Wednesday, June 05, 2013
In a massive show of support for the newly-created Jubaland State, thousands of Somali-Canadians converged at the Sheraton Hotel at Toronto’s West End in the evening of Saturday, June 1st to celebrate the birth of Somalia’s newest regional state.
Event participants with roots in all regions of Somalia traveled from across Southern Ontario and as far away as New York and Minneapolis to join Somali-Canadians from Toronto and the wider GTA area in the night-long festivities. According to event organizers, the colourful ceremony brought together an estimated 3500 people from all walks of life including Somali elders, professionals, Federal government politicians, community/business leaders, the youth and an impressive list of North-American-based Somali artists.
Event MC, Hassan Abdillahi Omar “Karate,” the popular anchor and director of Ogaal Radio, 88.9FM thanked the public for their show of solidarity toward the emergent Jubaland State. According to provisions in Somalia’s new Federal Constitution, two or more regions that meet constitutional requirements can form a state within a New Federal System.
On May 15th 2013, delegates comprising of 500 state residents and traditional elders from across Jubaland elected Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, popularly known as Ahmed Madobe as the region’s first President and General Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail (Fartaag) as Vice-President bringing to culmination a four- year process. Jubaland is located in Somalia’s southernmost frontiers and comprises of the three regions of Gedo, Middle and Lower Juba. It is largely regarded as Somalia’s breadbasket, with fertile agricultural lands dotting the Juba Valley.
The region is also known for it thriving livestock industry and the potential for offshore oil and gas reserves along the Indian Ocean. Kismayu, a strategic City known for its vastly lucrative Seaport and airports, is the Capital of the new Jubaland State.
In September last year, Somalia ushered in a new post-transition era as Parliamentarians selected by a technical committee elected Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as President to steer the war-ravaged nation back into the international fold after two decades of civil strife that plunged the country into anarchic lawlessness earning the tag of most failed state in the world.
In recent months, peace has largely returned to the Somali capital of Mogadishu with a steady flow of Diaspora based Somalis trickling back into the sun-baked City known for its stunning beaches in what was once considered the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Despite the uneasy, fragile peace, simmering tensions remain as the new Federal government in Mogadishu remains at loggerheads with emergent regional states, particularly the Jubaland State of Somalia.
Last month, a delegation from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional grouping that brings together seven East /Horn of African states visited Kismayu, the regional capital of Jubaland located in Somalia's deepest South and the national capital, Mogadishu, to diffuse ongoing tensions. The delegation urged the competing Federal and Regional forces to mend differences by holding a reconciliation conference in the Somali capital.
Jubaland leaders have welcomed this development and the proposed Mogadishu conference will take place at a date yet to be specified. With pulsating Somali music lending a carnival atmosphere to the occasion, flag waving Toronto celebrants clad in colorful attire chanted pro-Jubaland and pro-Somalia slogans in a gleeful evening filled with pomp and colour. The event featured keynote and guest speakers including speeches by elders and a rousing speech by Etobicoke North Member of Parliament, Dr. Kirsty Duncan, which was greeted with the raucous chants of Long Live Jubaland! Long Live Somalia!
Faduma Ali Nakruma is a national icon and a towering figure who has influenced the Somali musical scene for most of the East African nation’s post-colonial era. She used the occasion to call for the unity of all Somali people in a universal message of peace, love and unity. “Many folks would recognize me for my role as an international singer hailing from Somalia. I have served my nation since I was fourteen years old when I first earned a living working for the government. Until today, I still believe in the quest for a functional state. Without a government, there is no life.
Now that we have a new Federal government, I call upon my people to unite behind this government and for the Federal government to support the aspirations of all regional states, including Jubaland” said the beloved Diva of Somali music. Mohamed Ismail, a Minnesota-based Somali author who traveled to the event all the way from Minneapolis, echoed Nakruma’s universal message calling for Somali people to close ranks and unite to promote peace in post-conflict reconstruction. “The new Federal Somali Constitution allows for the creation of regional states. It was agreed in principle by all Somalis during the transition period. Regional states within a Federal system are seen by many Somalis as the only viable route to peace. It is through their creation that we can achieve peace and stability” said Mr. Ismail, whose book Himiladaaha Hano (English for aspirations) captures the prevailing mood among Somalis whose aspirations are rooted in the establishment of regional states in Somalia.
One of the contentious issues surrounding the newly-established Jubaland State is the status of minorities and their purported role in the new regional government. Circles within the Federal Somali government claim that minorities have been excluded from the Jubaland process.
But prominent leaders of the Bajuni community in Toronto have allayed such fears stating that minority communities are active participants in Jubaland’s affairs.
“Kismayu is originally a Bajuni name and as Bajunis, we are Jubalanders. We are firmly behind our newly-elected President, Ahmed Madobe. We closely monitor events on the ground and I can confirm that my community is fully involved in the ongoing process. In fact Bajunis were among the voting delegates who directly participated in the recent Kismayu election. Our Sultan, Dili Mahadi Dili, supports the Jubaland State and has endorsed its new leaders” said Omar Hassan Obo, a Bajuni community leader based in Toronto. Mr. Obo also hailed the Jubaland Process as one that is heralding a new era, freeing area residents from the clutches of successive warlords and Al-Shabab extremists. “In the past, Kismayu exchanged hands several times during the long civil war. It now has a permanent administration. We are happy to elect Ahmed Madobe as President of Jubaland” said an optimistic Omar Hassan Obo.
