Mogadishu Calls For Some Somalis In Columbus

Listen to the Story

Basra Mohamed is a radio host for a community station in Columbus. She programs to the city's large Somali population and says some are returning to Somalia after two decades of civil war.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU)
Basra Mohamed is a radio host for a community station in Columbus. She programs to the city's large Somali population and says some are returning to Somalia after two decades of civil war.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU)

Thousands of Somalis came to Columbus during the past 20 years to escape civil war. Columbus soon had the second largest Somali community in the United States. The immigrants set up businesses, enrolled in schools and made new lives for themselves.

But now some are returning home. A small group of Somalis are going back with hopes of rebuilding the devastated African nation.

At a café inside the Global Mall on Morse road, a handful of men talk in Somali. One watches a television broadcast of news from Somalia. Behind the counter, 22-year-old Guled Igal, helps his mother serve customers. But Igal’s thoughts often turn to his dad who recently returned to Mogadishu. He recalls asking his father why he went back.

“I’m like dad, why did you go there. Why don’t you just come back, you could get a job here,” says Igal.

Igal’s father is among a small group of Somalis in Columbus who have chosen to return their homeland even at a time when security and governance are fragile.

“He told me about all the fighting that’s still going on. And they’re still trying to reconstruct the city but there’s a lot of warlords, there’s a lot of, you know, terrorists, Al Shabab, people that want to blow themselves up still in Mogadishu right now,” Igal says.

Before the war, Mogadishu was a city of two and half million people with glistening beaches on the east Coast of Africa. Twenty two years of civil war has destroyed many of the city’s buildings and left others pock-marked by bullets. The beaches are polluted and have been used as launch points for Somali pirates.

Despite the trouble, 34-year-old Ahmed Adan moved back to Mogadishu from Columbus in January. He works with the new government. During a telephone conversation from Mogadishu he says while sporadic fighting still occurs, the time of civil war is over. On most days, he says, “life goes normal.”

“There is a lot of people coming back and I have been actually actively talking to people in Columbus, in Minnesota and other parts of the United States to people that I know,” Adan says.

Adan says he returned to Somalia because he wants to help his homeland out of a crisis. He says Mogadishu is changing from something that was almost a “ghost town” to someplace that is actually livable.

“It’s really tough. I’m not saying it’s easy, the transition from Columbus to Mogadishu. But, yes, I mean, things are improving here and I’m very happy to be a part of this government,” Adan says.

The head of the Somali Community Association on Cleveland Avenue says 54 people from Columbus have returned to Mogadishu. At the Franklin County Council on Aging, caseworker Loodar Dafur, sees a slight drop in demand recently for elderly services among Somalis.

“When I’m speaking Somali, I’m speaking half English and half Somali most of the time,” says Dafur.

Like Guled Igal, Dafur came to Columbus as a young child after spending time in a refugee camp. She has few remembrances of Somalia. But she hears about it constantly, from her mother.

“A lot of people when they came here at older age, they long for, like my mother, she’s always longed for her house, her farm and all of that. And she hopes that one day she will go back to her home,” Dafur says.

A lot will depend on whether a peace takes hold in Mogadishu. International backers of Somalia’s new president are working toward a permanent peace giving financial help and recruiting those willing to return.

Basra Mohamed is a Somali language radio host for a community station in Columbus. Her weekly programs are heard not only here but in other U.S. cities with large Somali populations. She says the pull toward Somalia is felt wherever refugees have fled.

“Not just Columbus, but people are going from Minneapolis, going from Portland, Maine, going from all the other, not just one place, even in Europe, people are going back to Somalia.” We lost a lot, we lost so much and going back means gaining some normality and getting sense of normality and finding yourself, I think,” Says Mohamed.

  • Mohamed Farah

    I am 26 years old from Ohio, Columbus and i left last year after i graduated from OSU. Currently, i work in Somalia and i am also very happy to be here and rebuild my country. For the 1st time after 2 decades, people have learnt that peace is the only way out of the civil war mess and destruction. Soon Inshaa Allah Somalia will be peace and stable.

    • SomaliPirate

      Bro, I know you personally so please tell the whole truth. You go between Kenya and Somalia every few weeks. I know tho because I follow your fb pictures and statuses. Secondly please inform the viewer what part of Somalia your at. After all the part of Somalia your at is the region where you tribesmen dwell at. So of course you gona feel secure there.

      • Mohamed Farah

        Thank you brother for commenting my post. My family lives in Kenya and i work and live Gedo, Somalia a city called Dollow but i also travel and go to Kenya where the head quarter of the NGO that i work with is. I am head of education project and we are building 7 schools in Dollow. So is there any problem if i work where my community lives?

        • SomaliPirate

          Brother, just don’t paint a false image of war ravaged god forsaken nation like our cursed Somalia. You just admitted that you work in your own community brother, is that a way to go for a country where your opportunities are only where your tribesmen are from. I beg to differ. Story though I salute you for your move.

          • Mohamed Farah

            I was expecting you to answer my question plzz do so again bro

  • SomaliPirate

    I think NPR had a news day to make such a big deal about handful of people going back to Somalia when in reality the only peaceful section of Somalia right now is Mogadishu and this spot is not fully secured. Then you got two autonomous regions up on the north and a place they just named Jubaland. Therefore NPR can b sued for false advertisement because I could’ve believed this story and would’ve packed up to return to Somalia only to be shot dead. Be responsible journalist NPR.

    • proud Somalian-PharmD

      I cannot reiterate enough that people like you are the reason to the collapse of one of East Africa’s great, “SOMALIA.” peace is not achieved overnight and there are many factors that come into play to achieve peace. factors such as reconstruction, minimizing the number of deaths, and maintaining law and order slowly but steadily, After all Rome was not build in a day.
      secondly, your dumb ass should not believe and adhere to anything you see and hear. do your research first, make several calls, and make sure everything is in check before your stupid black ass moves back to any case i would prefer you to stay here cz we don’t need shallow, closed and idiopathic minded people like your stupid ass in Africa’s finest country.
      in conclusion, SHUT THE FUCK UP!!

      • Kelly

        Rome was not build in a day? Are you serious? Africa has had since the beginning of time to get it’s shit together. The only time it has been minutely successful is during white colonist ruling. Once that ruling was given up Africa went to shit again. Savages plain and simple. Go back and attempt to rebuild but leave the rest of the world alone to bail your savage assess out. Africa should be analated plain and simple.