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TEDxMogadishu: Rebirth

An impromptu conference aimed at reforming a war-torn nation

by Aaron Kohn in Culture on 16 May 2012

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For many Somali‬ refugees, the film Black Hawk Down serves as one of their only memories of the civil war that has ravaged their country for the last two decades. This Thursday, 17 May 2012, thousands of expats—along with the rest of the world—will see their nation again in a live broadcast of TEDxMogadishu, an impromptu conference bravely taking place in Somalia's capital city.

Documenting the event are filmmakers Sebastian Lindstrom and Alicia Sully, a progressive duo who recently shot a feature film highlighting the various ways people use camel milk. After filming the TEDx summit in Doha, Lindstrom and Sully joined fellow organizers in Somalia to finalize plans for TEDxMogadishu and make the underground announcement about the nation-shaping symposium.

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With a war on the periphery and pirates on the beaches why risk venturing to Mogadishu when the whole conference will be streamed online via satellite? Well, for the first time in years, Mogadishu is being spared active fighting, and people are coming back and opening businesses. There are success stories to share, like that of participant and supporter Liban Egal, who is the founder of the brand new First Somali Bank.

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The goal for TEDxMogadishu is to create a space in which to spread ideas for positive change in Somalia. Lindstrom points out that the group empowering the independently organized event isn't the first to see a change taking place in Somalia (he helpfully sent over links to The New York Times, Newsweek, Voice of America and Foreign Policy). In some ways, Mogadishu is a model forum for the TEDx conference as it stands on the forefront of something hugely important–the rebirth of a nation.

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If you tune in to the satellite stream of the conference on Thursday, you will witness a powerful movement happening in Mogadishu. Along with the short lead time on the announcement of the event, safety precautions are being put into place to protect the attendees and speakers, which Lindstrom says includes "a chef and restauranteur, a real estate developer, the founder of a university, the founder of the first Somali bank, a camel farmer, healthcare specialist, a Somali journalist and more."

To find out how to attend the three-hour conference you can call or email the organizers. Those tuning in digitally can catch the live feed at 2pm in Mogadishu (12pm London, 7am New York).

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