Sign in to follow this  

Ogeysiis to Reer Ottawa

Recommended Posts

Were you there today? Anyone?


A related news article.



A chance for Canadians to get involved


February 29, 2008


An Ottawa computer programmer organizes an academic workshop to address Somalia,


its grim situation and its possibly peaceful future, Louisa Taylor writes.


The news from Somalia is grim - worse than in most of the 17 years since the East African country has had a functioning government. Fighting between Ethiopian troops and the fragile transitional government on one side with Islamic insurgents has become so intense in the capital, Mogadishu, that hundreds of thousands of residents have fled the city. The United Nations estimates almost a million Somalis have been forced from their homes and many of them are now grappling with acute malnutrition, leading to a humanitarian crisis that is getting little attention abroad.


But it gets lots of attention among Somalis in Ottawa, and one has decided he had to do something to further the cause of peace.


Salim Hagi is a computer programmer with Statistics Canada, but he also runs a popular news website,
, which has kept the Somali diaspora informed about the situation on the ground. Now he wants to raise awareness of the situation in Somalia among the wider Canadian community.


"It's almost 18 years now that the Somali crisis has been going on, with fighting and killing each other, and now it seems the situation is the worst it has ever been," said Mr. Hagi. "I said to myself, nothing is going on with the Canadian government. What if I do a workshop - maybe then something can happen."


With the help of Pierre Beaudet, a professor at the University of Ottawa, Mr. Hagi has organized a workshop on Saturday, bringing in academics from Canada and the U.S. The program will begin with presentations on the background of the conflict and its causes, and then move into a discussion of possible peace initiatives.


Mr. Hagi received funding for the workshop from the International Development Research Centre and the University of Ottawa, and also raised money in the community.


"Our intention is not to support one side or another but try to put the problem on the table and see what scholars think the problem is," says Mr. Hagi. "There's no magic bullet, but we're trying to help, particularly on the humanitarian side."


Mr. Hagi has been spreading the word by handing out flyers at Friday prayers, writing announcements for Somali radio programs and posting bulletins on his own website.


"We want Canadians to play an active role, a leading role, particularly on the humanitarian side."


Through the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada gave $7 million in aid to Somalia in 2005-2006, in the top 10 of donors to the country but below the aid from other countries, including the United States, Norway and Italy.


Humanitarian organizations made a joint appeal last November for $406 million, the figure they estimated was needed to meet the needs of all the displaced people in Somalia, says Denise Shepherd-Johnson, spokesperson for Unicef's Somalia program. For several weeks there was no response, and Unicef feared that it would have to close its 10 feeding centres in the south of the country at the end of this month. Money has now started to come in, particularly from the United States and Ireland, and the feeding centres will remain open, Ms. Shepherd-Johnson said. (A CIDA spokesperson was unable to confirm Canada's response to the appeal at press time.)


One of the speakers at Saturday's workshop is David Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia. Mr. Shinn says he sees reason for a bit of optimism at the moment as the "new prime minister is truly trying to reach out and have discussions with his opponents, and his opponents seem to be somewhat impressed by this."


But for now, hundreds of thousands of Somalis are living in camps, without clean water and adequate food, grappling with the trauma of fleeing their homes, says Ms. Shepherd-Johnson of Unicef.


"This isn't the latest sexy new story, but people might forget that we are talking about a child, a woman, a family," says Ms. Shepherd-Johnson. "The Somali people are resilient and they manage to keep going, in the hope that people will watch and respond."

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this