BEFORE joining the Witness team at the launch of Al Jazeera English, Somali-born reporter Rageh Omaar worked for the BBC for over 12 years. An international correspondent covering stories from all over the world, he reported on the Kosovo War, and the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict. He was named BBC’s Developing World Correspondent and then in 2001, as the BBC’s Africa Correspondent.

After 9/11, the Oxford-trained journalist was the only TV correspondent from a Western media house to report from inside Kabul, Afghanistan during the bombing of the city and Taliban forces.

It was, however, his coverage from Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 which brought him worldwide attention.

This year, the forty-three-year old is to front a new series for Al Jazeera called The Rageh Omaar Report, which begins on March 24. In this exclusive interview, Omaar talks about his expectations and hopes for the new programme, and offers advice to upcoming journalists.
What motivated you to start the Rageh Omaar Report?
It really didn’t need much motivating because it was an offer that I think every journalist dreams of, which is to be given your own programme to explore the issues and the stories that you’re passionate about, that are largely ignored by the mainstream western media. I’ve returned to the Balkans, Bosnia to look at how the ethnic war in Bosnia has scarred that region and continues to do today. And also to re-tell the story of how Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader evaded justice from war crimes for so long. I’ve just come back from Zimbabwe, looking at Zimbabwe very differently, not like the one-sided view that’s been done in the Western media quite a lot, but trying to explain Zimbabwe from all sides. We’ve spoken to the opposition and to ZANU-PF. We’ve spoken to indigenous black farmers who’ve benefited from land reform and white farmers who have lost everything, and looking at the land issue in a historical context. So these kind of stories and many more to come is a great personal opportunity and professional opportunity, and as I said it’s the kind of thing all journalists dream of.

What issues do you want to explore in Africa when you start your programme?
The most important thing I want to do, given that how sometimes one dimension and clichéd the coverage of issues in Africa, is not to come with any agenda. I don’t want the Rageh Omaar Report to say, you know, ‘we’re going to do this kind of reporting in Africa or that kind of reporting’. I just want to look at specific issues and countries and deal with them individually because I think one of the problems that I learnt before my years at Al-Jazeera, working in mainstream media, is that often a lot of the West both journalists and even politicians look at Africa as though it is one country and one place. You know Zambia is the same as Nigeria, and Nigeria is the same as Ethiopia, and Ethiopia is the same as Mozambique. Africa is like one place with all the same, similar problems you know, war and hunger and HIV. So I want to do reports on Africa to try and explain individual countries and societies undergoing difficult and sometimes hopeful change, but within their context, so that they’ll be interesting to an African audience. I know that people in Zambia and in Southern Africa are engaged in and are involved in what is happening in Zimbabwe, but that’s not true if you were to talk of viewers in maybe Ghana or Ethiopia or Mauritania. So I’d like people in those countries in Africa to be able to watch it and see hopefully a more intelligent, a more levelheaded but still journalistically strong and brave reporting from Africa. I want to approach the continent in all its complexities, as individual societies and think that there’s one theme to African problems.

Which specific countries are you looking at on your programme? How did you gain the courage to venture into Kabul at the risk of your life to cover the stories?
In terms of the new programme, it’s quite challenging the new programme because we don’t just want to be, it’s not a background story. We want the stories we cover to be relevant and newsworthy. Which is why we’re doing Zimbabwe now and we’ll certainly be looking at my own country Somalia which is a big hot issue, regionally in the continent and internationally. We’ll be looking at many other sorts of issues. I think we really want to explore America and America under Obama, and how it relates with the world, I think that’s very important, how it relates to Africa, the Muslim world. I think especially for a channel like Al-Jazeera, it’s very important to examine and look at America and its role in the world, but how Americans explain their policies and their role in the world and vice versa. So that’s a big topic, I think especially from a non-Western international news organisation’s point of view, like Al-Jazeera, because of course the other big international news channels, BBC, CNN are Western, but to have Al-Jazeera as a way for America to engage and how its engaging with the world is very important, in Africa and elsewhere. So very broad issues really, and timely issues.

