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The 10 Somalis who shaped the decade

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The second decade of the 21st century saw some resemblance of stability return to Somalia after two decades of anarchy.

The Frontier lists 10 Somalis who made impacts on fellow Somalis and their country.

They include game-changing politicians, activists who fought for people’s rights, filmmakers, startup and small business founders, journalists who told positive stories despite the war, conflict, and famine, religious leaders using story-telling to change society and the political system, and those who inspire others.

Hodan Nalayeh

 

Hodan Nalayeh, who grew up in Canada, returned to Somalia to highlight positive stories about her country of birth.

Nalayeh has been credited with showing a different side to Somalia to the stories of civil war, militancy, and famine.

Hodan recently returned from Canada to tell positive and inspiring stories about Somalia.

She was born in Las Anod in northern Somalia in 1976, but lived most of her life in Alberta and Toronto after her family moved to Canada in the 1980s.

In 2014, she founded Integration TV, the first English language online TV, where she shared positive, uplifting and inspiring stories among the Somali people.

She wanted to change the international media narrative on Somalia, which mainly focused on war, poverty, and piracy.

Hodan traveled across Somalia as well as the world to promote the Somali culture and art and tell success stories in Somalia and its diaspora. She focused on ordinary Somalis doing extraordinary things in the fields of business, technology, art, and culture, among others.

“Our stories are not that are not about suffering are valid and should be told more often. We are more than our pain. We are living and thriving,” she said.

A day before a horrific attack on Asasey Hotel in Kismayu in July 2019 took her life; Hodan spent the day in the Island of Ilsi near Kismayu, meeting and documenting the lives of a local fishing community.

“The island of Ilsi is an hour away from Kismayu and only local fishermen live there. It is so clean and breathtaking. A perfect place for a day swim with the family. Somalia,” she posted on Twitter.

Sheikh Abdi Hayi

Sheikh Abdi Hayi, an Imam at a Mogadishu mosque, uses stories to shape Somalia’s society and its politics. Stories matter.

People make sense of the world through stories and shape up how we understand it. Somalia requires new stories, but people will listen when they themselves are included in the story-line.

An Imam at a mosque in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, is doing exactly that, offering a new narrative to show what is possible.

Sheikh Abdi is shifting gears and is bringing new ways of telling stories in an unlikely place: a mosque.

Somalis are now giving more attention to his sermons than they would a politician’s speech. The difference between the two is obvious – Abdi’s is entertaining and informative. Politicians focus on how their clans could capture power in the next elections.

For the last three decades, politicians have failed to change the country and get it out of a 30-year-old mess. Somalia’s problems cannot be solved by doing more of the same.

New narratives like that of Sheikh Abdi’s are needed – connecting people’s motivations and promoting radical actions. Sheikh Abdi’s stories engage people’s minds, emotions and imaginations, which are drivers of real change – a change Somalia so desperately needs.

Sheikh Abdi focuses on social, cultural and political issues as well as current affairs in his Friday summons, using ‘once upon a time’ tales from pre-television and social media days, and uses examples from the Koran and Hadith – the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon on him.

“I discuss what people think are important in their lives and what interest them. You can guide people in the mosque, this should be the place to discuss what matters to people, it could also be a rehabilitation centre,” he says.

In one of his summons, the Imam discussed relations between the federal and regional governments, and the latter’s opposition to the government in Mogadishu.

“These state governments you see are not what they seem to be. It is tribal governments,” he says.

Sheikh Abdi urges Somalis to abandon clannism and work toward one Somalia.

“Our sister Ilhan Omar is fighting US President Donald Trump. Ilahn and Trump are at the same level. The US Constitution protects both of them,” he told a congregation at a mosque in Mogadishu.

“Ours is a system that no one understands. We do not have a clear path to follow. Why can’t we agree on a system that will guide us?”

Our system is like a person suffering from malaria and continues to take paracetamol drugs to relieve pain and reduce fever instead of going to see a doctor to seek medical care to eradicate the disease from his body, he says.

Sheikh Abdi’s stories are now inspiring Somali communities around the world and they are being shared across dinner tables and mobile phone screens.

Sheikh Mohamed Shakir

Sheikh Mohamed Shakir Ali Hassan is the Chief Minister of Galmudug.

He was appointed in December 2017 after a power-sharing deal between Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a. Since then, he has reshaped the politics of Galmudug State.

Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’a is a Somalia-based paramilitary group consisting of Sufis opposed to radical groups such as al Shabaab.

In a few years, Sheikh Shakir transformed Ahlu Sunna from a paramilitary group to an influential political force. Ahlu Sunnah is now a major player in central Somalia politics, mainly in Galmudug.

The group was allocated 20 members for Galmudug State Assembly although the group and the federal government disagree on election modalities for the state, and qualifications for members of the state assembly.

Abdi Aynte

Abdi Aynte spent many of his years in the early 2000s pounding the pavement in the Twin Cities, gathering stories about his community and sharing glimpses of the audacious journey many Somali-Americans undertook to earn their place in Minnesota.

In 2012, Aynte returned to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, where he started the first think-tank in the country, The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, and served as the executive director.

During that period, Mr. Aynte regularly appeared on local and international media. He also frequently spoke at international platforms and even testified before the US Senate on Somalia.

Aynte is part of the wave of Minnesota Somali-Americans who have recently begun to return to their war-ravaged homeland to help the country rise from its ruins after more than two decades of violence and anarchy.

He is a Somali politician and journalist. He previously worked for the BBC, VOA and Al Jazeera English. He was the former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Somalia, having been appointed to the position on 27 January 2015 by the then Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. He held that position until April 2017.

Aynte has also been credited with the release of the first Population Estimate Survey (PES) in Somalia in 30 years.

Although the PES sparked national controversy because it released figures for Somalia’s 18 administrative regions, it was widely welcomed as the first reliable data on population. Aynte was considered one of the most accomplished ministers during the Sharmarke Premiership.

Aynte holds M.A. in Government and International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, and a B.A. in Journalism and Political Science from the Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He was responsible for planning and delivering the International London Conference on Somalia in May 2017.

In November 2017, Aynte joined the United Nations as Director of Policy Planning and Strategy based in the Middle East.

Deeq Hassan

Deeq Hassan has developed a mobile app that allows people to order meals and groceries from restaurants and supermarkets, and have them delivered to their doors by the startup’s delivery partners.

The startup was launched after husband and wife Deeq Mohamed Hassan and Sado Ali Baroot moved back to Hargeisa from London and realised there was a huge gap in the market.

“We had to buy lots of stuff for the house and sometimes needed delivery people ourselves, but we could not find any company that covered the last mile,” Deeq said.

“Usually, trusted taxi drivers run such errands, but they are too expensive and you don’t always get exactly what you ordered. So we decided to do a quick assessment and we realised that we were not the only ones that wanted such a service and were ready to pay for it. That’s when my wife said “maybe we should start a delivery company”, and the rest is history.”

It turned out there was quite a demand. Deeq and Sado funded the business from their savings initially, but raised funding from a local angel investor after one month of testing. With this backing, Gulivery was able to build its app and go to the next level.

Gulivery made over 700 deliveries in the first 10 weeks alone in Hargeisa. After one month, they started receiving lots of calls from Mogadishu, from people that wanted us to come there as well.

Gulivery initially had no direct competition, but after it launched in Mogadishu a handful of new delivery companies began operating.

The company made over 500 deliveries in its first month of operation in Mogadishu. Gulivery now has close to 2,000 people signed up for its platform, with around seven percent of those ordering at least two times per month.

Mohamed Sheikh

Mohamed was a pioneer, a believer in a better Somalia, a passionate advocate for Mogadishu, and a rebel determined to create a better future out of the rubble of a devastating civil war.

In 2012, he came into the limelight when he opened Somalia’s first dry cleaner and flower shop in decades.

Forever curious, he got the idea after noticing businessmen and government officials taking their suits abroad to get them cleaned. A year later, he opened the city’s first flower shop—a much-needed, hopeful, and romantic injection into a nation taking baby steps out of over two decades of war.

Mohamed founded Startup Grind Mogadishu, an affiliate of the Google-powered global startup community aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs.

He was also a judge on the Inspire Somalia television show, which gave budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch and bring their dreams to fruition.

Through his actions and ambitious business plans, Mohamed was an exemplar of a buoyant city, showing those in and out what could be done to revive war-torn Somalia.

He was also a judge on the Inspire Somalia television show, which gave budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch and bring their dreams to fruition.

Through his actions and ambitious business plans, Mohamed was an exemplar of a buoyant city, showing those in and out what could be done to revive war-torn Somalia.

