from house parties. I spoke to the fake police guards last night informing them of my party plans and they said there won't be a problem letting my Somali friends in (like I am asking for an effing permission). Then this morning I found out they have been replaced with new ones, I don't think there is a conspiracy but better get this little issue straightened. So I had a meeting today with the area manager and head of security. The area manager, an Australian woman, doesn't understand why Somalis won't let other Somalis into parties and assured me it is not an organisational policy to turn any one away coz of their nationality. Head of security, a Somali man, is going to speak to the fake police to mind their business and not turn anyone away. I am so curious to see what happens tomorrow night, I am wearing my skinny jeans and kicking boots, just in case.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A note from Sah Koshin on her experience flying with Jubba Airways

I am going to sue Jubba Airways for making 11 people sit on the floor of the plane from Galkayo-Hargeisa 16/09/11, 3 of whom were children, one baby, 2 female. Those who managed to secure seats discovered that there were no seat belts/or dilapidated seats had makeshift fishing rods as seatbelts, no water to drink, no ventilation at all and children suffocated. The toilet was locked and out of order. The 10 or so Russian pilots in the cabin were all wearing sandals and half naked and were smoking in the cabin. Upon landing we all saw them sharing the fares the poor 11 people had paid for their flights!!

The goat update: Day 3 in Hargeisa

I have now met all my former virtual friends, Shugri, Sharmarke, Zahra and finally last night, Sah Koshin! I am so encouraged with what I saw last night. In one room, there were Somalis from Puntland, Somaliland, Djibouti, Ogaden and Jigjiga in Ethiopia, Mogadishu, Merka, and even members of the Transitional National Government. And guess what? There were no gunshots, insults or even flying chairs!!

The icing on the cake, Hadraawi, the recited his poem, shame there was no subtitle.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New life in Hargeisa!

Just last month, living in Hargeisa never crossed my mind, and certainly not by September! I arrived yesterday, 17th, but I think it will take time for this new reality to sink in.

A month ago, I was in Johannesburg dreaming about working in Mogadishu and in talks with the Ministry of International Cooperation. They didn’t get back to me in time with a concrete offer so I decided to take another offer with an NGO, for a post that is actually more suited to my area of work and interest.

Fast developments and sudden change of direction has become normal since I packed up my life in London and showed up in Mozambique with no plans, 4 years ago. I love this unpredictable life and being a nomad again. Downside is the inability to plan anything beyond a month!
What makes this move interesting for me is that it will challenge my views on the separation of Somaliland from Somalia. When I first learnt about the proposed separation in London and heard the reasoning, I was not sold at all and I am still a sceptic. Not because I am a supporter of a "greater Somalia", I was born in Kenya and feel more East African than Somali, after all. But because I felt a level of aggressive and forced selling of the idea. I don't know of anyone who likes to be forced to believe and I felt maybe Somaliland advocates in London have unintentionally done more damage to their cause by chasing people away with that aggressive attitude.

I am here now, with an opportunity to learn from people on the ground and I am keen to hear what they have to say. My first impression tho, is that people here, like Puntland and the rest of Somalia, just wanna get on with their lives.

I am used to borders, born in Kenya, grew up between Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda. Went to school in China, lived most of my life in the UK, and a bit in Mozambique and South Africa. Borders don't mean much to me but it seems in Somaliland, it is everything. Maybe people here know something I don't know, I am all ears.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to get rid of a dictator...With a doctor's note, lol.

in 1982, President Ahmadou Ahidjo of Cameroon was persuaded by a team of doctors in France, at least that was the informed gossip, that his health was so bad he was not likely to make it to the end of the year. Ahidjo stepped down and handed over power to his prime minister and preferred successor, Paul Biya.

Two years later, Ahidjo found himself still alive, indeed, in good health and being ignored by Mr Biya.

He then tried to stage a coup d'etat; it failed and he ended up in lonely exile in Senegal where he died almost 20 years later.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day1 in Joburg

I finally made the move to Joburg on Sunday, 20th Feb. I arrived at 10am and Lindi kindly picked me up from the airport. Everyone warned me Joburg is a dangerous place but I don't listen to people usually, thank goodness. Having said that, I wasn't prepared for the news. Lindi's car was stollen the night before, from her secure and gated front yard! It happened around 3am and she didn't hear a thing! I was shocked and very impressed at how calm she seemed and the fact that she still came to the airport to pick me up. I am not sure I would have been in that state of mind. She took her boyfriend's car and decided not to change her Sunday plans, brave woman.

