The Paper Dreams project
Sunday, February 17, 2013
It’s a cold February evening in Toronto, Canada. Although he spent the past two years in warm and sunny Somalia, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali doesn’t seem fazed by the cold Canadian weather. The former Prime Minister of Somalia is embracing the Canadian community and culture with open arms today. After he addressed the Toronto Somali community, we sat down for some Tim Horton’s and had a conversion on various subjects.
What do you do in your spare since you returned from Somalia?
I returned to my job at Niagara University. Currently I am teaching one graduate class and two undergraduate classes, the rest of the time I am spending with my family. I spent two years away from my kids and they need some time to spend with their father.
Are to up you date with social media and new technologies ?
I like social media, I often use my Facebook page to connect, and it’s a good way to reach the Somali community. I launched a twitter account when I was running for president and do intend to use it soon.
Tell me about your experiences growing up in Somalia, compared it to present day Somalia.
When I was growing up in central Somalia I had a good life, I had a good family, I was raised by my uncle and aunt and I had the best upbringing; a free education throughout my youth, I never paid a dime for my education and I got a good job at the ministry of finance. After that I got a scholarship through my government that sent me to the United States in 1986. So I had a good upbringing. In terms of upbringing the education and opportunity I had is what I believe that every child in Somalia should have. When I returned to Somalia all that was lost and majority of Somali kids don’t have the same opportunity I had in my youth. That Somalia is gone and is every hard to bring back but god willing we will in due time.
Do the youth born in diaspora have a place in the new Somalia?
There are countries in the world that are built by returnees, people who received western exposure. The younger generations here have an adopted nation. They give you a lot of opportunities, they welcome you and some Somali youth squander it. There are many kids in Somalia that are wishing to have the same opportunities.
How do we change the cultural issues faced by the youth in the diaspora?
I think it’s because of identity crises. They feel like they don’t belong here or there. Look, this is your adopted country be loyal and respect the law of this land. Don’t involve in drugs, prostitution and gambling. Help yourself to become a better person and educate yourself. Then if you get the opportunity and return to Somalia, help as you can. There is a role for you.
Does there have to be a base for them to go back to?
I would suggest that the new government should have a ministry of diaspora, a whole department to deal with these issues and guide the youth in the diaspora.
What was the most unexpected challenge you faced in your service ?
Overcoming shock, I was away from Somali for over 25 years. I was shocked how the country turned out to be; death, hopeless, idp’s and violence. It was shocking but a awaking. There was two attempts on my life, Somali became worst than I expected.
Are clan politics still an obstacle to success in Somalia?
Clan and kinship are two different things, being clannish is bad. Being raised in central Somalia I was away from my clan base in Puntland but I have a kinship with the people I was raised by, we had a good life. What is bad is using clan’s to gain and reach a political end for personal selfish reasons.
What does the recognition of the current federal government by the US government mean for Somalia?
It simply means that the United States was already in Somalia. We had a US envoy, James Swan. We had an embassy in Nairobi and they assisted in military issues. Now they have taken that relationship to next level of where we can have an official diplomatic relations and it opens a lot of doors.
Your views on how to address the status of Mogadishu as the capital city, the distribution of power and resources and the upper house of parliament?
To change a capital city it takes a lot of time and creates a lot of political problems. What is need is for Mogadishu to be the capital for all of Somalia. The issue is that it cannot be a city that belongs to one clan. Mogadishu has to be a city in that every Somali can identify with. [Multi-clan city?] Yes, with Somali characteristics not clan characteristics. Secondly people have properties in Mogadishu and some people have been displaced, someone has to give that property back. The issue with the upper parliament is that there isn’t enough states form a upper parliament yet, we’re still not there yet. As for power and resources, the new parliament will appoint a committee to discuss power sharing, resource sharing, fiscal federalism and taxation according to the constitution.
You recently resigned from your position as a member of parliament in Somalia, is there still a place in Somali politics for you?
It’s not an easy answer, for example when I was in Mogadishu I had this problem when I went to bed around midnight, I would hear the artillery shelling and I would wonder about an African Union shell hitting a poor family. Who would be responsible in the afterlife, as Prime Minister it would be me. I would be considered in charge in the hereafter. These things affect my morality and my outlook. When I think of that I consider maybe I’m better off just stay a professor and teaching instead of taking all of these responsibilities and unintentional committing crimes. So all these things come to mind, when you want to partake in these activities you have to think about god, the hereafter, your family and the rest of your life. It’s a stressful job, it’s a thankless job, and it’s a risky job. I have to consider all of these before I make my next decision.
The Paper Dreams Project is an expression of ideas involving politics, pop culture and social media. I express my creativity through writing, photography, fashion and urban design.