Category Archives: Djibouti

A new film set in Djibouti City presents a searing class critique of Somali girlhood.

In the popular imagination, Somali women are viewed as passive, oppressed subjects, the hapless victims of their patriarchal culture and religion. Where they are visible, it is often through the iconography of the veil and female circumcision.

A new film set in Djibouti City presents a searing class critique of Somali girlhood.

Lula Ali Ismaïl’s Dhalinyaro (Youth)—the first full-length feature film by a Djiboutian woman—is a radical departure from this corpus in depicting Somali girlhood in its full depth and complexity. Most importantly, it does this through depicting the mundane events of everyday life in Djibouti City. There are no wars here, or pirates, or terrorists, no young women escaping fathers, husbands, or the blade of a female elder, no white saviors ready for the rescue. What we see in Dhalinyaro is a coming of age story that shows Somali girls as they are.

The film’s storyline revolves around the final qualification examination for Djiboutian secondary students to enter university, the baccalaureate. The three main characters, Deka, Hibo, and Asma, are classmates at the Lycée de Djibouti but hail from markedly different class backgrounds. The Lycée space becomes one where the different segments of Djibouti’s population interact and form friendships, bonding over the shared ritual of studying for the baccalaureate. Yet, it is the question of higher education that renders class divides most explicit. For wealthy Hibo, who arrives at the Lycée each day in a chauffeured private car, there is no question that she will continue her education in Paris. Deka, who is securely middle class, is less certain, but with the funds saved up by her mother over a number of years, the idea of going to France for university is within the realm of the possible. Asma has no such choices available to her; poverty dictates that she must stay in Djibouti, unless she is among the few top students to receive a scholarship to study abroad.

The palpable burden of class difference saturates the film. One shot silently juxtaposes a well-dressed man at a cafe with a young boy on the street as he hands his shoes to the child to polish while drinking coffee. In another shot, women in wide-brimmed sun hats sweep the city streets at dusk to the sounds of ciyaar Soomaali, a traditional Somali folk dance. It is palpable in Asma’s hesitation to attend Hibo’s birthday party at the luxury Djibouti Palace Kempinski, and in the fuul bean stew her family eats at mealtimes, like the poor neighborhood children that come to Deka’s home for bread. When Hibo gets into an altercation with a group of schoolgirls outside of the Lycée, she disparages them as the “stupid Balabois”—residents of the impoverished Balbala suburb. An angered Asma, who tells her that she is “one of them,” accuses Hibo of believing that her wealth gives her more rights. Over the course of the film, Hibo’s character arc moves from a sheltered and careless rich girl to a more understanding and self-sufficient individual, a transformation made possible by honest friendships across difference.

The stunning cinematography with long shots of the sea and glimpses of the Port of Djibouti subtly signals the confluence and contradictions of global wealth and local poverty. This infrastructure of state capitalism—and, at the end of the film, the national radio broadcasting examination results—are the only glimpses of the state or politics in Dhalinyaro. Djibouti is among the most enduring dictatorships in Africa, ruled by an extended family since its independence from France in 1977. Its ruler, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, is famously a patron of the arts and culture, and Lula Ali Ismaïl has described the support she received for the film from both the private sector and a government eager to develop the country’s nascent film industry. While one can wonder about the possible implications of this government hand for artistic freedom, Ismaïl’s decision not to engage formal politics explicitly is another subversive act of representation, given that the region is mired in images of political dysfunction. Ismaïl’s political critique is muted and indirect, but no less searing. It takes the form of a city-wide power outage that forces the “haves” to turn on their private generators and the “have-nots” to light lanterns; it is in the figure of the elderly veteran telling Deka the forgotten stories of Djiboutian soldiers who fought for France during the Second World War; it is, at the metalevel, what the film itself embodies in its very existence, in its very refusal to conform.

What Dhalinyaro foregrounds is female sociality and intimacy as it unravels the complex layers of contemporary Djiboutian life. The film has a decidedly female gaze, decentering maleness to the extent that most of the male characters in the film remain marginal and unnamed. Instead, it is the inner worlds of Somali women that are fleshed out in full, and with the immense care and tenderness of a Somali woman behind the camera. When Hibo has a miscarriage in a bathroom stall at school, it is the conservatively-dressed Asma who immediately removes her abaya to cover her friend’s blood-stained clothing, stating that “girls look out for each other.” They openly discuss sexuality and their relationships, the lively female banter reminiscent of the Somali riwaayad (play) and theater tradition that has pushed the envelope on notions of female morality and modesty in Somali society since the 1960s. Markers of Somali womanhood are interspersed throughout the film: the breezy dirac shiid worn as loungewear at home, the fragrant uunsi smoke used to perfume one’s household, clothing and hair, the huruud face masks made of turmeric to keep one’s skin soft.