In 2013, during a TED talk, he said, for him, it wasn’t “only about opening up a business, it’s about bringing something that people need.”

In August 2012, gunmen assaulted him in Mogadishu. He was later pronounced dead after undergoing surgery.

 

Harun Maaruf

Harun Maruf has almost 30 years of experience in journalism. He is one of the founders of the independent Somali media, which emerged after the collapse of the repressive government in 1991.

In the past, he worked for Associated Press and BBC as a reporter in Somalia. Harun is the longest-serving editor of VOA Somali, from July 2008 until today just eight months after joining the Service.

In addition to his responsibilities as a senior editor, he introduced hard-hitting programs at VOA Somali including investigative reports and series programs.

In March 2018, he launched The Investigative Dossier, a bi-weekly, groundbreaking investigative program and the first of its kind by Somali media.

Harun calls it the greatest journalism work in his career. His work influenced policy changes by the Somali government.

Many media outlets rely on his tweets for stories related to Somalia. He provides breaking and exclusive news.

 

Mohamed Omer

Mohamed is a life coach. Mohamed speaks of the emotionally crippling challenges that the Somali youth face in the post-civil war era and how that inspired him to establish The Success Institute for Human Development.

He is a certified business and performance coach, consultant, mentor and Somalia’s most popular keynote speaker on business, life, and leadership.

He has spent the past decade coaching, teaching, and motivating millions of Somalis online and offline.

His practical and contextualised advice and life strategies help people gain clarity and create positive change from the inside out leading to tangible results and skills that help people push through the everyday challenges we all face in life, work, and love.

He is the most booked Somali speaker across the world making him an authority in the industry whose work comes both in Somali and in English.

He works with people; businesses and non-profits helping them push through challenges, produce worthy results and lead a meaningful existence.

Mohamed takes great passion in maximising human potential. Hence, his engaging and world-class training workshops, lectures and stylish coaching programs deliver powerful life and leadership empowerment messages and cultivates energy of change.

His social media platforms inspire more than quarter million people every month and his TEDx Talk is one of the most popular of all time ever done by a Somali.

Almaas Eman

Almaas came from a family of prominent activists and gained a reputation as a tireless advocate for survivors of sexual violence.

She supported the organization that her mother, Fartuun Elman, runs with Almaas’ sister, Ilwad.

The group has supported countless survivors of sexual violence as well as former child soldiers from various armed groups. Her father, Elman Ali Ahmed, was a peace activist who was assassinated in Mogadishu in 1996. She was a committed civil society campaigner

On November 20, Almas was killed by a bullet in Mogadishu while driving from a meeting in the heavily fortified Halane compound, near the international airport.

It is unclear whether she was targeted or hit by a stray bullet, possibly fired by one of the many local, regional, or international security forces present in the area.

Almaas was not only an important role model, but also an incredibly warm and humble individual.

Aato

Aato is a Somali-American film director, producer, entrepreneur and media consultant.

He is the founder of Olol Films, a production company at the forefront of the Somaliwood movement within the Somali film industry.

He is the founder of Art & Creativity House of Somalia. Aato launched Bartamaha, a multimedia website dedicated to Somali music, short films, news, and culture. He hosts the weekly television and online program the Wargelin Show, which focuses on Somali politics and society.

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People and Organisations

Meet the young CEO who is revolutionising Kenya’s private security industry

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Is your career path pegged on your childhood experiences? Does this sound silly? Wait, don’t make your conclusion yet until we get to hear from Siyad Abdigedi, the founder and CEO of Guardeum Security Services Company.

Sometimes our childhood experiences and the exposure life take us through as a child has a great impact in our career choice.

The above statement has never gotten a better meaning without hearing from the 32-year old CEO. In an interview with Siyad Abdigedi, he gives us a glimpse of how his life experiences has greatly influenced him to join the military and later the private security sector.

In a visit to his vast office located at view park towers, the young CEO narrates how his life growing up in a volatile border town in northeast Kenya has shaped his career path.

I was born and raised in Mandera. Mandera is a beautiful town situated at the Horn of Kenya, bordering both Ethiopia and Somalia,” Siyad told The Frontier.

As a child, life in Mandera was not all roses; the Shifta movement in the 90’s, the influx of illegal immigrants and guns were just but a few reasons that made life hard,” he says.

The situation was very harsh and volatile, all that the residents were yearning for was security and protection, he adds.

