Matt Baugh

Ambassador to Somalia

Part of UK in Somalia

20th July 2012 Nairobi, Kenya

Hargeisa Book Fair – Arts, Culture and so much more

And so to Hargeisa for the Hargeisa International Book Fair, an inspiring gathering of artists, authors, poets and more. Established by Jama Musse Jama and organized by the wonderful Ayan Mahamoud and her excellent team, the Book Fair is now in its fifth year.

Hargeisa may have no theatre, no permanent library and no cinema, but this literary festival is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon. Literature, poetry, film, music, theatre, are all celebrated here, building on Somaliland’s proud oral tradition; its already inviting very favourable comparisons to the UK’s own Hay Festival. This year’s festival saw the publication of a new collection of Somali proverbs. Edited by Georgi Kapchits, formerly of Radio Moscow, this new collection, entitled ‘Somalis Do Not Lie in Proverbs‘, is designed to make sure that the Somali oral tradition is given the recognition it deserves.

The Hargeisa working men’s club, decked in the Somaliland colours, provides the setting for the Book Fair’s popular presentations and discussions, while outside busy stalls and makeshift tents display books in Somali and English, organic fruit and locally-made textiles; Coca Cola is also very much on display – courtesy of the new bottling plant in Hargeisa. Among the throng – and it really is very, very busy – you can find Somali translations of Chekhov or English translations of the essays of Galaal. Copies of Mary Harper’s important new book, ‘Getting Somalia Wrong‘ were, I am reliably told by the author, sold out – twice.

As Ayan will tell you, you do not build a community by simply focusing on institutions – an army or police force, a government or local administration. You do it by also by creating a shared identity and common values – by changing people’s minds; by helping them grow.

It is for this reason that the UK has been a proud sponsor of the Book Fair for three years now. The UK is proud of our historic links with Somaliland. Somali diaspora communities are among the UK’s most well-established, with Somaliland communities present in almost every major city across England and Wales. The diaspora play a vital role in all aspects of UK society – from local councillors to some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs.

The UK’s support for Somaliland covers a wide spectrum. As well as our ongoing support for festivals like the Book Fair, we are also providing significant development aid and will continue to do so. Most excitingly, perhaps, we are working on a new initiative together with the Danish Government. The Somaliland Development Fund will help support the priorities of the Somaliland Development Plan, helping the government support prosperity, tackle poverty and deliver basic services, such as health and education.

Giving Somaliland’s young people something to do (some 70% of Somaliland’s population are estimated to be under 30), stimulating minds with things other than khat – these things matter. Put simply, arts and culture matter.

But I am also acutely aware – and often reminded – that much of Somaliland’s success has been delivered despite international aid and assistance. Somaliland’s relative stability has been enabled by Somalilanders themselves. So as we increase and strengthen our collaboration with Somaliland, how do you think we should focus our assistance? How should we make sure that aid helps, not hinders development? I look forward to hearing from you.

As we enter the holy month of Ramadan, I would like to echo the words of the Foreign Secretary and wish all Somalis, and all Muslims across the globe, a peaceful time with their families. Ramadan Mubarak!

20 comments on “Hargeisa Book Fair – Arts, Culture and so much more

  1. Thank you very much ladies and genlemen, my pleasure to inform you that somalia in general stands at critical moment with serveral complex issues relayed to science and security . Digging graves and using radioactive decay is truely devastating . Sooner or later NPT out of control and we longer be their. Culture and archaeology is severity thteatened.

  2. Thank you Mr. Ambassador for visiting Somaliland. its very importent
    that Somaliland don’t become dependent on handouts for ever. More project which Sustainability is key in order to get funding is what Somaliland needs. I am writing report on Somaliland Sports sector which I have find could have big potential as SL has TV companies ,remittance services also many other business local and international who will all pay for sponsorship. further if football is played in local stadiums their is big funds that can be generated.

