Rochester man running for president of Somalia

By Megan Zemple | KTTC

ROCHESTER, Minn. A Rochester man has decided to run for president of Somalia.

Abdi Maahaay came to Rochester over 20 years ago as a Somali refugee. He received a bachelor’s degree is psychology, got married and raised a family. He has dedicated much of his life to helping others. He worked as a behavioral health case manager, and as a humanitarian.

He worked to bring children with medical conditions from poverty-stricken countries to Mayo Clinic, so that they could get life-saving treatment.

Maahaay said he has a new calling now, and that’s to help guide his native country of Somalia in a better direction. It’s been plagued by an ongoing war and economic problems.

“My life experiences in Somali diaspora in the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and other African countries and my travels throughout Somalia have afforded me the opportunity to develop relationships with the highest- level leadership in many different sectors of these countries,” he said.

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He said he hopes to instill peace and hope again in the Somali people.

“I have been seeing the difficulties and what the people are facing,” he said. “I believe we can make a change. A change that people feel. A change where people can really see it.”

Maahaay said one goal is to create better relationships with western countries, asking them to lift sanctions and convince them to invest and tap into Somalia’s rich oil and other natural resources.

“We have the largest African ocean in Somalia,” he said. “We need to use those resources, and we can make Somalia a beautiful country, and lead East Africa.”

Maahaay said 70% of the Somali population is made up of young people, and most are unemployed. He said there aren’t many legitimate job options for people in that age group, so they instead make dangerous trips, crossing the Mediterranean Ocean to find better opportunities.

“They risk their lives to have a better chance,” he said. “We will change that, too.”

In Somalia, the country’s parliament chooses the president. There are around 40 candidates.

Maahaay will be traveling to Somalia this week to campaign. The election will be in either May or June. If elected, he will move to Somalia.

He said he is thankful for the Rochester community and the support that its given him and his family over the years.

“American generosity is great,” he said. “People ask us, why do Somalis stay in Minnesota? And we tell them, it’s cold, but the people are warm. People are very nice and welcoming to us.”

For more information on his campaign or to make a monetary donation, visit his website.

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