But for one Columbus resident, it has become much more than that.
It’s also a call to action.
Abdulkadir “Fish” Ali said that it’s time to rescue his war-battered homeland from the mean-spirited grip of politicians he characterized as “inhumane, unwise and heartless.” These folks, he said, have for years fanned the flame of a vicious conflict that has brought Somalia to its knees.
Yet, through it all, Ali, like other Somalis, paced the sideline with hands folded as their troubled homeland ravaged in deepening squalor.
But that was then.
In an interview last week, the 52-year old Ali told the Call & Post that he has seen enough.
“I came to the conclusion that I can no more be an indifferent spectator of the calamity that has befallen on my beloved country of Somalia,” said Ali. That conflict has shredded Somalia into rubbles of despair, leaving its hapless citizens dangling in endless brutal hostilities, which started in 1991 after the collapse of Siad Barre’s government.
Ali, who was the Chairman of the Somali Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, announced last week that he is a candidate for president of Somalia in the upcoming 2011 election under the mantra: “2011 New Hope for Somalia.”
He described the existing political arrangements and behavior of current crop of Somali politicians as “unacceptable.”
Most Somalis would certainly agree with that assessment. The East African nation is currently ripping itself apart in a conflict that has robbed it of an effective government for nearly 20 years.
What’s worse, there appears to be no end to the anarchy in sight.
In the Diaspora, war-fatigued Somalis residing in the United States and elsewhere pray for a leader capable of rescuing their torn-up homeland from lawlessness to make room for peace and stability.
But they are clinging on to very little hope that it would happen.
Ali, though frustrated, remains optimistic.
”I am not one of those who gave up hope on Somalia, because I love my people and I love my country,” he said. “I believe our good days are ahead of us, all we need is to make the right choice this time around.”
That right choice is his candidacy. “I have a plan,” he said.
The linchpin of that plan is to “restore our statehood and rebuild our country,” he said, promising “to build a strong Somali army” to rid the nation of meddlesome foreign forces.
Ali vowed to “stop and eliminate the senseless bloodshed.”
“It is very painful,” he said, decrying the mindless destruction playing out in Somalia today.
A major part of the country’s woes, said Ali, is caused by the current Somali leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. In his eyes, Ahmed is simply not up to the job of delivering peace and stability to the country.
However, Ali wasn’t always against Ahmed.
When Ahmed visited Columbus in 2009, Ali wholeheartedly supported him. He even gave an inspiring speech at Ahmed’s welcoming clambake held at Villa Milano where he expressed the view that “he is our best chance to lead Somalia to peace and stability.”
Well, Ahmed is yet to do that, and Ali now doesn’t think he is going to.
“It’s time for a new leadership,” he said, promising to run a government rooted in “honesty, integrity and accountability.”
“We cannot wait for another 20 years for something to happen,” he said. “We want to take back our country from corrupt politicians.”
Asked why he turned against President Ahmed, Ali replied, “Reality. The president had enough time to show leadership, but he has not.”
As for why he supported Ahmed before, Ali said it was largely because of his background, alluding to the fact that Ahmed was part of the Islamic Court regime that was generally lauded for ruling Mogadishu “peacefully.”
“We thought he would show leadership,” said Ali.
But Ali’s candidacy may run into a hurdle from the fact that the United States and the international community are reportedly rooting for Somalia’s current regime to succeed. It remains unclear whether such support will translate into a policy to have Ahmed remain as president.
Either way, Ali is forging ahead believing that, “The U.S. is supporting the wrong leadership in Mogadishu.” Despite all that support, the government is still unable to fend off its formidable foe, al-Shabaab, which reportedly has ties to al-Qaeda.
Currently, Somalia is ungovernable. A mix of sustained hostilities and sporadic flare-ups has engulfed the impoverished Muslim nation, forcing thousands to flee to neighboring countries, the United States and elsewhere.
At the height of Somali conflict, a stampede of warlords scrimmaging for power littered the scene of a ruptured country carved up into hostile clan-based fiefdoms.