As a child, Siyad could still graphically remember how his younger siblings and him would all cling onto their mother’s legs as loud bangs of explosions rented the air. Some nights they would spend under the beds to avoid stray bullets.

In Buula Hawa, the neighboring town in Somalia, each year started with a war and ended with a war, and due to its proximity, Mandera has always suffered collateral damages.

All siyad wanted was to be in a position that allowed him to provide protection to his family and people, and this saw him join the military years later.

Siyad, an alumnus of Makindu High School, joined the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in 2007, and in just years of service, he rose to the rank of sergeant. He also served in several UN peace keeping missions. After 13 years in the military, Siyad decided to call it quits.

“It was an interesting career…I really enjoyed being in the Kenya Air Force, it was 13 years behind the gun and now it is time to pursue my ambition,” he said.

“After all change is as good as rest.”

Siyad Abdigedi in his office at View Park Towers

Siyad always wanted to join the corporate world. In 2018, he registered Guardeum security Limited which has since joined Kenya private security industry association.

Just two years in the market, Guardeum is already doing business with some of the leading companies in the country.

Despite being from a humble background, Siyad somehow managed to beat the odds. He has a degree in criminology and Security Studies from Egerton university and MBA in Strategic Management from Mount Kenya University.

“Most of my school fees were paid for by my wife Sophia by the way,” he says, a broad smile on his face.

“I owe her a lot.”

Siyad is a firm believer that work experience matters. He has spent more time in the security sector and have been through battle fields. He believes security background gives credibility to the work he does now.

“I am making sure the 13 years’ experience in the military won’t go down the drain,” he vowed.

Guardeum Security Services has a vision to provide security solutions, protection and investigations in Kenya and abroad while promoting a business culture founded on dedication, development, effectiveness, innovation, respect, team work and trust.

His extensive operational and command experience in areas such as counter terrorism, VIP protection and training elite units makes Guardeum a uniquely experienced company.

“Driven by passion, I grew up knowing I needed to give protection and I would do what it takes to do that,” he says, again with a smile.

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People and Organisations

Meet the little-known Somali who ‘secretly’ funded the Mau Mau that fought for Kenya’s independence

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Mau Mau, a major nationalist revolutionary movement that originally sought to reclaim land that the British settlers had taken away from them in the 1950s. The group would eventually contribute to Kenya’s independence. Pic credit: Daily Nation
   

Mohamed Hassan has been described as one of the freedom fighters of Kenya who funded the nationalist movement Kenya African Union (KAU) and the Mau Mau, a major nationalist revolutionary movement that originally sought to reclaim land that the British settlers had taken away from them in the 1950s. The group would eventually contribute to Kenya’s independence.

Despite his enormous contributions, when discussing the history of Kenya’s struggle for independence, Hassan is usually ignored and this is mainly because he is Somali.

According to historians, Somalis in Kenya, who are over 3 million currently, were largely ‘ostracised’ after Kenya gained independence. This was caused by the Shifta War that followed a desire by the Somalis to join the larger Somalia.

the British government refused and the Kenyan government, since 1963, has held on to the borders. Somali nationalists seeking secession from Kenya eventually took arms against the Kenyan government, and even though the war was over by July 1967, it has influenced Kenya-Somalia relations till date.

That is perhaps why the story of Somali businessman and freedom fighter Hassan has been hardly discussed until recently when a full report on him by Kenyan media Daily Nation emerged.

According to the report, Hassan, who was in the famous 1946 picture of Jomo Kenyatta with top officials of the KAU, was a heavy financier of Kenyatta, and probably the only Somali detained during the Mau Mau war.

Mohammed Hassan is seated (far right) with other KAU leaders in this 1946 photo. Pic credit: Daily Nation

Largely targeted by the colonial government, he lost all his businesses and properties in the process of his fight towards an independent Kenya, but his story remained buried until now.

Born in 1922, Hassan was only 16 when he had to take over his father’s business after the latter’s death. Around this time, Hassan was the only Muslim student in Alliance High School, but his education was interrupted by the father’s death and the World War II.

A Swedish entrepreneur subsequently gave him land on which he built a shop in Juja, a town in Kiambu County. This shop would ultimately be the meeting point of Mau Mau guerrillas at the start of the crackdown.

