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Roda Mizan - Returning to a different homeland
This is the feeling of nostalgia for the past, for childhood and for old memories that Roda Mizan had wished to find, or feared not to find on her way to the motherland and particularly to her native town of Borama . If another name for home is peace as another adage says, Roda said she found not only peace at the homeland but a homeland in peace. "Peace has made everything beautiful in Somaliland ," says Roda.
In an effort to find out the perspective of an expatriate returning home after many years of absence, Awdalnews Network caught up with Roda Mizan, a poet, a social activist, a founding member of the Dallas-based Amoud Foundation, a great contributor to a number of humanitarian organizations and educational projects in Borama including Amoud University and a charitable person who sponsored several orphan students to complete their studies at Amoud University.
Following is Roda's account of her encounter with the homeland:
Overpopulated and crowded city
The first thing that strikes you is how crowded Borama has become; vehicles everywhere, all kinds of small and four-wheel vehicles. You cannot take two steps without bumping into a car. Most of the vehicles are right handed and they come as second hand from the UAE. Taxis and buses ferry people to the various parts of the town.
The town is overpopulated and most of the people are either new comers who migrated from surrounding villages and remote towns and countryside or new generations that grew up in my absence.
There is a hygiene disaster in the town. It is the worst thing and it is thrown everywhere. Heaps of garbage dumped everywhere as well as millions of plastic bags lying, flying around; an eye sore and environmental disaster. The government ban on using plastic bags did not work. There is no garbage dumping places or ground. There is no town planning, and shanty houses pop up anywhere and anytime.
No roads lead to Borama
Borama will soon be an isolated town due to the situation of its roads. Tarmac road from Hargeysa to Kalabaydh, from Kalabaydh to Dilla has lots of potholes which is worse than a rough road. From Dilla to Borama and from there to Djibouti it is rough road with valleys and mountains. It is the worst in the country. Borama will become inaccessible. It was the biggest disappointment I found. The only good thing about the rough road was that it gave me a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery as mountains and valleys were covered with greenery due to the rainy season.
The whiff of homemade pancake (loxoox)
People still eat the traditional Somali pancake or crepe (loxoox) for the two meals: breakfast and dinner. It was so nice to wake up with the whiff of the freshly baked morning bread. I felt like my mother would wake me up to go to school. It was like I never left home. But sometimes people eat beans, and baked bread. There are more vegetables and fruits then used to be in the old days. I saw lots of papaya, banana and mango everywhere.
I saw a cultural revival in several areas such as traditional folklore dances. There is a new folklore troupe that has revived the Zayili dance. The troupe, which comprises men and women, perform both the traditional genres and new forms of Zayli. They are hired for weddings and other festivals and are extremely popular. However, they need financial help to buy uniforms and instruments and to establish their own center. Young women were fashionably dressed and beautiful. Everywhere you go you see the beauty of youth. They constitute the majority of the city's population. But I also noticed many women smoking the Hubble-bubble and chewing Qat, even young women.
Islamism and education
Extremism is not conspicuous but Islam has taken root. No woman can go out without a head cover. Even young girls cover their heads. If a woman goes out without a head cover she will be subject to nasty comments from here and there. Although not visible, radical clerics often intrude into women's affairs and women’s NGOs.
One of the most visible things I had noticed is the sheer number of mosques and schools that have sprang up in the recent past. You will see a mosque and a school in every corner of the town. I heard that the Ministry of education was planning to apply Ministry approved curriculum to all Schools of the country, beginning with the coming academic year.
The education sector has made great strides. From Amoud University to primary schools, the education system has quantitatively and qualitatively improved. I don't think its standard is less than other place in the region if not better.
Active women and idle men
From my arrival at Hargeysa Airport to Borama, all I saw was men chewing qat everywhere and women carrying water and children, selling goods on roadsides, sidewalks, under trees and in open places. All that men do is to chew qat, sometimes robbing women of the little cash they earn to feed their children and keep the household running.
Business is booming in Borama. Small groceries are everywhere; the streets are dotted with open air African markets selling all kinds of merchandise, mostly run by women.
The former Mayor of Borama Abdirahman Sheikh Omar said during the foundation laying ceremony of Al Hayat hospital that a one day boycott of Qat will save the town $20,000 which will be enough to build any of the badly needed public project.
One positive development in the life of women was the fading away of the bad tradition of women circumcision. Thanks to the efforts made by the late Annalena Tonelli who established Women against Female Genital Mutilation and new religious attitude that branded FGM as an anti-Islamic tradition, young women of our country will soon be liberated from such a cruel practice.
Water everywhere and enough electricity
Borama has the best water supply. In Hargeysa I have experienced shortages of water but not in Borama. One can take a shower anytime of the day or night without any fear of running out of water. The electricity is also good although not as good as the water supply. The weather has become unbearably hot. May be partly due to the increased population and vehicles and partly due to the global warming, Borama is unusually hot. Without the availability of water, the summer would have been unbearable. I am sure people will soon need air-conditioning.
Clean and well run public hospital
Women suffer from lack of health care projects. There are no MCH centers, no maternity hospitals. Despite that the Borama public hospital was at its best. I have never seen Borama hospital as clean and as well managed as it is now. All the different parts of the hospital including the emergency room and the pediatric clinic were well managed and unusually clean. They even have a good x-ray facility. It was wonderful and people attributed this mostly to Nimo Haji Abubakar. She even planted trees in the hospital's courtyard. Who ever was behind this improvement, it is an effort that deserves praise. I hope they would maintain such good work.
With the upcoming Al Hayat hospital, which I attended its foundation laying ceremony, the Annalena TB hospital and several private hospitals, it seems the town will have a reasonable health care system in place.
There is a great HIV/AIDs awareness going on, focused on the religious side. They emphasize abstinence as the only way to check the spread HIV/AIDs. Talking about safe sex is a taboo and many considered it as promoting sinning. AIDs patients are treated as untouchables. Sometimes people who die of other reasons are rumored to have died of AIDs. There is a lot of education needed in this area.
Popular online news
I was amazed how popular Awdalnews Network is among Borama community. People, particularly the youth are glued to the Internet. I have attended a number of events during my stay in the town and everywhere I go people were telling me that they had read my name on Awdalnews. In the absence of cinema and theatres, the youth are heavily dependent on Awdalnews and other online journals as source of news and entertainment.
People go to Hargeysa for government
The government is in Hargeysa. People still go to Hargeysa for everything. Only the municipality and police are community-based. Everything else is in Hargeysa.
Tribalism is acute and in the open. People cannot distinguish between politics and tribalism. The elections have left deep divisions among the community to the extent that people from different clans don't talk to each other.
Admirable NGO work
I admired the work done by community based NGOs and have attended several meetings including the foundation laying of Al Hayat Hospital, the orphanage center, the inauguration of the recently established umbrella organization and the naming of Borama Airport. I was disappointed by the lack of women representation in all these meetings.
Countryside and greenery
I saw a beautiful countryside in all the areas I have visited. I even saw the wild life still surviving such as dik- diks, rabbits, foxes and hyenas and tortoises.
Roda Mizan could be reached at: email@example.com
Source: Awdalnews Network, 19 - July - 2006