I am one of the Somalis in the Diaspora who came to Somalia filled with passion for making a positive difference in the country. As you may know, most of the people from the Diaspora are dreamers, idealists with a vision of how things should be done in Somalia and many such people do not get their ideas off the ground. However, most of the Diaspora politicians want to get things done, sanding on principle and who would always work hard and want government to help the people who need help the most.
On the other hand, the people from the Diaspora have sacrificed their personal lives living behind their families and professional life to care for Somalia and its people. Plus, many have lost their lives while many others are not deterred to come to Somalia and risk their lives in order to making a difference to Somalia. For instance, Qamar Aden Ali, former Minister of Health and Prof. Ibrahim Hassan Addow, former Minister of Culture and Higher Education were killed on December 3, 2009 by a suicide bomber during a graduation ceremony in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Nevertheless, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia values the role of the Somalis in the Diaspora in order to play a pivotal role in helping the TFG in bringing peace, security and stability in the country. TFG understands the importance of the Diaspora and its vital role in the country’s development and it has created a Ministry for the Diaspora. In this, regard, the Minister in charge of the Diaspora portfolio has visited a number of countries to listen and understand their concerns, solicit their support for the TFG and explain duties and roles of the Ministry vis-à-vis the Diaspora. As a result, the countries visited by the Minister have formed Committees working with the Ministry.
Somalia, more than two decades after the fall of Siad Barre’s government in January 26, 1991 has remained without the central authority and the Diaspora were the back bone of its economy and the engine driving it to its success. Most of the families in the country their only source of income was the remittance sent by the people in the Diaspora through exchange bureaus known in Somalia as Hawalad where you can receive money on the same day. Plus, for the most part business companies in the country are owned by Somalis in the Diaspora whether it is exchange bureaus or the telecommunications that are mushroomed in the country and became successfully competitive.
Given the above, the Diaspora was involved in many of Somalia’s 14 National Peace and Reconciliation Conference which only begun to bear fruits during the Conference held at Arta, Djibouti in 1999 by the same token, Currently Somalis in the Diaspora are well represented in the Transitional Federal Parliament, Council of Ministers and Local Government Administrations etc. For instance, the following are some members from the Diaspora:
- Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Prime Minister (Oct 10 – present)
- Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Prime Minister (Feb 09 to Sept 10).
- Abdirahman Aden Ibrahim (Ibbi), Deputy PM and Minister of Fisheries, and Marine Resources.
- Salim Aliyow, former Deputy PM and Minister of Finance
- Ali Jama Jangeli, Minister of Higher Education & Culture
- Abdirizak Osman Jurile, Minister of Posts & Telecommunications.
- Farhan Ali Mohamud, former Minister of Disarmament of Militia & Rehabilitation
- Ahmed Abdisalam Aden, Minister for National Security
- Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, former Minister of Foreign Affairs,
- Mustaph Sheikh Ali Duhulow, Minister for Planning & International Cooperation
- Fowzia Mohamed Sheikh Hassan, Minister of Women Development
- Mohamed Abdi Yusuf, Minister of Rural Development
- Mohamed Abdi Gandi, former Minister of Transport
- Abdirashid Haji Derow, former Minister of Reconciliation
- Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, former Minister of Planning & International Cooperation
- Abdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow), Minister of Information
- Buri Mohamed Hamza, Minister of Environment
- Hassan Moallim M. Sheikh Ali, former Minister of State for the Office of the President
- Yusuf Gelle Ugas, Minister of Public Works & Housing
- Nur Hassan Hussein (Nur-Adde), Former Somali Prime Minister and current Ambassador to Italy and European Union.
Also, a significant number of Somalis in the Diaspora are Members of Parliament, Director Generals and Departmental Heads of various Ministries, Ambassadors, Chairmen of Independent Federal Commissions. The current Governor of Banadir Region and Mayor of the Capital City, Mogadishu, and Somali Military Joint Chief of Staff are both from United Kingdom. Deputy Mayor of Mogadishu is also from Holland. Last, but not the least, Universal TV is owned and operated by Somalis in the Diaspora as well as many other media outlets such as TV, print, Radio and Internet WebPages and all raising awareness about Somalia.
I fully understand very well the importance of engaging with you, as I am a member from the Diaspora, who was an active member during my stay in London, United Kingdom for the last 16 years. I believe each one of you in the Diaspora can be an excellent ambassador for Somalia. Thus, you can help to save Somalia by organising yourselves to look after our vulnerable and misguided youth especially those from the Diaspora. We have witnessed an influx of young people from the Diaspora joining the ranks of Al-Shabaab due to ignorance or lack of knowledge of Islam. Our religion is a peaceful one and prophet Mohamed always encouraged to resolving all problems by peaceful means.
Ministry of Information
As Minister of Information, the Ministry of Information is willing to working in partnership with you with a view to engaging or anticipating the role of the Ministry and in general Somali politics. Radio Mogadishu is now functioning and it is the only national public radio in the country. So, it is your radio that needs your support, assistance and more importantly we expect you taking part to radio programs. The Radio is yours and we need to be receiving your continuous feedback with a view to enhancing all programs in the radio. Radio Mogadishu can be listened live on the internet, as well as via satellite. We are now planning to reach out to Somalis in North America by connecting via satellite.
