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Somalis in Zambia seek better leadership
Thursday, December 26, 2013
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AS THE 21-year civil war rages on in Somalia, some of its nationals living in Zambia have shifted their bitter tiffs from their country and are up against their community leaders, blaming them for the ravaging poverty tormenting the refugees.
Zambia is host to between 3,000 and 4,000 Somalis holed up mainly in Lusaka and Ndola since the late 1960s when some of them migrated as workers for a transport company that was contracted to ferry fuel from Tanzania during an operation dubbed ‘Hell Run’.
Others have been sneaking in from 1992 when that country went up in flames after then President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted and they shudder at the idea of returning home for fear of the bloody anarchy that has engulfed Somalia, giving it an infamous tag of a ‘failed state’ mostly blamed on Islamic fundamentalism and widespread ignorance.
A Lusaka-based Somali national who prefers anonymity has told the Sunday Mail that their community chairman Hassan Shire has not done anything meaningful to foster economic and social partnerships aimed at lifting his kith and kin out of excruciating despair.
“We are thanking the Zambian government and its people for the support they have given us but the problem is with the chairman of the Somali community. Those who came in 1967 are supposed to be given Zambian citizenship because they have stayed here for a long time.
“Unfortunately we don’t have anybody who can pursue the right channels for the Somalis to get citizenship. We have businesses in Zambia as individuals but as a community we are very poor and it shouldn’t be like that,” the source said.
The source grumbled that many Somali youths have remained idle and are just loitering in Lusaka’s Chaisa township and in some parts of Ndola.
“All these need to be organised and taught survival skills because we don’t want them to have the mentality of ignorance and anarchy like the one prevailing in our country. We want a chairman who can work with the Zambian government and the Somali community.
“We are asking him to call for fresh elections so that we vote for people who can lead us and do something good for our community because it is not possible for us to return home. There is still war in Somalia, people are running away because of the Muslim fundamentalism stirred by ignorance and 23 years of anarchy. Many learned people like teachers, doctors and others are being killed for no reason,” he said.
The source added that Somalis are scattered in Europe, Middle East and Africa like sheep without a shepherd and yet there are some youngsters who can change the face of the Somali community in Zambia and other countries like Kenya, which has more than 350,000 Somalis in one refugee camp.
But Mr Shire dismissed the allegations that he has failed his members in his 11-year tenure at the helm.
Mr Shire said the problem is that some Somalis think there are pecuniary benefits accruing to him and yet he has been using his own money to help those in need.
“Many of them come here with nothing after running away from Somalia and I help them to start a new life in Zambia using my own money,” Mr Shire said.
He said those accusing him of lacking certain leadership skills are just jealous of his achievements in business as a transporter.
On citizenship, Mr Shire said: “It is not up to me to push for people to acquire citizenship of a particular country. It is up to an individual and the procedure is not easy. How will I be seen if I start pushing for others to acquire citizenship? I came here in 1972 and I have a Tanzanian citizenship but I don’t complain about not having Zambian citizenship.”
He said he would step down as soon as the community finds a replacement.
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