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Issue 510/ 5th - 11th Nov 2011
Somali Youth Rated Happiest Despite War On Al-Shabaab
Nairobi, Kenya, November 5, 2011 – The recent surge in explosion incidents and the invasion of Somalia by Kenyan Defense Forces have once again brought the lawless country back to the limelight, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Under the prevailing circumstances, the mere mention of this war ravaged Horn of Africa nation conjures up images of exploding grenades, gun fights, piracy, Al-Shabaab, starvation, warlords, mayhem and anarchy.
But, apparently, Somali youths are not perturbed by the chaos and turbulence that have rocked their country for the last two decades for, according to a recent survey, they are a most optimistic lot around the region.
The research — conducted by Data and Research Solutions (DARS) in conjunction with Kenyan research firm Synovate as part of a drive to demystify stereotypes against Somali and provide a credible database on the country — claimed that more than 80 per cent of Somali youth consider themselves happy.
“One of the main reasons we established DARS is to verify facts and figures generated by the media and NGOs which sometimes gives the wrong perception and information,” explains Liban Egal, a DARS director.
“A lot of data coming from Somalia is from companies without offices there, which makes the information they generate questionable.” DARS has offices in Hargeysa in Somaliland, and Mogadishu.
Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region that broke away two decades ago, has been one of the rare islands of peace in this sea of turmoil, with her citizens going about their business without the worry of suicide bombers and gunfights that their kin from the south have to contend with daily.
“Unlike the Kenyan youth who have business and study opportunities that most of them still take for granted and grumble about, the only motivation for survival for the Somali youth amid the harsh environment is the positive outlook,” explains Mr Egal. “Believing in a better future is a key motivator for existence in Somalia.”
Mr Egal said this during a presentation of the report entitled Somaliland Youth Study Report October 2011 in Kenya two weeks ago at the Sankara Hotel in Nairobi.
The company’s principle objectives, he said, is to create a database where organizations or individuals interested in Somalia can access credible information.
The survey, a first of its kind in the troubled nation, presented a glimpse of Somalia starkly different from the chaos and violence that is portrayed on the international media.
Targeting an audience between the ages of 15 and 35, the findings revealed that US President Barack Obama beats deposed Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and firebrand Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as the most admired foreign figures among the youth in this predominantly Muslim nation. Besides political figures, others who scored a high mark as influencers are parents, religious and community leaders.
“Of interest is the fact that Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi scored only two per cent of admiration by the local youth despite the fact that public recreation spots in Hargeysa are always packed to capacity when Barcelona is playing,” observed Egal. “Fame is not always a sign of popularity here.”
This is contrary to trends in other countries across the region like Kenya and Uganda where footballers, musicians and movie stars are idolized and worshipped as social icons by urban youths.
However, 40 per cent of those surveyed did not pick any foreign figure as a role model which, perhaps, is an indicator of a limited knowledge of the outside world among the Somali youth.
But the volatile political situations surrounding the country have not dented the feel good attitude among the youth in Somaliland since 85 per cent of them claimed they were “happy”.
Even more intriguing is the fact that 79 per cent believe life would get better for the next generation with only five per cent saying things would turn out for the worst.
This is way above any other country across the region where young people are perpetually complaining about lack of jobs and economic opportunities.
Although the survey did not define what kind of happiness was being tested, it takes a great deal of courage and optimism to exude any form of joy in this territory sandwiched between turmoil and hostilities.
A bloody war raging in southern Somalia, piracy in the Gulf of Eden and the occasional skirmishes with the other internationally unrecognized breakaway region of Puntland are some of the constant nightmares residents of Somaliland have to live with.
Of note is the fact that, like their peers across the region most youths in Somaliland, 23 per cent, are scared of unemployment than the outbreak of a civil war, 17 per cent, of Al Shabaab and terrorist attacks, eight per cent.
This goes against the general perception that war and lawlessness is the biggest fear. The survey also indicates that Kenya fares poorly among nations that Somaliland youth admires or would like to live in.
Unlike people from southern Somalia who pay dearly to cross the Kenyan border either as refugees or illegal immigrants, only 32 per cent of Somaliland youth would like to live here while a huge majority, 62 per cent, preferred the tiny Red Sea nation of Djibouti. Generally, countries from the Horn and East Africa fared badly compared to Islamic states in the Middle East.
“Most of the youth in Somaliland admire Saudi Arabia, 76 per cent, followed by United Arabs Emirates (UAE), 72 per cent, Egypt, 62 per cent, and Djibouti, 61 per cent,” the research stated.
“Djibouti being so high up on the list is not a surprise as the two countries are neighbours… whose people share language, religion, culture and have for the most part lived harmoniously.”
Strangely, despite there being strong indicators of ignorance to the outside world, the findings indicated that Somaliland has one of the highest mobile penetrations in the region at 85 per cent.
Kenya stands at 51 per cent according to statistics from 2010. This is attributed to need to communicate and transact money with the next of keen in the huge Somali Diaspora.
Source: Daily Nation