In terms of why did I go to Kabul with the Taleban, I was the only news television journalist working for Western news agency, Al-Jazeera Arabic was there. I think, like someone said, it’s like a cat, curiousity. In journalists I think the one element that is indispensable (is) you’ve got to have a natural curiousity: what’s happening there? What’s really going on? Because also as dangerous as it was, because I was Muslim, because I was not white, I think that was an advantage. I was able to engage with the militia leaders and other people, and they saw me differently, and that’s why they decided to take me and only a few other non-Western colleagues into Kabul, and to have the privilege to see the last moments of the fall of Kabul with the Taleban before NATO and its allies took the city.

Will you cover Iraq? How does present-day Iraq compare with the Iraq of 2003?
I think it’s very important. Of course it’s different in some ways, and not different in others. The main thing I think we have to remember is that many, many tens of thousands of Iraqis have died for the country to get to where it is today. We’ve obviously just had elections in Iraq and I read a very interesting headline; it read ‘Iraq condemned to democracy’. And I think that was a very telling headline, you know, because there are elections, but politics is not time democratic. You have militia leaders and a lot of people who have sectarian politics, the insecurity is still there but still it’s not the place it was in 2003, 2004. But Iraq is still very fragile, it’s going to take a very, very long time for you and for me to be able to take a ride in Baghdad and walk around and talk to all Iraqis and see the country differently.

I think it’s been very, very incremental changes, and there have been important developments, there is a thriving press and so forth, but we can’t describe Iraq as a full democracy in a way that someone in the West would understand it.

And also there is a sectarian fault line in Iraq. It’s very different to the kind of Iraq we were all told was going to emerge from the invasion and occupation. If everyone had said in 2003, “by going into Iraq, we’ll have six, seven years of bloodshed and upheaval, but at the end of it, we’ll have relative democracy, but still authoritarian and sectarian division,” would everyone have said, “yes, let’s go in”? I don’t think so.

What do you think are some of the challenges journalists are facing and do you see any countries in Africa where great strides have been made to allow journalists to practice their profession freely?

I think the profession has changed out of all recognition in the last 10 years.

Because, I think especially in electronic media, the ability to get into it has become more accessible. To have television cameras and editing equipment and software and computers is possible now. You’ve got television stations, and really good journalism blogs, and newspapers and production, the standards are out of this world. I just think one has to be much braver because of the political context in a lot of Africa to be able to practice the profession freely. I think journalism succeeds not only because you have the ability to do it, but also because you have the support of society and government to practice it freely. You’ve got to have that. So that’s a big challenge in a lot of different places. There are far too many places in Africa where, look at my own country – journalists who write articles about al-Shabaab which is the militant group in Somalia – they’re often threatened and killed. That’s a real problem. …the profession is doing incredibly well, but it also needs support and help.

Do you think the media has portrayed your country specifically Somalia in a fair light, considering most of the images we see have to do with what you’ve mentioned terrorist groups, pirates, lawlessness…?

I think you’re right. Somalia has become a cliché. You know, everybody talks about Somalia as a failed state, no government for 20 years and then whenever anyone gets interested in Somalia, Western interests or Westerners are involved; you know the piracy. The piracy is a symptom of what’s happening in Somalia and to Somalis. But we have to be honest; this has been done by Somalis to Somalis, there’s no getting away from that, you know. And Somalia is in a catastrophic state, but I think the West needs to realise and is beginning to realise now, especially with the support of the transitional government is that there’s only going to be a Somali solution to this, with help from the outside, with help from countries in the region, from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, many others. But its only going to be Somalis that can effectively…at the end of the day. So of course these things are happening I can’t deny, no Somali can deny, but I think that like the rest of Africa, it’s hard to see in the Western media beyond the cliché.

Looking at where you have come from as a journalist, what advice can you give to upcoming journalist today in Africa?

I think journalism as a profession, whether you go from the UK or wherever, it’s tough, because sometimes it’s a closed shop. You need a lot of persistence. It can seem like it’s hard to get ahead. But the advice I’d give first of all, you’ve got to know what kind of journalism you want to practice.

