How can journalism help Kenyans and Somalis to cross the chasm of misunderstanding that divides them? Abdi Latif, who has been working on this issue his entire professional life, offers his thoughts.
Abdi was born and raised in Nairobi. But in 1997, Abdi’s mother did something unexpected. At the height of Somalia’s civil war, she moved Abdi and his siblings to Mogadishu to give them a unique education.
When her children came home with stories of what they had seen and experienced – the daily march across the “green line” to school, the classmates who had missed breakfast – she told them to write. And at the end of every month, she would ask them to look back at their diaries and to reflect on what the stories meant.
This period left an indelible mark on Abdi’s approach to journalism: methodical and analytical yet narrative.
“It’s about the people,” he said. “I came to have this connection with the neighbors and the people and the stories.”
Abdi later turned down a scholarship to medical school in order to study journalism at the US International University in Nairobi. While still in school, he was hired by the Africa Review to cover Somalia. He has since written for The Daily Nation, Business Daily, The Africa Report magazine, and was also a fellow with the United Press International.
He was also one of the leaders of Al Jazeera’s Sauti project, an ambitious citizen journalism initiative that has since folded, but served as an inspiration for many similar efforts that followed.
Abdi’s interest in the Somali story pushed him to launch The Sahan Journal, an independent site that covers the Somali-speaking people in the Horn of Africa, East Africa and in the diaspora. He also co-founded Grammar Media, a full-service media company operating in both Kenya and Somalia.
Abdi is now swept across the continent by his passion for story and his success, but the Networked News Lab is fortunate to have his talent and enthusiasm in the increasingly rare moments that he remains still in his native Nairobi.
Journalist Abdi Latif reflects on the Kenyan coverage of the military incursion into Somalia, and asks that this historic moment be an opportunity for media to mature.