Welcome congressional cohesion on Somalia

U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, left, and Tom Emmer: The two Minnesotans are forming the Congressional Somalia Caucus. Photo: Jerry Holt/David Joles

StarTribune Masthead Tweeks

Political gridlock may seem intractable, and even intensifying as the 2016 campaign advances. But bipartisanship exists, as evidenced by two Minnesota representatives, Keith Ellison, the Fifth District Democrat, and Tom Emmer, the Sixth District Republican, who prioritized their constituencies and good policy over politics with their formation of the Congressional Somalia Caucus. Given the significant Somali population throughout the state, other members of the Minnesota delegation should join them in order to convince their congressional colleagues that a more stable Somalia advances U.S. security and foreign policy objectives.

That’s the goal, Ellison and Emmer stated in a joint news release. “The purpose of the Somalia Caucus is to advocate for peace and stability in Somalia by ensuring the United States is providing sufficient … assistance so that democracy, good governance, and prosperity prevail over terrorism in Somalia,” the representatives wrote.

Those desirable qualities have been in short supply in the East African nation as a ruthless insurgency from the terrorist group Al-Shabab continues to destabilize not only Somalia but neighboring nations like Kenya, too. And the turmoil creates challenges here at home, as some Minnesotans of Somali descent have been recruited by Al-Shabab to join the jihad against a shaky Mogadishu government.

“To Minnesotans, this is not a partisan or some far-off foreign policy issue, this is a matter of domestic policy and national security,” Emmer e-mailed an editorial writer.

Emmer wrote that the caucus had “already begun advocating for improved security to combat Al Shabab both here and abroad, work with nations such as Kenya and Ethiopia to improve human rights, increased U.S. diplomatic efforts such as an Ambassador to Somalia, and to work with the new government of Somalia to create reliable governing and banking systems.” Emmer added that a more safe and secure Somalia “would prevent future humanitarian disasters, reduce the potential of refugees being forced to flee for their lives, and afford the more than 11 million Somalis — and the nearly 2 million Somali diaspora — the opportunity to live in peace and prosperity.”

Of course, the U.S. is not the source of Somalia’s problems and thus cannot be the solution to all of them. But U.S. help can advance indigenous efforts. Somalia, Ellison told an editorial writer, is not a “failed state but a fragile state. It needs people who care about Somalia to help it continue to strengthen so it can go from a fragile state to a stable state.”

Ellison and Emmer are among many Minnesotans who do indeed care about Somalia’s unique importance to the state and nation. Both also seem to care about the need for bipartisanship. It’s encouraging to see them depart from Washington’s ways.

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