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Social Media has Upended Politics in Somaliland

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Social Media has Upended Politics in Somaliland

This presidential campaign may be the craziest, most divisive one in the history of the Republic of Somaliland. Don’t worry. I’m not going to get all political in this piece.

Everyone is biased, and social media shapes and broadcasts these biases in profound ways. Every time there’s a revolution in Africa, from Egypt to South Africa, Nigeria to Ethiopia, Zimbabwe to Somalia’s Farmaajo campaign slogan ‘Nabad iyo Nolol’ (peace and life), whatever it is — social media plays a part. In short, social media is changing Africa.

According to Mohamed Abdi Sheikh “Elig” Horn Cable TVs executive director, the news cycle has drastically changed in the past decade since the rise of the social network. As both Somaliland politicians and journalists often get much of their news from following key social media accounts where the news stories are also shared by readers/viewers, which has shifted the news cycle into a new paradigm.

Presidential candidates realized that using social media platforms can reach as many news outlets as a press conference in a much more efficient manner. By posting their views on Facebook and Twitter, politicians are able to gain immediate insight into how the public responds and can even interact candidly with their followers directly, a fact that draws a lot of younger people to use social media to research the issues. In this manner, Hon. Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi “Cirro” the presidential candidate for Somaliland’s main opposition party (Waddani) will go live on Facebook, just less than forty-eight hours before polling day

Social media marketing campaigns can really stand out when done correctly, and an important piece of that puzzle is the hashtag. Hashtags allow accounts with large followings to create rallying points for their messages in a way that’s easy to track. Here are some of the leading hashtags during Somaliland Presidential Election Debate.

Inspire Groups #SomalilandDebates that made more than 3 million impressions on Twitter and #SomalilandVotes which is trending right now in the Horn of Africa. All this data shows that the campaign is definitely catering to social media.

UCID party leader, Faisal Ali Waraabe has the largest and most engaged social media following among the presidential candidates. Love him or hate him, you’ve heard of Faisal, and his social media exploits alone have earned him quite a bit of free attention from the mainstream media.

He may say offensive things, but you can be assured Faisal means what Faisal says. There’s a lesson here. The more unbalanced, bombastic, and extreme you are, the more free press you’ll get. People love a good fight. People love to feel angry. If you want to learn more about how people feel toward Faisal’s ideals, all you have to do is search his name on Twitter and Facebook. And that brings up an important point.

However, both Muse Bihi Abdi and Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi “Cirro” also have strong showings on other social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where visual content trumps links and text. Although most political discussions online are taking place between regular users sharing news stories. It’s important to understand, however, these numbers don’t necessarily equate to registered voters who support a candidate, merely people whose attention they have.

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Somaliland: Human Rights Center Holds a Discussion On the Newly Passed Police Act

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The President of Somaliland, Muse Behi Abdi, signed a Police Act on 26th December 2017 after the House of Representatives passed in a two-thirds majority. The Police Act was first passed by the Parliament in 2014. The presidency vetoed the Bill and returned to the House of Representatives which required 2/3 majority to override the veto of the president.

The House of Representatives secured the required majority on 3rd December 2017.

The Police Act creates an accountability framework including an independent complaint body and procedure to lodge complaints against the police members. It also gives the civilian courts a jurisdiction to hear cases against the police. The Act expressly prohibits the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians.

To increase the awareness of the public on the law, HRC held on 9th February 2018 an event at Hargeisa. Lawyers explained the law to the participants who were able to ask questions.
At the event, the people discussed how to implement the law. Summarised copies of the law were also distributed by HRC.

“The approval of the Law is a milestone for accountability and protection of Human Rights,” says Guleid Ahmed Jama, the Director of Human Rights Centre.

“The main challenge now is how to implement the Law. There are examples of many good laws that are not enforced. The fact that powerful people want this law not to work further complicates the situation. That is why we call on the civil society to play an active role in advocating for the implementation of the law,” he added.

The event is part of series of activities HRC will do to increase the awareness of the public and authorities on the law.

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Somaliland Yaa u Maqan? – Who is Out there Working for Somaliland?

