Below a layer of cotton ball clouds lies the tranquil coastline of Somalia, surrounded by turquoise water and dotted with bustling beach resorts. This is a storybook beginning to a fiction that sadly couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the geography and picturesque surroundings, the beauty of Somalia hides the dark side of this story, involving armed conflict, terrorist groups, and immeasurable suffering within a vulnerable population.
For years now, violent extremism has gripped Somalia, forcing its citizens to focus on mere survival from one day to the next. Bombings and attacks are an everyday occurrence for the people that have sadly come to expect the pain and suffering that follow such needless violence. The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is doing what it can to help its people, but with limited resources its assistance is stretched thin and the government continuously battles for legitimacy against the armed groups that seek to destroy it.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Somalia, witness the situation first hand, and discuss the FGS and US actions being taken to address these issues. Despite the complexity of Somalia – its five dominant clans, and two autonomous regions that lend to divisions and inner conflict – there are strong stabilizing factors that transcend politics and are curbing Somalia’s slow slide into a chaotic failed state.
One example of a Somali champion is the man pictured below. This man has taken it upon himself to break the cycle of “just making it to tomorrow,” and is investing in Somalia’s future. He realizes that if Somalia is ever to improve, it will take equity of both sweat and treasure and he is willing to do just that. This is illustrated through a project he implemented with Spirit of America and special operations soldiers that you heard about here.
One thing that immediately struck me about this man, beyond his willingness to address the desperate needs of the displaced community near his home village was his Yankees hat. What may seem like a common article of clothing to the average American is actually an overt and bold statement of US support in an area where al Shabaab previously outlawed sports and western culture. Wearing this hat is a brave but dangerous pro-American stance that could result in al Shabaab retribution and physical harm. His willingness to address local needs and stand up for what is right by showing his support for the FGS and US is a courageous and rare thing. It is also the key to achieving long-term solutions for Somalia. It was my pleasure to meet with and work alongside this inspiring individual.
As I visited US outstations in Somalia, I was struck by the African Union troops I encountered. They are deployed to Somalia as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), tasked with assisting the effort to secure peace and stability. When one hears of AMISOM actions, policies, and its broader effects, it is easy to forget that there are young soldiers attached to this news, deployed far from their countries, families, and homes to dangerous areas. They experience many of the same things young American men and women do when deployed to war zones. This often-missed human connection is something that resonated with me and reminded me of my time spent in uniform alongside young soldiers in similar situations.
Despite Somalia’s struggles, it is still a beautiful country, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent there. My hope in writing this is not to highlight Somalia’s needs but rather that its resiliency, potential, and positive actors make it a cause worth investing in.
Whether its locals like our Yankees fan partner, or deployed troops from either across Africa and or the US itself, they are all putting their lives on the line to realize this goal. Your donations and continued support may be the missing piece in the puzzle that is a fully realized, productive, peaceful Somalia.
Until next time,