Columbus Welcomes Somalia’s President.

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The president of Somalia’s transitional federal government this morning speaks to a Columbus audience as part of a tour of several U-S cities with large Somali populations. The Somali President wants U-S Somalis to pressure Washington for more aid.

At previous stops in Vienna, Virginia and in Minneapolis Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed appealed to U-S Somalis for help to end two decades of violence. He’s expected to make a similar appeal in Columbus.

Ali Dirshe of Columbus teaches English at the Somali Community Association of Ohio on Cleveland Avenue. He welcomes the presidential visit and the attention it focuses on Somalia’s civil war.

“Unfortunately we have 19 years of civil war. Over a million people died of starvation and fightings and still the fighting is continuing until this hour you know.” Says Dirshe.

Sheikh Ahmed says Somalia has become “more of an issue” for U-S foreign policy in recent months. U-S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says as much. In August, Mrs Clinton said violent extremists al Shabab recruits young Somalis from the U-S and other countries to become suicide bombers. Dirshe says that makes it even more important that U-S Somalis respond to President Ahmed’s appeal for help.

“This is the only chance you know. Otherwise this place will be taken over by hard-liners, people like al-Shabab and you know some of them are affiliated will al Qaada. We don’t even know if Osama bin Laden is in Somalia today.” Says Dirshe.

Like many of the estimated 15,000 Somalis in Columbus, Ali Dirshe came to the city in the 1990s and now has U-S citizenship. Mohammed Ali also arrived here during the 1990s and now owns Imani Tax Services on Westerville road. He says just like the country, Somalia, the Columbus Somali Community is split over whether it supports the transitional federal government in Mogadishu.

“We are nothing to the country. There are people running the show in the country and he needs to go and see these people and sit down and talk and solve the problem. But, in here he may get a fake support. Some people may support him but that support may not be helpful for him.” Says Ali.

Lats year, the U-S gave $189,000,000 in aid to Somalia. State Department spokesman Darby Holladay says Washington is committed to meeting humanitarian needs. But, he says al Shabab and other violent extremists threaten to deny more aid to Somalis.

Tom Borgerding WOSU News.

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