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The title above is a familiar cry one hears when people lament some shortcoming or problem that befalls Somaliland. It’s one we heard when the droughts hit or when political disagreements threatened to unravel the whole place. Yet, it is actually a pertinent question. It implies that there are people out there busy working on behalf of Somaliland (for its peace, security, progress and recognition). But who are they and maxay ku maqanyhiin?
At this point, in most articles containing the word Somaliland, there usually comes the breathless speech about five days of independence, 18th May, elections and the strive for recognition. I will not bother with that, as this is really aimed at Somalilanders who already know all the details off by heart. Let Mr Mikael Torstensson sing it to Swedes.
I will not deny the massive strides Somaliland made in the last twenty-seven years. It indeed made great progress and it’s my strong belief, that one day, it will achieve that elusive international recognition (not from Sheffield, Cardiff or Tower Hamlets, mind). But before I ululate or applaud the progress, I think my point would be better made if we go back right to the point of having a country named Somaliland.
The idea of a nation (at least to my simple mind) is one that has a collection of people aiming for the same purpose and working towards a goal of collective prosperity and progress. The two manifest themselves in the presence of peace, education/employment and health. Today, Somaliland is relatively peaceful and more prosperous than it was twenty-years ago. It has a countless number of universities and the government has dedicated a sizeable chunk of its budget to education. Businesses are springing up every day, lavish structures are being built and the country even has a national broadcasting arm. For all intents and purposes, the place looks like an organised country, smells like one and, more importantly, acts like one.
Yet, Somaliland yaa u maqan? Hundreds of thousands of diasporas send remittances every month. In addition, many of them have taken up the cause of Somaliland in their adoptive countries and are actively trying to sell the idea of recognition to whomever would listen. The goal is clear, the plan is set and all it seemly requires is to never give up, never let up and never stop.
The diaspora is also involved in a side business of supporting the various Somaliland political parties. Kulmiye, Ucid and Wadani have representatives in most countries. They meet, they collect money for the party and organise big events every time a big fish visits from Somaliland. The activism is vibrant, it’s alive and it keeps on whirring on behalf of Muse, Faysal or Abdirahman. The dedication is genuine and the belief is blind.
These same people also run their own familial projects. When a tribal member is ill, a murder takes place or a mosque in their native village requires funds, they band together and run around amongst the clan to collect the tributes. As you can see, at least superficially, Somaliland clearly ‘dad baa u maqan’. Alas, is that really what they’re there for?
Distance has its advantages and disadvantages and I feel that the disadvantages seem to play a bigger part in the case of Somaliland. For in the rush to achieve the recognition or help build the country, many have taken their eyes off the ball and forgot the simple steps of creating a nation. Side issues became more important than the most essential objectives. For example, Somaliland suffers from chronic poverty and serious institutional problems yet people are busy collecting money to build a mosque in areas where great big mosques already exist. Some school and government buildings are in dire state of repair yet Somaliland TV has a branch in the UK. Many roads are a danger to drive on yet the country has embassies and ambassadors in a number of major countries. I choose not to talk about the transient problem of inflation here. That’s due to government policy and the diaspora is not likely to affect it one way or the other.
The question then is, again, Somaliland yaa u maqan? Do the diaspora operate only as cheerleaders and endless pots of money that keeps propping up Somaliland? Does their expertise and “waayo argnimo” limit itself to finding ways to achieve recognition or advising a political party on how to win an election? Is their patriotism confined to singing the praises of Somaliland without pointing out the obvious wastage and mismanagement?
A case in point here is the Burco hospital. Burco is considered the second most populous city in Somaliland. Therefore, one would expect that such a large city would boast a half decent hospital. However, should anyone decide to visit the place, they would be shocked by the lack of equipment, the filthy conditions and mismanagement. Some diaspora is in the process of collecting donations for this hospital. But would that really solve the problem? I mean a hospital can be underfunded yet still remain a sterilised and clean place (or at least show that some attempt was made to keep it clean). This does not happen in Burco hospital. For I have seen pictures of the place taken in the 1990s and I have seen further pictures taken in late 2017. The place didn’t look clean in the 90s and, if anything, it seems to have deteriorated in 2017. Remember, this is a major hospital in one of the biggest cities of a country that has embassies in London, Dubai and Sweden. A country that has radio stations and a national TV.
It seems that every place that would show the world that Somaliland is a healthy, independent and upcoming country has been renovated, supported and sustained. The airport (where diaspora and foreigners come) looks great. Embassies where diaspora can boast about the progress of their nation and the outside world can begin to take Somaliland seriously have been allocated a budget. The national TV Station (and probably one or two government news websites) have been adequately financed. All in order to magnify and amplify the idea that Somaliland is a country on the up. People cheered when Zack Goldsmith talked about the results of the Somaliland elections in the British House of Commons. Others donned the humanitarian garb and went on fighting FGM; “it kills women” they shouted. And, of course, it does. But one assumes that these same one-eyed FGM warriors have visited the Burco hospital in their quest to fight the FGM menace. Have they not seen the conditions of the place? Did it not occur to them to raise a fuss about it? Surely a by-product of doing so would have aided their mission. Again, one assumes a woman or a girl that suffers complications from a botched FGM procedure would need to visit some hospital. What hospital? THAT hospital?
Somaliland dad baa u maqan. Politically it is somewhat a healthy country. But dadka u maqan really need to work on raising awareness on its administrative shortcomings alongside the sterling work they’re already doing on advertising the country. The discussion of the place needs to be turned on its head. Leave the trips of the president to the locals, pay no attention to the wails of the Suldans and don’t worry yourself too much about the arguments with Somalia. Share your waayo aragnimo and tell someone to clean that damn toilet (picture on top).
Ahmed H
London, UK

