MINNEAPOLIS – Kenya’s Parliamentary Majority Leader, Aden Bare Duale, met with Minnesota government officials, the business community and the state’s large Somali diaspora – the largest outside of Africa during a three day visit to the state over the weekend. Duale last visited Minnesota five years ago.
The majority leader met with leaders that have made history in the state and country since the last time he was here. Among those he met with was Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison who became the state’s first black Attorney General last November. Ellison was also the first Muslim elected to the US Congress. His move to the AG’s office created an opening in the Fifth Congressional District which was won by now Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who made history of her own by becoming, alongside Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Omar also is the first black person born in Africa to be elected to Congress. Duale met with Omar in Washington.
Duale also met with Minnesota State legislative leaders, among them Minnesota Senate Minority Whip John Hoffman and Assistant Majority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives Hodan Hassan. He also met with members of the Minnesota United Black Legislative Caucus, among them Senator Bobby Jo Champion and Representative Mohamud Noor, the only elected black male in the Minnesota House.
The Minnesota legislators highlighted the increasing economic cooperation between Africa and their state and acknowledged the growing economic and political clout of the African immigrant community. The Majority Leader on his part welcomed the legislators’ interest to visit East Africa and emphasized the business opportunities that abound in the region.
Duale also visited the popular Afro Deli for lunch while in the state. Afro Deli is owned by Abdirahman Kahin.
Books for Africa
During a breakfast meeting hosted in his honor by the board and staff of Books for Africa, Duale pledged to lend his support to the non-profit’s work in Africa. The St. Paul based books for Africa is the largest shipper of donated school text books to the continent.
“We need to tell more of the good work you (Books for Africa) do,” said Duale, adding that he would henceforth be an enthusiastic spokesperson for the group.
The Majority Leader on Saturday evening addressed a much-anticipated gathering of over 2,000 jubilant Minnesotans drawn from the Somali diaspora encompassing Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The gathering at a local Minneapolis hotel was awash with Kenyan and US flags.
Duale paid tribute to the important contributions that the diaspora has made, in particular with the remittances that they send.
“There are billions of dollars remitted to our country each year,” said Duale. However, Duale feels that while the monetary funds have been a driving force towards growth, the country still lags in other aspects. He wants the diaspora to bridge this gap by serving the nation through other means beyond just remittances.
According to him, Kenya needs “people with new visions, new ideas… and advanced technical skills.” He said that the next generation of intellects and forward-thinking businesses can pave the way towards a brighter future―as they have the tools and foreign education to make this happen.
This community heard a similar request from Ambassador Robinson Njeru Githae, after he announced the government’s plan to open a consulate in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis St. Paul. This pledge was made almost five years ago and has yet to be fulfilled, one Kenyan lamented.
A community member present who wouldn’t share his name said “would love to invest in our country (Kenya), but we are still waiting to get the real leadership who would encourage us to do so.”
Many attendees at the gathering expected to hear some news about the outcome of last year’s negotiations between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Jubbaland officials but Duale did not deliver on that expectation.
Even though Duale did not say anything about the meetings or Ethiopia’s political strategies at the event, Ibrahim Arab, a member of the central committee of ONLF talked to Mshale. “We’re really grateful for the significant role that Kenya has played in this peace process, he said. “We can expect to hear an update during the delegation’s stay in the U.S.”
Tom Gitaa contributed to this report.