TAKING POINT BY
06, FEB. 2003
COMING TO AMERICA - SOME HOME TRUTHS
I posted Part One of Coming to America, Some Home Truths
on this Website I received a number of emails from former
colleagues and friends scattered all over the Continents.
I am glad to know that they are
still very much alive and kicking after the painful process
of adjusting themselves to their new environments.
One former colleague sent these
"There will always be a
And Somalia shall be free."
His idea of nation-building and combating tribalism is to
create jobs for those gun-toting kids, but nobody likes the
word "nation-building." We've already crossed the
Rubicon", he said.
Another said, "If the petty politicians in Eldoret continue
playing political football, the country, or what was left
of it, would fall over the cliff, then you can kiss goodbye
to a country once called Somalia," he concluded.
Another email from someone in my adopted country wondered
how I was faring in North America. Thanks a lot, Yusuf. I
am glad to find myself where food is food (even though it
is genetically modified and the water I am drinking is recycled),
the lights go on at night, and guns don't go off. And, of
course, I don't have to look over my shoulders any more.
"You have never mentioned in your TALKING POINTS about
Somaliland going solo. WHY?" asks someone I presume to
be a Somalilander in the Diaspora? Well, the answer is: "I
do not fancy going into war of words with people who wish
to separate themselves from the rest of the Somali Peninsula."
Article 21 (3) of the United Nations Universal Declaration
of Human Rights explicitly states that: "the will of
the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
This will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections
which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be
held by secret vote by equivalent free voting procedures."
However, the UN Declaration, the African Union Charter (formerly
OAU), and the Arab League do not mention the right to secede
for obvious reasons.
Ironically, the West, with the blessing of the UN Security
Council, supported and recognized the secession of East Timor
(a former Portuguese colony) from Indonesia, a predominantly
Muslim country. And the Balkans has fallen apart. The Czechs
and the Slovaks went their separate ways.
Personally, I believe that it is up to the people of Northwest
to decide what is best for their part of the Somali Peninsula
with unanimity and without the menace of the gun culture.
Others think differently.
I also believe that the Southerners and the South westerners
should put the gun down and put their houses in order before
talking anything else.
A newcomer wanted to know how to make better decisions in
North America. Simple: establish friendship, learn the English
language by attending ESL (English as a Second Language schools),
how to deal with emergencies, avoid scams, look for work effectively,
apply to colleges and learn to fit in and understand the American
and Canadian ways of life, history and geography. All this
would eventually help your application for citizenship. Guess
what? You can still retain your nationality and religion.
Also you must learn about money, investment, taxes and social
security and how to cope with depression and other health
conditions to create a satisfying new life in your adopted
One reminder: The chance of holding a managerial position
or even white color job is very slim, bringing to mind the
Bangladeshi physician who was compelled to drive a taxi in
Metro Toronto because he did not have what the Canadian employers
euphemistically call "The Canadian Experience."
Most Canadians and their American cousins like the newcomers,
or at least felt sorry for them, recalling stories told and
retold by their ancestors about the appalling conditions and
the xenophobia they faced on arrival in the "New World."
Today the stumbling blocks are the overzealous bureaucrats
who make a hash of things. They consider as security risk
anyone who looks different. But many newspaper editorial writers
smirk at the new immigration and refugee laws. The Los Angeles
Times calls it as witch-hunt reminiscent to the Red Scare
during the McCarthy era and the internment of Japanese-Americans
during World War Two, in the immediate aftermath of Pearl
No cause for alarm, because the U.S. justice system is still
colour and status blind. Federal Judge Donovan Frank of St.
Paul told the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
it cannot deport Abdullahi Ahmed Farah to Somalia, and ruled
that the INS must release the 33-year-old Somali from Minneapolis.
Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Advocacy Center
said he was pleased with Abdullahi's release, but said he
was troubled about Somalis still in custody.
"We are concerned about humans treated as cattle, being
transferred from one state to another, keeping them in limbo,"
We must be proud of Jamal's outspokenness and charisma. And
it's the sort of pioneering news the Somalis in North America
and elsewhere want to hear. Two thumbs up, Jamal! You are
our own Martin Luther King Jr.
Personally, I've learnt a lot since coming to North America.
It was worth the effort and I think I am beginning to love
North America despite the heated brouhaha against immigrants
and refugees with Muslim sounding names.
Don't be a stranger in a strange country. See the good things
Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and
a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
(CJFE) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ). He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and
international newspapers and magazines on the Somalia
situation "through the eyes of a man who covered the country
for more than two decades".
Many of us remember his critical articles in his
weekly English language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory
self-censorship introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga
Hantiwadaagga Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am
very proud to know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian
censorship laws and went ahead to write what he thought was
wrong in the country. He received several death threats from
the warlords and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993.
But he remained defiant and continued to send his stories of
carnage and destruction to Reuters news agency. He still is!