At the heart of Dhalinyaro is the tension between visibility and invisibility in the desire for a particular kind of freedom. In an early scene, Deka, Hibo, and Asma quietly talk at their desks as their teacher—played by Lula Ali Ismaïl herself—explains the upcoming deadlines for students seeking to go abroad for university. “Think of the freedom!” Deka whispers to her friends, “no one holding you to account, no one looking at you and saying ‘you’re the daughter of so and so.’” These moments of recognition occur most often in their encounters with men. As the girls sit by the waterfront and jokingly evaluate the appearances of young men passing by, a man pauses and greets Hibo, telling her to say hello to her father for him. “There’s no getting away!” an exasperated Hibo tells her friends. In another scene, the searching glance of a male waiter at a restaurant where Deka is having an intimate dinner with the older married man she is seeing is enough to unsettle her and abruptly end the date. Yet, it is the same surveilling gaze—this time by women—that precipitates the end to the predatory relationship, after Deka’s mother hears about it. The communal nature of the Somali social world, while frustrating any notion of individual anonymity, fosters a sense of interdependence and female solidarity that uplifts the girls in times of need, as their friendship illustrates. Ultimately, Deka chooses this world by staying in Djibouti for university.

Ethnicity is conspicuously absent from the film. Djibouti, while dominated politically, culturally and demographically by Somalis, is a multi-ethnic country comprised of the Somali and Afar, as well as smaller communities of Arabs, Ethiopians and Europeans. That diversity is represented in the casting, with the three lead actresses themselves belonging to Djibouti’s different ethnic groups: one is Afar, one is Somali, and one is Arab Somali. Yet each plays a Somali character, in a Djibouti where only Somali people and culture appear to exist. However, there is some ambiguity to Hibo’s background that is not discernible to the non-Somali speaker and flattened by the limited subtitles. In the scene where Hibo is confronted on the schoolyard, a voice in the background, which does not make it into the subtitles, can be heard saying “the little Arab girl is being attacked!” in Somali. Her father, in other scenes, speaks one or two words of Arabic, albeit words that have entered the Somali lexicon. Asma and Deka’s households are completely immersed in their Somaliness, with illustrative scenes including Asma’s sisters playing jag on the veranda as their mother gives them advice using Somali proverbs, and Deka’s single mother listening to gabay poetry composed by a heartbroken Cilmi Boodhari. Hibo’s family, on the other hand, only speaks Somali at home when talking to their maid; they converse in French exclusively between themselves, listen to European classical music during formal dinners, and go to France for education. There is an unexamined politics of language and ethnicity yearning to be explored.

Dhalinyaro is a remarkable feat, particularly for a first full-length film by a self-taught filmmaker hailing from a country with a film industry still in its infancy. Though initially released in 2018, it has recently seen a surge in popularity when it was made available for free streaming as part of this year’s Cinewax Online African Film Festival, breaking OAFF streaming records. It is a beautiful film—a love letter to Somali girls—that deserves to be seen widely.

Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in Somali, with traditions old and new.

When it comes to weddings, Somalia has many approaches. Some couples stick with tradition while others go for more modern marriage ceremonies.

This film tells the story of two weddings, one in a small desert village and the other in a busy city, while highlighting everyday life in different parts of the country. It also contrasts traditional ways of life with modern ideas that come from younger Somalis and social media.

In the remote rural village of Toon, herder Jamalli Muhammad Ahmed can only marry a local woman called  Hoda after first getting permission from her family. In a tradition going back generations, they all gather in the shade of a large tree to decide whether they are a suitable match. Only then can Jamalli and Hoda start planning their lives together.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW
Jamalli and Hoda’s wedding followed traditional Somali customs [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Abdullatif Deeq Omar in Hargeisa city, however, first met his future wife Najma on Facebook. They eloped but eventually returned to their families who accepted their marriage plans.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW
Abdullatif and Najma’s ceremony was in the city of Hargeisa [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Both weddings have the same pressures: buying outfits, inviting guests, finding a venue and arranging feasts – but each tells a unique story of family, community and tradition.

In Somali culture, many people also believe that getting married in the run-up to Ramadan ensures additional blessings on the couple, making the happy occasion even more special.

