This story comes to you from Sahan Journal through a partnership with MPR News.
Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre addressed a packed hall of attendees in Bloomington Sunday evening, updating them on the Somali government’s efforts to uproot al-Shabab. He also asked the local Somali community to support their home country’s efforts from afar.
More than 3,000 attendees, mostly from Minnesota, welcomed Barre, who appeared on stage at the DoubleTree Hotel just after 11 p.m. Attendees waved the Somalia and the American flags.
Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota legislators welcomed the prime minister to the Capitol earlier in the day. Walz and Barre discussed trade relations, agriculture, and investing in clean energy.
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Speaking in Somali, Barre delivered a nearly hour-long speech in Bloomington, eliciting applause from attendees. He is the first sitting Somali prime minister to visit Minnesota.
Barre gave his condolences to victims of the recent al-Shabab truck explosion in Beledweyne, a city in central Somalia, that killed more than 30 people and injured many more.
“I am saddened about the latest al-Shabab suicide explosion in Beledweyne Town; Beledweyne symbolizes national heroism,” Barre said. “I want to remind Beledweyne people, if you feel pain, they also feel pain because of your heroism.”
Barre commended the resilience of the local Somali community and their contributions to Minnesota. He also expressed hope in young Somalis born and raised in the United States, often called the Say Wallahi Generation, and their ability to save Somalia.
“I like Say Wallahi people because of their honesty and truthfulness,” Barre said.
Barre also spoke about Somalia’s security, political, financial, and foreign relationships. He reminded the audience of the country’s situation before his government came to office, and compared that to where the country is now.
He said the current government assumed power during political turmoil, financial crisis, and the deterioration of security.
“We created political stability, a path to economic recovery, and focused on the fight against al-Shabab,” he said of the terrorist organization that controls most of southern Somalia. “They are powerless now, and the people of Somalia realized their weakness.”
Barre asked attendees to organize fundraising efforts themselves and contribute at least $1 to the Somali government to support the fight against al-Shabab.
“If Somali mothers are dying to defeat al-Shabab at home, is it hard to contribute $1 to support this effort?” he asked the crowd.
“No,” the crowd responded.
Somali performers entertained the attendees with national songs, poems, and traditional Somali dances. Attendees jubilantly stood on chairs waving Somali and American flags as the Somali Canadian song, “Ky’nan,” or “Waving the Flag,” was played.
Attendees were excited to attend the event and welcome the prime minister.
“We are proud to welcome our prime minister, and we applaud his courage and leadership to rid al-Shabab out of the country and restore the rule of law, and expand good governance,” said attendee Ahmed Hassan, a real estate agent. “We are lucky to have two countries to call home.”
Hibo Abdi, who helped organize the event, came to the United States when she was nine.
“I am so excited to hear an update from the prime minister about my second home,” she said.
Abdullahi Mohamud Haybe, who has lived in the United States for 34 years, traveled from San Diego, California, for the prime minister’s visit.
“It’s my first time to see such a large crowd of a Somali diaspora welcoming their leaders,” he said. “I am excited to see him and listen to the latest updates about my home country.”
Earlier in the day, Barre met with Governor Tim Walz and two dozen lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic. Walz acknowledged the Somali community’s contribution to the state.
“Minnesota thrives because of the Somali community,” Walz said.
The governor had a private meeting with Barre and expressed his willingness to increase trade between Minnesota and Somalia and invest in clean energy, according to Walz.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and other elected officials also welcomed the prime minister to the state, acknowledging the Somali community’s contributions.
Barre expressed appreciation for Minnesota’s warm welcome and hospitality. He thanked the U.S. government for helping Somalia stand on its feet for a long time, and thanked Minnesota for serving as home to the largest Somali community outside of Somalia. He expressed his government’s willingness to strengthen relationships with Minnesota.
“I invite Gov. Tim Walz to visit us in Mogadishu,” Barre said during his meeting with state lawmakers and leaders.
Barre was in the United States to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. He delivered his speech to the U.N. on Saturday, asking the world body to help Somalia combat al-shabab and lift an arms embargo the U.N. imposed on Somalia.
The U.N. General Assembly discussions included reviewing implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which addresses worldwide food security, climate change, and education. Barre also met with President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.N. General Secretary António Guterres, and other world leaders to discuss bilateral relationships.