By: Atle Hetland
ISLAMABAD: A large group of Somali students in Pakistan celebrated their country’s 61st independence day in Islamabad in connection with Eid-ul-Azha when they had some time off from their online studies. The Somali Independence Day is actually not one but two days, a month ago, as the country gained independence on 26 June and 1 July 1960, the first being independence of British Somaliland, and the second that of Italian Somaliland, and the unification of the whole land.
The main host of the event with over forty guests was M. Abdi Warsame, a senior law student, who has also earlier gathered students in the capital to socialize and celebrate special events. Most of the students this time came from universities in Islamabad, especially the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), and some had come from Lahore and Karachi. Many hail from Puntland and Somaliland in the north of Somalia, where security is better than in some areas in the southern parts, yet the capital city of Mogadishu in the south is also the commercial hub.
Being concerned about peace issues, a group of the students had recently taken initiative to establish what they want to call the Cape Institute of Peace and Development Studies in Puntland, hoping that it would be able to contribute to their homeland’s future on the Horn of Africa. After all, there is a lot of work to be done, and Somalia students in Pakistan, and maybe fellow students from here, too, must do what they can to make lives better at home.
A number of students gave short speeches in Somali and Arabic, but they all also mastered English as well as Urdu, which was appreciated by the local guests. About a third of some 40 students were women, dressed elegantly in traditional dresses. The men were in casual or more formal Western clothes. Some fellow students from other African countries also participated.
Some Pakistani friends had been invited as guests of honor. Salahuddin Choudhry, a retired ambassador, and UN staff, said he enjoyed the event very much and it gave him an opportunity to address the young students explaining about his long experience and offer some advice. Among his several assignments abroad, he had also served in former Yugoslavia.
Dr. Memoona Rauf Khan, an ambassador’s daughter, retired some stories from Nigeria and Malawi and underlined the cultural richness of the African continent, mentioning, too, that more Pakistanis should learn about Africa.
Since the time of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Gideon Langat from the Kalenjin ethnic community in Kenya, known for their fast runners, was asked to explain why they are so good in sports, and he drew attention to healthy food traditions and the nomadic lifestyle, although the latter is less common today.
Akhtar Khan, a NUML graduate in political science quoted President John F. Kennedy in his speech and underlined the importance of everyone doing their part in their home country’s development.
And then it was time for a buffet dinner served in a large hall at Margala Hotel, making it possible to observe corona rules of keeping good distance, even during dinner.