 

  1. Continue reading Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in Somali, with traditions old and new.

Bihi, Farmajo Meeting To Feature In Ethiopia PM’s Talks

Bihi, Farmajo Meeting To Feature In Ethiopia PM’s Talks
14th February 2020
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The expansion of the Somaliland Port of Berbera and the meeting between Somaliland and Somalia leaders will be among the discussions points between Ethiopia Prime Minister Aby Ahmed and the United Arab Emirates leadership this weekend.
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Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed landed in Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening for a round of talks with the hosting government over trade partnerships and efforts to find peace in the horn of Africa.
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Abiy was received at the Presidential Airport by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court.

Sheikh Abdullah welcomed Abiy and discussed relations and co-operation between the two countries and ways to tackle issues of mutual interest.

Abiy is accompanied by his wife, Zinash Tayachew, Dr Hirut Kassaw, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Adanech Abebe, Minister of Revenues, and Muferiat Kamil, Ethiopian Minister of Peace.

Ethiopia and the UAE have partnered with Somaliland in the expansion of the port of Berbera which once completed will be the biggest in the region.

UAE’s DP World is expanding the port at a cost of USD 442 Million and is also expected to set up an economic free zone complement the growth of the Port of Berbera as a regional trading hub.

Somalia has been against the expansion of the port claiming Somaliland has no right to enter any international agreements.

Somaliland separated from Somalia in 1991 and declared its own independence. The two countries have been at loggerheads since then.

But early this week, the Ethiopian Prime Minister brokered a meeting between Somaliland president Musa Bihi and Somali president Abdullahi Farmajo in Addis Ababa, talks that lasted for an hour.

Ethiopia and the UAE believe that a lasting solution between Somalia and Somaliland is vital for their interests in the horn of Africa.

This is Abiy’s second trip to UAE in less than one year.

UAE was one of the Gulf nations Abiy visited last year as part of pooling regional support, especially for economic reforms. The Crown Prince also visited Addis Ababa in 2018.

Ethiopia – UAE relations have been on an upward trajectory over the course of 2018.

Over the last decade, the UAE has gradually increased its presence in the Horn of Africa, using development and humanitarian projects to boost its prominence.

It has significantly invested in ports, logistics and trade developments, to secure its port empire across the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait by the Red Sea, to profoundly boost its international trade and regional soft power.

The Emirati-owned company DP World’s opening of a port in Djibouti in 2008 signalled a developing presence in the relatively then-untouched Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia has served as a key platform for growing UAE influence, where Abu Dhabi alongside Saudi Arabia helped broker a peace deal with Eritrea, after a two-year state of war between the two states.

It has since continued to shower Ethiopia with aid, also carrying out key development projects. The UAE had also built an oil pipeline between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and Emirati companies have increased investment particularly in Ethiopia.

Such moves are also an attempt to compete with Turkey, Iran and Qatar, whose increasingly positive ties with east African states are met with unease by Abu Dhabi.

A setback for the UAE’s political ambitions in the Horn of Africa, however, are its ties with Somalia who have grown closer to Turkey, a key Emirati rival.

In response, the UAE has focused its support on Somalia’s autonomous regions.

The UAE and Ethiopia last February agreed to cooperate to turn Somaliland into a “major regional trading hub,” which helps the UAE’s ally Ethiopia gain greater trading access, and subsequently boost the UAE’s own trading and economic capabilities.

Furthermore, its alliance with Ethiopia, which also invests in Somaliland’s Berbera port, has helped the UAE gain greater control over it.

The UAE has also attempted to build a military and naval base in Somaliland.

Isaaq CLAN

Isaaq Clan (isaxaaq) a Somali Clan

Author: Shakir Essa

Isaaq

Main article: Somali people

The Isaaq (also IsaqIshaakIsaac) (SomaliReer Sheekh IsaxaaqArabic: بني إسحاق‎) is a Somali clan.[1] It is one of the major Somali clans in the Horn of Africa, with a large and densely populated traditional territory.[2]

  
The tomb of Sheikh Ishaaq, the founding father of the Isaaq clan, in MaydhSanaag
Regions with significant populations
Languages
Somali
Religion
Islam (Sunni)
Related ethnic groups
DirDarodHawiyeRahanweyn, other Somalis

Overview

Portrait of Sultan Abdillahi Deria, the grand Sultan of Ishaaq clans.Sultan Nur with Habr Yunis horsemen 1896

According to some genealogical books and Somali tradition, the Isaaq clan was founded in the 13th or 14th century with the arrival of Sheikh Ishaaq Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Hashimi (Sheikh Ishaaq) from Arabia, a descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib in Maydh.[3][4] He settled in the coastal town of Maydh in modern-day northwestern Somaliland, where he married into the local Magaadle clan.[5]