Meanwhile, Hassan’s schoolmates in Alliance were made up of individuals who would become nationalist leaders and activists. Hassan would eventually find himself at the centre of the freedom struggle among his peers, the Daily Nation report said. His shop in Juja also thrived following the tens of settlers who had settled in the area, including the famous U.S. steel billionaire Sir William Northrup McMillan.

“Because of its location, especially in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the shopping complex offered restaurant and butchery services and had three entrances: one for the European settlers, one for Asians and Arabs, and another for Africans. It also had a petrol pump and records say it was one of the best-lit areas in Juja,” writes the Daily Nation.

Hassan’s shop was also frequented by Kenyatta and his supporters in the 1940s and 50s, while he was campaigning to strengthen KAU as a nationalist movement. According to the Daily Nation report, Kenyatta, who would become Kenya’s first president, had once visited the shop to get some money, and Hassan would eventually become one of Kenyatta’s financial supporters.

But when the State of Emergency was declared in Kenya in 1952 due to the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule and incarceration of thousands of Kenyans, Hassan’s shop was ordered to be closed as he was seen to be supporting the Mau Mau secretly.

“All persons who are members of the Kikuyu, Embu or Meru tribe from being or remaining in … the block of stone shops known as Juja dukas on LR 255/1/2 on the main Nairobi-Thika Road,” read a colonial order issued against Hassan’s property in July 1954.

That same year, Hassan was arrested by the colonial government and charged, but later acquitted of possessing a firearm without a valid license. He would later make attempts to get back his shop that was forcibly taken away from loyalists and other traders during the crackdown on the Mau Mau in the 1950s.

Hassan’s several attempts to get back his shop and renew his license failed after he was described by as authorities as a “bloody Mau Mau.” The Somali businessman was compelled to close the shop and it was occupied by some Indian traders after independence.

In 2017, when Hassan’s daughter, Amina Mohammed was asked by the Daily Nation whether the family owned the shop, she replied: “We don’t know whether we still own it. But my mother (now deceased) used to tell me that the shop, as it is today, was the way it was left by my father.”

Today, Hassan’s shop, which is currently one of the remaining pillars of Kenya’s independence struggle, is rotting away.

Despite being a structure that contains the history of the freedom movement and inter-race relations in colonial Kenya, as well as, the story of the place of the Somali community in the freedom struggle, it has been ignored by authorities.

Hassan died in Nairobi in 1977 – dejected. Many Somalis in Kenya have also, till date, been treated with suspicion following their links to Islamist extremism, particularly the terror group al Shabaab based in Somalia.

 

This article first appeared on Face2FaceAfrica. 

 

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People and Organisations

Profile: Who is Hassan Ali Khaire?

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Somali parliament voted to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre from office on July 25.

Lawmakers supported the ouster of Khayre to 170-8, according to Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is required to name a new premier in 30 days, but is expected to do so in days to move the country forward. Meanwhile, Mahdi Guled, the deputy premier, will act as a prime minister.

Khayre was appointed as prime minister on February 23, 2017 and approved by parliament on March 1, with 231 lawmakers endorsing his selection.

He was born in the central Somalia town of Jacar in Galgaduud province in 1968. He attended both primary and secondary schools in Mogadishu. At the onset of the civil war, Khaire moved as a refugee to Norway in 1991, where he enrolled at the University of Oslo in 1994. He is a dual citizen of Norway and Somalia.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Oslo in political science and an MBA from Edinburgh Business School.

In 2002, he joined the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and served in various senior roles including area manager, country director, and, eventually, Regional Director for the Horn of Africa.

In 2013, he joined Soma Oil & Gas as Executive Director for Africa, where he served until his appointment as premier.

In June 2012, when Khaire served as regional director for the NRC, an NRC caravan was attacked in northeastern Kenya, one of the drivers was killed and several others were wounded, and six workers   – a Norwegian, a Canadian, a Pakistani and a Filipino – were kidnapped.

Khaire has been under investigation for corruption when working for the British company Soma Oil, but the investigation was dropped because of lack of evidence.

On 23 February 2017, Khayre announced his resignation from Soma Oil & Gas.

Before becoming prime minister, Khaire never held a public office, although over the course of his career he has worked with a range of high-level executives and government officials in various capacities.

As prime minister, Khayre vowed to tackle corruption by prosecuting individuals involved, regardless of their position, however, no senior official was prosecuted for corruption.

During his tenure, Somalia achieved so much: debt relief, security sector reform, payment of civil servants and the military, among others.

Khayre is likely to run for president in the upcoming election.

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