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Somali Diaspora: no time for disappointment

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Liban Obsiye & Sakariye Hussein

It is approaching the new year and most people in the Diaspora are reflecting on the passing year and contemplating the year to come. Uniquely for most Diaspora, of any nation, the personal is the political and therefore, when reflecting on their own successes, challenges and ambitions, they also tie in their own views and aspirations of the “motherland.”

The Somali Diaspora are among the most innovative, engaged and politically active globally. For them Somalia is personal, political and a source of hope and frustration. The Somali Diaspora continue to demonstrate that they will not sit on the fence nor be strangers to their home nations challenges and progress. In all international meetings, the Somali Diaspora are present, and, in most cases, they are also serving in the Central Government and in Federal Member State Administrations as advisers, civil servants and technocrats.

The Election of President Mohamed Abullahi Mohamed Farmaajo united the majority of the Somali Diaspora in a way never seen before. This is because he defeated a confident, well financed incumbent, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and successfully bridged the divide between Diaspora and Somali Nationals with a message of common progress under the banner of Nabad and Nolol.

It is not lost on anyone that President Farmaajo himself is Diaspora alongside, Prime Minister Khaire, the Speaker of Parliament Jawari and many influential Minister’s and MPs. More importantly, it did not bother most Somali nationals that the Diaspora had achieved such prominence in Somali politics at this crucial juncture in the country’s history. In the end, it is widely agreed and accepted that the enormous challenge of moving Somalia forward to a brighter, more secure and prosperous future, lies with every citizen, regardless of where they may reside.

Since the elections, it has become clear that some in the Diaspora feel that the Federal Government has made errors that they feel betrayed in their initial trust and support. Many argue that progress is slow and that “unqualified taxi drivers and coffee shop politicians have been given huge government posts they do not deserve after polishing their CV’s with unforgivable lies.” Some are disappointed that AMISOM has not already gone and that the Somali Government still has strong ties with its neighbours, including, Ethiopia. Among the concerns raised by the Somali Diaspora, the above mentioned are the most relevant and persistent when it comes to their support for the Somali Federal Government. However, the Diaspora, one of the most effective socio-economic and diplomatic asset the Somali Government and People have, must remain patient and put things into perspective.
The Somali Federal Government, born into unprecedented public expectations and led by a popular leader, faces the same challenges as that of its predecessors. The solutions are also not revolutionary as they are universal and only their financing and implementation remain the real challenge.

The pursuit of the Federal Government’s Nabad and Nolol agenda, built on the pillars of security, good governance and economic development, is not only for the Government or to secure the legacy of President Farmaajo but to ensure the future of the Somali people. As an interdependent people, connected by family, culture, land, religion and, more recently, remittances, achieving Nabad and Nolol is the best route to achieving the common progress we all understand is needed to return dignity and hope to the Somali nation and its people, everywhere. Empty nationalism, built on short term personality- driven political excitement and populism is not enough. Understanding this, the Somali people, including the Diaspora, must take ownership and lead the agenda for their national progress. This is an unconditional requirement of nationalism that must transcend petty clan and personality politics for national development efforts to be realised.

The Somali Federal Government has made clear that it is listening to the people. In fact, public engagement within the Government has improved tremendously and the Diaspora enjoy a privileged position among those that are heard and whose ideas make it to the key discussions in the policy making process. The Federal Government can go one step further and announce a public challenge to all citizens to bring forward the great ideas that can address the most pressing development needs of the country. In doing this, the Government should encourage strong partnerships between the Diaspora and nationals at home while also empowering grassroot Diaspora groups like Global Somali Diaspora. This should keep Somalis everywhere busy, while generating ideas for progress for the country.

Sometimes, the greatest tragedy in Somalia is that the most insignificant consideration becomes the make-and-break issue. Many in the Somali Diaspora feel that some in senior positions in Government, many whom they knew, occupy important positions in Government they do not deserve or are unqualified to hold. This could be true, but the Government can only employ those that are present on the ground. Diaspora that feel they can do a better job than the person that “puts them off” should compete with them for the post. In this case, community references alongside professional ones, ought to resolve the matter quickly but given the clannish nature of some communities in the Diaspora, this process can also be very biased and lead to discrimination.

The feeling of disappointment with the new administration in some sections of the Diaspora is not a sufficient response, especially, from those that have a huge stake in the progress of Somalia. The Diaspora are neither bystanders nor commentators on Somalia’s progress and prosperity but active contributors who must unite themselves to engage their government and take their national responsibilities seriously. The latter is not just sending remittances but also engaging and guiding the Federal Government and the Federal Member states, where the Diaspora enjoy major influence given the clan dynamic, to do better. This should also be coupled with patience and continued high visibility advocacy for Somalia and its needs wherever the Diaspora are.

