By Matthew Stolle
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Even half way around the world, Rochester resident Mohamoud Hamud’s mind has never strayed far from his native Somalia.
Now as the East African country settles into a tenuous peace after two decades of civil war, Hamud’s political profile has been on the rise lately. On a trip to Somalia last month, Hamud, 58, met the country’s new president, Hassan Sh. Mohamoud, and was reportedly one of the candidates considered to become the next prime minister, according to news reports and local Somali leaders.
Hamud was not picked for the job, but the episode reveals how American-Somali leaders, including those in Rochester, are seeking and taking on political roles in Somalia during a particularly fragile time in the country’s history. Mohamoud Ghedi Hilowle, one of the first Somali-Americans to settle in Rochester, recently served a four-year term in the Somali parliament.
News reports suggest that Hamud’s effort to become prime minister was a long-shot bid, but Hamud says he was on a short-list of 10 candidates out of 74 applicants interviewed by the president. Hamud, who serves as Mayo Clinic’s Islamic religious counselor, says he also had lunch with the new president and had an opportunity to size up the new leader.
“He’s good and intelligent and likes to listen,” said Hamud, who served on the Rochester School Board and on the United Way of Olmsted County board. “He (wants) the country go in a new direction.”
Whatever his chances for the job, news of Hamud’s interview spread quickly through the local Somali-American grapevine, becoming a source of pride among many in the Rochester community.
“It’s not something that was a secret (to Somali) people,” said Mohamed Nur Sumaya, a close friend who has known Hamud for three decades and works as a real estate consultant in Rochester. “I thought he was going to make it.”
Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, who was not aware of Hamud’s trip, said the episode nonetheless illustrates the quality of immigrants that Rochester has drawn as the city has grown and diversified. Hamud was the recipient the Mayor’s Hero’s Award in 1997 for his work in reducing tensions between Somali and American youth.
“Here’s someone who had the potential, apparently, to be in a very high leadership role in his country, and we are just blessed and gifted to be able to have these kind of people in our community,” Brede said.