Ministry of Information plans to re-activate our National TV, which will help your children to learn their culture and nationalism. We are aiming to connect the TV via satellite so it can be viewed around the globe.
My own predicament
The descent of Somalia, from a peaceful, wealthy, contemporary country, to the decimated shell that it is today, will in time be a chapter of history poured over by students and academics alike. Perhaps colonisation threw a veil of suppression over deep rooted clan divisions, which slowly seeped back after independence. Perhaps Somalia simply fell victim to a dictator, like so many countries. Perhaps Somalia isn’t really a country after all, just a piece of ground with a line drawn round it.
Whatever the precise reason for Somalia’s condition today, it falls to us, the Government of which I am a part, to understand where we are now, and the critical decisions that must be taken to prevent further deterioration.
My own take on the current situation, is that we are sitting in the midst of a highly combustible coincidence of events. For those who love the ‘blame game’ – we all turn out to have played a part in the mess we face.
On the one hand, we have had an internal meltdown over 20 years. Clan rivalries have returned, power has been fought over and our people have been caught in the middle and made to suffer terribly. We Somalis must accept our responsibility for this. For many years it was a self-inflicted situation which steadily deteriorated into anarchy, chaos and poverty on a grand scale.
On the other hand, and over almost the same time frame, we have the insidious growth of an Islamic extremist insurgency and the jihadists of Al Qaeda, which exploded onto the scene on 9/11 and which has dominated international politics ever since.
Like all deadly diseases, this global insurgency has preyed upon weak, vulnerable and chaotic communities, as the most hospitable breeding grounds for the legions of suicide bombers they need.
Al Qaeda may have been borne in the border caves between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it has been drawn further afield ever since, seeking out new victims, new breeding grounds and new footholds.
We have been warning of foreign fighters on the streets of Mogadishu for many months. Somalia and Afghanistan are two ends of a corridor along which fighters travel and tactics, information, propaganda and arms are conveyed. Most alarmingly of all, Mogadishu is attracting the return of disaffected young people from the Somalis in the Diaspora around the world. If allowed to persist, this trend could have grave consequences for the West.
So we have known for a while that the courtship between Somalia’s strife and Al Qaeda’s jihad was well under way. The marriage has now taken place and was announced to the World on 11 July in Kampala. A new front in the global war against Islamic terror has now formally opened in Somalia and most concerning of all; Al Qaeda has established a foothold in the continent of Africa from which it will now target other emerging and vulnerable democracies.
Like the Taleban before it, Al Shabaab has become a proxy for an aggressive Islamic insurgency that fills vacuums where law and order and progressive government are absent.
Do not underestimate, however, the extreme circumstances in which we the TFG attempt to govern. We face daily physical assault from small arms fire. We are targeted by IED attack. And we suffered the sad loss of five ministers to suicide bombers in recent times. But such physical danger does not break our resolve. We remain at our posts, doing what we can with almost negligible resources.
It is now of little or no concern how we got where we are. What matters now are that Somalia and the world wake up to the reality? Somalis must unify and reject this threat. Somalia and its immediate neighbours must work together to prevent its spread. Africa must work together and the rest of the world must comprehend quickly the cause and effect of its policies in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
It is regrettable that Somalia has offered the disease of Al Qaeda such a hospitable home, but we have now a global problem that needs a global response.
If the strongest nations of earth, America, the UK and their allies, can deploy trillions of dollars and the finest technology money can buy in Afghanistan, and still come up short, what chance does the weakest nation on earth have?
Somalia needs the help and support of Africa and the rest of the world. We are immensely grateful for the real support of the African Union, AMISOM, Uganda, Burundi, the US, the UK, Italy, the EU and many others. Without this support, all remaining possibility of a solution would have crumbled to dust. We need more, though, especially in relation to the delivery of humanitarian aid.
We wholly accept the need to apply the lessons learnt from 60 years worth of global experience of combating terrorist insurgencies around the world. Malaya, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan to name but a handful. The characteristics are the same – a liberating force becomes an occupation; foreign forces struggle to cross cultural divides; mistakes alienate the local population; support withers and propaganda turns people against each other.
Somalia and Somalis themselves including Somalis in the Diaspora must be front and centre of everything and anything that is done to resolve this situation. We have the very basic structure in place and an ever increasing willingness to put an end to this crisis. Our government and army may not be the best, but they are there and if properly supported, can provide the vehicle to deliver peace.
The AU, AMISOM and UNSOA have demonstrated on a relatively small scale that supporting forces can be deployed, supported and maintained behind and Somali vanguard.
This model can be scaled up with resources, financial backing and political courage. We must win a military and security war, a finance war, a communications war and an economic war. With everybody playing their part we can do it.
I hope I have set the scene for an active discussion to you all on how we can solve a problem like Somalia and I urge you to stand up and unite for the sake of the country and work so incredibly hard to hold Somalia together against all the odds.
This is no time for fear and disengagement – constructive or otherwise. It is a time to scale up and get involved. If we don’t quickly stop Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda within Somalia’s borders, we will be dragged through the most inhospitable continent on earth for decades to come.
Abdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow)
Minister of Information