"I am aeronautical. I studied at the Academy of Pozzuoli in the 1989 as an official pilot student and I was well 4 years. It was a beautiful and formative experience. Then I went to Latina as a pilot assistant, 2 years of training. We were 5 Somali pilots, I'm the only one left. And I'm very proud of being educated by Italian and grateful military pilots, because Italy has given me the chance to become a pilot myself, completing one of the most selective activities in Europe. When the civil war broke out I could not go back to Somalia, where I came back only when the conditions are a bit better".
Pilot Colonel Ibrahim Mohamed trained in the Italian Air Force, so he shared his life with our soldiers. And he's Somali. His is one of those stories that can help us understand the bond that binds the two countries, a bond of fraternal affection. And it is told like this, without filters, without bad faith or interpretations, as it is, beautiful in its simplicity. We met him at the Italian compound of EUTM-S.
"When I returned home, I worked with the Italian ambassador for two years and, seeing potential in me, they sent me to your country to study at the Army's foreign language school in Perugia (SLEE) and to follow other courses , with the highest score among foreigners. Then, again, the IASD Institute for Defense Defense in January 2018. I studied in a prestigious place with Italian, American, British colonels and generals, etc. and I met two of my colleagues from the Academy of Pozzuoli. Those 2 years spent in Italy, between the 2017 and the 2018 were great and not only for my personal satisfaction, but also in the context of my career, for the knowledge of military strategy, which could also be applied here ...", Says Ibrahim, whose achievements are the result of his talent, of a rare meritocracy.
"I spoke with some officers of the EUTM-S mission, which is important for Somalia and of which Italy took the lead, also important for the agreements made on the security issue. They trained so many Somali soldiers. This is why Italy is playing its role in building and forming the Somali Armed Force. Italy is a country that has always been a friend. Now Somalia is going in the right direction, we are in the post-conflict phase even if there is still a lot to do. Rebuilding Somalia is a moral obligation, it is being close to a friend in times of difficulty ...".
He did military service in Italy, he has a pilot's license clearly visible on the collar of his jacket. "All of this is pride for me, even on an individual and social level. People, when they know that I have done the Academy of Pozzuoli, I estimate, because the school is prestigious, it is a bit 'the Oxford of the Air Force. I still have contacts with colleagues of the time, some in the Frecce Tricolori. The Italian period for me was an unforgettable, absolute experience. And I will pass it on to my colleagues as well as to my children, one of whom, at 15 years, is very interested and often asks me what Italy is like. If I could have the opportunity to send him to study as you did I will be happy. I've always been among Italian soldiers, I never felt like a stranger, even because of the historical ties between the two countries. The Somalis are very grateful, because even at the time of colonialism Italy contributed because Somalia became an independent state. But slowly we lost this opportunity by splitting ourselves into clans and sub-clans, ending up in the clutches of neighboring countries and almost begging for friendly countries".
There is, in these words, all the love for his land. And today there is a new awareness, even among young people. "They learned the lessons of 25 years ago, of the civil war. For us it was a new phenomenon, we saw what it means to fight even among family members. Our biggest problem is a deep tribal division between the Somalis, which has intensified with the war and is one of the reasons for the delay in the progress of Somalia. Now things are changing, many Somalis come from diasporas, from Europe or America and have understood the meaning of tribalism and the problems it creates".
His eyes sparkle with the idea of reconstituting the Somali Air Force, as well as the Army. "In East Africa we had the most powerful Army both militarily and economically, thanks to Italy. The Somali air force was supported by the Italian Air Force, with Italian instructors training our pilots on Italian aircraft such as the Savoia Marchetti and others. Before the civil war we had a fleet. I think that if we find high-level, academic people, I see no obstacle, not even in rebuilding Somali air force. Even in the new government they are looking for educated, prepared people".
The less beautiful thing is that Ibrahim is not working right now and, with the experience he has, it is a real waste to keep him at home, he is someone who could go to the United Nations tomorrow. "I'm sure that if I met the Somali prime minister, I could talk to him and with my curriculum, things would change".
They will change. One like Ibrahim is not held on the corner for too long. He is educated and prepared and can give lessons to many. Not to mention that Ibrahim speaks very well the Italian language, starting with a use of the subjunctive that many compatriots, even graduates, if they dream.