Somalia is making irreversible progress albeit slowly. There are many bumps in the road as the journey is long. However, ‘we are disappointed is not an acceptable response from the Diaspora’. In moments of doubt and disappointment, it is crucial to remember that, the Diaspora, like all Somalis everywhere have rights and responsibilities as Somali citizens. What these are and how strong they are is what continued determined and effective Diaspora engagement will define.

The future direction of Somalia is truly in the hands of the Somali people including the Diaspora.

The authors can be contacted through the below means:
Liban Obsiye: libanbakaa@hotmail.com
Sakariye Hussein: sakariya100@hotmail.co.uk

Diaspora

Somali teenager sets her hopes high for the future

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – War shattered 14-year-old Manaal’s dreams for the future. Now safe in the Netherlands, with new friends, her spirits are soaring once more.

“I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia,” says Manaal, who fled the country with her family. “In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach the whole time. I saw a movie about a stewardess and she looked so pretty and smart that I decided I want to become a stewardess as well.”

Twenty-eight long years of conflict have left Somalia reeling. The peaceful canals and cafes of Amsterdam, where Manaal found safety in 2014 , have offered the youngster a refuge she could barely have imagined.

Manaal is one of 12 refugee and asylum-seeking children living in Europe who star in a new project that lets their imagination run free.

Titled The Dream Diaries, the project sees the young refugees and asylum-seekers reveal their hopes and dreams from the safety of their new homes in Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
“In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach
the whole time.”

The series was produced by Humans of Amsterdam photographer Debra Barraud, her colleague Benjamin Heertje, Dutch graphic designer Annegien Schilling, filmmaker Kris Pouw and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

In it, Manaal dreams of becoming an air stewardess. A portrait shows her sitting on the wing of an airplane, soaring through a picturesque evening sky.

After 5 long years of separation from her father, who was the first to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to find a better life for his family, air travel means more to Manaal than most.

“When we arrived at the airport, I finally saw my dad again,” she tells The Dream Diaries team. “So I ran up to him and hugged him really tight.”
“When children flee their home countries, they leave everything behind, except their hopes and dreams,” says co-creator Debra Barraud, whose Humans of Amsterdam photography project has over 400,000 Facebook followers. “Through the project we saw the strength of these children and how with the right support they can achieve anything.”

Audiences are being encouraged to stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s global petition, which asks decision makers to grant refugees safety, education and opportunities – turning their dreams into reality. You can follow The Dream Diaries series via Humans of Amsterdam, Fetching Tigerss and UNHCR’s social accounts.

“My dream is to be a flight attendant,” says Manaal, who will never forget the elation of her first flight – to safety. “I want to be able to travel, see Paris and have butterflies in my stomach. I want to see the entire world.”

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Diaspora

Maine’s 1st Somali police officer busted at Mass. concert

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LA TIMES — Maine’s first Somali police officer is on paid leave during an investigation after her arrest over the weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester police charged Zahra Munye Abu, of Portland, with several misdemeanors including assault and battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Police say the 26-year-old caused a disturbance at a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert at the Palladium Nightclub. She was arrested Saturday night, and posted bail early Sunday.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck confirmed Abu’s arrest, but declined further comment.

Abu was born in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to Maine. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine and became a police officer in 2016. The Associated Press could not locate a phone number for her, and it’s unclear if she has a lawyer.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Diaspora

Portland police officer whose hiring made history is put on leave after arrest in Massachusetts

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PRESS HERALD — Zahra Munye Abu, the first Somali immigrant to serve on the city’s force, is charged in Worcester with five misdemeanors, including assault.

A 24-year-old Portland police officer has been charged with five misdemeanors, including assault and battery, after being arrested Saturday night at a concert venue in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester police said Zahra Munye Abu, of Portland, is also facing charges of trespassing, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Abu caused a disturbance while attending a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert at the Palladium Nightclub on Main Street, said Worcester police Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst.

“The nightclub was hosting several live musical acts,” Hazelhurst said in an email. “She was (given) several opportunities to leave and refused. Eventually she was placed under arrest.”

Worcester police would not provide more details about the incident, and members of Abu’s family declined to comment when contacted by phone at their home.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Abu has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a review of the matter.

“The Portland Police Department was notified late Saturday night of the arrest of Police Officer Zahra Abu in Worcester, Massachusetts,” Sauschuck said in an email. “This issue will be dealt with as a personnel matter from this point forward, so I will have no further comment.”

Chris Besaw, the Palladium general manager, declined to comment about the arrest or what occurred before local police became involved.

Abu was bailed out of jail at 1 a.m. Sunday, Hazelhurst said. He did not know the bail amount. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Worcester District Court.

Abu is a high-profile member of the Portland police force because she is the first member of Maine’s Somali immigrant community to become a police officer in Maine.

She was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp and has lived in Portland since she was 2 years old. She graduated from Deering High School in Portland and studied criminal justice and women-and-gender issues at the University of Southern Maine.

If convicted, Abu faces a maximum penalty of up to 2½ years in a county jail on the assault and battery and the resisting arrest charges. Each of the other charges include less severe maximum penalties.

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