Enfield woman on mission to bring peace to Somalia

Amal Abdirahman is campaigning to become president of war-torn state, reports James Cracknell

Amal Abdirahman is campaigning to become the first female president of Somalia
Amal Abdirahman is campaigning to become the first female president of Somalia

An Enfield woman is hoping to bring peace and prosperity to Somalia as she bids to become president of the African nation.

Amal Abdirahman, who has lived in Enfield Island Village for the past five years, will be leaving to rejoin her family in the Somalian capital Mogadishu later this month, ahead of an expected presidential election that would come at a critical time for the country.

Somalia’s fragile democracy has been under threat in recent years, since the current president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed illegally extended his term and the government effectively collapsed. The country is currently beset by civil unrest, which Amal is determined to bring to an end.

She told the Dispatch: “I want to change Somalia. I want social equality, I want women’s rights, I want young people to get jobs. There is an unelected government that is supposed to be holding an election, but instead they want a civil war.”

Amal comes from a family of political activists. Her grandmother was part of the Somalian independence movement in the 1950s and 60s, while her mother was a shadow minister in the 70s and 80s. But her family fled during the worst years of the civil war, initially to Finland, before eventually settling in the UK.

Somalia today remains one of the world’s poorest nations, something Amal wants to change. She said: “There is no healthcare, no education; you can only live in Somalia if you have money. People are dying but the development money is being stolen. We need international help.”

Amal’s own political journey began as a member of the Green Party in Finland, before her first bid to become president of Somalia came in 2012, when she was thwarted by age restrictions placed on female candidates. Now aged over 40, she says there is no barrier to her standing, should the election take place.

As well as ending the ongoing conflict, the challenges any new president will face include mass emigration, political corruption, a lack of food and clean water, and worsening climate change which Amal says risks turning the whole country into a desert.

“I can’t make this change on my own,” she said. “I need a lot of people to help me.

“We want to speak with the international community. We need the UN Security Council [to do something]. We have to remove this regime. We don’t want a civil war – the last one lasted 30 years.”

Before leaving Enfield to start campaigning in Somalia, Amal hopes to secure a meeting with a British minister to raise her concerns about the country. The UK is one of only a few European nations to have an embassy in Mogadishu.