  3. The best way that Britain could help Somaliland is by focusing the core issues of Somaliland’s deficiency in attracting international investors due to lack of recognition. Ofcourse this will not eliminate Somaliland’s developement needs but it would certainly clear some of the financial hurdles that impede Somaliland exploit its fast nutural resources. It could have utilized its marine wealth such as fishing industries and potential offshore oil as well as positively surveyed oil depossits within its borders that was halted during the times of the former dictator’s military campaign against its people. Imagine the prospects of Somaliland as “Gateway to Africa”, from Ethiopea, South Sudan, Central Africa, Uganda, Congo,Straight to Chad, Niger and beyond. There is no doubt that with its adventurous bussiness community around the world, Somaliland could connect resourceful untapped Africa to the globe!

  4. Dear Ambassador,

    Thank you for your support for Somaliland a small nation that is struggling to keep their head above water. The international community must not forget that Somaliland is not an ordinary african nation but a nation that has lost 40 years of nation building along with half of their population subjected to genocide. Half of those who survived are living in the Diaspora keeping the Spirit of Hope for Somaliland. For the last 21 years Somalilanders have rebuilt their state from next to nothing. Landmines are still posing a daily threat to their civilians which is a legacy of genocide that humanity should never forget.

    Supporting Somaliland’s International Book Fair is a great and positive initiative but it is a drop in the ocean. Somaliland needs a long term commitment from their friend, Great Britain to support this young and forgotten nation.

    Somaliland a noble african nation has a deciated Somalilander diaspora that is basically helping their nation to live in dignity so they don’t become dependent on handouts for ever. But again this is a huge burden for the Somaliland Diaspora who are trying to fill a gap where donors and international NGOs have failed to fulfill. I recall reading about a successful and workable initiative called the Somaliland Development Corporation(SDC) that was launched in the UK parliament in Feb to help Somaliland with development and investment needs in the short and long term. This is also mentioned recently in the Guardian by Mark Tran under the heading ‘Somaliland moves towards new banking era’. It looks like the SDC is using Somaliland’s model of nation building where any investment that comes from bottom up is good for transparency. It is great to hear that Develpment of Somaliland is getting good support from the UK which is a positive step forward for the future building of the Horn.

    One final word, Somaliland’s lack of recognition will only prolong the Horn’s suffering, creating more famine, poverty, terrorism,warlords, instability, piracy to mention few. Imagine if the Arab Spring came to Africa along with terrorism looming in the background what would become of the future stability of Africa and our global stability. The recent destruction of Timbuktu Heritage should be a lesson for Africa. Development and Democracy is the new way forward and Somaliland can not invest in their nation without reclaiming their right to international recognition. Without regaining formal recognition Somaliland will be subjected to donor dependenency, future instability, threats of terrorism and so on.

    Good luck with your endeavour.

  5. Matt

    Please spare us the platitudes about Somaliland.You sound like one of their make-believe ambassadors and not the British Ambassador to Somalia.I have pointed out to you many time the atrocities commited by Somaliland against the people of Khatumo,and the abject marginalisation and underdevelopment of the SSC regions.I have asked you to visit those areas and see for yourself the problems in that area and talk to the traditional leaders.Not only did you turn a deaf ear,you now add salt to the wound by extolling the virtues of your beloved Somaliland, an administration that has killed hundreds of civilians in Buhodle.

    Tell us where does your significant aid go to.Whom does it help in Somaliland,other than the triangle area inhabited by the Isaaq clan.Where are the ideals of democracy and tranparency in these issues?

  6. Dear Ambassador,

    Your visit to Somaliland is a great achievement for the Somalilanders. Indeed the Book Fair is the greatest social event so far.

    I would like to thank you for your visit and remarks about helping Somaliland and its people.

    I think Somaliland managed to achieve so much for the last 21 years and It did what it could do without much support from the International community. The only thing remaining now is to open the doors to a direct assistance and investment. Britain can assist Somaliland is achieving that goal by providing the platform to attract international investors.

  7. Dear Ambassador,

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience in Somaliland. People in Hargeisa and other cities in Somaliland are indeed a very resilient and proud people.

