Somali community reacts to uprising

The Islamic Courts overthrew warlords in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

by Jamie VanGeest

Political upheaval in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, is impacting the lives of the thousands of Somalis who call Minnesota home.

On June 5, militias, through the Islamic Courts Union, took control of Mogadishu.

The Islamic Courts overthrew warlords, who have controlled the country for more than a decade. During weeks of battles, it is estimated 330 people were killed.

“The Courts in Mogadishu aren’t aiming to control the country; they are regionally based,” said Abdi Samatar, a University professor of geography and global studies.

Minnesota has the largest Somali population outside of Africa, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and many Somalis have different opinions about the state of the African nation.

Samatar said he thinks it’s a good thing to get rid of the warlords. He called them the most violent people imaginable.

Muhiyadin Aden, a political science senior, said the best thing that could happen with the situation in Mogadishu is for the Islamic Courts to work with the Somali government in place.

Currently there is a Somali government based in Baidoa, Somalia, Samatar said.

“(The Islamic Courts) have to negotiate with the government to figure out a way to work together,” he said.

Saeed Fahia, the executive director of the Confederation of Somali Communities of Minnesota, said the success of the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu will depend on its ambitions.

“If (the Islamic Courts) try to bring safety and peace to the capital, people will support them,” Fahia said. “If it is more or less a power grab, they will not succeed.”

If the Islamic Courts support the rights of men and women, without harassment, they will succeed, he said.

“The Somali community (in Minnesota) is hopeful that things will turn out for the best,” Fahia said.

Aden said things will get scary in Mogadishu if the courts don’t work with the government in Somalia.

Currently the Islamic Courts are trying to figure out an administration for the city, Samatar said.

He said he thinks a majority of the Somali population in Minnesota supports the change taking place in Mogadishu.

“It has certainly been more peaceful than it has for the last 15 years,” Samatar said.