Leading Somali official visits Twin Citiesby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio,
Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The top official from one of the relatively peaceful regions in wartorn Somalia gave the keynote address at an event Tuesday in Minneapolis celebrating Somali Independence Day.
Abdirahman Farole, the president of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia, visited the Twin Cities after testifying about his country at a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C.
He says he sees Puntland playing a central role in bringing stability to the entire country. Farole says the international community should support the relatively peaceful regions in northern Somalia, and deliver humanitarian aid to assist the masses of people fleeing violence in the south.
"A huge displacement is occuring place in the south, and people are going across the border into Puntland," he said. Puntland is hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced people currently in need."
Farole says his administration is asking religious leaders in Puntland to help prevent new recruitment of pirates through education and what he calls "spiritual healing."
"It is not enough to fight them militarily. But it's something you can fight at the community level, by encouraging traditional leaders -- religious and community -- to address the issue."
Farole says many people in Puntland condemn piracy because the industry has introduced drugs and alcohol into the area's coastal communities.
In Somalia, there are two regional administrations in the northern part of the country -- the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the northwest, and Puntland in the northeast.
Farole was elected president by the Puntland parliament in January 2009. The area declared itself autonomous, but not independent, in 1998 with its capital at Garowe. Puntland officials said the region would remain autonomous until a federated Somali state was established.
The Obama administration recently moved to increase aid to Somalia's faltering government with weapons to help armies in several neighboring African nations train Somali forces.
Minnesota has the largest population of Somali immigrants in the United States, with nearly 35,000 Somali residents.
Elizabeth Baier, based in Rochester, covers news in southeastern Minnesota for MPR News.