She dropped me at her place and left for lunch with family. I was exhausted from a week of parties and packing up my life in Maputo and I collapsed. When Lindi got back around 5pm, she found a note under the gate with address of where the car was dumped! We immediately drove to the address and sure enough, her car was sitting there minus 2 back wheels, radio and speakers, battery, and her Ipod! While we were driving there, we called the police to ask them to come with us as we didn't know what to expect. The police officer on the phone had no clue where that address was!! We calmly pointed her to find a map and to send us police officers, if she did not mind. She reluctantly said she wud send officers. That never happend. So, we drove past the car and decided to go get a back up, 2 of Lindi's friends. While driving there, we came across police van and asked them to come with us. They did and we all realised the only way to get the car out of that neighbourhood was to tow it. Luckily, the police officers promised to take care of that.

What a way to start my new life in Joburg! At least, I got an authentic Joburg-style welcome.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Waiting for Mubarak

I am really excited about the political developments in North Africa. Today, I know it is very unlikely but I am hoping Mubarak gets kicked out. U know what that would means for the rest of Africa? I think anyone who has been in power more than 10 years in 'Africa' is taking a serious note of this. We are all sick and tired of men who hold on to power till they die and then pass on the leadership to their sons as from their grave. I feel the wind of change and I think the ball has started rolling even if Mubarak doesn't leave today. People are realising they have a lot more power than they thought and all it takes is to gather in large numbers peacefully and demand a change! I am only hoping Sub-Saharan Africa catches up quicker and boot out Gbagbo, Museveni, Mugabe, Aferwerki, and anyone who has been in power more than 2 terms of 10 years max.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Short Xmas trip that changed how I feel about Maputo

I took unexpected and last minute 10-day holiday on Xmas eve to Nairobi to spend it with a dear friend I haven't seen in years. I swore few years back that I won't set foot on Kenyan soil again after couple of bad experiences with thugs and corrupt police officers. My previous trip there was in December 2004 and I spent most of the week in a hotel, couldn't be bothered venturing into the city. My disappointment started at the airport when I was picked out of the queue by an immigration officer, I assumed it was coz he recognised I was a Somali. I asked what I had done wrong and he said he just wanted to ask few questions. After few minutes of silly questions and terrorising the content of my bags, he discovered no reason to keep me in the room. I was fuming with anger at the thought that Kenyan authorities still treated Somalis as criminals.

So, I went on this trip in December 2010 looking forward to seeing my friend but dreading the thought of revisiting Nairoberry. However, a pleasant surprise started at the airport. I found a Kenyan-Somali immigration officer at the airport, for once there was a Somali on the other side of the fence. Also, I didn't get picked from the line this time and I got a visa in 5 minutes! So far so good. I took a taxi to my friend's flat and was amazed by how clean the city seemed, at least the trip from the Jomo Kenyatta Airport and my friend's flat.

The pleasant surprise continued for the duration of my stay, I found Nairobi has changed radically and for the better. There were lots of new bars, restaurants and places to hangout. A city with vibrant social life and I met few friends I knew in London who have all moved back to start a new life in Kenya, very exciting!

Then we went to Mombasa for the new year and met more dynamic young Africans, and what a city! I think I chose the right place to be born, that is for sure.

So, after all the people I met, hearing everyone around me speak English, all the projects and business ideas everyone is planning, I was so inspired and something in me realised that maybe, just maybe, I was subconsciously missing something in Maputo! A city with limited opportunities and an uphill struggle to achieve the smallest of goals. After that short trip, I got back to Maputo to find it impossible to get back to my old rhythm. I lost the magic, maybe left it on the plane, I had for this city and my first reaction soon as I got off the plane was: Shit, I don't want to be here anymore!!! It is a sudden and shocking revelation and I had no idea where it came from.

I got back to the studio the same day to do a show and did not enjoy it at all! Remember that I only started this radio job 3.5 months ago! Yeah, things in my little planet change real fast. So, I had a chat with my boss and informed him that I was not really happy at work and I wanted to make some changes if I were to stay on. For starters, I was not enjoying co-presenting the breakfast show with him, our styles are radically different and the listener can hear when co-presenters are not jelling. I also felt co-presenting with my (much older) boss and the station owner limited the space for me to develop my own style. His age would not be an issue if it didn't highlight our radically different approaches to presenting and music taste.

I already know what is coming and have known it for a while. It was an amazing opportunity to work in the first and only English radio station in Maputo but this particular radio station is not for me!

So, end of the road again for both radio and Maputo, for now. I think I have had so much fun banging my head against the wall in this city trying all sorts of things, from enterprise, to bank work and now radio DJing. Time to give another African city a try.

Next stop: Johannesburg!