Somalis In Ohio Urged To Help End Civil Strife In Africa

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A Bush Administration official says the Columbus Somali Community can help bring an end to a 16 year old civil war in their east Africa nation. The State Department official for African Affairs made her call to action during a Columbus academic conference.

For more than a decade, since the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre in the early 1990s, millions of Somalis have fled their homeland. 35,000 of the refugees settled in Columbus making it one of the largest Somali communities in the U-S. Recently, Ethiopia, with the backing of the United States, helped shore up a transitional federal goverment in Mogadishu, Somalia. But, violence continues among supporters of different warlords and between the transitional government and the Islamic Courts Union, a group that wants to impose strict religious law. During a visit to a worldwide Somali Conference meeting in Columbus, State Department Ambassador, Jendayi Frazer, acknowledged the Somali conflict is ingrained.

“The only solution to the crisis, to the conflict in Somalia is to have serious inclusive political dialogue with all stakeholders, the transitional federal government, religious authorities, clan elders, women, civil society, business people, and the Somali diaspora has a strong voice to play.” Says Ambassador Frazer.

While Frazer was speaking to the conference on Ohio State University’s campus, Demonstrators outside the site denounced the academic conference saying some of the participants expressed statements “bordering on demagoguery.” Abdow Issa is head of the Somali American United Council headquartered on Morse Road. He says his group was not invited to the Columbus Conference.

So we are not expecting them, acadcemic show, we want action for the Somalis who are in need of help now. Says Issa.

Abukar Osman helped bring the conference to Columbus. He says the presentations reflect the current thinking on the Somali civil war. ” But, its not political and its not affiliated to anyone.” Osman says Columbus’ reputation as a welcoming city for Somali refugees helped it compete against cities in Europe and Australia to draw the conference and its 300 participants. Ambassador Frazer says Somalis in Columbus and other parts of the world have a role to play in solving the current conflict.

“We would hope that the Somali diaspora community would call on those who are killing innocent civilians to stop that. We, the United States, will continue to put pressure on the transitional federal government also to create an enabling environment so that people can return home and the Ethiopians can go home.” Says Frazer.

But, recent dispatches from Mogadishu indicates more violence continues. Attacks on western-backed troops killed four people and injured 13 others. And the Associated Press reports rival clan militias fighting over scarce pasture land in central Somalia recently killed 18 people and injured 15 others. Tom Borgerding, WOSU News.