Amid Al-Shabaab menace in Somalia, Hassan Sheikh set for US trip
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Just over 200 days after he assumed the powerful office, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will be making his 19th foreign trip later this month, with his destination being Minnesota in the United States, his second trip to the country which hosts millions of Somali-Americans.
Minnesota is one of the states in America heavily inhabited by Somalis, mostly refugees of the civil war which left thousands of people dead over three decades ago. The state has a Somali-American legislator; Ms. IIhan Omar, one of the most vocal politicians in the US.
The president, organizers say, will address the Somali community in Minneapolis, the largest outside of Africa, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Somali Americans have been supporting his radical changes in government.
“We are excited to host His Excellency on December 15,” said Ifrah Abdullahi, the operations manager of Somali Community Resettlement Services and one of the organizers of the president’s visit.
On December 13-15, US President Joe Biden is set to host African leaders where Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is also expected to attend in Washington DC. This will be his second trip to the US given that he was among world leaders who attended the United Nations General Assembly [UNGA].
Hassan previously served as president of Somalia from 2012 to 2017 before winning another term and taking office again in May 2022. The convention center visit will mark the Somali president’s first trip to Minneapolis since 2014. That visit also followed a U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit, hosted by then-President Barack Obama.
During his trip to the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium in 2014, Hassan urged Minnesota’s Somali community not to raise money for the insurgent militant group al-Shabaab and called on parents to keep their children away from the group.
The executive director of the Minneapolis-based social justice organization Civic Ark Hashi Shafi said he was appointed by the government of Somalia to host the event. Hassan had made a commitment to visit Minnesota after winning the election earlier this year, Hashi added.
“The community has been waiting to see the Somali president because for the last five years the president didn’t come to Minnesota,” Hashi said. “We have concerns about what is going on in Somalia—about the war, the violent extremists who want to destroy our home.”
Mohamud Ducale, chair of the Association of Somali Diaspora in the United States, said that Hassan would share news from Somalia and listen to ideas from the local Somali community. Hassan will likely address issues including the fight against al-Shabaab and the drought in East Africa, said Abdulaziz Sheikh, another member of the welcoming committee.
Throughout his second stint in office, Hassan Sheikh, who has declared war against Al-Shabaab, has had to endure tough moments given that the group has launched 57 attacks across the country, leaving over 308 people dead, the highest figure in such a small duration.
His trip also comes at a time Somalia is facing the worst drought in as many years, exposing over 8 million vulnerable people in the country. The president has been accused of investing in foreign trips which have "very minimum returns" according to his critics.