Don’t have like just pipe dreams and say “Oh, I want to be in the media.” What is it that you’re passionate about? Is it sport? Is it politics? Is it like social commentary? You’ve got to know what is it that you’re passionate about.

Be very direct because you won’t get any editor giving you any advice or a chance, unless you’re very clear about what you’re good at. You’ve also got to develop a tough character because news is fast-paced, you need to be able to write well. But persist. You got to have persistence, I think that’s the main thing because it’s a tough, tough business to break into; it’s not easy to get into. But you’ve got to persist.

Source: Sunday Post Online


  1. Weligaaba noqo International Star, waxaad wax ku tahay markaad aqoonsato in aad Waddan leedahay oo markay kuu suuragasho aad kelmadiisa u tidhaahdo. Reporter ayaan ahay waxba kaaga tarimayso haddii aanad u hiilin Waddankaaga ood ku soo noqon doonto maalin aad ka jilicsan tahay maanta.

    Waxa dadkii xigmadda lahaa ee reer Somaliland yidhaahdeen ""Nin dheh, ninka kaa soora gurigiisa, laba nin dheh ninka kaa soora guri aan kiisa ahayn"" Ilaahay wax ha kaga duwo Ina Abdillahi Omaar hadalkan.

    Waan ku farxaa markaan arko isagoo soo werinaya barnaamijyo fiican, hase yeeshee dib ayaan u gurtaa markaan xasuusto inuu Aljazeera u shaqeeyo maalin keliyana aannu odhan ""Tolayey Somalilandney"" oo aanu kelmad u odhan. Iga da"a Raage.

  2. Kuwii qaaq da hayey intaa ee Somaliland eey da meel walba la joogay wax abaal ah loogu ma hayo sxb , markaa isagana maxaad uga yeedhi?
    Inta qadarin dunida looga hayaa ku filan bay ila tahay, markaa uma baahna in uu inuun garawshiyo ka dhex helo dadka la abtirsada ee aad ka mid tahay. Runtii dad badan oo reer Somaliland ah way ku qadariyaan kuna weyneeyaan horumarka uu gaadhay ninkani, balse inta maageysaana ma yara. MMaalintuu Hargeisa iyo dalkiisa u baahdana wuu iska iman oo cid u diideysaana ma jiro, inta kale na shaqadiisaas uun buu iska wadan doonaa.

    Amaana Allah

  3. Boqoljire walee intaan odhan lahaaba adaa yidhi. Ilmo Oomaar siiba kan Raage waa loo hanweynaa balse may noqon. Aad iyo aad baan uga naxay markaan arkay isaga oo soo dhaweynaya tuugta Sheikh Sharrif horkacayo ee neceb Somaliland walaalkii Maxmaedna wasiirka ka yahay. Raage'na ka lahaa am from Somalia Mogadisho, inanku miyaano garanayn Somaliland inay ka goosatay Somalia mise looma sheegin inlayn waakan sanad kasta Hargeisa taga kii ina dhaafayna aabihii Xaaji Cabdilaahi Oomaar lagu aasay caasimada ee ay shicib iyo madax u kala hadhin, waamaxey maamuus intaa ka weyn ee uu ka doonayo dalkan gubanaya ee Somalia waa yaabe. Labadan inan'ba walaashood Raaqiyaa dhaanta oo halgankii Somaliland qayb libaax ka soo qaadatay.

  4. Yacni Mr. Raage dalal badan oo Africa ayuu xusay inuu si weyn uga hadli doono oo caalamka kaa gaadhsiin doono isku si u yaqaan balse sidoo kale Caalamku wuxu baahanyahay in Somaliland ay ogaadaan waxay tahay, waa inuu ogaado in Marwo Raaqiya Omaar Muwaadinad SL tahay halka wlaalkeed xataa Somaliland magaca u quudhi laayahay, ma nasii darro ayaan taloow ku tilmaamaa mise sidaad tidhi Boqol Jire" ""Nin dheh, ninka kaa soora gurigiisa, laba nin dheh ninka kaa soora guri aan kiisa ahayn"" Runahaantii ma garan karo ninkaa meel walba isku qaaday ilaa iyo cid walba ka hadlay inuu diyaarin waayo REPORT yar oo Somalilnad ku saabsan.

