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Somalia Gets First Private Media Outlet Focusing On Less Spoken Maay Dialect

Somalia's Maay dialect may be seen as a version of the language spoken mostly in the South West state of the country.

Somalia’s Maay dialect may be seen as a version of the language spoken mostly in the South West state of the country.

But it had had no private media outlet publishing in this dialect, forcing most people to either make do with formal Somalia or be kept out of the information network.

Last week, things appeared to change after Arlaadi Media Network launched the first ever media station, TV and Radio, fully broadcasting in Maay.

And a galaxy of Somali federal government officials stood shoulder to shoulder to cut the ribbon to launch the first major independent broadcaster in Maay dialect in Somalia on November 2.
They included Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe, Planning counterpart Gamal Hassan, Youth and Sports’ Hamza Said Hamza and Justice Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur. They jointly declared Warteelka Arlaadi (Arlaadi Media Network), affectionately abbreviated as ArlaadiMN, to be the first privately owned public information outlet exclusively in Maay, arguably the second most widely spoken dialect in the Somali language.

Embrace the Maay

So important was to Minister Dubbe about the future influence of the media house, especially its potential to popularise the Maay, a dialect vastly used in southern regions of Somalia, he urged people in all spheres of socio-political life to get ready to embrace the Maay and pay attention to Arlaadi MN.

“One day there will be 1P1V (One-Person, One-Vote) in Somalia. So, I want to tell politicians who do not know Maay language that you have a big task ahead of you,” Mr Dubbe stated while at the podium in Jazeera Palace Hotel, the launching venue of Arlaadi Media Network.
“You have four years if you have to reach a majority of voters. So, we have to put all our efforts into learning it,” he added.

Mr Dubbe was referring to the planned universal suffrage elections. Originally planned for this year, that type of election which would be the first in 50 years failed to kick off as security and other challenges mounted.

If it happens, politicians will have to market their policies directly to the people in a language they understand, Mr Dubbe argued.

In Somalia, South West State had been running a Maay language station, but it previously ran into controversy after officials attempted to shut it down. It survived after an outcry.

The founder of Arlaadi Media Network, Mr Ilyan Ali Hassan, a senator in Somalia’s outgoing Upper House of the Parliament, told Nation.Africa that the network is composed of an FM Radio and a TV station that are supported by a think-tank agency, Arlaadi Institute for Policy Studies that he directs.
“In setting up Arlaadi MN my vision was to empower the people in Somalia, especially those who speak the Maay Language,” stated Hassan, preferring to call the Maay as a language than a dialect.

“According to Somalia’s Provisional constitution, the Somali language has two versions that are equally legitimate in their application as national tongues,” reiterated Hassan to justify his drive to improve the Maay.

He further indicated that the media house is intended to broadcast programmes that target a cross spectrum of the society from women, youths, labour force to intellectuals and religious personalities.

Ms Zamzam Mohamed Ali, the Deputy Director of the media network, told Nation in Mogadishu that Arlaadi MN has the potential to create jobs in the areas of management, production, acting as news anchors, reporters and correspondents in and out of Somalia.

“Of nearly 30 persons employed by the network, about 50 percent are women,” stated Zamzam.

The network is strongly committed to empower the workforce, particularly the female lot to embrace more leadership roles by benefitting from the training offered, boh on job and off job, according to Ms Zamzam.

She added, “We broadcast uniquely diverse programmes like matalaadda (representation) and owlaada barakacayaasha (the children of the IDPs – Internally Displaced Peoples) to focus on the leaders who represent the commoners and the new generation growing in the IDP camps,” keeping in mind that Mogadishu has one of the largest IDP camps in Somalia, housing over half a million people.

At the launching ceremony, politicians poured in with congratulatory messages. Former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said, “The move is a joy for the whole Somali people, especially the people of South West State as they will have full access to the news and useful information in their language,” joining other dignitaries like Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.

Maay is seen as a dialect of the Somali language although the native speakers particularly in the southwestern regions of Somalia believe that it is language on its own.

Two dialects

Hassan, the founder of Alaadi MN and director of Arlaadi Institute for Policy Studies, told Nation that he agreed with the south-western people’s view. “I am convinced that Maay is a language of its own,” he said, anticipating that the institute intends to improve the writing and use of Maay.

Most Somalis generally refer to the Somali language as having two dialects: Maay and Maxaa. The latter, pronounced as ma’haa, is more employed across the Somali speaking population, but Maay is widely popular in the southwestern regions, Jubbaland state and Banadir region (Mogadishu and its locations) plus across the border in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia.
Arlaadi’s Hassan trusts that both Maay and Maxaa dialects can benefit by borrowing from each other rather than rushing to make use of words or phrases taken from such foreign languages as English, Italian, Arabic or even Indian.

Like any other language in the world, both Maay and Maxaa dialects of the Somali language are dynamic and subject to evolutionary changes. Most people believe that people in Somalia’s northern regions in Puntland and Somaliland states borrow more Arabic and Indian words while people in more southern states, especially in Mogadishu are more inclined to employ Italian words.

Use of Indian words, like paise and shulk for ‘money and fee’ by inhabitants of the port town of Berbera and its vicinities had been common due to Indian settlers that served the British authority that colonised the northwestern regions in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“If both dialects are developed in parallel, they can enrich each other because of the common background,” said Hassan, the founder of the media house and its associated policy research institute.


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