A Journalist’s Experience Working and Living in Somaliland
I left for Somaliland on the 8th of August 2019. A lovely Thursday morning, with the Nairobi blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds that drifted lazily in the gentle breeze.
I was on board an African express flight that transited through Mogadishu before reaching our final destination, Hargeisa, at around midday. Hargeisa International Airport was small, compact, and the afternoon sun bathed the small buildings at the airport warm light.
The Editor of the broadcaster I was to work with, immediately after clearing with the immigration department of Somaliland received me outside the airport.
Tiny specks of dust danced in the shaft of the afternoon sunlight that slanted through the window of our Harrier car as we transversed through the capital, Hargeisa, all the way to Hodan Hills, a beautiful neighborhood I would stay for the next one year.
I went to Hargeisa to work for a media house, Codka Bariga Africa (CBA), the first in Somalia and Somaliland to broadcast in English. Before leaving for Somaliland, I had worked for Radio Midmino as a senior reporter and later the Managing Editor for close to two years.
A senior Politician from my hometown owned the media house, which broadcasted in Somali and served the people of Northern Kenya.
The main reason I left Radio Midnimo for the television-based in Hargeisa, was to satisfy my desire for adventure. The pay was not much more than what I was earning in Nairobi. I was to be away from my family and friends, but all I wanted was to satisfy my personal ambitions, which were to grow and as a true son of the global world get an assortment of different cultures. And Somaliland did not disappoint me.
Hargeisa was a social and urban town with brilliant hospitality. I easily made friends. My stay was splendid, liberal, cordial and most warm.
I now conquer that assimilation is real. My Somali dialect has changed to the extent that my family and friends find it difficult to understand me.
The media network I joined broadcasted across Somalia and Somaliland. The aim was to give alternative news to what the mainstream international news outlets were airing in English about Somalia and Somaliland.
An Engineer, whose sole idea behind his network was to have it become an alternative source of news and programs for the Somali people and non-Somali speaking people across Somalia, owns the television, which also broadcasted in Somali.
Most of the media practitioners across Somaliland are not professional, there is No formal media training institution and across the streets, journalists are regarded as the worst people in society, the drug abusers, school dropouts, conmen, among other negative attributes.
This really shocked me, having professionally worked in the Media Industry for more than six years. I could not consume the negative attributes my colleagues were getting having previously been a fixer for international news outlets and correspondent for Radio Tehran.
Earlier on, Journalism had eased everything for me, from getting access to the most inaccessible places on earth to having a wide network of friends.
Newsmakers regard many reporters as non-competent. I had a rough time asking the question to newsmakers when I went to the field to file reports.
It became impossible to adopt with the style, I opted for in house editing, what my Friend Warsame would call wheelchair journalism.
I was later tasked with being the service Editor, where I introduced a raft of changes with the aim of manifesting the already failing media industry in the country. We started conducting in-house training for all our reporters and camerapersons. Hussein Jamaa and Balogun Aresekola largely facilitated this legacy I left behind.
My boss also bought an idea, which I suggested, to him. Establishing a media academy owned by the media network. Last I knew, he was pursuing getting a license from the Ministry of Educational Development.
By the time I left the media house for Mogadishu, Somalia to join The Africa Union, United Nations Information Support Team as a communication strategist most of the employees were insanely confident about their work.
Somaliland’s media industry has a long way to go for it to realize the potential democratization landscape. Journalists are the most underpaid and humiliated professionals in Somaliland, this fact is largely contributing to a syndrome I called “the big joke that is Somaliland”.
The syndrome is having all the structures of government in papers, but have nothing going on in reality. The people of Somaliland would have largely known this syndrome if the media was reliable. It can never be dependable as long as they are underpaid and treated poorly by society and newsmakers.
Somaliland has very beautiful towns; from Borama which is largely surrounded by undulating hills and its snow-capped mountain ranges, to the grey featureless Landscape of Burao.
Berbera, popular with the story of the first Somali who died of love has one of the greatest beaches and beautiful roads across the region. It is the most planned town across the entire Somali speaking nations that I have visited.
What about Bulhar, Sayla and the Old Amoud, the most historic towns with over 3000 years old of living history.
Somaliland is ambitious; it will be recognized one day if the people of Hargeisa continue pursuing the course from one generation to the other.
Although they are joking and faking good governance, once they get financial stability, I believe that the country will realize its full potentials.
I should also note that all Somalis are acceptable and welcomed in Somaliland. I was personally homophobic and had reservations having in mind that I come from the South.
Having interacted with their top leaders, opposition figures, senior businessmen, entrepreneurs and bankers, no one cares about where you come from. All the people of Somaliland, specifically the people of Hargeisa want respect for their flag and their course to self-determination.
Lastly, I should note that the great people of Somaliland are the most civilized and liberal Somalis alive in Africa today. And their girls are the most beautiful of all women species of Somali origin living currently in our universe. If I were not loyal to my partner, who is perhaps more beautiful and whom I hope to marry sometime in the future, trust me I would have been married by now, chewing Khat while sipping a cup of original candied Somali tea somewhere in Burao. “Somaliland waligaa ha dhicin”.
© 2020 Yunis Dekow