    Soomalida ayaa ku maahmaahada:
    •Wadaad wardi buu weheshadaa
    •Wiil yari hooyadii buu weheshadaa

    • Walal, please show respect to the dead. I placed literally helped place Abdillahi Omaar in his grave and while I did not agree with his politics, I know enough to know that we should not talk ill about those who are on their way to meet the lord…

      • No sorry walaal that was honest mistake what I was referring to was his brother that worked for the TFG not his father, I very much respected the father (AUN – Allah arxamakum).

  5. Kayse walaal we have the upmost respect for the honorable Oomaar family. I for one will never forget Mujaahida Raaqiya Oomaar and her role in exposing the genocide against the people of Somaliland but these other two guys leave alot to be desired considering their family name I'll go as far as saying they are tarnishing the legacy of their great father Xaaji Oomaar with the way they cater to useless, apportunist and temporary Somali warlords while ignoring what their country Somaliland acheived in less than 20 years. Give credit where credit is due thats all.

  6. I use to have the highest respect for Mr. Omaar, but what he and his brother are up to lately, have surprised me and many Somalilanders who believe in self-determination of Somaliland people.

    These two brothers have become self-centered individuals who can sales their sole to the highest buyer.

  7. Well let us hope that there will be a law banning the enmies of somaliland once it achieves recognition or otherwise… those caugh without a permit visa should spend a few days in the hell-hole prison in Berbera then deported to moqadishu or where ever most appropriate.

  8. Waar nimankiinan is nacamayaa hubka ka dhimya, Raage. He a star, a great Journalist, articulate and a well-known public figure. Don't ever doubt that.

    We, Somalilanders, have a tendency to shoot down our shining stars who made it.
    Let us throw our support behind him and to avoid trying to drag him down. Let us stay away from cynicism and putting down our own people. I admire Raaqiya too and used to defend her when walweyn attacks her because of her work.

    I do agree though with Mr. Elmi, Raage to give a credite where a credite is due from time to time. But his job as a Journalist requires him to be neutral at all times. Go Raage, go!

  9. I was shocked to see Rage becoming the MC of Shereif, who controls only few kelometers in Mogadaisho, shame on you Rageh.
    you abondoned the value of those who were proud of you. you better watch your back and never repeat this mistake again.

  10. That is a well taken professional advice. Persistence and focused can only get u to your desired destination.

  11. Walaashay Gobaadeey, bal eeg Raage suaalaha laga weydiiyey halka uu ka soo jeedo iyo waxa uu ku jawaabayo. Wuxuu ku hanweyn yahay inuu yidhaahdo my country Somalia!. Wuxuu kari layahay inuu yidhaahdo, "Well there are various Somali entities, which one you are talking about?" There is Somaliland [known nowadays as best kept secret in Africa]. Intaa ayaa ka rogi lahayd ceebaynta aynu isku raacnay inuu leeyahay.

    Hore ayaan u idhi igadaa Inankan.

  12. Raage Omaar is bigger than clan enclave. He is a true Somali and Muslim. When some one asks Rage Omaar, internationally distinguished journalist, to participate in dirty and pointless Somali clan politics, one is seeking to destroy the image he worked so hard for.

    One thing I am certain is that clan secessionists are minority in northern Somalia. You all will soon see a time when secessionists are ashamed of themselves. Trust me on this one folks. It will happen.

    • Beensheeg above, Raage is a true Somalilander. He knows who he is and where he hails from. He just trying to be professional and diplomatic to sensitive questions. If you are trying to win him over, you will never be able to. He won't sell himself cheap.

      To the second paragraph of your comment, I would simply say: it is a wishful thinking, but will never happen. Somalilanders are one voice and holding hands for this issue and whatever Somaliland haters throw at us.

