Africa

UK Somalis react as London gathering pledges support

David Cameron speaks at the London Somalia conference
Image caption David Cameron speaks at the London Somalia conference

World leaders meeting in London have reached agreement on seven key areas during talks to try and secure a brighter future for war-torn Somalia.

These include security, piracy, terrorism, humanitarian assistance, local stability, a reinvigoration political process and international co-operation.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "There is no simple solution that will make all of the difference. This is a complex jigsaw puzzle where every piece has to be put into place."

So what do Somalis in the UK make of what was said at the meeting?

Filsan works at Midaye, a charitable organisation in west London, set up to address the needs of the Somali community.

There have been a lot of meetings for Somali community members here. We follow all of the consultations and meetings very closely. The prime minister has spoken with the Somali diaspora here in the UK and we have made contributions to many meetings.

The majority of the reaction has been very positive, but a lot of Somalis in the UK are illiterate, so we focus on oral reaction. There are many people who have not been able to read about the opportunities from this meeting, they hear about it from the wrong people and they get the wrong information, so there is a lot of rumour. But those who have the right information are very happy.

The intention from the interntational community to let Somalis proceed is a surprise. They have watched us go through desperate times in the past but now we are getting some attention, we want to know what made them want to help at this time.

Listening to Prime Minister David Cameron today in central London, it is reassuring that they want to save what is left for Somalia after the famine and the war. Whatever the opportunities are, now they are greater than they had been before. It is people like our organisation who can read and get involved in the UK and it is our job to educate others about these opportunities and this process.

Somalis are very attached to their country and they want to know what the international community is doing. We are against al-Shabab and we want our children to be safer. There are people who have grown up knowing only war, there are a lot of criminals and broken minds in Somalia, we want our country to be rebuilt.

Al-Shabab doesn't have a say in Somalia any more. There is nothing they can do to change the minds of Somalians. They said this meeting was about colonialism, but colonialism was a long time ago, it will never come back and we know that. We do not see this as colonialism, we see it as the international community wanting to support us. Al-Shabab caused so much suffering and so many tragedies, they have lost the game to convince people in Somalia now.

Hilary Clinton said that an August deadline to elect leaders and draw up a constitution is ambitious, I agree with her. There is an opportunity and a future but this takes time. Things need to be rebuilt from the roots. We are all excited and we want the international support, but there are different leaders and sub leaders in every region and so we need to include them all and start from the bottom up. People need to take it easy and Somalis need to be given responsibility slowly.

The AU involvement at the moment is helping but we really want to be focused on the Somali army and develop our own justice and courts. For a short time the AU is helpful, but the army needs to grow so that the country will stabilise. At Midaye we also support a lot of women and we think that Somalian women should be represented more. A target of 30% of women in the new government is encouraging, we are pushing for that.

There are hard realities that we face and we have to face them. Somalis have been destroyed for years and there are a lot of things to get through like criminality, piracy and war. Yes, there are pirates in our seas and criminals, but there are also companies who take our fish and dump waste in our waters. This too has to be addressed. The piracy is out of control, but we should also look at the reasons why it started.

The Somali diaspora sees a future where they want to go back home and rebuild their country. All over the world there are Somalis who only know their home language and they struggle, they're isolated. They are desperate for Somalia to become stable and they can go home, so we stand behind the international community to help bring stability so we can do that.

Image caption "Only Somalis can bring their own security back." Aar Maanta

Aar Maanta is a British Somali artist

I have been following the conference on Twitter, me and my friends wanted to counter some of the negative views online with some more positive ones.

I have seen some scepticism and some positive reaction. Some Somalis feel that the UK only got interested in Somalia recently, because it has ulterior motives such as the discovery of oil or uranium. Others felt the fact that this conference took place in itself was a positive thing and that maybe the UK has the interests of Somalis at heart.

There was a light hearted conversation online which involved comment on David Cameron's sky blue tie and white shirt, the colours of the Somali flag, representing hope and peace. We thought that was a deliberate and nice touch.

I think that Hilary Clinton was right to say that an August deadline is ambitious. The problem Somalia had in the last 20 years is the fact that all the governments were never representative of the people. They were governments that were put together by outsiders. Somali people are very democratic, they like to have a say in their own affairs and if they feel like their government does not represent them, they would never support it.

At the moment, I think there is too much interference from outside and that is a big obstacle. Just look at the parts of the country where there is no interference, they got themselves together and worked out their differences. In the South it happened in 2006 when the Islamic Courts took power, within six months, they had a system which worked for them. If Somalis are left to it, this can happen in a very short period of time. Unfortunately there are too many hands in the South of Somalia and the capital Mogadishu, so it may take a very long time to happen.

There are some very negative views of Somalia. When we talk about Mogadishu and the South there are many parts of the country where those problems don't exist. Somalia has one of the longest beaches in Africa, two oceans, two rivers, cheap internet and mobile phone services. I think our prime minister should take a leaf out of Turkey's book and look at how they are winning the hearts and minds of the Somali population. The Turks talk positively about Somalia and follow it up with deeds.

There is a need for some security but the question is for how long and how much? The African Union troops are one of the main obstacles in my opinion. The extra funding could be well spent on training and equipment for Somalia's army. That would be a better solution in the long run for Somalia and the wider world.

Many Somalis I know see that not inviting Al-Shabab to the conference and engaging them will backfire and promote the notion that the Transitional Federal Government is a corrupt group of people who will not work for the outsiders and only for themselves. Sooner or later you will have to talk to your enemy and the sooner the better because Somali people have suffered long enough. They just want security and peace.

I also feel that the role of women is ignored in the Somali political system. If we want a solution in Somalia, it is time we let our women take charge too. We should let them walk beside us, they are the only source of strength and unity, unlike our father-based tribal system. It is time for Somalis to talk to each other without interference.

Interviews by Jamillah Knowles

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