Monday, April 27, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Hargeisa, Somaliland
April 26, 2009

I have had an occasion many times in the past to train all sorts of people in Somaliland in the last five years. However, never before have I spent four weeks training a group of young journalists that were so eager to learn that staying late into the depressing heat of the scorching afternoon sun for more learning was a pleasure to them.

The story of these young Somali journalists; and they came from all the regions of former Somalia Republic; now divided into Somaliland, Puntland and Somalia is an intriguing one. Although Puntland is an autonomous region with its president, it has not declared independence from Somalia the way Somaliland did nearly 20 years ago.

One such journalist is SAADIA MOHAMMED, a 19 year old radio personality based right inside war-torn Mogadishu. One gets a little frightened to learn that due to circumstances beyond her control, Saadia started broadcasting at the age of 16 when in most countries such a tender age requires a child to be still in school.

Although she joined Xurmo Community Radio Station in mid 2006 just after completing her secondary education in Mogadishu, Saadia has had some training in journalism in Mogadishu and KIMC in Nairobi, something that opened her eyes to real professional journalism.

The station is owned by a local NGO called INXA (PEACE, HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK).

Soon after coming back from Nairobi, she decided to join the Indian Ocean University that operates a campus in Mogadishu.

She is now an accomplished radio producer, presenter and newscaster.
She produces two sensitive radio programmes that deal with Human Rights violations and another one called Woman’s Voice.

The two popular programmes have landed her into trouble many times with Islamic extremists who have threatened her with dire consequences if she doesn’t stop inciting women against men which to them is against Islamic teachings.

She however vows not to be cowed insisting that her freedom of expression and press freedom in Somalia are two fundamentals worth suffering for.

As a 19 year old broadcaster, Saadia lives with her mother, a former MP in Siad Barre’s government and now a widow.
Although her mother is very supportive of her as a journalist, her brothers worry and even discourage her telling her to stop broadcasting because the job is not for girls.

The young star broadcaster of Mogadishu who loves reading, writing, music and Mexican movies dreams of being a Social Commentator on National Television one day.

One Saiid Ibrahim Hussein is another Mogadishu based Somali journalist in a class of his own. He is probably the most multi-skilled young journalist I have come across.
Despite his troubled early days in Somalia soon after the war broke out, forcing him to cross borders, he is now a Chief Producer at one of Mogadishu’s independent television stations.

In his mid 20s, Bunna runs his own sports website. One more thing; Bunna is acutely aware of events happening beyond the borders of war torn Somalia and has a sharp analytical mind why Somalia will remain unstable for a long time unless the international interest groups stop meddling in his country. He believes that lawlessness and piracy are creations of the West for where else would these poor people get sophisticated arms from?

The other journalist is KHADRA KHALIIF MOHAMMED, probably the youngest journalist in the whole of Africa; thanks to his father who is a veteran journalist a former university professor and now a proud owner of a newspaper in Bosaso in Central Somalia.

Born just about the time Barre left power, her family moved from Mogadishu after the war to settle in Bosaso. She now lives with both parents in her new town while working with her father in their family newspaper.

Like Saadia and Bunna above, she has had some journalism training in Bosaso and Nairobi at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication between 2007 and 2008, courtesy of Care International.

Now she is one of the young editors in her father’s company and has written a lot about Somali pirates; a venture that has earned her ominous telephone calls and text messages from both fundamentalists and pirates themselves.

However, due to support from her parents, she has decided that Somalia and journalism are her place and calling and she has no intentions of leaving her country.

Like SAADIA Mohammed, she is in love with Mexican movies.

Mukhtar Adan Dalmar is another journalist from Baidoa, Abdulahi Yusuf’s former base before he was forced to quit power. I met Dalmar too at the Hargeisa Journalism training programme organized by Care International.

Twice a beneficiary of the Care International program, Dalmar was born in Mogadishu where he grew up and went to school. However, his schooling was interrupted between 1991 and 1995 because there were no schools in all of Somalia because there was no government.

Between 1996 and 1999 he resumed informal education in private institutions, learning different subjects like English, math, computer skills and science among other subjects.

From 1999- 2001 he enrolled for a two-year higher institute course at Somalia Institute of Management and Administration (SIMAD) to study Information Technology (IT).

As a journalist, he worked at a radio station located in Baidoa from 2004 to 2005. The station was owned by an NGO called the Democratic Concern (DMC)

From 2006 to date, he has worked as a consultant for Community Care Center in Baidoa. During the same period, he became the regional representative for the international Horn Cable TV (HCTV) based in Hargeisa.

Dalmar has benefitted from a BBC Trust training in online journalism, Community Development and Care International’s three month course in Nairobi, Kenya.

He is a self-made individual and is proud of it. And like Saadia, Bunna and Khadra among many of his colleagues I me, he has no desire to leave Somalia for any place on earth; certainly not as an economic or political refugee!

With this kind of talent and determination to make a difference in this violent region, the international community owes these young people a chance to excel. Their level of commitment is inspiring enough to know that investing in them now will make the whole region a better place to live in because their generation has seen it all and deeply believes in democratic governance and basic rights of every individual.