Posted on Monday, 24 August 2015 09:44

Day in the life: Writing a way

By Interview by Abdi Latif Dahir

Photos© Siegfried Modola for The Africa ReportMohamed Hussein, 19, is a Somali refugee who was born in the Dadaab camps in Kenya. He is trying to use his passion for writing to achieve success

I always wake up at the crack of dawn. I love relishing the serene, tranquil moments of the morning, before the world around me gets hectic and strenuous. I think this has to do with the history of my family and how we got to the Dadaab refugee camps.

For decades, my family relocated from country to country, searching for better opportunities. My father left Ethiopia for Somalia before the civil war there forced him to flee with our family again to Kenya.

After we lived in north-eastern Kenya for a while, the UN High Commission for Refugees moved us to Dadaab. That is where I was born, the first of my family to be born in a refugee camp.

I am also the first person in my family to finish high school. I worked hard throughout the years to achieve my dream. I have to admit that I quit school when I was in the third grade. I started seeing friends getting better in maths and English and instantly realised I had to go back.

From then onwards, I was always first among equals – especially in English literature. In high school, I read and wrote a lot. I wrote for two of Kenya's biggest dailies: the Daily Nation and The Star. I also started a blog to tell the world about what it means to live in Dadaab.

I wrote about Somali women and their strength, about education, and about poverty in the camp.

My most famous piece was a letter to the Saturday Nation about the waning reading culture in Kenya and how schools were to blame for not encouraging young people to read beyond the classroom textbooks.

A Kenyan lawyer living in South Africa read my letter and donated over 1,000 books to my school. The school named the library after him and me.

I don't know where I will go from here, or if I will join a university. Over the years, some of my colleagues in Dadaab got scholarships to study abroad and I would be very happy if I got the chance too.

I don't know what the future holds for me. I am a refugee in a country that wants us to go back to our war-torn nation. What people don't understand is that refugees are themselves victims of insecurity.

I don't believe there's any Somali refugee who wishes to stay in the camps for rest of their lives.

Persistence is key

The closure of Dadaab will be a dilemma for my family. Perhaps it would be good if Kenya offers us citizenship. Kenya doesn't know us.

It actually sees us as the enemy. A lot of people here still discriminate against Somalis. I have never been to Somalia but I would like to go and visit. I know I am from Somalia but Kenya is my first home and where I was born.

I believe persistence is key. Sometimes, I luxuriate in the thought of publishing my first novel or winning a major writing fellowship.

I would do anything these days just to distance myself from the thought of war, the memory of displacement and the travails of living in a refugee camp.

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