Sunday, October 1, 2006
By: Julia N. Opoti
“Until one moves away from the shade provided by a forest, it is impossible for them to know what parts of the forest are shadier than others.” It was not until years later that Mohamed Abdi, a 30-yr old native of Kenya, got to understand the true meaning of this Somali proverb.
Over the years, Abdi has visited and worked in Kenya. After observing the rising poverty in his birthplace, Abdi was convinced that he had to develop his home. During one such visit to Kenya, he had a profound experience that convinced him that he had a responsibility to his community. After searching in vain for a midwife at the district hospital, Abdi and his family were horrified to find that the doctor on duty was miles away from the hospital. To urge the doctor to perform his responsibilities, Abdi had to bribe him!
Abdi’s lifelong commitment is making a tangible difference in the lives of the people of Mandera. He has served in the US Marine Corps preparing himself for the discipline that he says is necessary to succeed in his political career. Abdi has been active in his community for many years. In early 2006, during the drought season in Northern Kenya, Mohamed organized a relief fundraising where he raised more than $50,000 for buying nutritious food for malnourished children in four district hospitals.
At a fundraiser at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis recently, Abdi began his first official campaign to run for office in North Eastern Kenya. Everyone listened intently as the bright-eyed Sergeant Abdi declared his candidacy for Mandera East, a constituency in North Eastern Kenya.
He attended Mandera District Education Board Primary School, and Sheikh Ali High School both in Mandera. His family then relocated to the US, in 1995, where he attended Minnesota State University at Mankato. In 2004, Mohamed graduated with a university degree in Human Resource Management from Colorado Technical University.
In 1999, Mohamed joined the US Marine Corps and was stationed in different locations around the globe. During his service he held several billets such as logistics clerk, recruiter, and interrogator. He also served in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He served with distinction and was awarded two Sea Service Medals, National Defense Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and the Service Medals, two Good Conduct Medals and two Mandatory Mass Certificates.
Abdi feels that he has to make a change for the betterment of his community. Discouraged by the lack of progress being made by politicians in the region, Abdi decided to run for office. He says he will work on community projects by establishing a development council that can provide basic social amenities such as clinics, schools and other infrastructure that will ensure that peace prevails in Northern Kenya. Growing up in Northern Kenya, Mohamed experienced first-hand the effects of the never-ending regional conflicts arising from inter-clan clashes. He would like to be an instrument for peace and reconciliation.
Abdi will also work closely with the central government in administering economic policies that will meet the basic needs of the community. A key element in Abdi’s platform is fighting the rampant corruption in the government.
Northern Kenya, being close to the porous Ethiopian and Somali borders is suspected to be a terrorist route threatening the security and stability of the whole East African region. In this respect, Abdi is determined to uplift the people of Northern Kenya from poverty since this has rendered them susceptible to being used in terrorist activities. Abdi believes that winning the global war on terrorism is not just on the battlefield, but involves winning the hearts and minds of the people.
Abdi faces a lot of challenges in the upcoming 2007 Kenyan General Election. He is challenging an incumbent who has been in office for fifteen years. In a community that believes that elders have leadership roles, Abdi has the task of convincing the constituents of Mandera that as a young man, he can deliver. On fighting corruption, Abdi says,” One has to have a principle of honesty and stand by it. People will admire you for this, and will follow your example as a leader.”
Abdi, a loving husband and father of two, having served in the US Marine Corps for eight years is ready to shelve his uniform and go back to Kenya and serve his adopted country, the US, and his community, Mandera East.