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Somali leader in Minnesota
By Laurel Druley
Minnesota Public Radio
October 29, 2001

Somalia's legislators have voted Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galaydh and his Cabinet out of power. That news came as he left Minnesota after a family visit. Galaydh is in the U.S. to ask for help in the international fight against terrorism. We spoke with Galaydh prior to the no-confidence vote on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galaydh of Somalia was ousted from power over the weekend, as he was leaving Minnesota after a family visit. His wife and children live in Owatonna, Minn.
(MPR Photo/Laurel Druley)

Galaydh and his wife Mariam Mahamed left Somalia 18 years ago. They wanted to raise their children in the United States to give them a safe home.

After a peace conference one-and-a-half years ago, the new Somali president appointed Galaydh as prime minister. So Galaydh returned to his war-torn homeland for the first time since 1982 with his U.S. education. When Galaydh was appointed prime minister, his wife Mahamed and the couple's children moved to Owatonna, home to her family and a large Somali population.

"It's quite a challenge," says Galaydh. "It's a historic time for Somalia. It's worth sacrificing a lot and that's the reason I decided to be there. I've been telling my kids, especially my oldest son Wasamud, I'm out there to help to participate in reconstruction of Somali states - especially Somali kids. And one day he turned around and said, 'It's good to help Somali kids, but you're abandoning us,' and that really hit hard."

Galaydh says he wanted to repay his country after benefiting from government scholarships as a youth.

"I always have to strike a balance between the demands of my family and the demands of my extended family of Somalia, and how do I strike a balance?"

Galaydh sits in his wife's living room, which is decorated with souvenirs from their east African country. The sophisticated and determined-looking gentleman is worn out. Galaydh has made a list of Somalia's needs. First, he says, Somalia needs to make peace with itself.

"If there is no state, no central authority in Somalia, the place will be available to whoever wants to take advantage -terrorists, drug traffickers, people who want to engage in having military supplies deposited there and sell to neighboring countries - it is frightening," Galaydh says. "What the transitional national government is trying to do is to make sure Somalia is safe from these external problems."

Galaydh disagrees with the president over how to deal with Somalia's clan leaders. The transitional national government will remain in power until the president elects a new prime minister.

"It is a small country but with king-size problems...we need international help in combatting international terrorism."

- Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galaydh of Somalia, describing his country.

Galaydh says Somalia has self-destructed. The nation, in the Horn of Africa, needs to find peace with its neighbors. He also says they need money to pay for a police force and the reconstruction of Mogadishu, the country's war-torn capital. Eventually, Galaydh adds, Somalia will need an environment that attracts foreign businesses.

Galaydh went to United Nations officials for help. He wants to keep his country from becoming a "vacuum that can breed terrorism." In an effort to improve security and Somalia's image, Galaydh and his Cabinet members recently formed an anti-terrorism task force. The task force is made up of top Cabinet, police and intelligence officials who collect and share information on terrorist activities in Somalia.

"Where do individuals who hold national responsibility stand? And that's what we're now trying to examine ourselves. If there are members of the Parliament who are engaged - directly or indirectly - in these activities, we'd like to know. Those and us cannot be on same team," says Galaydh.

Through the task force, Galaydh had hopes of opening the lines of communication with the United States. But he says, so far U.S. officials haven't responded to his overtures. During his visit to the U.S. Galaydh hoped to meet with Washington officials, strengthen U.S. relations and improve the public opinion of his country. Somalia is one of seven countries listed by the United States as a sponsor of international terrorism.

"We have very limited resources. So we don't claim to control all parts of the country, especially airports and ports. We would like to make sure Somalia doesn't harbor these terrorists," Galaydh says. "It is a small country but with king-size problems. We don't need to complicate any further our political problems, and that's why we need international help in combatting international terrorism."

In the short time he's been in power, the transitional national government has been trying to restore democratic order after a decade of civil war. September 11 events have complicated their mission.

Galaydh will keep his position until President Abdiqasim nominates a new prime minister, who will then have 30 days to appoint a new Cabinet.

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