March 6, 2003: Headlines: COS - Somalia: Speaking Out: Star Tribune: Somalia RPCV Martin Ganzglass supports asylum for prodemocracy general Mohamed Abshir Musse

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Somalia: Peace Corps Somalia : The Peace Corps in Somalia: March 6, 2003: Headlines: COS - Somalia: Speaking Out: Star Tribune: Somalia RPCV Martin Ganzglass supports asylum for prodemocracy general Mohamed Abshir Musse

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Somalia RPCV Martin Ganzglass supports asylum for prodemocracy general Mohamed Abshir Musse

Somalia RPCV Martin Ganzglass supports asylum for prodemocracy general Mohamed Abshir Musse

U.S. diplomats fighting for Somali living in Eden Prairie
Eric Black, Star Tribune

Published March 6, 2003

A retired Somali general whose prodemocracy efforts cost him 12 years in prison and whom one former U.S. ambassador calls "the greatest living Somali" is now living in Eden Prairie but has been turned down for permission to remain in the United States.

A group of U.S. diplomats who consider Gen. Mohamed Abshir Musse a loyal and valuable U.S. ally are working to get him that permission.

Abshir, 76, expressed no anger Wednesday over his situation. "I expect nothing but good from my American friends," he said, and believes they are doing all they can for him, including a special bill in Congress that would enable him to remain here. If, in the end, he cannot legally remain, "I'll have to search for somewhere else," Abshir said.

Some of his friends were more emotional about what they consider the injustice of someone with his life history being subjected to the threat of deportation. "General Abshir has done more for the United States and more for stability in his own country than any other Somali," said retired diplomat Peter Bridges, who was U.S. ambassador to Somalia in the mid-1980s.
Gen. Mohamed Abshir Musse held his 6-month-old granddaughter, Mariam.
Tom Sweeney
Star Tribune

Bridges, two other former U.S. ambassadors to Somalia and three other former U.S. officials responsible for U.S. relations with that region signed a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking that the State Department support the special bill. The letter said Abshir's assistance to U.S. military personnel during the ill-fated 1992-95 "Operation Restore Hope" had saved many American lives.

"People ought to stand up for their friends," said Martin Ganzglass, a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Ganzglass first worked with Abshir in the 1960s when Abshir was Somalia's top policeman and Ganzglass was a Peace Corps worker assigned to give legal advice to the fledgling Somali republic. "He spent a lot of years in prison, essentially for being pro-American when the Somali dictator was pro-Soviet. Then when he got out, he was busily helping the Americans during Operation Restore Hope, providing intelligence and security to our people. We owe the guy more than to leave him . . . under the threat of deportation."

The U.S. government has not literally threatened to deport Abshir, and his legal status is murky. He has not been granted U.S. asylum, but since his arrival in 2001, he has had permission to care for his 27-year-old son who has multiple sclerosis. That was a temporary status, subject to periodic renewal. The last time he sought renewal, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) asked him for a visa and a passport and a ticket out of the United States to prove that he had plans to leave.

But Abshir hopes to stay and has no such ticket. He told the INS about the bill but received notice that his application was denied and that no further appeal was possible.

Somalia, which has been declared a potential haven for terrorists, is among the countries under special scrutiny since Sept. 11. Ganzglass said a male from such a country who lacks firm legal status must consider himself susceptible to arrest and deportation proceedings. But the INS is barred by court orders from deporting anyone to Somalia on the grounds that it has no government able to receive deportees. Abshir lived in Saudi Arabia before he came to the United States. The possibility that he could be sent back there is unclear.

Tim Counts, spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the INS is "aware of the situation and we are looking into it."

Jailed without charges

Abshir was leader of the National Police when Somalia gained independence in 1960 and gained a reputation for professionalism and incorruptibility, according to his U.S. admirers. Democracy thrived briefly in the 1960s, but when the government tried to steal the elections of 1969, Abshir was the highest ranking official who refused to go along.

Seen as a threat by a new dictator, Abshir spent 12 years in custody without being charged with a crime, he said. Upon his release, he joined a group agitating for a restoration of democracy and was imprisoned again briefly.

He left the country in 1998 for Djibouti, then Saudi Arabia, then Minnesota, believed to be home to the largest number of Somali-Americans.

For two years, he has lived here with his wife and three of his seven children. They are all supported by their married daughter and son-in-law, who is a U.S. citizen. Abshir's wife, Mariam Musse Gul, said that for lack of Social Security coverage, their ailing son no longer has access to medical care and cannot afford needed medication. She and the children may also face legal problems when their visas expire in a few months.

But all of them are covered by the special bill, which is their best hope for a secure future. It is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., who was a Peace Corps worker in Somalia in the 1960s and knows Abshir from that time, according to Ganzglass. Ganzglass said he had been told that the State Department appeal stands rejected as a matter of policy.

"State doesn't take a position on private bills," he said. The bill is currently "languishing in subcommittee," Bridges said.

-- Eric Black is at

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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Story Source: Star Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Somalia; Speaking Out



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