London, June 12, 2014 – Somalis who have claimed refuge in Britain should abandon comfortable lives in the “boring” West and return to rebuild their war-torn homeland, the country’s foreign minister has said.
In an interview in London with The Daily Telegraph, Abdurrahman Dualeh Beileh urged Britain’s large Somali diaspora to come home even if it meant it a more dangerous life than they were used to.
“Somalia is a challenge of course, but what is life without challenges?” said Mr Beileh, 59, a US-educated financier who spent 25 years working for the African Development bank before taking up his post in the capital, Mogadishu, earlier this year.
“I honestly see people working in the Western world having it too easy, it’s a very dull life,” he said. “Personally, I worked for 25 years in a bank as a very senior manager, but every day is the same as the other. Now today in Mogadishu I have every day new challenges, and that gives the rush of adrenalin.”
Mr Beileh, who has an MBA and PHD from the University of Wisconsin, is one of a large number of expatriate Somalis working in the country’s new government, which is fighting to stabilise the country after more than 20 years of civil conflict and warlordism. In the last two years, an African Union peacekeeping force has managed to oust al-Shabaab militants from Mogadishu, and since then, peace has slowly returned to the capital.
While carbombs and assassinations are still a hazard of life – last month a car bomb at the parliament killed at least seven people – he said the threats were now mainly a risk for politicians and VIPs rather than ordinary residents.
“I have a security detail when I am out in Mogadishu, but recently when I was looking out my window, I realised that most residents were going about their business quite happily without any protection,” he said. “So I left my security detail where they were, dressed in ordinary clothes and headed out onto the streets myself with no problems. It’s only if you’re a big fish that you have to worry about protection.”
Britain’s Somali community is believed to be up to 200,000 strong, and is concentrated mainly in London, Manchester, Leicester, Cardiff, Bristol and Liverpool. While some Somalis have lived in Britain for generations, others are relatively new arrivals, having fled the civil war that started in the early 1990s. Although many may have limited appetite for swapping the comforts of life in the West for the unpredictability of Mogadishu, Mr Beileh said now was the time to try it.
“Mogadishu is thriving and real estate is booming,” he said. “It is now that you need to come – tomorrow might be too late.”
He added: “Every contribution to the country counts, but how can I make that contribution if I am working in London?”
Mr Beileh was speaking to The Telegraph during a visit to London to attend the four-day conference on combatting sexual violence in war, an issue that Somalia has had considerable problems with. He blamed the problems on the collapse of Somalia’s clan system, which he said had traditionally been designed to ensure that women enjoyed men’s absolute protection.
“If you look at Somalia’s history, you will see that wars were fought because a single woman had been hurt or disrespected,” he said. “The clan system promoted protection of women, but the years of the civil eroded it away.