As stability returns after three decades of anarchy, Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, is becoming a magnet, attracting the country’s diaspora to invest and to help out those who stayed behind.
The country’s diaspora is coming back to make a difference and take advantage of what Mogadishu and the rest of the country have to offer, bringing in expertise and creativity, and innovative ideas.
They have come back to advance women’s rights agenda, start businesses to rebuild a shuttered economy, set-up civil society institutions to teach civilians on the dangers of joining radicalised and terrorism groups and the importance of public institutions and to put the government on check.
But not everyone likes them. They became targets of al Shabab and ‘unknown gunmen’ because they are disrupting the old ways of doing things. Al-Shabab, which is fighting to topple the Somali government, does not like them and its reaction is deadly.
The group accuses the diaspora returnees of importing Western culture to erode the Somali society. The group targets hotels in the capital where the returnees reside.
Most of Somalia’s businesses are managed unprofessionally by people with no or less knowledge, and some are owned by warlords or politicians. When the Somalis from the diaspora with university education and exposure returned, they disrupted everything; they brought in new innovations and new ideas. Some returned to help and advise the government in different fields, taking key positions in the federal and state governments.
This week, Almas Elman, a Somali-Canadian peace activist, was shot dead in Mogadishu, inside the heavily-fortified Halane Camp, near the international airport. She was driving to the airport after attending a meeting at the Elman Peace Centre.
Almas, a former diplomat, becomes the latest member of Somalia’s diaspora to be killed after returning home to help rebuild the country after decades of conflict.
Almas’ family founded a prominent peace centre in Somalia in the 1990s, and her sister Ilwad Elman was a nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The rest of Alma’s family had returned to Somalia in recent years to help run the peace centre working to end the violence. Their work includes a programme called ‘Drop the Gun, Pick Up the Pen’ that encourages child soldiers conscripted by militia gunmen to return to peace.
Hodan Nalayeh, another Somali-Canadian and a journalist returned to Somalia to tell positive stories—the she was killed. Hodan shaped a new Somali narrative.
At least 26 people have been killed and more others wounded when al-Shabab gunmen struck a hotel in southern Somali city of Kismayu on Friday, July 12.
The attack began with a suicide bomb ramming a car laden with explosives into the main entrance of Asasey Hotel followed by gunfire. Politicians, government officials and the diaspora Somalis visiting the city frequent the hotel.
Those killed include journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband Farid Jama. Nalayeh recently returned from Canada to tell positive and inspiring stories about Somalia.
Hodan was born in Las Anod in northern Somalia in 1976, but lived most of her life in Alberta and Toronto, after her family move to Canada in the 1980s.
In 2014, Nalayeh founded Integration TV, the first English language online TV, where she shared positive, uplifting and inspiring stories among the Somali people. She wanted to change the international media narrative on Somalia, which mainly focused on war, poverty and piracy.
Hodan travelled across Somalia as well as the world to promote the Somali culture and art and tell success stories in Somalia and its diaspora. She focused on ordinary Somalis doing extra ordinary things in the fields of business, technology, art and culture, among others.
“Our stories are not that are not about suffering are valid and should be told more often. We are more than our pain. We are living and thriving,” one of her tweets said.
A day before the horrific attack on the Asasey Hotel took her life; Nalayeh spent the day in the Island of Ilsi near Kismayu, meeting and documenting the lives of a local fishing community.
“The island of Ilsi is an hour away from Kismayu and only local fishermen live there. It is so clean and breathtaking. A perfect place for a day swim with the family. Somalia,” she tweeted.
Although minor security incidences have been recorded, Kismayu has been relatively peaceful since 2012 when Somali forces backed by Kenyan troops forced al-Shabab militants out of the city.
Hodan was among a large number of Somalis who returned to the country in the recent past after realisation of relative stability to set up businesses and innovation centres and to help rebuild their country devastated by a three-decade-long unrest, and disrupted everything with new ideas and innovations. Most of the diaspora community who returned to the country did so after al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu in August 2011.
In August of last year, gunmen shot and dead Mohamed Ali , the first person to open a flour shop and a drycleaner in Mogadishu.
Mohamed opened the first dry cleaning shop in Mogadishu in 2012 and set up the city’s first and only flower shop. He also started Start-up Grind, a Google-sponsored global independent start-up community that nurtures start-ups in more than 150 countries. The local media described him as “the face of young entrepreneurs.”
Most members of the Somali diaspora community began returning in 2012 – a year after al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu.
The returnees are not fully appreciated; they accused of stealing jobs from the ‘locals’ – those who remained behind after the civil war and never left the country. They are paid more than the locals for the same work done. Because of these and other factors, the diaspora Somalis continue to be targeted by those who do not want change.
Why Al Shabab Keeps on Attacking Kenya?
Al Shabab sees Kenya troop presence in Somalia as invasion and it singled out the country as a soft target
On the early hours of Monday morning, January 13, al Shabab fighters stormed a small town in eastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia, killing three teachers and abducted others.
The al Shabab fighters also set fire to a police station and destroyed a telecommunications mast. According to local reports, the attackers spared the life of a female nurse due to her gender.
Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia in October 2011 to fight the al Qaeda-linked group after it blamed the group of a series of kidnappings , al Shabab has carried out more than 150 attacks on Kenyan soil, targeting buses, schools, police stations, schools and shopping malls, killing hundreds.
The most brutal were attack s on a Kenyan army camp in El Adde killing 200 soldiers in 2016, a 2015 attack on a Kenyan college campus that killed 148 people, a 2013 attack on a mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67, and a 2019 attack on a hotel in Nairobi that killed 21 people.
Al Shabab has seen the presence of Kenya troops in Somalia as invasion and it singled out the country as a soft target. The government has invested in the army’s operation in Somalia while giving leeway to Shabab attacks inside Kenya.
