Somalis Raised in City Heights Consider Returning to Their Homeland

By MEGAN BURKS - The United States officially recognized the Somali government last month for the first time since 1991, alerting Somali refugees in City Heights and throughout the world their homeland is making a comeback.
Article Keydmedia Online
Somalis Raised in City Heights Consider Returning to Their Homeland

Somalia has been called “the world’s most failed state,” enduring deadly famines and more than two decades of civil war with al Shabaab militants linked to al Qaeda.

The nation is rebuilding under a newly elected president who recently urged refugees to return to Somalia to help during a speech in Minnesota, home to the nation’s largest population of Somali refugees.

But will Somalis who have spent more than 20 years away — some even beginning life outside of their family’s homeland — make the move to Africa?

“The conversation, it’s already among the community,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a 23-year-old Somali living in City Heights. “People have already been back. People are planning to go back. And some people are a bit skeptical about going back and they’re not really comfortable about the situation back home.”

Ahmed left Somalia with his family when he was two months old and came to the U.S. at age 4. He’s about to graduate from San Diego State University, alongside other East Africans who arrived in America in the 1990s.

He says the timing for a revived Somali state couldn’t be better. Many members of the Somali diaspora are poised to graduate from American and European universities, if they haven’t already.

Somalis who grew up in Europe are returning to work in their native country — at a rate of about 1,000 per month, according to the United Nations. Flights in and out of Mogadishu have multiplied. Rent has climbed. Last year, young Somali professionals hosted aTEDxMogadishu talk.

Ahmed says a friend of his moved back and already has a job in the Ministry of Planning.
Ahmed could follow a similar path.

He’ll graduate with a degree in international security and conflict resolution in May. He already owns two suits. His demeanor is at once measured and passionate, like any good politician’s.

Over winter break, he and his colleagues in the SDSU-based group C.U.R.E. Africa(Communities United in Reviving East Africa) visited Somalia to survey existing schools and get to work building a new one in the rural countryside.

In his photos from the trip, Ahmed is shown talking with dignitaries and posing with bright-eyed school children.

He returned to the U.S. Jan. 21 and already has a school census compiled that reads like a government report.


Ahmed said he plans to return after graduation to cut the ribbon at the opening. And he said that’s not the last he’ll see of his country.

“As of right now, I want to continue my education, further my education. But will there be a time I will live in Somalia permanently? Yes,” Ahmed said. “And in fact, I can’t wait for that day.”

Abdi Mohamoud, executive director of Horn of Africa, a San Diego nonprofit that provides support for local East African refugees, said Ahmed’s drive is common among children of refugees.

“With the tragedy of having so many refugees flee from Somalia, the advantage has become that many of those refugees went to other developed countries and many of them were able to get very high-quality educations,” Mohamoud said. “They’re very eager to try to improve the devastation that their parents have fled.”

But Mohamoud said he’s not persuaded that many young Somalis will actually make the move to Africa.
Though Somalia is rebounding, its peace is fragile. Al Shabaab still controls a significant swath of land in the center of the country. And there is some dispute among minority clans about the structure the new
government has taken — an eventual parliamentary democracy in which elders chose the transitional leaders.
Malnutrition is still a concern as world leaders try to work out how to prevent another famine in Somalia.

And Somalia

Article 21 May 2021 10:14

I read your article on Foreign Policy with keen eyes and interest. While whining from public officials does not deserve response from any sensible citizen of the Republic of Somalia, I felt compelled to counter false narrative with more objective analysis.