Home News in English For Somalia’s President, Leaving Wny Was Difficult, But ‘Worth It’

For Somalia’s President, Leaving Wny Was Difficult, But ‘Worth It’

Three old Republican friends were standing around the lobby of a secure hotel on the eastern edge of Manhattan one afternoon last week. They sipped coffee as diplomats, foreign officials, politicians and ear-bugged agents milled about. A bomb-sniffing dog, with an officer in tow, meandered by. A news alert popped on Michael Caputo’s phone. “They’re going for impeachment,” Caputo said to Joel Giambra, the former Erie County executive, and John Zagame, a retired politician and lobbyist who lives in the Albany area. To Caputo, the impeachment decision was a relevant one; he was an early campaign aide for Trump and retains ties to the president. But Caputo didn’t fixate on that news. He’s working for a different president now, and all three men were waiting for him. Their friend Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is the president of the eastern African country of Somalia. Mohamed is also a longtime Western New Yorker and former employee of the state Department of Transportation who, until he became president of his home country in 2017, was a Grand Island resident. He was in town for the United Nations General Assembly, and finishing a lunch with fellow heads of state. Mohamed’s wife, Zeinab Abdi, who still lives with their children on Grand Island, walked by and said hello to her husband’s friends before heading to an elevator. Minutes later, President Mohamed arrived. He entered through a side doorway separate from the public and was surrounded by an entourage that included multiple security agents. “Mr. President!” Giambra greeted him warmly. (In more private company, Giambra, who was the president’s boss and friend back in Buffalo, still calls him “Mohamed” or even “dude.” Mohamed said hello to Giambra, then turned to Caputo. “Michael!” “Mr. President,” Caputo responded. “How are you?” Mohamed noticed Zagame, whom he hadn’t come across in several years. “Good to see you,” he said to Zagame. “Long time no see!” These were routine greetings among people who hadn’t intersected in a long time. It would be easy, especially for political types, to flip a charm switch for these moments. But the president seemed genuinely pleased to be reconnecting with American friends who, other than perhaps Caputo’s work on Somalia’s behalf in the United States, cannot be part of his day-to-day existence. This visit to New York and the United Nations was Mohamed’s first time on American soil since taking the presidency. Leading Somalia is a job that requires him to be there. Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous and corrupt countries on the planet. It’s a home base for terrorists; Mohamed’s job as president pits him against al-Shabab, a jihadi fundamentalist group loyal to al-Qaida. Mohamed’s pledge throughout his presidency has been to fight the terrorists, root out corruption and make Somalia both safe and attractive to investors – especially American ones – who could build on the country’s rich natural resources. 

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