The al Qaeda-affiliated group has stepped up its attacks both in Kenya and Somalia in the last few months.
The Kenyan security forces are bureaucratic and under-resourced. There have been intelligence failures of Kenyan intelligence agencies, and security forces’ slow and shambolic response, and al Shabab sees these weaknesses and takes advantage.
Al Shabab wants to terrorise Kenyans and mobilise its supporters and turn Kenyans against each other to create religious division. While carrying out attacks in Kenya, al Shabab mainly targets Christians, and in Somalia, they kill fellow Muslims.
Last week, the group attacked a joint US-Kenya military base in Lamu and killed three Americans, a soldier and two contractors. The attack on the Manda Bay Airfield was al Shabab’s first attack against US forces in Kenya.
At least four students have been killed by al Shabab fighters at a school in Garissa county.
On January 2, al Shabab killed four people when it attacked a convoy of buses in Lamu.
In December, the group killed 11 people including 8 police officers after pulling them from a passenger bus along Wajir-Mandera Road. Also, in December, five security forces were killed when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in Wajir. In Garissa, two construction workers were killed.
Al-Shabab’s offensive shows it is recovering after suffering high casualties from US drone strikes and pressure form the African Union forces.
Last year, the group carried out an attack on a US-run military base in Baledogle in southern Somalia.
Al-Shabab is fighting to topple the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, and implement its own version of Islamic law.
Formed in 2006, its initial aim was to fight Ethiopian troops after the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union that ruled most of the southern and central parts of the Horn of Africa country.
Since then, it has been fighting successive Somali governments and the African Union troops stationed in the country.
It has been driven out of Mogadishu and other major cities by Somali forces backed by African Union troops, but it is still capable of carrying out high-profile attacks within and outside of Somalia. It has carried out attacks in several neighbouring countries, but Kenya, its western neighbour, has been the most vulnerable, despite the US significantly increasing airstrikes against the group and broadened its troop presence and involvement in Somalia in 2017.
Somalia’s Al Shabab Executes Man for Homosexuality
Somalia’s al Shabab group has executed a man accused of committing sodomy in the southern province of Lower Shabelle.
The group said the execution took place at a public square in Doon Buraale village of Doon Buraale near Qoryooley town on Saturday.
An al Shabab judge who read the court’s verdict at the site of the execution said the victim whom the group identified as Axmadeey Qaadi Maadeey was ‘found guilty of committing an act that goes against the Islamic law.’ The judge said the accused confessed to his crime.
The al Qaeda-affiliated group often carries out executions, beheadings, floggings, and amputations on individuals it accuses of crimes ranging from adultery to rape and theft. However, victims do not get fair trial and legal representation.
Al Shabab has been forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 by Somali forces backed by African Union troops, but it still controls large swathes of land in rural Somalia, where it enforces its own interpretation of Islamic sharia.
It is fighting to overthrow the Somali government and expel foreign forces helping the government to stabilize the country.
The group is also capable of carrying out high-profile attacks within and outside Somalia.
How Somalia Helps Trump Administration Deport Nationals From the US
On December 6, a chartered plane carrying more than 40 Somali nationals landed in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport. On arrival, they were removed from the plane and placed on a private jet and flown to Mogadishu.
Some of these individuals have never seen Somalia or they were there when they were young, and have built lives in the US.
The deportees have been languishing under ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention for over a year before they were deported.
A few of them were pulled off the flight at the last minute, according to Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who was leading a group of lawyers trying to keep the Somalis in the US.
Since taking office in January 2017, The Trump administration has devised measures to slow immigration and remove people from the US, and terminated TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for some countries.
“These were 40+ men with their own stories, lives, and experiences. Listening to their families here in the U.S. just breaks you at times. Our system is broken, the whole damn thing,” Ayoub said.
“When we started our work on Somali removals we were told that up to 4,000 Somalis are either in removal proceedings, or could be placed in removal proceedings. This is a significant number. I would not put it past ICE that they increase enforcement efforts in the community.”
What makes this even more troublesome is the role the Somali government played in facilitating the removal of these individuals.
The US pressures foreign governments to sign travel documents and do what they can to facilitate the removal of their nationals from the U.S. This is the way the system works.
The US is engaged in Somalia conflict, using Special Forces and airstrikes against al Shabab militants, and provides assistance to the Somali National Army. The US also provides humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa country, spending 3 billion dollars since 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees.
Two years ago, ICE started raids in the Somali community. The community and the Somali Embassy were very vocal and put a stop to it. With a change in leadership at the Embassy the green light for raids will be given.
Somalis in the US continue to be targeted by ICE. Many of them have been there for decades and it is upsetting to see them rooted and sent to harm’s way.
If the Department of Homeland Security does not renew TPS, this will put hundreds of more Somali nationals in danger of being placed in removal proceedings, Ayoub told The Frontier.
The homeland security department renewed, but did not redesignate TPS for Somalis, allowing hundreds of Somalis to stay until March 2020. TPS protects foreign nationals already in the US when civil unrest, violence or natural disasters erupt in their home country.
TPS helps people to get employed, get drivers’ license as well as open bank accounts.
Somalia is one of the six Muslim-majority countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban. The country is still not safe for Somalis returning from the West.
Although Somalia is recovering from decades of unrest, it is still not safe, especially those returning from abroad. Al Shabab is still a threat and controls swathes of land and continues to target government installations as well as civilians.
US drones targeting al Shabab fighters are killing innocent Somalis in the process.
On March 28, a Somali deportee was among 15 killed when a car bomb exploded outside a hotel in Mogadishu’s Maka al Mukarama Road.
The new deportees could be become targets or get recruited into armed groups.
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