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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. 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.

Author: Shakir Essa

Somali press media

Things look grim for independent journalism in Somalia. This can also be concluded from the country’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index: close to the bottom of the list of 180 countries. Still, the local situation does vary from region to region. In the south in particular, journalists work in fear of their life. But in the country’s northern region, Somaliland, our team do everything in their power to support and train local Somali reporters.

Envelope full of money

A journalist is interviewing a politician or businessman. At the end, the interviewee offers the reporter an envelope full of money. And if he doesn’t, the reporter asks for one himself. In Somalia, this practice has a name: Sharuur. And virtually every journalist takes part in it. The result: nearly all media reports in the country are biased and distorted. After all, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. This means that people in Somalia have next to no access to reliable and factual information.

Journalists in Somalia run tremendous risks. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in the past four years alone, 21 reporters in Somalia were murdered and dozens arrested in the course of their work. Nevertheless, you can still find people in the country who want to report on what is really going on, people who have the courage to refuse the stuffed envelope. We bring them together, at a location where they are safe, and train them in objective reporting.

Radio Hirad

In addition to organising trainings, at the Media Training Centre we also produce three new editions per week of the news and current affairs programme Radio Hirad. This programme includes contributions from journalists trained at our Centre. The programme is broadcast by over 20 FM stations and websites. While most journalists in Somalia are mainly interested in reporting on political developments, Radio Hirad has a strong focus on social issues. Themes like health, the position of women and adolescents in society and migration feature prominently in the broadcasts. This way, we help people who are seldom heard to share their perspectives and bring sensitive yet important topics up for discussion.

In Somali culture, the name hirad is given to those who offer travellers safe shelter and food. Free Press Unlimited in turn wishes to support the hirads of the Somali media: the journalists who work to keep the public informed in this country torn by war and corruption.

Women and Media

During a training in 2015, a young woman told how she has to hide the fact that she is a reporter from her family. “My father doesn’t know that I’m here. He doesn’t know that I’m working as a journalist. If he did, he would forbid me from doing so.” Women are underrepresented in the Somali media. As a result, subjects that are specifically relevant to them get very little exposure. We try to attract female journalists to our trainings, and support them in their work. And our efforts are starting to bear fruit. Over the past year, many of the women whom we have trained at the Centre have moved up to the position of radio station manager and made a name for themselves as journalists.

Somali media creator and journalist , Shakir Essa

Reports by Shakir Essa

What would happen if you didn’t shower (no bath) for your life?

Himba-tribe-women-in-Damaraland-Namibia-768x512
1990 following the Namibian War of independence, Namibia had registered her presence in the global arena.

Namibia is a member of important global organisations including the African Union, United Nations, South Africa Development Council, just to mention a few. Also, apart from the glorious mountains that dotted the beautiful landscape of the country, the Fish River Canyon, gold-grass plains of the Kalahari, wildlife such as the black rhinos, elephants, big cats, etc. all make Namibia an interesting tourist destination.
sportnoy_20150319_4542
Apart from all these, however, the spectacular nature and custom of the Himba tribe in Namibia have brought her to international spotlight especially in recent times.

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The Himba people who are also regarded as the Omuhimba or Ovahimba people are indigenous people of Namibia living in northern part of Namibia especially in the Kunene region. Their numbers are big enough to form a city-state.

Himba´s_Tribe-768x511

What makes this tribe so popular has to do with their way of living, clothing, economy, and interesting customs. One of the grapevines is that they offer guests sex for free and another point is that they adorned every newborn baby with bead necklaces. But there are other interesting facts about them.

Just like the Japanese who lived in isolation for much of their history under the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Himba people practically live in seclusion and are wary of external contacts. Although they engage in cooperation with neighbouring tribes; they would resist any form of contamination to their beliefs and culture. This is quite curious in a nuclear age.

The Himba people are predominantly farmers. They raise different breeds of livestock especially goats, cattle, sheep, etc. The women are largely preoccupied with collecting firewood, sourcing for fresh water for consumption, cooking and serving meals and engaging in other forms of artisanship.

Some of them are socially inclined and religious, worshipping the gods of their ancestors. The Himba people believed in polygamy and many of their young girls married off at an early age. This is not peculiar to them as most traditional African tribes still practice this custom.

It is not the case however that they don’t bath even if it’s not with water. One of the reasons why the Himba people don’t bath with water is because of their harsh climatic conditions as they live in one of the most extreme environments on earth. The harsh desert climate and the unavailability of portable water prevent them from having a ‘normal’ water bath. Yet, they looked extremely pretty with their traditional clothes, some of which exposed their bodies especially the women.

Their lack of bathing however has not resulted into lack of personal hygiene as they apply red ochre on their skin and partake in a daily smoke bath in order to maintain their hygiene.

himba-initation-ceremony

Reuben Coussement described this process, “they will put some smouldering charcoal into a little bowl of herbs (mostly leaves and little branches of Commiphora trees) and wait for the smoke to ascend. Thereafter, they will bow over the smoking bowl and due to the heat, they will start perspiring. For a full body wash, they cover themselves with a blanket so that the smoke gets trapped underneath the fabric.”

