Matt Baugh

Ambassador to Somalia

Part of UK in Somalia

28th October 2011 Nairobi, Kenya

Somali Week Festival

This week sees the fifth year of the Somali Week Festival in London, organised by the Kayd Somali Arts and Culture organisation.  The British Office for Somalia is a proud sponsor of this event, which brings together poets, writers and musicians from across Somalia to perform in the UK.  This year’s artists and performers include Mohamed Haashi Dhama ‘Gaarriye’, Abdinasir Ma’alin Aydid, Dr Georgi Kapchits, Amin Amir, Saado Abdi Amarre, Ahmed Shiekh Jama, Jama Kadiye and many more.

The theme of this year’s Festival is translation.  Translating the world’s literary treasures is vital for everyone to learn about other cultures and ideas.  Unfortunately, there is a shortage of Somali works translated into English, and vice versa.  Among this year’s translations by Redsea-online are Animal Farm by George Orwell, and a selection of short stories by Anton Chekhov.  A team of translators are also rendering the work of a number of Somali poets into English.

You might be wondering why an organisation like the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is supporting a cultural event like this.  The answer is that diplomacy is always embedded in a cultural context.  It is impossible to be a fully effective diplomat unless you are engaged in culture and the arts.  Equally well, it is very difficult to make peace where there is no music, theatre and books.  Because it is often the poets and singers and writers of this world who we rely on to remind us of our common humanity, which transcends political or tribal or historical divisions.

Often where the political environment is very highly charged, like it is in Somalia, it becomes very hard to have an open debate around issues like conflict, security, and terrorism.  But by relating to fictional events and stories about the way people live their lives, it is possible to access experiences that are common to us all, regardless of clan or creed.  And this is why literature plays such an important role in helping to make sense of very complex and difficult political situations in ways that everyone can understand and relate to, and which ultimately brings people closer together.

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About Matt Baugh

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3 small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May…

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London
specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3
small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May 2010, when he was appointed the UK’s Senior Representative and Head of the UK’s
Somalia Office. On 2 February 2012 he was accredited as the first
British Ambassador to Somalia for 21 years. Since taking up his Somalia
appointment, he has been able to travel to Mogadishu, Hargeisa and
Garowe, and has been deeply touched by the warmth of the welcome he has received, but also the scale of the challenges that Somali people face
every day.
Matt is a career civil servant and is currently on secondment to the
Foreign Office from the UK Department for International Development. Now 37, he has spent much of his career to date dealing with conflict,
security and humanitarian issues. Since 1999 he has worked in Iraq,
Sudan, Afghanistan and the Balkans, as well as a number of major relief
operations and protracted emergencies. He also helped to set up and lead
the UK’s Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit, now the UK Stabilisation
Unit. Matt is a graduate of the UK Joint Services Command and Staff
College’s Higher Command and Staff Course (2010) and was previously
Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for International
Development (2008-9).
Away from work, Matt is an avid England rugby fan (although he
refuses to admit his own playing days are long over). He is also a keen
mountaineer and skier and, together with Caroline, was part of a team
that raced to the Magnetic North Pole in 2005. These days he is more
likely to be found teaching his children how to swim and build

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