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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

The Horn of Africa: rebuilding or in meltdown?

There could hardly be a more poignant or devastating reminder of divisive instability that has spread throughout the Horn of Africa. On Monday, I moderated a discussion panel on how arts and literature can help rebuild society in the Horn of Africa. But I shouldn’t have been there at all. Yusuf Hassan, the intended moderator and a Kenyan MP of Somali descent, was absent because of a stark symbol, not of society rebuilding itself, but of society in meltdown: a bomb attack.

The parliamentarian was injured by shrapnel from an explosion in his Kamukunji constituency in Eastleigh, a largely Somali community in Nairobi, on Friday evening. A boy who had come up to greet him was killed instantly, among five who died. It was the second blast in three days. Kenya’s only Nairobi MP of Somali descent, who has regularly spoken out against the al-Shabaab jihadis who control some of central Somalia, Hassan says he doesn’t know if he was the intended target of the attack. …

“We have a state but we don’t have a nation,” said Ayan Mahamoud, managing director of KAYD Somali Arts and Culture, which helps put on the Hargeisa International Book Fair. She was among the panelists co-hosted by Kwani Trust, a Kenyan literary network, and the Nairobi Forum, a research body managed by the Rift Valley Institute, discussing how arts and literature can help in societal reconstruction.

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