Conventional wisdom predicts people bring their cultural norms to social media. This phenomenon has opened itself wide in a recent incident that involves the jailing of Xidigaha Geeska (Horn Stars), a Somali entertainer ensemble that hails from Somaliland, the self-declared enclave in Northern Somalia. The four young stars were jailed in Hargeysa on September 27, 2015. The fiasco behind their jailing came after the authorities in Hargeysa jailed the four singers upon their return from Mogadishu.
They have not been charged with a crime, but public opinion says the stars were jailed for going to Mogadishu and holding the Somali flag (the blue flag with a white star). It’s not clear the reason the leadership in Somaliland believes a singing trip to Mogadishu is a criminal offense, but its the aftermath of the jailing of the entertainers that has touched a nerve and caused a noise outburst from the larger Somali public across the globe. Of course things that occur across the globe these days are transported from miles away into your social media page. In this case its Facebook that lit up with all kinds of opinion about the jailed entertainers.
Fatxiya Kabayare a famous singer took to Facebook to urge the Somaliland administration to free the singers. Her urging came on the heels of the four who found themselves in jail after thier trip to the Capital city Mogadishu where they entertained their fans for the Eid Al Adha festivities. Her massage was directed towards the administration, blaming them for wrongfully jailing the stars for going to the capital city. Kabayare’s message was one of solidarity, as she pleaded with Somaliland authorities in a heartfelt message that conveyed the notion that entertainers possess no tribe. Her message centered on the understanding that Somali entertainers should be free from the politicization of the tribal system.
A barge of other entertainers, also urging the freedom of the young entertainers followed this massage. But the mood changed when a singer who hails from Somaliland took to Facebook with a tactless message moving the issue from fellow singers supporting their jailed counterparts to a massage with tribal undertones betting one tribe against another. The singer’s message was fraught with ugly tribalism Somalis rather believe they have left behind. Another singer who also hails from Somaliland was alleged to have posted on his Facebook page a message that read: I rather take a bullet than go to Mogadishu.
This enticed others to enter the fray with tension causing threats. Soon the united front to free the singers was replaced with a slew of hate messages, the most inflammatory being an individual draped from head to toe with only eyes showing (who may or not be a woman) whose only identity was her Northern Somali dialect. This individual took to burning the Somali flag (the blue one) while using offensive female debasing language and finger filled loud threats. After she posted her video, it was a free for all videos of mostly women, cursing, shouting and threatening with Somalia versus Somaliland rhetoric.
What has transpired on Facebook says much about the tribal tension that still exist within the Somali arena in all aspects of life, from daily living, to geographic residence to something as benign as music and entertainers. One couldn’t ignore the all out war on some entertainers and all out support depending on where they hailed from. That a small issue can be turned in its head as a public spectacle of tribal rift shows its mark on the people of Somalia some twenty-five years after the civil war.
No one can say war is easy; its aftermath is of course detrimental to a society. Missing from the mix is forgiveness, peace and individuals and leaders who preach peace instead of tribal messages to persuade society into negative activities, which are hurtful in their nature.
Twenty years of supposed promise for independence is showing its taters in the people of Somaliland. Its a witness to the poor leadership and intolerance of the Somaliland leaders who are encouraging and preaching a message of isolation and dangerous speech’s on the stand-alone nature of this break away enclave. People in the South of Somalia are not the enemy. It’s wrong in so many levels to bring tribal tension into music. The singers didn’t venture into some land where people are the staunch enemies of Somaliland, they took a trip to sing and celebrate with fans in Mogadishu. To have them trashed in some unforgiving jail cell speaks volume of how the leadership wants to bring war and polarization into the Music and Cultural industry where solidarity exist and any sanctity of hope resides.
Somaliland leaders are quick to embrace the Federal government officials from Mogadishu on one hand, they are on the other preaching extremism and hatred against their fellow Somalis in the South. It’s important to note that there was an agreement reached by the Federal Government of Somalia (as well as the previous Transitional Governments) with Somaliland administration based on the cessation of hostilities. The last meeting the two parties convened, in Djibouti on Dec 21, 2014 states: To abstain from provocation that would impair the relations and the dialogue between the two parties.
Somali traditional culture is one of the only areas that has long existed as a tribal free environment. It’s where people with different ideology come tightly together. Tribal isolation loses meaning here and humanity and love for traditional culture flourishes. For so long Somalis from all walks of live, Somalis from different tribes enjoyed Somali entertainers as one of their own. Its as if the entertainer no matter their tribal birth is one of them. There is much love and admiration extended to Somali entertainers. They are simply revered.
The intolerance and hostility of Somaliland leadership has been showing itself in bright colors lately. In the last four months Somaliland has experienced backlash in Somali social media.The last time was when poor refugees fleeing from Yemen were refused to land in Berbera port in May 2015 and they were asked what tribe they belonged to, Facebook lit up with criticism. Those who didn’t belong to the local clan were refused to land and those who are from the local clan were allowed to come through the restricted port. This begs the question, what is happening with the leadership in Hargeysa? when entertainers are jailed for traveling to Mogadishu and desperate refugees are despised for not belonging to a certain clan and accordingly refused their human rights.
Desperation is shoring itself and its taking dangerous identity when the public of the self declared enclave believe its ok to bring tribalism in every situation that involves their brothers who don’t share clan with them. Somaliland is creating a dangerous precedent for free speech and human rights. Journalist, entertainers, writers and political and cultural analyst are all in danger of being thrown into jail if this trend continues. Its concerning if all it takes to be thrown into jail is to venture into a neighboring city to sing. It appears simple for Somali clan strives to blow up and the fragility of it should bring all concerned to revisit their poor policies of criminalizing refugees and entertainers.
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