Mr. Omar Mahadi Dili, another prominent Bajuni leader in Toronto and brother of the Bajuni Sultan in Kismayu concurred with Mr. Obo saying that the Ahmed Madobe-led Jubaland State is an all-inclusive one that has ensured the direct participation of all concerned stakeholders including minorities.
“Throughout the past transitional period(s), our Bajuni community was totally excluded from all affairs pertaining to Somalia. Ahmed Madobe is the first leader to ever take the initiative to consult with us in building the Jubaland State. Today, Bajunis are in the frontline in Jubaland State fully participating in all its institution-building initiatives. This has never happened before.
We support Ahmed Madobe. The people of Kismayu including Bajunis all want peace and that is why we have elected Ahmed Madobe” said the equally optimistic Omar Mahadi Dili. Toronto’s Somali youth had a strong presence at the Jubaland festivities. “As a youth member in support of Jubaland, I am excited about the new region that can contribute to the unity of Somalia. Jubaland should be seen as an example for all other regions in Somalia.
The Somali people and government should be supporting the new region in all ways possible” said a jubilant Aisha Mohamed; an articulate young activist well-known for her key role during the 2011 downtown Toronto march and rally in support of the victims of the Somali humanitarian disaster.
In a speech that was well-received by a cheering, flag waving audience, Honourable Kirsty Duncan, the MP for Etobicoke North, home to one of the largest concentration of Somali constituents in Canada, said that she would do everything for the Somali community whom she described as members of her own family.
Her speech was punctuated by phrases from the Somali language sending the massive crowd into utter delirium. “Hambalyo (congratulations) Jubaland on the birth of the new state. Somalia Hanoolaato! (Long Live Somalia!), Jubaland Hanoolaato! (Long Live Jubaland!). I will support all development in Somalia. You are my dear family, not just friends.
I will always be there for you. I love your beautiful culture and language” said Dr. Kirsty Duncan. The Federal Member of Parliament also pledged to support the Somali-Canadian community in another front stating that she has initiated action in Ottawa to push for government response to the deaths of young men that have haunted the community.
“Right now, I am fighting hard to address a sad issue, the loss of 50 young Somali-Canadian men. I am trying to get the Federal government to investigate these deaths and to get real help for your community. My office is your home and I will always be there for you” said Dr. Kirsty Duncan in reference to the gun related crimes that have claimed the lives of dozens young Somali-Canadian men over the last five years. “I am here for Somalia and the new Jubaland State, which I am told has a beautiful river, seaport, airport, a farming region and the ocean. I wish well the new President. Jubaland Hanoolaato! (Long Live Jubaland!), Somalia Hanoolaato! (Long Live Somalia!), Canada Hanoolaato! (Long Live Canada!” Mahadsanid! (Thank You!)”concluded the Etobicoke North MP to a thunderous applause from the adoring crowd.
Prior to taking the stage, Dr. Kirsty Duncan informed the Digital Journal that she would push for Federal government jobs for the Somali-Canadian community including positions in the RCMP that would help address homicides in the community.
She was all praise for the first wave of Somali immigrants to Canada who have immensely scarified for the future generation. “Somali-Canadians are an amazing, wonderful community. They are a true inspiration for all Canadians.
The pioneers of this community should write a book about their experiences and document what they gave up for their children and grand children in Canada” said the popular Etobicoke North MP. Prominent writer Abdi Aden Hassan(Zeylici) highlighted key events in the modern Somali history dating back to the early twentieth century and developments that necessitated the shift to Federalism in several African states including Somalia.
“During the colonial era, it was freedom fighter Seyyid Mohamed Abdullah Hassan who fought vigorously against imperialism to the point that British colonizers were compelled to resort to aerial bombardment for the first time ever in Africa. Before the end of the Second World War, the pro-independence Somali Youth League (SYL) was formed and later, there was the Somali Socialist Revolution.
In countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria, Federalism became an option to accommodate ethnic and religious interests while in Somalia, the protracted civil war sparked the push for Federalism” said the famous writer while calling on IGAD to continue to support Somalia.
Mr. Haji Dahir Ramadan, one of the elders who took to the podium to address the gathering said he is in favour of establishment of states in all regions of Somalia, not just Jubaland. “We are here tonight to celebrate the birth of Jubaland, one of the sates of Somalia.
We will also support any region(s) in Somalia that are building their own states as long as their establishment is based on justice, equality and respect for Somali unity. We ask the President of Somalia to support Jubaland and all over Somalia wherever states are being formed in accordance with provisions in the Constitution” said the Somali elder.
As the evening wore on, the gigantic, flag waving gathering was treated to more electrifying Somali music with renowned artists; the likes of Faduma Nakruma, Zeinab Labadagax, Awale Aden, Koshin Yare, Abdullahi Bikolo, Hayat Gelqad and Mursal Sugule taking the stage to entertain the public. The ecstatic celebrants marked the occasion in triumphant fashion, partying to the wee hours of the morning.