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Somaliland Youth: Between the Maqas and Magafe

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Many would shrug and say the Arab is criticizing the blessed land again. They will defend their foolishness by arguing that Somaliland is a poor and young country that has a long way to go before it reaches maturity. They will make excuses for the police, the government and the wadaad mafia. They’ll boast of the recent democratic elections.

But what’s the point of democracy if it’s not applied. What’s democratic about being humiliated in the street by your own police? Where are all those women (and they’re mostly women) who arranged the casho sharafs, organised parties and collected hundreds of thousands for the ruling party only to see their sons, brothers or cousins forcibly having their hair cut in the street?

The minister of religious affairs supports and encourages such things. This is a man who is supposedly knowledgeable about the history of his faith. Does he then not know that most descriptions of the companions of the prophet portray them as men with long flowing hair? In fact, I challenge him to go back over the history and mention five with short hair (natural baldness not withstanding). He mentions a hadeeth about following a lizard into its hole, as an analogy of Muslims copying non Muslims when he’s already comfortably ensconced in the hole. Why give TV interviews, sit in an office and face cameras when you could have easily kept your “dhaqan” by doing all of this under a tree? Why accept that the Georgian calendar was forced on you for practical reasons but not extend the benefit of the doubt to the young kids and accept that, in same cases, the long hair is forced on them due to poverty. The man is FAT and well fed. He’s well paid and I doubt he actually does any work. This leaves him with the only thing left to his type of mafia Salafis, grandstanding and pointless virtue.

It’s not as if the country is not suffering from poverty and droughts. It’s not as if the young are not jobless and hopeless. It’s not as if thousands of them (men, and that most precious of creatures to the heart of a Mullah, women) have not taken their lives in their hands and thrown it in the sea. It’s not as if their parents and relatives in the diaspora have not been complaining about it. It’s not as if the vast majority of the population are made of young people. What exactly does this crazy wadaad and his ilk want? What do they think the consequences of their actions will be?

Fadhomooy, you sold your gold in support of Kulmiye. To what end? Caashaay, you set up a WhatsApp group to help Wadani. To what purpose? Suubanaay what does your UCID FB group discuss? What did your efforts give you? Mujaahid Maqas is what you got. Picking on kids and humiliating them in the streets. Talking about a great future for Somaliland when it’s that future that’s getting assaulted and having its rights abused.

It’s all good and well to arrest people but you then have to put them in front of a judge who must rule on their guilt. This attack by Mujaahid Maqas and his Mullah Mafia must by condemned in the strongest terms.

 

Written by: Ahmed H. M – London, UK

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