Controversy brews among several Somali residents in Minnesota over a proposed sister city agreement between St. Paul and Mogadishu.
For many Somali immigrants, St. Paul is home.
Imam Hassan Mohamud and Kassim Busuri represent two of four St. Paul mosques working toward making St. Paul Mogadishu’s sister city.
“Somalis see [St. Paul] as their second home,” Iman Hassan Mohamud said. “Every Somali person, name it where he is coming from, is excited and happy. This is what you call unity.”
“If our children see that there’s a sister city with St. Paul and Mogadishu, they can claim and say I have a home here,” said Busuri, the Director of Islamic Dawah Center.
However, the St. Paul-Garoowe Sister City Project, formerly known as Minnesota Friends of Puntland, is against the move. In a statement to Fox 9 they called the effort “premature and unrealistic.”
They also suggest the partnership would “reward a city where their peoples’ properties were looted, and [where their people] were killed or forced to flee.”
“The fact is Mogadishu is plagued by terrorist attacks with no end in sight,” the organization said in a press release. “We are vehemently opposed to the formation of this relationship. If allowed to proceed it will only embolden and benefit those who support extremist, anti-west elements.”
“I own a home in St. Paul,” Busuri said. “The person that’s opposing this project isn’t even from St. Paul. They just want to bring the politics of Minneapolis where they can’t even run a convention.”
According to Busuri, those opposing the St. Paul-Mogadishu sister city effort took a stand in December when it was on the city council’s agenda.
Now, those in support of the effort have started working to meet and seek a resolution.
“I have no financial interests in this, I have no personal interests in this other than to make sure the generations to come—of my children, their children—they can see the symbolism of having the country, where I’m from, that’s their country too,” Busuri said.
The St. Paul-Garoowe Sister City Project would like to see Garoowe City become St. Paul’s sister city instead of Mogadishu.
“[Garoowe City] was chosen due to its rapid development in economy, infrastructure development, and civic engagement…The city has also taken strong measures to curb terrorist group Al-Shabaab thereby denying them to gain foothold in the region,” a press release said.
The group said the St. Paul-Garoowe relationship would boost the city’s commitment to democratic ideals and serve as an example for the rest of Somalia as to what can be achieved if free elections are held and extremists are defeated.
A sister city is a long-term partnership between two communities in two countries, according Sister Cities International. President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the organization in 1956.