Somali leader returns home to WNY.

Halkaan ka akhri

Urges world action against terrorism

The prime minister of Somalia on Saturday returned home to Western New York — that’s right, home — for the first time since his improbable rise to power last October, when he was named premier of his homeland.

Mohamed A. Mohamed — a Grand Island resident on leave from his job with the state Department of Transportation to run the troubled nation in the Horn of Africa — spent some time with his wife and four kids, met up with old friends and will take part in today’s Martin Luther King celebration in Kleinhans Music Hall.

“The important thing is he’s enjoying some time with his family,” said Casimiro Rodriguez, a friend. “He hasn’t seen them since the fall.”

But this is no vacation for Mohamed, who will depart Monday for a meeting in Washington with officials from the State Department.

Mohamed, 48, made a side trip to Buffalo, after spending a couple of days in New York City providing a status report on Somalia to the United Nations Security Council.

Somalia’s transitional government — guarded by several thousand African peacekeepers — fights for survival against the al-Qaida-connected Al-Shabab, an Islamic insurgent movement that dominates much of central and southern Somalia.

The terrorist network may be Somalia’s problem now, Mohamed said, but if they continue to use Somalia as a safe haven to plan and train they will be the rest of the world’s problem, too.

“My message was very clear,” Mohamed said during an interview with The Buffalo News. “Somalia alone cannot face a highly systematic al-Qaida organization. We need help.”

Meanwhile, concerns continue to mount over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia, where there’s a devastating drought, an estimated 2.5 million people are on the verge of starvation and Al-Shabab is strangling the routes needed to deliver food aid, he said.

Mohamed pleads with the international community to provide more financial aid for Somalia, not just for military force, but to help build roads, bridges, schools and hospitals, which would help gain support of the Somali people.

He understands that Somalia— long considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world — needs to gain international trust, which is why his focus has been to create a more transparent and accountable government, along with bringing peace and stability.

The job, in fact, has forced Mohamed to get tough with Somali criminals and terrorists. In recent weeks, he has signed off on execution orders for several “cold-blooded killers.”

“We hope that may deter any future actions like that,” Mohamed said. “We know the only way you can treat that situation is with fear.”

It’s been a monumental task for anyone, let alone a civil rights manager with the DOT whose first experience in international politics was a mere 50 days ago.

Mohamed, a Somali native who resettled in Buffalo more than 20 years ago, traveled in September to New York City, where he managed to speak with Somalia’s president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who was speaking at the U. N.

Mohamed, who has a master’s degree from the University at Buffalo, said he suggested some ideas to help his native country. After listening, Mohamed said, the Somali president suggested he submit his resume for the vacant position of prime minister.

“It’s amazing,” Rodriguez said Saturday. “I never thought I’d be able to pick up the phone and talk to a world leader.”

Mohamed had trouble getting past the notion, too.

“I was nervous with all these world leaders,” he said with a smile. “I tried to be calm, but it was not easy.

“But politics is politics,” he said. “You’re dealing with people.”

As prime minister, Mohamed is responsible for day-today operations of the country, with the help of his 18-member cabinet and the 500-plus members of Somalia’s parliament.

Mohamed –who worked for former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra — picked up a thing or two from his time in hardball Buffalo politics.

“Buffalo produced a lot of good politicians,” he said. “I learned a lot.”

“One of the main things I learned from this area is treat people with respect and make people important, so you get their confidence and trust,” Mohamed said. “Even though Somalia is a harsh environment, you would expect everyone is harsh. Still, you get their attention if you show some respect.”

Source: Buffalo News

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