There are also numerous existing hagiologies in Arabic which describe Sheikh Ishaaq’s travels, works and overall life in modern Somaliland, as well as his movements in Arabia before his arrival.[6] Besides historical sources, one of the more recent printed biographies of Sheikh Ishaaq is the Amjaad of Sheikh Husseen bin Ahmed Darwiish al-Isaaqi as-Soomaali, which was printed in Aden in 1955.[7]

Sheikh Ishaaq’s tomb is in Maydh, and is the scene of frequent pilgrimages.[6] Sheikh Ishaaq’s mawlid (birthday) is also celebrated every Thursday with a public reading of his manaaqib (a collection of glorious deeds).[5] His Siyaara or pilgrimage is performed annually both within Somaliland and in the diaspora particularly in the Middle East among Isaaq expatriates.

Distribution

Haggenmacher’s map depicting western Isaaq territory

The Isaaq have a very wide and densely populated traditional territory. They live in all 6 regions of Somaliland such as AwdalWoqooyi GalbeedTogdheerSahilSanaag and Sool. They have large settlements in the Somali region of Ethiopia, mainly on the eastern side of Somali region also known as the Hawd and formerly Reserve Area which is mainly inhabited by the Isaaq sub-clan members. They also have large settlements in both Kenya and Djibouti, making up a large percentage of the Somali population in these 2 countries respectively.[8]

The Isaaq clan constitute the largest Somali clan in Somaliland. The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – HargeisaBuraoBerberaErigavo and Gabiley – are all predominantly Isaaq.[9] They exclusively dominate the Woqooyi Galbeed region, and the Togdheer region, and form a majority of the population inhabiting the western and central areas of Sanaag region, including the regional capital Erigavo.[10] The Isaaq also have a large presence in the western and northern parts of Sool region as well,[11] with Habr Je’lo sub-clan of Isaaq living in the Aynabo district whilst the Habr Yunis subclan of Garhajis lives in the eastern part of Xudun district and the very western part of Las Anod district.[12] They also live in the northeast of the Awdal region, with Saad Muse sub-clan being centered around Lughaya and its environs.

The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – HargeisaBurao,[13] BerberaErigavo and Gabiley – are predominantly Isaaq.[14][15]An illustration depicting a Somali woman of the Isaaq clan published in Bilder-Atlas in 1870

History

The Isaaq clan played a prominent role in the Abyssinian-Adal war (1529–1543, referred to as the “Conquest of Abyssinia”) in the army of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi,[16] I. M. Lewis noted that only the Habr Magadle division (Ayoub, Garhajis, Habr Awal and Arap) of the Isaaq were mentioned in chronicles of that war written by Shihab Al-Din Ahmad Al-Gizany known as Futuh Al Habash.[17]

I. M. Lewis states:[18]

The Marrehan and the Habr Magadle [Magādi] also play a very prominent role (…) The text refers to two Ahmads’s with the nickname ‘Left-handed’. One is regularly presented as ‘Ahmad Guray, the Somali’ (…) identified as Ahmad Guray Xuseyn, chief of the Habr Magadle. Another reference, however, appears to link the Habr Magadle with the Marrehan. The other Ahmad is simply referred to as ‘Imam Ahmad’ or simply the ‘Imam’.This Ahmad is not qualified by the adjective Somali (…) The two Ahmad’s have been conflated into one figure, the heroic Ahmed Guray (…)

Sultans of the Isaaq clan in Hargeisa, Somaliland

The first of the tribes to reach Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi were Habr Magādle of the Isaaq clan with their chieftain Ahmad Gurey Bin Hussain Al-Somali,[19] the Somali commander was noted to be one of Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi’s “strongest and most able generals”.[20] The Habr Magādle clan were highly appreciated and praised by the leader Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi for their bravery and loyalty.[21]Dervish Commander Haji Sudi on the left with his brother in-law Duale Idris (1892).

Long after the collapse of Adal Sultanate, sub-clans of the Isaaq established successor states known as Garhajis Sultanates. These two Sultanates exerted a somewhat centralized authority (relative to other clans) during its existence, and possessed some of the organs and trappings of a traditional integrated state: a functioning bureaucracy, regular taxation in the form of livestock, as well as an army (chiefly consisting of mounted light cavalry).[22][23][24][25] These sultanates also maintained written records of their activities, which still exist.[26]

The Isaaq clan also played a major role in the Dervish movement, with Sultan Nur Aman of the Habr Yunis being fundamental in the inception of the movement. Sultan Nur was the principle agitator that rallied the dervish behind his anti-French Catholic Mission campaign that would become the cause of the dervish uprise.[27] Haji Sudi of the Habr Je’lo was the highest ranking Dervish after Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, he died valiantly defending the Taleh fort during the RAF bombing campaign.[28][29][30] The Isaaq sub-clans that were highly known for joining the Dervish movement were from the eastern Habr Yunis and Habr Je’lo sub-clans. These two sub-clans were able to purchase advanced weapons and successfully resist both British Empire and Ethiopian Empire for many years.[31]

The Isaaq clan along with other northern Somali tribes were under British Somaliland protectorate administration from 1884 to 1960. On gaining independence, the Somaliland protectorate decided to form a union with Italian Somalia. The Isaaq clan spearheaded the greater Somalia quest from 1960 to 1991.

