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Minneapolis donates used fire trucks, crime lab to Somali sister city

Minneapolis donates used fire trucks, crime lab to Somali sister city

The gift demonstrates the city’s openness, council members said.

By Erin Golden | Star Tribune | April 7, 2016 – Minneapolis officials say a gift of used fire trucks and a crime lab van to a city in Somalia are more than a practical donation to a sister city short on public safety equipment.

Thursday, as members of the council’s intergovernmental relations committee voted to donate two trucks, a van and other used equipment to Bosaso, Somalia, they said the gesture is also a firm rejection of recent political commentary by presidential candidates. Council Member Abdi Warsame, who helped organize the donation, said the move shows a willingness on the part of the city to strengthen ties with people from and in Somalia.

Warsame and other Somali-Americans in the Twin Cities have spoken out publicly against comments made by candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who have called for closer monitoring of Muslims living in or coming to the United States.

“We as a nation are living through a period of time when the politics of hate and division are being trumpeted by some who seek to lead our country … We as a city of Minneapolis have an opportunity to defy this rhetoric,” Warsame said.

Minneapolis added Bosaso, Somalia’s third-largest city, as its 12th sister city in October 2014. The move was praised by both council members and Somali-American residents as an important move to build relationships between the two countries in education, business and other areas.

Last month, Bosaso officials send a letter to their counterparts in Minneapolis, asking for any “material and intellectual support” they could offer to help the city with deficits in its ability to respond to emergencies. In 2011, a fire swept through the city’s main market and responders were slowed by a lack of equipment. The city is also trying to develop its first crime lab while building up enough resources to respond to other emergencies.

The letter said Bosaso would work with Kajoog, a Minneapolis-based Somali organization to help with any donations.

Minneapolis officials researched the value of some aging equipment — the two trucks, the 2005 van, some 15- to 30-year-old emergency response tools and obsolete crime lab equipment — and agreed to help out. A city analysis of the vehicles and equipment put their total estimated value at $5,000.

Kajoog, the outside organization, will oversee the transportation of the items to Somalia and cover those costs.

Thursday’s committee meeting was attended by members of that group, along with other business, religious and community leaders from Minneapolis’ Somali community. The committee’s unanimous vote to approve the donations was met with applause.

The donation is not the city’s first in recent years to a sister city. In 2010, Minneapolis shipped a used fire truck to Eldoret, Kenya, a city that lacked a modern sewer and plumbing system. The Minneapolis Fire Department also sent used gear, including fire hoses and firefighters’ suits.

Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said it’s clear the equipment will be put to good use in Bosaso, though she said she was even more moved by the symbolic value of the donation.

“We want to stand apart from some very ugly rhetoric that is happening across our country, and say that for the city of Minneapolis, we reject that hateful rhetoric,” she said. “We value our partnership with the Somali community and with the sister city of Bosaso.”

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