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Ex-Ealing Council officer risks life in Somalia
Ealing Gazette
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
By James Gates

A FORMER officer from Ealing Council has risked his life helping to bring order to a place once regarded as the most dangerous city on earth.

Abdirahman Osman has spent the last four years with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu, Somalia, an area brought to the very edge of collapse by feuding warlords and militias.

Mr Osman spent 10 years working at Ealing Council, five of those as an anti-social behaviour manager, dealing with gangs and trouble hotspots.

He was a governor at Villiers High School and Grange Primary School, and worked regularly with the Somali community in the UK.

In 2008, he returned to Mogadishu, where he was born, to help restore order after local reformist politicians got in touch. Decades of bloodshed by warring factions and Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based cell of the militant terrorist group Al-Qaeda, made the task seem almost impossible.

Mr Osman, 46, said: “I was born in Mogadishu and was educated here. I worked here for four years before the civil war so I owe this place a lot. I came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 1992 but when the chance arose to help my country, I could not say no.”

Leaving his wife and children in Ealing, Mr Osman has taken on a number of high-profile positions with the TFG, including chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister and minister of the treasury.

Currently senior advisor to the Prime Minister and spokesman for the TFG, he has been in constant danger since his arrival: “At one point, the city almost collapsed entirely. Hand grenades were thrown into my house.

“In December 2009, I was meant to be attending a graduation ceremony but was severely delayed as a meeting ran over. A suicide bomber was present at the ceremony and killed several people, and I could have been one of them.
“My family say to me ‘this is so dangerous, why are you doing this?’ But I tell them that if I don’t do this, then who else will? I don’t regret doing it and there is light at the end of tunnel.”

There is still a huge task ahead of the TFG but it is finally seeing progress. It has pushed Al-Shabaab out of the city and begun restoring stability, though the threat of danger remains constant. Mr Osman said he visits his family three times a year and would like them to join him but it is still too dangerous.

But he added his time at Ealing Council has been invaluable in helping him deal with the pressures of his new job: “It gave me experience of living in a democratic country and shown me how society can function.

“All this has given me the skills to show people out here how stable institutions can benefit their lives.”


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