Startribune;- Somali leaders in Minneapolis will ask the City Council this week to consider adding a Somali community to its list of sister cities — a move that would be a first for any American city.
The proposal, which has support from a long list of Somali business, cultural and community groups, along with local elected officials, calls for Minneapolis to partner with Bosaso, Somalia’s third-largest city. It’s a diverse port city on the northern end of the country, home to people who have fled other areas during Somalia’s civil war — and a large number of residents with connections to Minnesota.
Council Member Abdi Warsame, the first Somali-American elected in Minneapolis, said a sister-city arrangement would formalize the many informal relationships that already exist between the two communities. Several local business owners also have businesses in Bosaso and many of the items in the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum, near E. Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue S., are from the region.
Perhaps even more importantly, Warsame said, a sister-city agreement would help raise Somalia’s status in the United States and the rest of the world.
“I think it will galvanize the Somali community in the United States as a whole,” he said.
Bosaso would be Minneapolis’ 10th sister city.
But Warsame and others said they expect Minneapolis’ relationship with Bosaso would go further than just adding another pin on a world map.
Mohamed Jama, general director of the Cedar Riverside Youth Council, said he’s hopeful the arrangement could foster exchange programs for young people in both countries. He said opening young men and women’s eyes to what life is like in other parts of the world could have a big effect — even in fighting efforts by terrorist groups to recruit Somalis.
“We’re very energized about it,” Jama said. “It’s an opportunity to give people a glimpse of what hope really is and creating that hope for them. In places like Africa there is a dire need for that.”
Osman Ahmed, vice chairman of the Somali American Chamber of Commerce, said Bosaso is a major hub of the telecommunications industry, which makes it a good fit for shared business development. He also expects that a closer relationship with Minneapolis could help give Somalis a better understanding of American culture — and in turn push back against radical political movements.
“We’ve been working for a long time to bring the two cities together, culturally and also in education,” he said. “And in all aspects of human development.”
The proposal will go before the council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Thursday, where Warsame expects it will find advocates.
“I think there’s a lot of support on the council for it,” he said. “And I think this is a historic moment.”