By Hassan Omar, with additional reporting by Deba Uwadiae
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo has become a unifying figure for the people of Somalia both home and abroad. His visit to the United States few days ago, where he addressed the United Nation General Assembly was not only an opportunity to meet the urbane leader of a country that was at war for over three decades (now enjoying some relative peace), but to welcome one of us – Somali Americans- back to the United States of America. He lived in America for over 30 years and carried the American passport till when he renounced his citizenship recently.
It was therefore not a surprise seeing Somali groups of brothers and sisters from Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minnesota and Toronto, Canada with other smaller groups from different parts of North America come to pay “homage” to “one of us” who is now the President of Somalia.
Having known him for so long, he has not changed from the man with great respect for others despite being the President of a country with a population estimate of 11 million people but rather has become humbler, more welcoming and attentive to views and suggestions.
Watching President Mohamed as he received and interacted with every group at the New York Plaza, it reminded one, of an ideal leader at the forefront on the right path to hope in “life after the war” in Somalia.
The common message to all was for Somali everywhere to live as lawful and abiding citizens.
“wherever you live be visible and law abiding. Where you live in America is your country and when you come to Somalia it is your country,” he said as we sat one on one.
He also urged that we encourage the young people and to let them know that there are great opportunities if they do well in whatever field they chose.
At the end of the meeting, my concern are the different challenges he will be going back to Somalia to face which are numerous including those from within and outside.
In his address at the United Nation General Assembly, there is hope in the conclusive part: –
“Mr. President, Poverty is one of the greatest pains a people and nation can suffer. The Government of Somalia is working hard with its people to build a more sustainable future free from poverty with strong social protections.
Today, we are on the verge of completing an inclusive Ninth National Development Plan which will guide the national strategic policies and frameworks for eradicating poverty in Somalia. The process of conducting the National Development Plan was inclusive, participatory and it promoted accountability, transparency and common responsibility for future implementation.
Our approach to eradicating poverty is to create economic opportunities for our people and, to do this, we are engaged in an ambitious and successful fiscal and economic reforms program guided by the International Monetary Fund Staff Monitored Program to achieve debt cancellation by early next year through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).
According to the IMF, our performance to date has been strong and we have achieved much in a short space of time. We continue to raise domestic revenue, improve national budgeting processes, make our financial system more secure and transparent, while instilling fiscal discipline in our national operations.
We are working closely both bilaterally and multilaterally with all our key partners and stakeholders, including the Somali people and International Financial Institutions, to secure debt cancellation for Somalia. Achieving this will allow Somalia to get access to the valuable and much needed concessionary resources that would complement our national domestic revenue mobilization to cover the cost of eradicating poverty, improving public services, including Quality education and security and, taking effective actions to safeguard our future against the scourge of climate change.
Alongside economic and fiscal reforms, our government has championed a zero-tolerance approach to corruption so that every Dollar is spent on the public good. If we are to eradicate poverty, we cannot afford to lose a cent to corruption. Accordingly, we must always ensure value for money in public expenditure and tackle corruption head on. This is why I signed the historic Anti-Corruption Bill last week and my government is determined to deliver on its content for the people of Somalia.” (Hassan Omar is Executive Director of Somali Community Association, Columbus, Ohio)