    I can’t stress further how much the people of Somaliland deserve, and rightly so, increased engagement from the International Community and especially the United Kingdom which Somaliland had long standing ties from its days as a protectorate. Not only is Somaliland a model for Somalia, it is a model for the entire continent, and recognition as independent state in long overdue.

    I also urge the United Kingdom not to give a blind eye to the corruption and mismanagement that defines the TFG government in Mogadishu. Furthermore the TFG is accused of gross human rights abuses and the arming of proxy militias in peaceful parts of Somalia (including the use of child soldiers), against international law.

    I hope Britain takes stern action and makes it clear that these kinds of acts will not be tolerated any more.


  8. Thank you Mr. Ambassador for visiting Somaliland and thank you for asking for our input regarding the improvement of the lives of Somalilanders. We are grateful to the British government and to the British people for their continuous humanitarian and political support.

    To come back to the subject, recognition of our sovereignty remains our number one priority, because it will attract investment and will eliminate our need for foreign assistance. Besides sovereignty, we need food, water, health, education and infrastructure development.

    Your government can help us with digging enough water wells, agricultural equipment and fertilizers. These will not only solve our food problems once and for all, but will play greater role in our sanitation and public health. Of course, we need assistance with construction of hospitals, medical staff training and medical equipment to address the health needs of our population.

    We need good schools and good roads to attract future investors and to exploit our natural resources. We are specially in dire need for the construction of Burao-Erigavo highway that will save the lives of hundreds of Somalilanders losing their lives in traffic accidents and will also help pregnant women with medical complications in getting urgent access to healthcare. The Eastern Somaliland regions are blessed with natural resources, vast agricultural areas and exceptionally breath-taking many touristic attractions, but the people there remain poor, because they can not efficiently get their products to the national and international markets due to poor road links.

    I thank you again for valuing our input.

  9. Dear Ambassador
    Thank you for visiting Somaliland and I thank the British Government for their long support of my homeland. If I have one request to add to fellow Somalilanders it will be to please support building better infrastructure specially roads and other public institutions like hospitals. and support education so people educated inside the country can run these public institutions.

  10. Hello Ambassador, Matt.
    Your visit of Somaliland soil was greetly welcomed and most people included me appreciated your deternimation to reach hargeisa book fair without taking escorts what so ever.

    we wish and expect your near future visit and to explore more what your country and Somaliland can share and work together.

  11. Dear ambassador
    Somaliland people are welcomming the deplomatic relations with UK, however, we are skeptical to the nature of Hargeisa office reporting to Mogadishu one. It seems to me that your governmet recognises the failed state of Somalia by oppening your embassy in Mogadisho of which consulate in Hargeisa would be operating under. It is imperative form of acknowleding that Mogadishu has legitimate authority over Hargeisa’s government. Thanks but no thanks. Developement assistance that undermaines our national interest and vission of becoming independent nation is not simply wanted. We don’t want to have any links with these corrupted officials to country you are ambassador.
    Given the United Nation Monitoring Groups report on Somalia, we would like to hear our government halt any negotiations with Somalia.

  12. Indeed its a positive development, and we Somalis appreciate your presence since it may boost the participation of others next year.

    Also mr. baugh, calling them “somalilanders” is honestly not doing justice to the intelligence of somalis living in Northern Somalia. Its a inveted ethnic name for a political purpose.

    I am from the north- western part in Somalia, the region bordering Djibouti if i may be specific.

    The truth is that the politicians in Hargeisa are cronies and they haven’t done anything for development or peace, those factors are entirely because of the people in the region using reason instead of guns.

    These politicians are tribalists and they will use the militia army to KILL anyone who exercise their free speech like showing the blue national flag, OR professing pro union slogans.

    In buhoodle and surrounding areas in north western Somalia, they attacked innocent poor people for refusing their political agenda.

    Mr. baugh i hope you bring more attention to this, as a way of supporting human rights in buhoodle and other areas where these politicians are sending young men to attack.

    Thank you.

    1. It seems to me Amina that you are one of the bitter people, bitter of the success that somaliland has made. As always people like you will try to undermine what is being done but somaliland will succeed at the end.
      No one is under estimating the work that still needs to done. We are called Somalilanders and will always be that. Many people died for our somaliland and as a young British Somalilanders I hope to contribute to my home which we left behind but NEVER forgotten.