During the Somali Civil War, the Isaaq were subjected to a genocidal campaign by Siad Barre‘s troops (which also included armed Somali refugees from Ethiopia); the death toll has been estimated to be between 50,000 and 200,000.

After the collapse of the Somali Democratic Republic in 1991 the Isaaq-dominated Somaliland declared independence from Somalia as a separate nation.[32]

Mercantilism

Historically (and presently to a degree), the wider Isaaq clan were relatively more disposed to trade than their tribal counterparts due in part to their centuries old trade links with the Arabian Peninsula. In view of this imbalance in mercantile experience, other major Somali clans tended to resort to tribal slang terms such as “iidoor”, an enviable pejorative roughly meaning trader/exchanger:

Somalis bandied about numerous stereotypes of clan behavior that mirrored these emerging social inequalities. The pejorative slang terms iidoor or kabadhe iidoora (loosely meaning “exchange”) reflect Somali disdain for the go-between, the person who amasses wealth through persistence and mercantile skills without firm commitments to anyone else. As the Isaaq became more international and cosmopolitan, their commercial success and achievement ideology aroused suspicion and jealousy, notably among rural Darod who disliked Isaaq self-confidence and made them the target of stereotypes.[33]

This was not lost on the sole president and dictator of the Somali Democratic Republic (1969–1991), Siad Barre, Who disliked the Isaaq clan due to their financial independence, thus making it harder to control them:

Siyaad had a deep and personal dislike for the clan. The real reasons can only be guessed at, but in part it was due to his inability to control them. As accomplished business operatives, they had built a society that was not dependant on government largesse. The Isaaq had traditional trade relationships with the nations of the Arabian Peninsula that continued despite the attempts of the government to center all economic activity in Mogadishu. Siyaad did what he could, however, and Isaaq traders were forced to make the long trip to Mogadishu for permits and licenses.[34]

Nevertheless, in the 1970s and 1980s, nearly all of the livestock exports went out through the port of Berbera via Isaaq livestock traders. The entire livestock exports accounted to upwards of 90% of the Somali Republic’s entire export figures in a given year, and Berbera’s exports alone provided over 75% of the nation’s recorded foreign currency income at the time.[35][36]

Clan tree

Sultan Abdurahman Deria of the Habr Awal Isaaq receiving honours from Queen Elizabeth II in Aden

In the Isaaq clan-family, component clans are divided into two uterine divisions, as shown in the genealogy. The first division is between those lineages descended from sons of Sheikh Ishaaq by a Harari woman – the Habr Habuusheed – and those descended from sons of Sheikh Ishaaq by a Somali woman of the Magaadle sub-clan of the Dir – the Habr Magaadle. Indeed, most of the largest clans of the clan-family are in fact uterine alliances hence the matronymic “Habr” which in archaic Somali means “mother”.[37] This is illustrated in the following clan structure.[38]Warriors of the Habr Awal clan

A. Habr Magaadle

  • Ismail (Garhajis)
  • Ayub
  • Muhammad (Arap)
  • Abdirahman (Habr Awal)

B. Habr Habuusheed

  • Ahmed (Tol Je’lo)
  • Muuse (Habr Je’lo)
  • Ibrahiim (Sanbuur)
  • Muhammad (‘Ibraan)

Dualeh Abdi of the Musa Abokor Habr Je’lo tribe photographed in 1890

There is clear agreement on the clan and sub-clan structures that has not changed for a long time. The oldest recorded genealogy of a Somali in Western literature was by Sir Richard Burton in the mid–19th century regarding his Isaaq (Habr Yunis) host and the governor of ZeilaSharmarke Ali Saleh[39]

The following listing is taken from the World Bank‘s Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics from 2005 and the United Kingdom’s Home Office publication, Somalia Assessment 2001.[40][41]

One tradition maintains that Isaaq had twin sons: Ahmed or Arap, and Ismail or Gerhajis.[42]

Notable figures

References

Last edited 3 hours ago bY Shakir Essa

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