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Comments on President Sharif ‘s Recent Visit in Britain

Prime Minister Gordon Brown with President Sharif Ahmed at the Prime Minister's Office,
10 Downing Street

by Muuse Yuusuf
Thursday, March 18, 2010


Wednesday, 10th of  March 2010  was a historic day for many Somalis in the diaspora. It was that day when hundreds of Somalis in London gathered to welcome Presidnet Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.  It was a historic day because it was the first time that a huge crowd of Somalis probably in their thousands had ever come together to welcome and meet a Somali president in a public venue in London. This is important given the deep division within of Somalis where they have their ghettoed community organisations. So the event was historic as it has at least attraced a large crowd of Somalis who otherwise may not have met. Indeed it was a rare event!  The event was held in  the
Troxy theatre in Whitechapel which can hold up to seven thousand spectators.  After a long queue in a cold and freezing temperature outside the theatre building, crowds were allowed in having gone through a tight but polite security screening manhandled by the London Metropolitan Police. According to the president’s visiting site, the event should have started at 5pm. Those Somalis with European time keeping mind-set had gathered at the gate at 5pm sharp but unfortunately had to endure a few hours wait in the cold temperature. This is because the event did not start until few hours later. Perhaps event organisers all knew well of the infamous Somalis’ lack of punctuality and therefore prudently advised the president and his entourage to wait few hours to allow Somalis to congregate.  Once inside the hall of this huge theatre, the crowd was entertained by different artists from legendary singers such as Ahmed Naji and Fadumo Qasim to aspiring young artists.  


After few speakers, the podium was given to President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to speak to a patiently waiting, well meaning and well behaved audience. Unfortunately, it seemed though much of his speech was about raising awareness of dangers of extremism within the Somali community and also educating the audience about the threat of radicalisation of children by Islamic extremists who are out there to indoctrinate young minds vulnerable to manipulation as this writer has articulated in another article   http://www.hiiraan.com/op2_rss/2009/Jun/profile_of_a_somali_suicide_bomber.aspx. He also reminded the audience about their responsibilities and duties towards their adopted country, in other words how to be a good and law-abiding citizen, as he asked the audiences to try to help those displaced brothers facing hardship worldwide.


It must also be said that the speaker, teacher-cum-president, sounded like a lecturer who was lecturing his audience about Islam because he kept on referring to Quranic verses whenever he either wanted to repudiate extremists’ perverted version of Islam or validate  a point he made. He also tried to use Somali proverbs to validate his points but it seemed though he had fewer proverbs than verses! Nevertheless, it seemed though his audience liked what he was preaching and the president won few standing ovations


I can’t help but to compare such standing ovations and rapturous applauses by the audience with the standing ovations that the late President Siyad Barre used to receive from his audience when he was lecturing Somalis about his scientific socialism, an ideology that his audience hardly understood but at the same time applauded for it! Although there are some differences and similarities between the two events, here are the most striking ones that I could find. In President Sharif’s sermon, the lecturing was about Islam and not socialism, and while the late president would have quoted Lenin or Marx’s teaching to authenticate his points, the current president was citing Islamic teachings. Two different ideologies with different approaches in the management of human affairs! This time the speaker and his audience were in a theatre in an alien country and not in Il Teatro Somalo, the famous Mogadishu theatre, where people were marshalled to listen to late president’s speeches. This time the security was provided by a foreign police force as is the case in Somalia right now and not by Somalis.  This is a sad story.   


When it came to progress reports on his government’s work,  the president could hardly come up with anything substantial except few ongoing renovation and building works of public institutions such as the wrecked parliament, the main sea port etc. His speech was also very short of vision about his government’s political programme for our beloved country. For example what is he going to do about Somaliland and Puntland once the extremists are defeated? Any progress on constitution and institution building, and what was happening with the reconciliation process and many other things?  Although one can understand the difficult conditions that his government has been working since its inception from daily shelling by “Islamists” to lack of infrastructure and institutions, the president could have seized the opportunity to highlight his government’s present and future political programmes and polices, and for not doing so was a disappointment for many like myself.


For me, the highest point of the event was when the president announced the British government’s agreement to re-open the Somali embassy in London. This announcement has won my heart and I could not help but to stand up and applaud for the good news. This is because as unionist who believes in the unity of our nation, which is now being threatened with secession, I have always been suspicious of the British government‘s stand on the unilateral secession of the former British Somaliland colony. Remember those days when secessionists were organising high profile lobbying events in London, such as Colonel Daahir Kaahin’s meeting with David Miliband in order to win the British government? Remember how secessionists have been boasting about the British government’s support for the Somaliland’s cause for historical reasons? Well for now it appears though the British government has made up its mind and by endorsing the Transitional Federal Government as a “legitimate” authority to deal with, it has confirmed of its commitment and respects for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our beloved country. So in that sense the visit was worth the effort; and it is a well done job by hardworking Somalis. The visit  therefore deserves our appreciation.


Another appoint that kept me wonder was if President Sharif was welcomed by the government of a secular state which is now providing sanctuaries for hundreds of thousands of Muslim Somalis – whose religious rights are protected by the state – rather than supporting extremism, why we Somalis can’t learn from our experiences in this country and other western countries in order to learn more about secularism and its benefits? So that we can try to help our country gear towards a more secular state similar to what we had before the collapse of the central government in 1991? Imagine what the situation of thousands of Somalis in this country would be if the UK was a fundamentalist Christian state where its citizens and residents were obliged and expected to adhere to its Christian faith? And those who fail to conform would be subjected to severe punishments.


I leave with my audience to answer the above questions.

Muuse Yuusuf

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