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Somalia’s plague of conflict, piracy, extremism continues

Courtesy of MCT

Plagued with clanism, religious extremism, piracy and worldism, Somalia has been the center of conflict and chaos for more than two decades.

Following the overthrow of then-Somali president, Mohamed Siad Barre, in 1991, Somalia has had no formal government. Millions of people have been killed in addition to the constant fighting among rival warlords in its cities, and millions of others fled the country in search of new places to call home.

Kasim Ali, founder of Worldwide Somali Students and Professionals, a nonprofit organization based in London, said the need to restore Somalia is now higher than ever.

“We as the Somali youth need to put our skills to use and benefit our people, and we need to bring back our country to the way it was,” Ali said via a Skype call during a recent launch of the Columbus chapter of WSSP at Ohio State.

The United Nations agricultural agency said in a September 2011 press release that more than 750,000 people were at risk of starvation before February in what they called the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years.

WSSP decided to launch its “Operation Restore Home” project in Columbus, Ohio, in part due to the fact that Columbus is home to one of the largest Somali populations in America, second only to the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 20,000 Somalis living in Columbus.

Ali said the goal of the “global movement” is to recruit Somali students and professionals working in the health care, engineering, education and agriculture departments and have them travel to Somalia this July to take part in rebuilding the troubled country.

Ali mentioned three main focus areas in the project, the first and “most important” area being agriculture.

“As you know, Somalia has been through a lot since the start of the famine,” Ali said. “So one of the very most import things for us to do is to teach our people and provide them with the tools they need to grow their own crops.”

The volunteers will also take part in helping in the education and heath care systems in Somalia.

Farhiya Kohi, an active member of WSSP from Chicago, told The Lantern the organization’s message inspired her.

“What inspired me is ‘Operation Go Home,’ where basically what we’re doing is taking students back to Somalia,” Kohi said. “The ultimate goal of this project is to create base in Somalia, where we Somali students can go any time and come back.”

Kohi said she’s never been to Somalia and although she wouldn’t be able to travel with the WSSP volunteers in July, she said she’ll be joining them next year.

Fouzia Awil, recent OSU graduate, said WSSP reminds her of the work that needs to be done in her homeland.

“It kind of reminds us of home, to go back home and do stuff for our people,” Awil said.

Kohi said students signing up to take part in the project are expected to take care of their ticketing costs. The group is expected to visit 10 Somali cities in the course of three months.

“We want in 20 years to have a newly built Somalia,” Ali said. “And it is up to us as educated Somali youths to make sure that happens.”

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