Tuesday, August 13, 2013
When Hudda Ibrahim set her eyes on the mainstream news channels, she
saw episodes of deadly violence unfolding in war-torn Mogadishu, the
Somali capital she evacuated when the civil war erupted in 1991.
Hudda Ibrahim holds a Somali flag Sunday at her home in St. Cloud.
Ibrahim recently visited Mogadishu and found conditions much improved.
/ Dave Schwarz, [email protected]
the two decades Ibrahim lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and St. Cloud, she
yearned to someday see stories of a stable Mogadishu, which her heart
never truly left.
her last semester at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Ibrahim
made a decision that would change her perspective about Mogadishu: She
had to visit the city to see its realities firsthand.
she graduated from St. Ben’s in May with a degree in peace studies, she
spent two months in Mogadishu. She met officials from the fragile
Somali government, university students, health professionals and other
representatives of the society. Personal contacts and friends in
Minnesota helped her connect with key leaders.
was really scared before I landed in Somalia,” said Ibrahim, who
returned to her home in St. Cloud several weeks ago. “I didn’t know if I
was able to come back alive.”When
Ibrahim began walking and driving through Mogadishu streets, however,
she found that the sights before her eyes were different from the horror
images the Western media presented on television: Mogadishu is safe,
people are busy chasing their dreams and doing what they could to create
better lives for themselves, she said.
“I met young doctors, men and women, who are working in Mogadishu’s
biggest hospitals, saving lives,” Ibrahim said. “Most of these men and
women got their education in Somalia during the civil war. And now, here
they are rebuilding the country.”
Country's return to normalcy
Many Somalis who lived in the United States, Canada and Europe have gone back to Somalia with new ideas about business models.
opened new Western-like restaurants, which are open past midnight,”
Ibrahim said. “I used to eat at these restaurants. They’re among the
most popular places.”After
decades of anarchy and bloodshed, Ibrahim said, Mogadishu is back to
normalcy. Tens of thousands have returned to Somalia to build houses,
take up employment in the private and government sectors and teach at
colleges and universities.
A news report by BBC Africa states: “The spectacular ruins are being
patched up. Hotels are being built. There are even streetlights in some
places. And everywhere, you hear the accents: Texan, Geordie,
Minnesotan, south London, Scandinavian.”
return to Somalia has become a phenomenon in the Somali community
living abroad since al-Shabab, an Islamist group that has been
designated as a terrorist organization, was defeated and uprooted from
2008 through 2012, al-Shabab controlled many regions in Somalia — and
imposed strict Shariah law that included stoning to death men and women
who committed adultery and amputating the hands of thieves.
Mogadishu has changed from the al-Shabab era, Ibrahim said.
men and women swim together at beaches. You’ll find men and women on
the streets in Western-style clothing.” This wasn’t the case when
al-Shabab was in power.
Al-Shabab still carries out attacks
though Ibrahim is quick to say that Mogadishu is safe and tranquil,
there have been news reports of deadly attacks, which al-Shabab remnants
regularly carry out since the organization lost ground to the
administration backed by the United States and United Nations.
July 30, a suicide bomber in a vehicle filled with explosive devices
drove into an African peacekeeping group in Mogadishu, killing eight
civilians, according to a Reuters news report.
June, Islamists attacked a United Nations compound in Mogadishu,
engaging in an hour-and-a-half gun battle with security forces and then
detonating an explosive device that killed at least 15 people,
Al-Jazeera English reported.
Ibrahim says such occurrences aren’t unique to Mogadishu. She added:
“Remember the Boston Marathon bombing? Remember the September 11
attacks? Nowhere in the world can be said is completely safe.”
Ibrahim encourages the educated Somali diaspora to return and be part of the journey to bring Mogadishu to life.This
fall, Ibrahim is starting her master’s degree in policy analysis and
political change at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. After
graduation, she said she hopes to use her knowledge for rebuilding
“Somalia needs us now more than ever,” Ibrahim said. “I’m prepared to give my life for the country.”
Education needs improvement
The sites Ibrahim visited included the University of Mogadishu and Hope University,
where she facilitated a workshop on conflict resolution.
“The students are determined to succeed in school,” she said, “but education in Somalia needs improvement.”
has about 50 universities with more than 50,000 students, according to a
new report by The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, Somalia’s
first think tank.
institutions function without educational policies, have no research
and publications and lack sufficient educational facilities, such as
science and computer labs, the report said.
federal government and regional administrations must develop
educational policies that address quality issues and align national
priorities with educational policies,” suggested HIPS, which is headed
by former Twin Cites Somali-American journalist, Abdi Aynte. “The
international community should also work with national and sub-national
entities to improve quality and capacity.”Ibrahim
said she’s optimistic about the current condition of Somalia and hopes
that its citizens will take matters into their own hands in creating a