An executive at the Somali Peace and Development organisation has raised concerns about the Foreign Ministry “hijacking” an event organised by the Somali diaspora when the country’s president visits Denmark from November 18-20.
“The Foreign Ministry, and especially its African department, prefers to polarise the active Somali diaspora rather than working with them positively as relevant stakeholders,” contended Abdulkhadir Ga’al, one of the organisers of the event who is a member of the Danish Refugee Council’s Diaspora Programme.
Ga’al, who is also the contact person for the Nomadic Somali Peace and Development organisation, explains it is an important opportunity for members of the diaspora to meet the president and talk to him about Somalia’s current situation.
However, he has growing concerns about the way the Foreign Ministry is handling November’s event. Its role was supposed to be limited to security and facilitation, but Ga’al argues it has taken too much control.
“First, the ministry has stated that the participants will be limited to a total of 335 people,” Ga’al told the Weekly Post. And only 205 of those will be in the same room as the president – the rest will watch a live feed next door.
This is much smaller than anticipated – last year, similar events were held in Minneapolis and London that attracted 5,000 visitors each.
“There are 17,000 people from a Somali background in Denmark, and many are intending to attend from neighbouring countries – I would expect at least 1,000 people to be there,” Ga’al estimates.
Although security reasons were given for the restriction, Ga’al is unconvinced as neither London or Minneapolis is considered as secure as Copenhagen.
“In addition to that, the ministry imposed an online registration system for the Somali diaspora,” Ga’al continued.
“This was completely unfair as it will create exclusion and discrimination amongst the Somali diaspora in Denmark, as there is a high proportion of illiteracy amongst the Somalis. Many are elderly and do not use the internet.”
Nevertheless, the event was fully booked in two days.
Confused over treatment
Ga’al is confused because it appeared the ministry were onboard at a meeting with members of the diaspora in early October.
“We have worked here, paid taxes here and have been educated here, and this is a great opportunity to share some of what we have learnt from living in a Western country with Somalia,” Ga’al explained.
“It seems as if there is no recognition for the work the Somali community does when our concerns are neglected like this.”
Ministry denies claims
The ministry has denied the claims, and it does not recognise the accusation that they have taken over the event.
There is no Somali ambassador located in Denmark, but a number of decisions, including the internet sign-up, were made at the meeting in early October with the approval of Ali said Faqi, the Somali ambassador to the EU, whose remit covers Denmark.
On the webpage, all questions about the event are directed towards the ambassador in Brussels, and the ministry emphasises that the event is being organised by the Somali government and diaspora and that its only role is to provide practical support, which it has done by providing a venue and refreshments free of charge for the event.
The ministry is more heavily involved in other parts of the president’s visit, including the high-level partnership forum, ‘Somalia’s New Deal Compact’, where Denmark’s future relationship with Somalia will be outlined.