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The 10 Somalis who shaped the decade




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 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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Arts and Culture

Why would Americans rather drive their car for days than take the train?




In the USA, taking a train is more complicated than flying or driving. Train stations are in shady neighborhoods where you don’t want to walk or park your car. In Europe and Asia, the stations are in the center and you can hop on the Metro train from the main train station.

Further, in the USA, freight rail takes the right-of-way, so your train may be delayed 12 hours or so. It’s not convenient. It’s more of an ‘experience’ to take the train than a convenience.


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The story of a London woman who lay dead unnoticed for two years




Joyce Vincent was a 38-year-old woman from London with a family and friends. It over two years for people to realize she had died.

Joyce Vincent’s apartment that is on the messy side with piles of unopened mail by the door and a sink full of dishes. There’s a glow from the television playing BBC1 and a pile of wrapped Christmas presents waiting to be sent out.

This was the state of the apartment that belonged to Joyce Vincent when officials from a north London housing association entered it. Vincent was there too. However, she was almost entirely unidentifiable. Her body was mostly decomposed, as she had been dead for just over two years.

Joyce lived in London in a bedsit, a type of social housing in the United Kingdom. The officials who came to her apartment on January 5, 2006 were there to repossess it due to unpaid rent. Though, it’s estimated that she died sometime in December of 2003.

Neighbors didn’t really know her, thus didn’t really notice her absence. The only detectable thing was a bad smell, which they attributed to garbage bins below the apartment.

Joyce was found on the floor, clutching a shopping bag. Because her remains were mostly skeletal, she was only able to be identified through dental records. It also had been too long to determine a cause of death, though police suggested she died of natural causes after a criminal investigation ruled out any foul play. Joyce reportedly had asthma and it’s been speculated that she may have had an attack.

With a cause of death essentially placed, only one question remained: how could someone be dead for two years and no one take notice?

Not that anyone deserves to die and go unnoticed for several years, but it was particularly strange that nobody seemed to know Joyce Vincent had passed away. She was 38 years old, she worked for most of her life, she had family and friends, and wasn’t known to be on drugs or in any legal trouble.

Carol Morley, a filmmaker who read about Joyce in the news, was so perplexed by the story that she decided to make a documentary title Dreams of a Life on it. In doing so, she tracked down people like ex-boyfriends and old colleagues of Joyce who could possibly shed some light on her mysterious death.

Martin Lister had dated Joyce Vincent for three years and kept in touch with her sporadically until 2002. He only learned of her death when he saw Morley’s ad for people connected to Joyce. The revelation shocked him as he told Morely that she was a hard worker who had great jobs.

Lister was also surprised that she had been living in public housing.

“You look back and think, I wish I’d asked more, wish I’d understood more,” he told Morley.

As more people came forward and more details emerged, it seemed that Joyce’s life was shrouded in mystery.

She had worked for the big accounting firm Ernst & Young until she quit in 2001 without giving a reason. Colleagues recalled conflicting stories about her departure. Some said she was traveling with a group of 20 people, others said she had been headhunted for another job.

An article from the Glasgow Herald reported that friends categorised her as someone “who walked out of jobs if she clashed with a colleague, and who moved from one flat to the next all over London. She didn’t answer the phone to her sister and didn’t appear to have her own circle of friends, instead relying on the company of relative strangers who came with the package of a new boyfriend, a colleague, or flatmate.”

It was also revealed that Joyce spent time between her departure from the firm and her death in a home for refugees of domestic violence.

As for family, she was the youngest of five sisters but the only one living in the U.K. Her father worked as a carpenter and her mother died when she was just a child.

Joyce had apparently isolated herself from her family in the years before her death, presumably because of the man she had chosen to date.

While the amount of time that went by after Joyce Vincent’s death continues to be baffling, it’s become clear that the life she seemed to lead didn’t always match up with what was happening beneath the surface.

It’s an ironic and coincidental tale. In the age of social media, where everyone is so connected, the idea that a seemingly average person could remain dead for over two years without anyone raising a question sounds crazy. But at the same time, just as people have a tendency to post their best selves on social media, it’s possible Joyce Vincent did this in real life. Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors.

Joyce Vincent’s story is as sad as it is strange. People like Martin Lister who knew her and found out about her death wished that they’d had stayed in contact and checked in with her more often. It serves as a reminder that person-to-person communication still has its place and is important.

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Cristiano Ronaldo has stopped dribbling but Messi hasn’t. Here’s why.




Cristiano Ronaldo, over the years, has made many changes to his approach towards games in recent years and is more of prolific goalscorer.

The Portuguese even admitted he no longer walks onto the pitch wanting to dribble past everyone.

The former Juventus and Real Madrid man was once regarded as one of the fastest players in the world but as age has caught up with him, he is no longer the pacy winger the world witnessed in his early Madrid and Manchester United days.

Ronaldo has a different mentality to Messi. Ronaldo is described by teammates and coaches as borderline insane in how obsessed he is with winning and scoring.

As a result of playing in the UK where skill is less regarded, some natural talent, as well as this abnormal obsession with personal success, we ended up with a player who became a goal-scoring machine. He doesn’t have time to dribble. You can see that efficiency is at the heart of all of his movement and play.

Ronaldo was magnificent in his first season or two. He was skillful. He was magnificent. And probably the most skillful European player ever at that age. Other notable players in that category are Bergkamp, Henry, Figo, Mbappe.

However, with Ferguson as a guide and teammates who only cared about winning, his ‘new style’ made him an automatic choice in the starting team and within a year or two best player in the EPL.

So his dribbling stopped in England. If he does now it’s just to make a small space to shoot or score.

Messi is just a different kettle of fish. He is a South American (skill is highly rated there) and was raised in best academy for producing skillful players in Europe. Therefore his game has a somewhat European efficiency but he retained the South American style.

On a body mechanics level, he is a left footer which makes the angle he dribbles at harder to defend, he is tiny, insanely quick and very strong. Therefore his skill works more or less all the time. He hasn’t ‘needed’ to adapt his game to have success. That’s why he is somewhat one dimensional but for Barcelona with such other great players around he is an immortal.

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