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31 Jan, 2024 14:02

US lawmaker faces resignation calls over comments on Africa

Ilhan Omar has been accused of violating her oath of office because she claimed she would protect Somalia’s interests
US lawmaker faces resignation calls over comments on Africa

Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-born member of the US Congress, is facing calls to step down from her position representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District for allegedly putting the African nation’s interests ahead of those of the US.

A video posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday by breakaway Somaliland deputy foreign minister Rhoda Elmi shows the Minnesota Democrat assuring Somalis that she would work to prevent a disputed sea-access deal with Ethiopia.

“The woman you sent to Congress is working day and night to protect your interest. She knows your plight and that of Somalia. I am as concerned about Somalia as you guys are. Together, we will protect the interests of Somalia,” Omar told her audience, according to the footage’s translation.

Critics, including House Republicans, accuse Omar of being loyal to her country of origin rather than the US, with House Majority Whip Tom Emmer calling her remarks “appalling.”

“Ilhan Omar’s... Somalia-first comments are a slap in the face to the Minnesotans she was elected to serve and a direct violation of her oath of office. She should resign in disgrace,” the Republican Minnesota legislator wrote on X on Monday.

Somaliland’s deputy foreign minister also condemned the Democrat lawmaker’s comments as unacceptable and unworthy of both her office and the people she represents.

“Specifically troubling were her endeavors to revive the once-violent and dangerous ideology of Greater Somalia, or Somali Weyn, which caused so much death, destruction, and conflict in the Horn of Africa,” Ambassador Elmi said in the text accompanying the video she posted on Sunday.

In response, Omar claims that the subtitles on the video of her Saturday address to Somali-American constituents were incorrect.

“It’s not only slanted but completely off, but I wouldn’t expect more from these propagandists… No nation-state can survive if its states start to get involved in land lease negotiations with other countries without the consent of the federal government,” she posted on X on Monday.

“Somalis in Somalia and in the diaspora are united in that effort and I stand in solidarity with them. No amount of harassment and lies will ever change that,” she added.

Tensions have escalated in the Horn of Africa since the beginning of the year, when Somaliland agreed to lease coastland to Ethiopia for 50 years to grant the landlocked East African neighbor access to the Red Sea for commercial purposes and also build a marine force base.

Somalia, which still considers Somaliland its territory despite the split state declaring independence in 1991, has labelled the agreement “illegal” and a threat to its sovereignty. Mogadishu has secured the support of the 22-nation Arab League in calling on Addis Ababa to cancel the pact, with Egypt vowing not to “allow anyone to threaten Somalia or infringe upon its territory.”