Press Office

Saturday 12 Jul 2014

Press Release

BBC World Service focuses on Somalia's past and present, connecting Somalis in Mogadishu, London and Minnesota

Somalia will be a major focus of BBC World Service programming on Wednesday 26 January – the 20th anniversary of the overthrow of the military dictator, Siad Barre. Ravaged by war and anarchy, the country has struggled to govern itself effectively ever since.

A special edition of the African news programme, Focus On Africa, will be followed by the interactive programme, Africa, Have Your Say, which will link up young people in Mogadishu with the Somali expat community in London.

The BBC is also teaming up with US partner station Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) to connect with Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota, home to America's largest Somali community.

The producer of the Focus On Africa special, Celeste Hicks, says: "The programme will bring to life modern-day Somalia, helping the audience to hear real people's stories instead of the daily news diet of bombs and killings."

From 1500 GMT, the hour-long special edition will take a look back at Somalia's recent history, from the fall of Siad Barre to the failed attempts to set up a national federal government. It will ask if Siad Barre was the only leader capable of holding the country together, or the reason it fell apart.

As the programme moves on to the present day, correspondent Damian Zane will look at how Somalia's economy functions without a central government, what happens to ransom money taken by pirates, and the importance of remittances from the Somali diaspora.

Mary Harper will compare the rest of the country with Somaliland which seems to have a 'magic formula' – what can it teach the South?

No special on Somalia would be complete without an understanding of Al-Shabab, the militant Islamist group which controls most of the South of Somalia. Focus On Africa will speak to child soldiers who have been recruited to fight with the group, and ask who is really in control – is there a danger of al-Qaeda hijacking the movement?

The programme will also feature interviews with US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jonnie Carson, and with Bethwell Kiplagat, who was instrumental in setting up the current Transitional Federal Government of the Republic of Somalia.

From 1600 GMT, presenter of the special edition of Africa, Have Your Say, Alex Jakana, will lead the debate over Somalia's future, connecting an audience of young Somalis at a community centre in west London with their peers in Mogadishu. Alex will be joined by MPR presenter Tom Crann, who'll be seeking the opinions of young Somalis in a studio in St Paul.

Alex and Tom will put the young people in touch with each other, asking them for their views on reconciliation and political progress, and how they relate to their 'home nation'.

The BBC's Vera Kwakofi will bring in the views from listeners via text messages, calls and online social networking channels.

Alex Jakana says: "On this anniversary we are going to speak to young Somalis who have never known a national government. It will be fascinating to compare the viewpoints of youngsters who have grown up in the diaspora, but still very much consider themselves Somalis, and those who have lived all these years in their home country."

The programme will ask if any comparisons can be made between the lives of these youngsters. What can a young person in Somalia hope for today? And if they could run the country, how would they solve its problems?

Notes to Editors

The BBC attracts a global audience of 241 million people to its international news services including BBC World Service and the BBC World News television channel.

BBC World Service is an international multimedia broadcaster delivering 32 language and regional services. It uses multiple platforms to reach its weekly audience of 180 million globally, including shortwave, AM, FM, digital satellite and cable channels.

Its news sites, which received 7.1 million weekly visitors in September 2010, include audio and video content and offer opportunities to join the global debate.

It has around 2,000 partner radio stations which take BBC content, and numerous partnerships supplying content to mobile phones and other wireless handheld devices.

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