Who said Somalia died?

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As the well-organized Olympic ceremony in London was underway, various countries presented their icons to bear the flag and walk the stage to showcase their pride and sense of patriotism. I can not deny how happy I felt watching the great Muhammad Ali carry the Olympic flag in the later part of the ceremony, but what moved me most was seeing the Somali team walk the stage with their heads held high and the blue flag with the white star waving as strong as we could imagine it to. I asked myself, is this a foreshadowing of a stronger Somalia to come or is it a new generation that will dignify the flag once more?

I think peace comes from with in us, it does not need any one to import it from anywhere a round the world. The sense of patriotism that the Somali Olympic team displayed today is what we all need to do in order to accomplish our common goal: building a stronger Somalia. They took the risk to train in a city with no sporting facilities, a city with no proper security in place, and most of all, daily threats from terrorist groups that are willing to kill them and possibly wipe us out of the world map if they can. These men and women who walked the stage with the Somali flag are not only patriotic Somalis, but they are also practitioners of a public service that has not been there for the last two decades. May be they do not get any monetary benefits, may be they are not physically fit as we might expect them, but remember the government they are representing at the Olympics does not have the ability to pay it’s members of parliament, leave alone it’s sporting individuals. This is what the yearning for peace is all about, it is when you give yourself to a course that is greater than you, an ambition that makes you destroy all odds just to achieve a common good, this is how we can achieve peace and prosperity in Somalia. If we are afraid to do goods things just because we might be killed, then this how the spoilers, terrorists, and haters of Somalia wants us to be. They want to create maximum fear in us so we can hide ourselves somewhere and not participate in the nation building.

There are those who said Somalia died long time ago, but when they saw the Somali flag at the London Olympics, they said, wait a minute, how are these people living in Somalia now? The answer to that question is that unless you live in Somalia and risk yourself in order to change Somalia’s image, it is unlikely to build a better Somalia. Remember Mahatma Gandhi once said, “ If you want to change the world, be the change you want to see in this world.” So I urge the Somali youth to be the change they want to see in Somalia. And finally, if you will learn anything from this article, it is that I answered to my friend’s question, “ Is Somalia alive?” And I answered, who said Somalia died?

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The pride of Phoenix Youth

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Like thousands of Somali youth in Diaspora, the Somali youth in Arizona are dealing with daily challenges that are as big as the problems that destroyed their home country, Somalia. These challenges include the threat of gang membership, drugs, tribalism, and most of all, vulnerability to radicalization by terrorist groups that operate in Somalia. Between these enormous challenges and the Somali youths in Phoenix stands a young man who many youths called him “Aabo”(father).

Mahad Abdullahi Jigis(Cagaweyne) is a 25-year-old youth leader who founded Walaalaha Phoenix soccer club in 2006. When I asked what his intentions were when he formed this team? He replied, “ to unite the Somali youth in Arizona behind a Somali identity which fosters brotherhood based on not tribalism, but on appreciation for one another as a Somali youth.”

Walaalaha Phoenix soccer club has 48 members aged from 6-years to 27-years- old. They play soccer games three times a week, while at the same time, sharing ideas on how to become positive young men in the society.

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The team has 33 boys aged 6 to 12-years-old whose parents trusted their responsibilities on Mahad to train them not only to become good athletes, but also grow up to become the future leaders of Somalia and the entire world.

As Mahad always says, “ My aim is to let them grow up without the influence of gangs, drugs, tribalism, and many other social ills that they are vulnerable to.”

The challenges this youth foundation faces are not external ones, but rather internal obstacles that come from with in the Somali community. There are those who are trying to brainwash the young Somali generation about tribal conflict in Somalia and those who are trying to radicalize young Somalis to join Alshabab by lying to them that they be in paradise if they join them, said Mahad.

Mahad thanks the Somali mothers of phoenix for their financial and moral support of this youth foundation. He says that they are tired of seeing Somali young men’s future lost as a result of gang violence, radicalization, and the fatal disease of Somalis, tribalism.

Since its foundation in 2006, Walaalaha Phoenix youth club competed in major soccer tournament both nationally and locally. And as of today, they have won six major trophies and are competing for the seventh one at the moment. Their immediate future plan is to expand their membership and reach other Somali youths who are at risk to many social ills.

The two Somali Olympians…. A symbol of hope for the Somali Youth

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As I watched the Somali Olympic team land at Heathrow International Airport in London, I had a mixed emotion of what this moment means to millions of Somali youths who like me have little or no knowledge about their homeland, Somalia. It is a feeling that many Somali youths learned from the darkness of civil war to the decades in refugee camps. To the international community, Somalia is a failed State, to the Somali youths like me, Somalia represents a dark history, one in which all of us have paid the price for the consequence of civil war, tribalism, and finally terrorism. I sometimes feel ashamed of talking about my history as a Somali, a history that trends from a state of poor leadership to that of no leadership. A government that was so corrupt to rule which led to an armed conflict that killed millions Somalis. In all this past history of mine, I sometimes say, the only pride I have in my immediate history as a Somali youth is that I’m alive, Thanks to GOD.

