One day during my last semester at university, our faculty dean sent us Heritage Institute’s annual conference call for papers on our WhatsApp group. After reading the requirements I noticed that this was an opportunity that I could take advantage of, so I did. After consulting with one of my lecturers about which topic to choose, I came up with a topic that was relevant to the conference theme, which was Climate Change and Conflict in the Horn, the topic I chose to write about was Fostering a Culture of Tolerance in Somali Society. I wrote my abstract and sent it to the institute by email. I didn’t receive a response for a while and honestly, I believed that my abstract wasn’t accepted because of the prolonged response. One morning after more than two months of sending my abstract, I received a response from the institute telling me that my abstract was accepted and that I should start writing my full paper. So, I started to write my full research paper which took a while, and after finishing I submitted my full paper and waited for its response. The response for my full paper also took a while, but this time I was waiting for the response because I was sure that I was going to get one, so I kept checking my email every day to see whether they had responded. After a while, I received a positive response telling me that my paper was accepted and that I would participate and present my paper in the 6th annual forum for ideas which would be held in Djibouti.

I was both excited and nervous. I was excited because I was going to Djibouti and experience this great event, and at the same time, I was nervous because I was going to present my paper in front of an audience full of experienced scholars and academics for the first time. After landing in Djibouti, I began to rehearse my presentation in my hotel room the two nights before my day of presentation which was on the second day. On the second day, I presented my paper in a hall with an audience that consisted of famous academics and scholars such as prof. Abdirahman Badiyow and prof. Mohamed Mukhtar to name a few. Although feeling a little nervous, this didn’t stop me from successfully presenting my paper and answering a couple of questions that were thrown at me after finishing my presentation.

The topic for this year’s conference was climate change and conflict in the Horn of Africa. Climate change was a topic that I didn’t know much about, so this was an opportunity for me to understand and learn about it. Honestly, before the conference started, I believed that climate change was not a relevant topic at this stage and that other topics, such as security and/or institutional building should be prioritised. But after listening to scholars and speaking with some of them, I came to realize that I was wrong. All panellists and presenters were talking about solutions to severe problems that we currently face such as floods, droughts, famine, etc. I learnt that these problems need to be addressed now and that we can’t wait until we get full security or strong institutions because the consequences of these problems are so huge.

One of the best advantages I took away from the conference was the new connections I made. I learnt and made connections with many bright successful people from different backgrounds. After having discussions with the new people I met during and after the conference, I learnt many things from them and I’m hoping to keep our connections and learn a lot from them in the future.

This wasn’t the first time I went to Djibouti, I went there once as a transit passenger and couldn’t see the country. This time I was staying there for three days and had the chance to see the country and its people. Security and law and order were the two main things that attracted me. During my stay there, I realized how foreigners were walking and running through the streets day and night without any bodyguards with them, and also how people were abiding by the traffic lights without the presence of traffic officers. Unfortunately, these are things that are rare in Somali cities. Also what attracted me was the people of Djibouti. During my stay there, I didn’t feel that I was away from my homeland. I had a great time discussing with Djiboutians about our different accents and how we differ in certain areas of life.   

Finally, I want to express my sincere gratitude to The Heritage Institute for allowing me (and others) the opportunity to present and participate in this great annual conference that brings together some of society’s top minds.