On the closing day of the Hargeysa International Book Fair 2015, a festival that brought people from fourteen countries from around the world together to Hargeisa, there were still panels.
The panel on Knowledge Production and Somali studies with Dr Siyam Rayale, Nimo Ali and Yusuf Serunkuma as discussants promised to be engaging. The panel convenors opened the process and invited others to the stage including the Nigerian contingent of Prof Niyi Osundare, Okey Ndibe and Chuma Nwokolo. The discussion was on who should be taking part in developing the knowledge on Somali issues. Should it be done by only locals who would have the legitimacy or can it be done by anyone who has the technical know-how to do so? All viewpoints were fleshed out in detail to the satisfaction of many. I was able to see that those who live in Somaliland were just as sensitive about the knowledge being produced in their country as we are here in Kenya.
The closing ceremony was epic although there was some drama where some of the international delegates were concerned. Earlier in the day, festival organisers had a word with them explaining that there had been a story written in the local press that had worried them. The story alleged that one of the delegates, who was an internationally known advocate of gay rights, was there to set up a local chapter to promote this most detested practice. There was a bit of a negative reaction by Somalilanders especially on social media and the organisers advised us to stay in the hotel until the closing ceremony.
In the evening, the delegates were driven to the Gulaid Hotel where the closing ceremony would be happening and at the entrance they saw a huge crowd of young people. There was a bit of commotion and a woman was heard screaming as she fled the scene and there was also a gun shot. It was too much for the guests who feared that they could be protesters against gay rights and in a panic they instructed the driver to take them back to the hotel post haste.
On return to the hotel, they were given an explanation for the drama at the venue they had fled in a rush. Turns out the closing ceremony would have live performances which included local singing heart throb Maxamed BK. With a society which doesn’t have huge social activities often, you can expect to see young men and women coming in droves for a hip event. If that gig includes a performance of singers that young locals consider the equivalent of Sauti Sol/P-Square/Mafikizolo/Eddy Kenzo then you can expect frenzied reactions. Feeling reassured, some of the braver delegates went back to the hall and enjoyed the evening. There were performances by the aforementioned BK as well as Da’ud Ali Masaxaf. It was a great lineup of acts although performances were very short to the disappointment of the packed house and this blogger.
The performances were followed by a speech by the Foreign Minister of Somaliland Dr Mohame Bihi Yonis who thanked everyone for attending the book fair. There was a plug in there for the story of Somaliland to be spread to the world so that their country can be recognized as an independent nation. I am informed that Dr. Yonis shall be one of the candidates for the upcoming presidential elections of his homeland.
With the festivities over, the young men and women who were having such a ball were asked to leave for their homes. I understand their struggle; people had to almost be violent when they were getting us to leave any venue of “Variety Show” attended when I was a teenager. At least this generation of Somaliland teenagers and young adults will remember these times of their lives fondly and ensure that the next generation too enjoy being star-struck by the likes of MaxamedBK and his ilk.
The day ended with a massive selfie that included guests, staff and volunteers before retiring for the evening. It was a wonderful few days there and I, and am sure many of the attendees, enjoyed being part of such a wonderful festival.