Regina Nyirenda, Progressio development worker with the Horn Youth and Development Association (HYDA), reports on how young Somalilanders are ‘flying’ their flag in style online!
The occasion is Somaliland’s National Day and Somaliland youth are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Somaliland's declaration of independence (as yet not recognised by the international community) in style – by plastering the worldwide web with the Somaliland flag!
The Somaliland flag campaign encourages all Somalilanders on Facebook* to replace their profile picture with the Somaliland flag. The response has been overwhelming!
A Somalilander colleague proudly shows me a long list of his friends on Facebook who have since changed their profiles. The entire page is covered with the Somaliland flag. I asked Abdibasid Ibrahim Adam, HYDA’s Program Officer, to explain.
Me: Tell me, why all these flags on Facebook?
Abdibasid Ibrahim Adam: Somaliland Facebook users are being encouraged to change their profile pictures by replacing them with the Somaliland flag. We want to commemorate the 18 May this way.
Me: Who was or is the brains behind this idea?
AIA: I do not know but all I can say is that this idea is great. Young people know more about this and this year the campaign is stronger compared to previous years – ICT has empowered the young people. Young people are encouraging their friends who have not yet changed their profiles to do so. I would also like to encourage you to do so as our development worker (chuckles).
Me: But, I’m not a Somalilander.
AIA: That’s just the thing. We want foreigners in this country to join us, the Somalilanders in the Diaspora, and the entire world to come and help us celebrate.
Me: What is your idea of celebrating this day?
AIA: I want to see the UN flag ‘flying’ together with the Somaliland flag on Facebook. To me that symbolises the alliance of the UN with Somaliland. It says, “the UN is behind Somaliland”. This is like a big celebration by people in the Diaspora and in the country. Non-Somalilanders are also commemorating with us. They are posting comments encouraging the international community to recognise Somaliland and not to marginalise it.
Me: Tell me more about these comments that you are getting?
AIA: People are posting both old and new songs with lyrics that praise Somaliland using YouTube. Some are discussing Somaliland‘s recognition by the international community on Facebook, the importance and relevance of this day and the previous flag of Somaliland, among other issues. The great thing about this whole commemoration issue is that young people are actually gaining some knowledge from this platform.
For example, there are young people who do not know the story behind the Somaliland SNM (Somali National Movement - 1991-93) administration flag. Those in the know are explaining the history pertaining to this flag. Posting this information on Facebook means it can be used as a resource tool for people who need to research on the history of Somaliland - so much information is being uploaded on a daily basis for the benefit of such people.
Some people have designed new ideas – such as a mug painted with a Somaliland flag. I personally posted a picture adapted from the UN website of people sitting in a circular position watching the UN wall. I replaced the UN wall with a Somaliland flag.
If you see the new picture that I have created, it gives the impression that the people in the picture are discussing the future of Somaliland. Not so long ago not many people were so interested in this day but Facebook has revolutionised the way young people look at the celebrations, helping them come up with innovative ideas of commemorating our National Day.
And as the countdown towards the celebration of this important day in every Somalilander’s calendar continues, one cannot help but feel the excitement that is in the air, in anticipation of much more great things to come in this part of the Horn of Africa.
Want to read more on Somaliland at 20? Check out:
* Facebook is a social networking service and website. Users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, exchange messages, and join common interest user groups.
Photo: Girls wearing the colours of the Somaliland flag (© F.Omer/Flickr)