In all of these, however, the Himba people are one of the warmest tribes in Africa and are courteous to strangers and visitors alike. They however frown at anything that will threaten their cultural values and traditions. Their frustrations at some interventions by the Namibian government, governments of Norway and Iceland, among others are evidence of this fact

Reposted from: FA2FA

Oriented by: Shakir Essa

Africa political map dramatically changed

LIST OF COUNTRIES IN AFRICA

images (7)

African Country Capital City Population
 Algeria Algiers 39,667,203
 Angola Luanda 25,326,755
 Benin Porto-Novo 10,782,365
 Botswana Gaborone 2,176,741
 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou 18,450,347
 Burundi Bujumbura 9,824,320
 Cameroon Yaoundé 21,918,057
 Cape Verde Praia 525,662
 Central African Republic Bangui 4,900,413
 Chad N’Djamena 13,675,741
 Comoros Moroni 783,544
 Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa 77,267,269
 Djibouti Djibouti 961,037
 Egypt Cairo 88,523,985
 Equatorial Guinea Malabo 1,996,227
 Eritrea Asmara 6,895,222
 Ethiopia Addis Ababa 99,391,145
 Gabon Libreville 1,873,230
 Gambia Banjul 2,022,474
 Ghana Accra 27,414,682
 Guinea Conakry 10,935,259
 Guinea-Bissau Bissau 1,788,088
 Ivory Coast Abidjan, Yamoussoukro 23,126,355
 Kenya Nairobi 45,533,204
 Lesotho Maseru 1,908,335
 Liberia Monrovia 4,046,007
 Libya Tripoli 6,278,522
 Madagascar Antananarivo 23,043,955
 Malawi Lilongwe 16,307,685
 Mali Bamako 17,796,125
 Mauritania Nouakchott 3,632,657
 Mauritius Port Louis 1,263,916
 Morocco Rabat 34,380,277
 Mozambique Maputo 28,013,037
 Namibia Windhoek 2,281,238
 Niger Niamey 18,880,785
 Nigeria Abuja 182,202,652
 Republic of the Congo Brazzaville 4,706,257
 Rwanda Kigali 11,324,426
 São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé 194,000
 Senegal Dakar 14,150,852
 Seychelles Victoria 970,457
 Sierra Leone Freetown 6,513,357
 Somalia

Somaliland

Mogadishu

Hargeisa

9,972,148

5,320,123

 South Africa Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Pretoria 5,495,724
 South Sudan Juba 12,519,321
 Sudan Khartoum 40,235,712
 Swaziland Mbabane 1,119,524
 Tanzania Dodoma 51,046,045
 Togo Lomé 7,065,418
 Tunisia Tunis 11,118,759
 Uganda Kampala 37,102,024
 Zambia Lusaka 15,474,644
 Zimbabwe Harare 13,503,963
Total 1,125,307,147
images (6)
Author: Shakir Essa

Ethiopia’s state of emergency could destabilise the Horn of Africa

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn sent shock waves through the region when he abruptly tendered his resignation.

Desalegn said that he had made the decision to facilitate efforts towards political reforms which started with the release of political prisoners. But rather than pursue a reform agenda, the Ethiopian government followed his announcement by declaring a state of emergency. This not only jeopardises the regime’s apparent intent to institute democratic reforms, it also pits citizens against the security forces. And it’s already led to more violence, not stability.

The state of emergency is being defied in a number of regions. Citizens have protested in Gondar, which is in the opposition Amhara region, as well as the opposition stronghold of Nekemte which is in Oromia. Much of the Oromia region is also defying the emergency measures.

As a result, the regime has targeted the Oromia region, and its protesting youths who are collectively known as Qeerro in the Oromo language.

Despite the release of thousands of political prisoners and talk of reforms, the political climate remains more uncertain than ever. It’s now feared that any government measures to suppress ensuing chaos could result in more violence, and deaths.

Instability in Ethiopia could have repercussions across the region. Unrest in the country could have a domino effect in what is an already volatile part of the continent. It could also affect regional peace efforts because instability in one corner of the Horn of Africa could spread and destabilise the entire region. This is especially the case because Ethiopia is home to so many cross border communities.

Implications for the region
Ethiopia is influential in the region and across the continent. It is the second most populous country in Africa and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It also hosts the African Union’s headquarters in its capital, Addis Ababa.

But its standing has been diminished by the political turmoil of the last few years when two of its largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara both started demanding political and economic equality. The ruling coalition’s responses to these demands has highlighted the fact that it isn’t committed to democratisation.

The risks for the region are significant. Unless the regime acts on political reforms to entrench democracy, equal distribution of resources and freedom of the press, Ethiopia – with more than 100 million citizens – could emerge as the largest politically unstable nation in an already volatile region.

An unstable Ethiopia could also affect peace efforts in neighbouring countries. For example, it’s role as a long standing mediator in the South Sudanese peace talks could suffer a setback.

And its army is also the only peacekeeping force in Abiye, an oil rich region that has been at the centre of the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan since 2011.

In addition, Ethiopia is second only to Bangladesh in the number of its troops involved in international peacekeeping. Across its South Eastern borders, it also maintains thousands of troops inside Somalia.

And although its role in Somalia has drawn criticism Ethiopia remains a critical ally to the US’s counter terrorism strategy in the region. Instability could also create a power vacuum that could affect the US-led anti-terror strategy.

Ultimately, an internal crisis in Ethiopia will affect the power balance with its arch rival Eritrea. After the Ethiopia-Eritrea war which ended in 2000, the two countries have remained engaged in a proxy war by supporting each others’ political opposition groups.

Cross-border communities
Most African states share cross-border societies. The Horn of Africa is no different. The Oromo for instance are a majority ethnic group in Ethiopia and also a minority in Kenya. The Nuer are South Sudan’s second largest ethnic group and also a minority in Ethiopia’s western Gambella region.

There are also Somalis in Ethiopia. They m