      We have our own flag hence we won’t except the blue and white flag otherwise would be point less for all we have gone through and lost along the way. Corruption is everywhere however it’s foolish of you to denial the Somaliland Goverment efforts and continuing dedication to their people. Tribunal is something that is part of our heritage and something we need to learn to adpt to live with. Somaliland is not a tribunal group but of men and women who want peace and prosperity. the name somaliland= Somali—land, not a tribe and I would believe if you live in somaliland you are Somalilanders, not Somali. Somaliland is still cleansing their roots and as every tree has some bad roots.

      I am proud to be a Somalilanders but wish my brothers and sisters in Somali success, to recognise the need for change and finally recognise us a separate entity but still keeping the love.
      Finally I would congratulate my fellow Somalilanders work and soon we will have our victory to be recognised as nation so we can grow our nation even more.

      Ambassador, somaliland does need aid to help to rebuild a country which has been forgotten for decades in order to help those who are helping themselves. The first step is to recognise somaliland as a country free from Somali to help the country to open doors to the world. It also secures the investment of Somalilanders living outside the country who have heavily invested in their homeland. We are a proud nation who isn’t looking for handout but recognition. I am sure once developed we will be the ones giving to the rest of the world.

      Peace and love

  13. “It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel.

    First of all, congratulations for visiting Somaliland and experiencing at first-hand the sheer determination of Somalilanders to succeed. As you have rightly mentioned, much of the impetus behind the Somaliland success in producing stability in a politically challenging corner of the world is the people themselves and their desire to make it happen.

    “How should we make sure that aid helps, not hinders development?”

    A lot of the time, you hear Somalis have sense of ‘entitlement’ where their first instinct is to ask for aid without showing any returns for it. Somalilanders have shown anything but that. The biggest projects that are currently under way in the country or have already been completed came from the people’s initiative. For example, the first funding for the hospitals, the schools and the roads were generated by the local communities. It is these communities that came up with the initial resources and then turned to the government and asked for what it could add to the fund. It is the “big society” that is in motion.

    As the country is not in a position to apply for loans or attract big size foreign investment due to its lack of international recognition, the covers of the Somaliland government to undertake huge projects in developing its infrastructure and creating jobs is very limited. This is the reason why the country’s infrastructure is in a dire state, despite all the progress made on the political and the democratic fronts. The successive Somaliland governments focused on creating the conditions for peace and democracy with the limited resources at their disposal. Security was their first priority. However, security is also dependent upon people having basic standard of living. Ultimately, it is jobs, education and justice that secure peace and stability. Therefore, aid cannot be an evil if it is administered in the correct manner, and used as a bridge to take one to the other fence. In other words, aid has to be seen as an investment to prop up the country’s infrastructure and help the government develop the agriculture industry, consolidate its democratic institutions (particularly, the justice and the economic sector) and assist the businesses to create jobs.

    The government’s 5 Year Plan and Somaliland Vision 2030 provide benchmarks for the future direction and development of the country which is to become a self-reliable and self-sufficient nation. This is a challenging aspiration but it is one that the people of Somaliland support. By working in partnership with the Somaliland government, aid will become an investment and a gateway to these goals. It should not lead to a client like culture that we normally see between the donors and the Somalis.

  14. Hello Mr. Ambassador,

    Somaliland people would only need from the World Community including UK how to secure food production that can reach to every Somalilander individual which is precisely only to dig water wells and tools (tractors like) to cultivate the land.
    Having said that, after that help which is doable by the World then people of Somaliland will be thinking and been more proactive in the world stage. That’s a win-win situation in the area of Horn of Africa and Somaliland would produce more people of integrity and peace-loving citizens of the world.
    For the simple idea of human history Food is Power, and empowering the Somaliland people is simply doing the right step toward humanity.
    People of Somaliland choose to be responsible, respectful and doing the right thing for the sake of the human’s evolution journey of our time.Thank you.