  13. Boqoljireh, the issue of the broke away Republic of Somaliland is still politically hot issue, controversial and very sensitive. So, unless he was asked a direct question about the issue of Somalia/Somaliland and because of his profession which requires him not to take sides, he probably is trying not to go there at this time, but I believe he will explain himself one day. Then, we will know for sure which side he is on. Don't jump the gun just yet. Let us give him a chance.

    Besides, he works for AlJazeera and we all know that the Arabian Gulf countries are not on our side or all the Arab countries for that matter. He may just trying not to rock the boat.

  14. You are absolutely a die-hard supporter of Mr. Omaar, and you have the right to do so, but " there is saying, which says "Nin aan hadlan hooyadii qadisay"" there are times that someone has to put his country before his personal carrier and interest. I live in an Arab country and I have taken a bold decision to show others that I am a Somalilander and did something unique, and many were saying to me don't do it, but I did it and nothing has happened to me. Everyone or rather every country in this Planet knows Somaliland is existing and viable and the very the good news will soon be on everyones lips. Furthermore, they [Aljazeera]knows he is from Somaliland, and he can do so many things at Aljazeera without proclaiming that he is for Somaliland. What we [Somaliland] have is something he should not ashamed of, our country is among other place he is willing to tell the world in an African way.

  15. I cant believe some people are still defending Raage after what he said in regard to his country of origion and the way he played into the hands of the anti-Somaliland crowd namelt the TFG headed by idiot Shariif. He picked a side and that side is Somalia. This man can do more than anyone else to illustarate the cause of the his own nation of Somaliland therefore no amount of excuses will ever suffice to vindicate him or his failure of a brother.

  16. You guys are either kids or some arrogant people. As you all know by now I always defend the nation and its people however why cant you understand Rageh Omar is a journalist not a politican, journalists have no borders, boundaries or nationalities. Their nation is that news room, they have to think out side the nation and nationality box in order to report balanced story. Often it is not true but thats journalism and as the title says, he is passion journalist.

    He is Somaliland by blood and properly in his heart but speaking to international media it's another story because Somaliland is not recognized when it is he will have no problem jumping on board. He been to Hargeisa, his family own businesses there.

    Respect please he is one of us and our blood.

    Go Rageh I am with you walaal.

  17. Kayse. Journalist or not he has a duty to his country and he is best suited to deliver the message of the voiceless masses of Somaliland. Al-Jazeera is an international media outlet and he as a journalist can shed some more needed light on the Somaliland issue especially in the hostile Arab world. What use is his abading of weak president Shariif? what porpuse does his"diplomacy" serve his own people back in Hargeisa who can use the publicity. Sheikh Shariif has the BBC and VOA to sell his agenda. Raage can sell the cause to the rest of the world only if he choses to, his brother is settling a score for not beingallowe dinto the country he betrayed for his father's funearal but what excuse does Raage have?

  18. The only and one comment i have to put her, (is): we dont need to confuse with the political statement made – Somalia and stff, you need – u jornalist guys – to learn tips to take ur profession to top on da hils.

  19. Well, Somaliland was neither libarated nor rebuilt by Mr Raageh and his hapeless brother, so what is all the fuss about them now? Whether they join Sheekh Shariif and his dishonourable entourage is really up to them. Remember everyone is entitled to have free choice. And how people exercise that choice is not Somaliland's business. However, what is Somaliland's and my business is when someone from Somaliland or elsewhere like that getto boy Kaynaan tells lies about our country or harms its interest.

  20. Rageh Omaar and siblings are well educated people who speak up for the truth. With him being a journalist, does he really need to take sides? I think not. Let us not jump to conclusion and accuse him of hating his Somaliland roots.

  21. There we go again, trying to put our "best" in the Arena, down.

    I personally, don't know him……….but admire Rageh Omar, because he is a Somalilander and fine journalist, and as one, there are certain things he can say and must not incriminate himself. Deep down, I am sure is a real Somalilander, and nobody can dispute that.

    Go Rageh, continue with the fine job you are doing.