From refugee in Australia to a leader in war-torn Somalia

ISSA Farah is a government minister who carries a pistol in his belt.

Melbourne, 20 Jul 2009 (Somalilandpress) — After 25 years as a refugee in Melbourne, where he earned a university degree from La Trobe and worked in community radio, in January he returned to his homeland — the often violent anarchy that is Somalia.

Politics in this strife-torn country has a heavy cost. Mr Farah left behind his white Australian wife and two young daughters for fear of kidnapping. He is constantly shadowed by bodyguards. His final protection is the gun tucked into his trousers.

So why go? “Simple, because I’m a Somali.”

Mr Farah is now minister for oil and minerals in the state of Puntland, a northern Somali region commonly known as the Horn of Africa. He has joined a government in a country that has been ungovernable for almost two decades and an administration not yet formally recognised by the outside world.
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Much of Somalia has been torn by fighting between local warlords, Islamist fanatics believed to be linked to al-Qaeda, occasional US air strikes and troops from neighbouring Ethiopia.

But Mr Farah is convinced there is hope.

“The international community works with us,” he said at the weekend, during his first trip back to Melbourne to see daughters, Bishaaro, 5, and Bilan, 3, and wife Anna-Marie Treeweeke.

Puntland is generally calm, he said, not plagued by the war that since 1991 has afflicted the rest of the county. The president, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, recently met US and British officials to discuss combating Somali piracy, which has become a major hazard to international shipping. Regional governments in Kenya and Djibouti are engaged.

Mr Farah describes Puntland as an embryonic democracy, one needing help — including from Australia.

“We are working very hard,” he said. “We want the Australian Government to engage Somalia and to engage Puntland for the simple reason we are Somali-Australians … (and) because the problems we face are global issues, in terms of piracy, radicalism and religious fanatics.”

Source: The Age, July 19, 2009 (Australia)


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