The Somali diaspora has been one of the most important drivers of economic recovery in Somalia. Khadra Elmi explores the complex ties of Somali diaspora youth in Britain to their home country. Some young Somalis are susceptible to radicalisation. But many more are constructively involved in responding to humanitarian needs in Somalia. This positive engagement is something that can be harnessed to bring new and fresh approaches to Somali peacebuilding.
Young Somalis’ understanding of their identities is shaped by their history of mobility. Both those born in the UK and those who arrived as children continue to feel the effects of the war in Somalia because it directly affects their families and the ways in which their adoptive country relates to them.
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Somali diaspora youth
As Somalia approaches two decades of ‘statelessness’, a generation has grown up to know a country riddled with violent conflict and political turmoil. Many Somalis from this era have resettled and grown up in the West.
Transnational Somali identity
An estimated one million Somalis of a total population of about nine million are thought to reside outside Somalia, making the Somali diaspora one of the largest globally, proportionate to population size.
Who am I and where am I from?
Younger Somali generations who left Somalia as children or were born and raised overseas have different identity issues and methods of engagement with the homeland. Socialised and educated in Western countries, they often find themselves between two cultures and do not feel a complete part of either. Therefore questions of ‘who are you?’ and ‘where are you from?’ evoke different responses depending on which country they reside in, their relationships with their parents and their understanding of Somali identity.
Islamic Courts, Ethiopian invasion and a re-awakened generation
Political events in Somalia in 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) took over Mogadishu, captured the world’s attention. While the international community raised its eyebrows at an Islamist movement controlling Mogadishu, many within the Somali diaspora, although wary of the ICU’s religious ideology, welcomed the positive stabilising effect that the ICU brought.
The Somali diaspora’s engagement in Somalia takes place on different levels and is shaped by the different diaspora generations and experiences. Recent events have seen the internationalisation of the Somali conflict as the war on terror has been imposed on an already volatile country.