Abukar Awale (Qaad Diid) with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
by Abukar Awale (Qaad diid)
Saturday, May 04, 2013
Dear Mr President,
Let me start by start by offering my heartiest congratulations to you for recently being added to the list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to the world renowned Time magazine. This is clearly a reflection of not only your determination and resolve in promoting peace and reconciliation in Somalia after decades of misery, but an indication of the speed at which progress is currently being made on the ground. We take great pleasure in the fact that the government of Somalia is no longer an interim one but now considered by to be a fully functional entity, internationally recognized by its partners across the globe. We sincerely hope that this is a sign of things to come. Of course, we are under no illusions about the difficult challenges ahead but by no means are these challenges insurmountable given the collective will of the Somali people to once and for all consign to history the past few decades that were needlessly lost to civil war and mindless internecine conflict.
We sometimes hear that Somalia has been ravaged by the three qaaf's - namely, qori (weapons), qabyaalad (tribalism) and qaad. Arguably, the first two elements are slowly being withered away although I stop short of stating that they have been completely eradicated altogether. As for qori, the vast majority of fair-minded people of course understand that violence begets violence. I think it is fair to say that we have had our fair share of war and conflict and quite frankly, we are sick and tired of it and fed up to the back teeth with it. As for qabyaalad - well let's call a spade a spade - it is naked racism, simple as that. It is no different to the racism that ethnic minorities can be subjected to here in Europe as far as I am concerned somehow, qori and qabyaalad have contrived to form unholy alliance that is in no uncertain terms responsible for the current predicament we find ourselves in. Perhaps the fact that there's near universal consensus on this is why these two phenomena are slowly but surely on the wane.
But to bring you to the crux of this letter - that of QAAD. Why do we continue to allow this drug to destroy us? I recall that during your last visit to Britain you stated your support for a UK ban in an interview with Channel 4 news, believing that this was unquestionably the best way forward. This would of course be in keeping with much of the international community. I believe that phrase you used to describe the impact of qaad on the Somali people as nothing short of aafo qaran, or a national catastrophe. Mr President, I must state that I wholeheartedly agree with you. If you were to witness the impact it has had on Somali families in the UK, it would further entrench your conviction that it is a national calamity. And of course, the fact that we live in an interconnected, interdependent global village means that what happens in one part of the world has a direct impact on another.
Inexplicably, Britain appears to be out of step with much of the EU, including most recently Holland which has now voted to ban khat altogether. But we note that the former Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has urged the Netherlands to lift their ban and the UK to continue with legalisation for fear of the economic impact it would have on Kenyan farmers and khat dealers. If the former Prime Minister of Kenya felt it necessary to intervene on this matter, feeling that he was acting in the best interest of Kenyan khat dealers, then I think it is fair that the President of the Republic of Somalia should speak up on behalf of the Somali people by countering his claims. It should come as no surprise that a Kenyan politician would clearly consider the economic interests of Kenyan dealers over the health and mental well-being of Somali users of qaad. But why should the personal intervention of Mr Odinga get in the way of the huge progress we have made in bringing this issue to the forefront of the agenda? It has been eight long hard years of campaigning and lobbying where we have presented to the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs a plethora of evidence of social and physical harm that qaad causes. We have garnered over 72.000 thousand signatures for a petition to ban qaad which I have personally handed to Home office. Within the parameters of the law, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to see this through.
Mr President, you recently stated in an interview on Somali channel that everyone is in a position to contribute to rebuilding of institutions in Somalia in some way, shape of form. This could be be of course by building roads, schools, hospitals, community centres, orphanages or whatever. We feel that by banning qaad in the UK, we would be helping to reconstruct the very fabric of society for Somali immigrant communities where qaad has been largely responsible for countless cases of family breakdown. It would also demonstrate back home in Somalia that the sale and use of qaad is a taboo and should be seen in the same light as any other drug or intoxicant, whether it be alcohol, marijuana and the like. The banning of khat will not in and of itself eradicate its problems elsewhere but it will send a strong subliminal message that will lead to its dimished cultural acceptability. As a former qaad user myself, I cannot find the words to describe the negative impact on my young children compared to the positive impact I feel my campaigning against it has had. We are aware that you are due to lead a delegation to participate in the London Somalia Conference this coming May 2013. By way of this letter, we are hereby formally requesting that you convey to the UK government your previously acknowledged support for the banning of qaad in the UK with immediate effect.
Abukar Awale (Qaad did)
The Lead Anti-Qaad Campaigner