The ninth Hargeysa International Book Fair (HIBF) was held in the Gulaid Park Hotel Hall on 23 July 2016.The theme of the book fair this year was ‘Leadership’. The theme coincided with the 25 anniversary of the self-declaration of the Somaliland Republic.
The opening day of the book fair was greeted with great enthusiasm and interest by the guests and participants. With attendance high and diverse—students, elders, foreign guests, members of the government and members of the diaspora—the book fair started in an atmosphere of excitement. The speakers, as diverse as the crowd, presented this year’s theme ‘Leadership’ through social, political, religious and entrepreneurial lenses.
The opening of the ninth HIBF was attended by the Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Sa’ad Ali Shire, who, on behalf of the Somaliland Government, welcomed the international guests and local participants and declared the Hargeysa International Book Fair officially opened. The UK Deputy Ambassador to Ethiopia, Cat Evans, reiterated UK FCO support for HIBF and Somaliland in a speech.
Among the distinguished guests of the HIBF this year was Prof Husain Adam of the Holy Cross College and the founding member of the Somali Studies International Association (SSIA) in 1978. Prof Adam discussed the role of the civil society and the SSIA to lead, create spaces and expand cultural and academic knowledge of Somaliland.
Mohamed Yassin Olad, CEO of Daallo Airlines, addressed the challenges to and the qualities of effective business leadership within the Somali culture and tradition. Olad discussed his over 25 years of experience in business and public services, highlighting the adverse impact that Somali pastoral culture has had on efficient and effective commercial development.
Panel 1: Guest country Ghana
This year’s partnership with Ghana demonstrated HIBF’s continued and shared commitment to fostering tolerance through cooperation in the continent and across the world. The Book Fair supports the calls for African unity voiced in Ghana’s revolution, still visible today in its cultural production.
Panel 2: Media and leadership
With ‘Leadership’ as the overall theme of the Book Fair and 2017 being an election year in Somaliland, the discussion about the Somaliland media was timely. The panel discussion moderated by Mohamoud Abdi Jama of the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) concluded that the independence of media in Somaliland was compromised by a poorly designed legal environment and harassment and oppression of the media by state actors and other powerful figures.
Panel 3: Somaliland political leadership and foreign policy
The panel on Somaliland political leadership and foreign policy was composed of Somaliland Foreign Minister, Sa’ad Ali Shire and the South African Ambassador to Eritrea, Dr Iqbal Jhazbhay. The panellists discussed Somaliland’s current national development and its efforts for recognition. Both panellists argued that strengthening Somaliland’s nation building endeavours by advancing peace and stability will help develop the country’s goals of regional and international recognition.
Panel 4: Women and leadership
The panel included Edna Adan, former Foreign Minister and founder of Edna University & Hospital, award-winning Ghanaian journalist Esther Armah and businesswoman Sucad Carmiye. It was chaired by Zahra Jibril. The panellist discussed what it means to be a successful woman in Somaliland, drawing on the panellists’ experience of successful social and business leadership.
Panel 5: Somali language development panel
The panel consisted of the following scholars who briefly touched on their current research topics: Dr Martin Orwin, Dr Morgan Nilsson, Mr Mohamed H. Raabi, Ms Saynab Aadan Sharci, Ms Tirsit Yetbarek, Mr Khainga O’Okwemba and Mr Said Salah Ahmed. The panel also discussed current developments in research and knowledge production of the Somali language.
Panel 6: The role of leadership in Islam
The panel on religious leadership was one of the most important in discussing the theme of this year. The panellists included Sheikh Khalil Abdullahi Ahmed, the Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs of Somaliland, and Sheikh Mahamoud Sheikh Dalmar, a senior journalist, author and historian. The discussion culminated in deliberating the concept of leadership in Islam as epitomized by the example of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).
Panel 7: Muse Hagi Ismail Galaal’s legacy, and scholarly and literary works
The panel focused on the late Musa Hagi Galaal, the scholar, historian and literary critic. The panel discussed the life and works of the scholar, a Somali literary champion whose role in the preservation and promotion of Somali literature and culture is recognised by Somalis worldwide.
Panel 8: Remembering Cabbaas Idiriis
Ambassador Dr Iqbal Jhazbhay, Dr Martin Orwin and Dr Jama Musse Jama paid tribute to the late Cabbaas Idiriis, aka John Drysdale. He was a British-Somali and RVI Fellow who passed away just a few days before the Fair. During his long career as officer, diplomat, businessman, historian and publisher, Drysdale turned into a prolific writer and analyst of political events in Somaliland, Somalia and East Africa.
Books and presentations: In conversation with international authors
The international authors included Esther Amrah from Ghana who read from her book Can it be me?, and Chuma Nwokolo, a Nigerian lawyer, poet, writer and the publisher of African Writing magazine, returning to the Fair for the fourth time. Chuma presented the commemorative volumes marking the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation, How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories, Volume 2.
Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, a Ugandan poet, editor, actress, leadership trainer, events manager, children’s facilitator and a long-distance swimmer, discussed her path to writing poetry and read out some of her works. Michaela Maria Mueller presented her new book recently published in German, Auf See: Die Geschichte von Ayan und Samir (At Sea: The story of Ayan and Samir). She discussed her wider research on Germany’s role in the Republic of Somalia under Siyad Barre, who until the 1980s received financial assistance from Germany.
Mohamed Barud Ali presented his prison memoir The Mourning Tree—a first-hand account of the brutalities of Siyad Barre’s Somalia. Abdisalam Hereri, renowned TV and radio producer, read a translation of A Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah. Maxamed Xaji Ingiriis presented his book The Rise and fall of the Siad Barre Regime, 1969–1991.
The conclusion of the ninth Hargeysa International Book Fair was a resounding success. The number of people attending exceeded five thousand, including some of the most renowned figures in Somaliland. Prof Ahmed Ismail Samatar and Parliament Speaker Abdirahman Abdillahi ‘Cirro’ both expressed their appreciation for the annual event.