  15. The latest news said that …The British government this week unveiled its plans to open a consulate general in Hargeisa, capital city of Somaliland, as it broadens its diplomatic presence in the region . The office will operate under the British embassy set to be opened in Mogadishu and all diplomatic contacts between Somaliland and Britain will be moved from the current Mission in Addis Ababa to the office of Ambassador Baugh…..

    If this is true Mr Baugh, then this is actually an insult and a direct threat to Somaliland’s sovereignty. There will not be a UK Consulate in Hargaysa that will be reporting Mogadishu. That will never will happen. As Somalilanders, we lost so much to re-gain our sovereignty, so do not expect you can buy Somaliland for what you called development projects. There were no development projects from Brits before and we are not expecting them now.
    A lot of heros lost their lifes to re-gain our severeignty while the whole world was arming and cheerleading our enemy . So now millions are ready to do it again no matter what you and other are planing for .

  16. Dear Ambassador

    i think your visit to somaliland will leave you a changed man ,please in the future if your need anything about somaliland we at will
    be glad to help you

    Yours sincerely

  17. Dear Ambassador,

    The Hargaisa book fair is indeed a special event and one which the UK should be extremely proud of. I particularly enjoyed Evan Christopher performing with Hudaydi and bringing a little bit of New Orleans to Hargaisa.

    You are correct much of Somaliland’s success has been down to Somalilanders. My main concern with increased direct assistance is corruption. You are very much aware of recent reports highlighting the endemic corruption of some TFG officials and TF institutions. Personally I would be ashamed to shake the hands of such scrupulous leaders.

    At the forefront of any increased assistance must be a robust anti corruption measures put into place. Even if it means monitoring personal accounts of ministers.

    You say the Somaliland Development Fund will help support the priorities of the Somaliland Development Plan, helping the government support prosperity, tackle poverty and deliver basic services, such as health and education. But what about large scale enterprise. How is Somaliland going to attract multinationals to invest in the region? We cannot live on handouts forever.

    In February this year during the Somalia Conference Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham gave support to the establishment of the Somaliland Development Corporation. The president himself included it in his speech. To many Somalilanders this was seen a positive step in the right direction. This was a good initiative because it put emphasis not on SL government but on local people. Five months on and it appears not much has materialised from this promise. Does the UK no longer support this initiative.

    Yours sincerely

    1. Outstanding comment, 100% in agreement with what A Hussain wrote. We would like to see the entire Somaliland community in the country share any funds that come to the country not just some. We would like to see young people in Somaliland feel proud for what they can achieve in their country and not threw themselves into sea and die by trying to leave the country. Would like to see people in powered by educating them with what they can do in their own country, specially young people as they’re the future leaders of this country. I believe education is the key to every societal problems!!
      Best regards

Comments are closed.

About Matt Baugh

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3 small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May…

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London
specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3
small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May 2010, when he was appointed the UK’s Senior Representative and Head of the UK’s
Somalia Office. On 2 February 2012 he was accredited as the first
British Ambassador to Somalia for 21 years. Since taking up his Somalia
appointment, he has been able to travel to Mogadishu, Hargeisa and
Garowe, and has been deeply touched by the warmth of the welcome he has received, but also the scale of the challenges that Somali people face
every day.
Matt is a career civil servant and is currently on secondment to the
Foreign Office from the UK Department for International Development. Now 37, he has spent much of his career to date dealing with conflict,
security and humanitarian issues. Since 1999 he has worked in Iraq,
Sudan, Afghanistan and the Balkans, as well as a number of major relief
operations and protracted emergencies. He also helped to set up and lead
the UK’s Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit, now the UK Stabilisation
Unit. Matt is a graduate of the UK Joint Services Command and Staff
College’s Higher Command and Staff Course (2010) and was previously
Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for International
Development (2008-9).
Away from work, Matt is an avid England rugby fan (although he
refuses to admit his own playing days are long over). He is also a keen
mountaineer and skier and, together with Caroline, was part of a team
that raced to the Magnetic North Pole in 2005. These days he is more
likely to be found teaching his children how to swim and build