MOGADISHU, Somalia — Up until a few weeks ago, all visitors who landed at Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu were handed a poorly copied, barely readable sheet that asked for name, address — and caliber of weapon. No more. Now visitors get a bright yellow welcome card that has no mention of guns and several choices for reason of visit, including a new category: holiday. Outside, on Mogadishu’s streets, the thwat-thwat-thwat hammering sound that rings out in the mornings is not the clatter of machine guns but the sound of actual hammers. Construction is going on everywhere — new hospitals, new homes, new shops, a six-story hotel and even sports bars (albeit serving cappuccino and fruit juice instead of beer). Painters are painting again, and Somali singers just held their first concert in more than two decades at the National Theater, which used to be a weapons depot and then a national toilet. Up next: a televised, countrywide talent show, essentially “Somali Idol.” Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, which had been reduced to rubble during 21 years of civil war, becoming a byword for anarchy, is making a remarkable comeback. The Shabab, the fearsome insurgents who once controlled much of the country, withdrew from the city in August and have been besieged on multiple sides by troops from the African Union, Kenya, Ethiopia and an array of local militias. Now, one superpower is left in the capital — the African Union, with 10,000 troops (soon to be 17,000), tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers that constantly chug up and down the street — and the city is enjoying its longest epoch of relative peace since 1991: eight months and counting. “It’s a rebirth,” grinned Omar Osman, a Somali-American software engineer who worked for Delta Air Lines in Atlanta and just moved back here. “Call it Somalia 2.0.”
(1) Can you briefly introduce yourself? My name is Sahnun Mohamud and I’m a 19 year old Somali-American born and raised in the United States. Despite being born and raised in the United States I couldn’t ignore the death, corruption, and futility which my people have endured for the past two decades. So, I started WakeUpSomalia with my co-founder Bashir Warsame in my tenth grade of high school. Presently, I’m a first-year college student at William and Mary. (2) What propelled you to start WakeUpSomalia and how is it different from other Somali youth organizations? Bashir and I were inspired by a local northern Virginia Somali community event which highlighted the tragedy as well as some of heroic efforts taking place. After the event we convened on a typical afternoon at his house, and began to brainstorm about how we could helpSomaliatoo. In the end, we decided that we wanted to create a sustainable long-term solution, which prompted our focus on Somali youth education. We are different than most youth organizations because our focus is long-term, and it is also based on technological advancements and partnerships. Although we acknowledge the need for immediate assistance, we also acknowledge the need for long-term solutions, which why we hope to fill the void of quality education inSomalia. (3) What does sustainable development mean for you? What has WakeUpSomalia been doing to improve livelihoods? For WakeUpSomalia, sustainable development means implementing projects which have long-term impacts on the lives of Somali people. Projects which once implemented, can take a family, or a community, and provide them products or services which will have a positive and lasting impact on their livelihoods. WakeUpSomalia has been working hard on combining the pieces necessary to create a technology based school inSomalia. To date we have partnered with an online curriculum provider, and have raised $4,000. But our education project still needs time and effort to take off. Furthermore, we have have teamed up with Aadamiga Somalia (Somali-American NGO) in raising almost $5,000 to put a halt to the famine which was taking off in Buulo Mareer, Somalia. (4) Can you speak to your involvement with Aadamiga Somalia? How did you utilize social media in your fundraising? We teamed up with Aadamiga Somalia to help the starvation victims of Buulo Mareer,Somalia. In our effort we raised nearly $5,000 for emergency food relief for the village. Social media played a crucial role in this fundraising because we received all of the money through online donations, much of which came from our incessant Facebook posts and tweets on Twitter. In addition, GoFundMe.com was also a social media tool that facilitated our online fundraising, and which ultimately made our fundraising efforts more effective. (5) Can you discuss some of WakeUpSomalia’s achievements? Over the past few years WakeUpSomalia has had a few notable accomplishments. One of our major accomplishments is that in total we’ve raised almost $10,000 for various Somali causes. Another is that we won a $1,000 competition at a youth entrepreneur event (DoSomething.com) for WakeUpSomalia’s concept. And finally, we have spread the message of Somali unity and perseverance through social media and community events, much of which can be found on YouTube. (6) What current projects are you working on? Currently, we are working with Aadamiga Somalia to fund the creation of a school inSomalia. Also we are attempting to gain access to Somalia’s national curriculum as well as access to Skype’s special low bandwidth video sharing technology for future schools in Somalia. (7) What can the Somali diaspora do to assist you with your work in Somalia? They can donate to us on behalf on Aadamiga Somalia to help us build schools in Somalia. (8) What does it mean to you to be both Somali and American? Being both Somali and American to me means that I have two distinct cultures and attitudes to reconcile within myself. I think it’s a wonderful thing, because there are aspects of American culture and life that I respect, and there are also aspects of Somali culture and life that I respect. Although at times it can be a difficult reconciliation, I feel that at the end of the day it has been a blessing to have such a diverse mindset. (9) How important do you feel the diaspora is inSomalia’s development? What more can be done to facilitate the role of diaspora in development? I feel that the diaspora’s role in development is of paramount importance. I say this because the diaspora are the ones who tend to be educated, tolerant, and progressive people, in contrast to Somali natives. However I also feel that the diaspora’s impact in development could be facilitated through the development of stronger Somali run NGOs moving their operations toSomalia, and recruiting professional diaspora workers. Somalia needs groups like Engineers without Borders and Doctors without Borders functioning harmoniously in Somalia in order to attract bright minds to come back and help. (10) What message do you have for Somali diaspora youth who are interested in giving back, but are unsure how? Don’t let your doubts and skepticism guide your life, free your beliefs and hopes to act as your driver. Find what you care most about in Somalia’s situation, and then search for a great NGO that is already helping, or begin your own humanitarian legacy in that mission. Nothing in the world can stop you if you’re determined enough. Visit WakeUpSomalia to learn more about how you can assist!
Save the Children is to be applauded for reminding us all of one of the most extraordinary and humiliating aspects of living in the modern world: child hunger. Drawing a parallel with the fight to abolish slavery, the Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah recently asked what future generations will condemn us for. One sure candidate is the needless human carnage wrought by hunger. Some 850 million people(one in eight of the world’s population) go to bed hungry every night. Many of them are children, for whom early hunger leaves a lifelong legacy of cognitive and physical impairment. The human and economic waste is horrifying. Read more at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/15/ending-world-hunger
MDG drinking water target being met is cause for celebration This achievement shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better. Now we must tackle sanitation….. http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_23607.html
Please join us in congratulating our very own Sagal Ali, for being recognized as a White House Champion of Change for her work with the Somali community both in the US and globally. We hope this is the year where the US government thoroughly engages Somali diaspora communities, particularly young Somali leaders, to come up with sustainable solutions for the re-development of Somalia.