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Amid calls for her resignation, Ilhan Omar claims she was misquoted

The deputy minister of foreign affairs of Somaliland called Omar's recent comments "lacking in common decency."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in 2019. Credit: Mike Jett/Shutterstock.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in 2019. Credit: Mike Jett/Shutterstock.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a member of the so-called progressive “Squad” in Congress and originally from Mogadishu, is facing calls for her resignation after, critics say, she promised to do all she could to prevent a Somaliland deal with Ethiopia over access to the sea.

“The language she employed was regrettably unbecoming of both the office she holds and the constituents she represents,” wrote Rhoda Elmi, deputy foreign affairs minister of Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 but which most countries, including the United States, don’t see as independent.

“Her expressions were lacking in common decency and revealed a significant lack of understanding of basic facts,” Elmi wrote. “Furthermore, her use of ethno-racist rhetoric didn’t escape attention and left many, with a deep sense of disappointment.”

Omar claims her comments were lost in translation, and rather than saying, as charged, that “As Somalis, one day we will go after our missing territories,” the congresswoman says she said that no one will take Somalia’s “sea.”

“It’s not only slanted but completely off, but I wouldn’t expect more from these propagandists,” Omar wrote. “I pray for them and for their sanity. 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.”

Omar shared a post by Colin Robinson, a senior African studies researcher at Óbuda University, in Budapest, Hungary, which called the interpretation of her remarks “slanted.” But Robinson allows that “she says at the end that all the five territories will be liberated, but it appears rhetorical.”

The Somaliland minister added that Omar’s comment “was particularly bewildering for those who recall similar racist attacks she endured not long ago, of being ‘not American enough,'” adding that it “was baffling to see her take a similar approach and accuse the entire Somaliland nation of ‘falsely claiming Somali identity.'”

“Ilhan Omar’s appalling, 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,” wrote Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) wrote, “In a recent speech, Ilhan Omar expressed Somalia-First views. Our job as members of Congress is to uphold the Constitution, do everything we can to promote the interests of our constituents and best serve the American people. Somalia should never come before the United States.”

Abdirashid Hashi, a researcher and Somalia analyst, also wrote that Omar’s words had been misinterpreted. But in his translation, he still quotes the congresswoman referring to “some Somalis, or those who say they are Somalis.”

According to Hashi’s translation, Omar also said, “Somalia belongs to all Somalis. Somalia is one. We are brothers and sisters, and our land will not be balkanized. Our lands were taken from us before, and God willing, we may one day seek them, but what we have now will not be balkanized.”

Omar has previously accused American Jews of dual loyalty when it comes to Israel.

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