After 22 years of war and Famine, after millions of lives were lost, and after around fifteen peace conferences were held to resolve Somalia’s problems, there seems a glimpse of hope at the end of tunnel. Zamazam Mohamed Farah, one of the Olympians representing Somalia at the London Olympics, arriving at Heathrow Airport this morning, Zamzam told ITV News that “Somalia is alive” and she is proud to represent her country. She is the torchbearer of young Somali generations that are willing to take the risk just to rebuild a better Somalia for all. It is through her inspiration and determination to represent Somalia even when she may not enjoy her basic rights as a Somali girl that makes me hopeful of a better Somalia where we can all contribute.

For Zamzam’s message to the Somali youth is clear; it is never enough to say I have being through a lot. If she can train in the most dangerous City in the world so that she can represent Somalia at the Olympics, what excuse do we have as the Somali youths in Diaspora not to change Somalia’s image in the world? It is our time to contribute positively to the wellbeing of Somalia, and to never under-estimate our impact. The success of Zamzam at the Olympics in London is not measured in Gold, Silver or Bronze, but rather what she represents, the hope, the determination, the Somali spirit, and most of all, her beautiful smile that sends a strong message to all the Somali girls wherever there are; You too are Somalia’s source of strength.

Tribalism equals to Terrorism

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For more than two decades, Somalia was in a state of anarchy, lawlessness, terrorism, and a situation where the strongest survived at the expense of the weaker ones. This bundle of problems did not happen over night, but rather evolved through a period of time. The source of Somalia’s problems stems from tribalism, and the use of tribal affiliation to judge people’s lives. The generations of my father may argue that the use tribe may help us identify each other and possibly relate to one another. Although it hard to win such a debate against our fathers because of age and ideological differences, but I also believe that the Somali youth in Diaspora can achieve different Somali identity than that which is based on tribalism. I would also like to present my theory on how tribalism paves the way for being a terrorist.

After the horrible September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre, fear and mistrust seemed to have prospered among community of nations, this forced citizens of the world to face a new reality in life. The need to find the cause and possibly the solution to the problem of radicalization soon became a priority for international community. Every option and recommendation on the table was thoroughly analyzed, but the Somalis themselves and the international community have long overlooked the Somali youth problems. What the international community came to understand is that terrorist groups operating in Somalia recruit the Somali youths in Diasporas, but what they failed to understand is the process and what led to the radicalization? What the Somalis failed to understand is how some of our fathers are trying to build our loyalty to a certain tribe and not a Somali identity. These two theories are interwoven and one leads to the other, while both of these issues can be addressed in various ways, their urgency seems to be underestimated.

The Somali youths in Diaspora face new realities in their lives, our fathers who still want to be our leaders today are horning us to pay our loyalties to tribalism. And if the tribe we are preached to pay loyalty to supports a terrorist group in Somalia, then the process of radicalization begins from here. They kill our identity as one Somali youths who are hopeful of a future for Somalia where one is valued for the content of their character and not the clan they belong to. I am reminded of the famous Somali poet, Cabdillaahi Suldaan Maxamed (Timacadde), who once said, “Dugsi malaha qabyaaladi waxay   dumiso mooyaane” which literally translates to “ Tribalism provides no shelter, but rather destroys it”. The poet was telling us that we should find a Somali identity that is not based on tribalism, terrorism, and leaders that want to be there forever.

Here in Phoenix Arizona, the Somali youth struggle with these daily realities. A reality where the so-called old generation community leaders are preaching the words of tribalism on the youth, and a manipulated Somali norm that says youths are troublemakers.

We the youths have to stand in the way our fathers and politely remind them that this is not Somalia, and Somalis need a new model of leadership that the youths should spearhead. This is the only way we can be successful both in Somalia and in the Diasporas.

Our fathers need to take the backstage and allow the Somali youth to shape their identity with out the use of tribalism. It is always the human thing to retire or take aback stage and give others whose time has arrived to flourish. I am not being rude, but I will try to be truthful because if I say our fathers did good job in Somalia, I will be lying to the entire Somali youth and to myself. Tribalism and terrorism have a connection, and this seems to have blessing from our fathers. Let us save our identity as Somali youth, as citizens of a peaceful world that we all can contribute. It is my hope that we will rise above the ashes of tribalism and realize a 21st century Somali dream of being one. It is this dream that will live longer and give those to come a new start.

Mohamud Ibrahim Ali, Freelance journalist at Phoenix Arizona