On Monday, Minnesota Rep. Samakab Hussein, D-St. Paul, organized a press conference at Minnesota’s State Capitol to call for “immediate, unrestricted humanitarian aid” to Somalia.
At the press conference, Rep. Hussein was joined by other public officials, Somali doctors, and a Muslim imam to speak about the floods and torrential rain that have battered East Africa. In a statement, Hussein said, “As Minnesotans, we understand the power of collective action and the responsibility we have for our neighbors, both near and far. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Somalia.”
Despite the assertion that the two are “neighbors,” Minnesota and Somalia are located in separate hemispheres, different continents, and remain over 8,000 miles apart.
In a shared statement with Rep. Hussein, Mohamed Abdirizak, a member of the UN Center for Emergency Response Fund, said, “The Somali people need our unified support more than ever. Together, we can make a significant difference in addressing this crisis and building a more resilient future for Somalia.”
Abdirizak, a self-described Somali-American, served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Somalia as recently as 2021 and briefly ran for president of Somalia in 2022.
Minnesota House Majority Leader Jamie Long, D-Minneapolis, spoke at the press conference, saying, “When events happen in East Africa, we know that affects our immediate community.”
More Somalis live in Minnesota than any other place in America. In total, over 86,000 Somalis live in the state.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, introduced himself in both Arabic and Somali at the press conference. Mayor Frey said, “We need to step up with the kind of disaster relief that is necessary to deal with this sort of humanitarian crisis.”
In a statement read at the press conference, Democrat Attorney General Keith Ellison said, “Minnesota stands firmly with the people of Somalia. We have a shared responsibility to help foster international cooperation towards providing immediate relief.”
Sheikh Mohamed Mursal, a Muslim imam and chairman of the Islamic Association of North America (IANA), also joined the press conference. Mursal said his mosque and IANA put together a fundraising committee to assist with the “shared responsibility of what happened there in Somalia.”
IANA is an organization whose goals include “helping bridge the understanding gap of Islam and Muslims within the society at large by presenting the true face of Islam.”
At the press conference, Rep. Hodan Hassan, D-Minneapolis, asserted that Somalia is facing this “climate change catastrophe” because “Somalia has been a dumping ground for the western countries.” Hassan did not explain this claim. However, she said this “dumping” was the result of Somalia’s inability to control its own coastal seas.
Rep. Hassan also noted that the press conference was “not about asking for state aid.” Instead, Hassan claimed their goal was to raise awareness about the current situation in Somalia and make sure Minnesotans support Somalia.
When asked about the status of relatives in Somalia, Rep. Hussein said, “We are hearing a lot from not only back home, but also community members and constituents have been calling for action.”