Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is scheduled to address Minnesota’s Somali community, the largest outside of Africa, at the Minneapolis Convention Center Thursday evening.
Hassan is expected to arrive in Minneapolis after the U.S.–Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. President Joe Biden hosted nearly 50 heads of state from the Africa December 13 through 15. Hassan last visited Minneapolis in 2014. He served as president of Somalia from 2012 to 2017, and won another term in May 2022.
Hashi Shafi, executive director of the Minneapolis-based social justice organization Civic Ark, said he was appointed by the government of Somalia to host the Minneapolis event.
“The community has been waiting to see the Somali president because the last five years the president didn’t come to Minnesota,” Hashi said. “We have concerns about what is going on in Somalia—about the war, the violent extremists who want to destroy our home.”
More than 73,000 foreign- and native-born Somali people live in Minnesota, according to U.S. Census data from 2020 and a report from Minnesota Compass, a demographics research organization.
The convention center event will include entertainment from local Somali performers. Hashi said government leaders, including Governor Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey, and Representative Ilhan Omar have been invited. He added that he hopes that other local Somali elected officials will also join.
The event will start at 6:30 p.m. and Hassan will speak at 9:45 p.m., according to Ifrah Abdullahi, the operations manager of Somali Community Resettlement Services and one of the organizers of the president’s visit. Doors to the event open at 4 p.m. and will close when the president arrives.
Hassan was elected in September 2012 by Somalia’s parliament in the first election held in the country since the 1960’s. He visited the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium during his term in 2014 and gave a speech urging the Somali community in Minnesota not to raise money for the militant group al-Shabaab. Hassan called on parents to keep their children away from the group.
“Somalis in Minnesota, you should also play your part,” Hassan said in his speech in 2014. “The enemy that is in [Somalia] is also in here. Keep your children safe.”
Al-Shabaab is al-Qaida’s largest, wealthiest, and most deadly affiliate, the U.S. State Department reported in March.