Before U2 show, Bono weighs in on Somalia's famine fight

Frontman offers support to a group of Minnesotans working to aid the African nation.

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U2 lead singer and ONE cofounder Bono and K’naan, the Somali-born singer and poet, met with Somali Minnesotans in Minneapolis Saturday night to discuss efforts to combat the famine in Somalia. Left to right are Mohamed Samatar, Shukri Abdinur, Bono, K’naan, and Ruqia Mohamed.

Photo: Eoin McLoughlin

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Minnesota's Somali community learned Saturday that Bono is one big-mouthed rock star who can really talk the talk.

Before Saturday's concert at TCF Bank Stadium, the U2 frontman met with representatives from locally based Somali-centric organizations to discuss efforts to curb famine in the African nation through ONE, the global antipoverty charity cofounded by Bono.

Among the half-dozen local attendees were leaders of the American Refugee Committee and Neighbors for Nations. Somali pop star K'naan -- who briefly called the Twin Cities home in the '90s -- also was on hand.

"This is the beginning of a conversation that is going to go on," Bono said at the end of the meeting, just an hour before taking the stage.

Last week, the U.N. official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia stressed that parts of southern Somalia are experiencing famine from widespread drought. The World Food Program estimates more than 11.3 million people need aid across drought-hit East Africa.

Asked afterward how the local meeting came about, Bono said, "We were having conversations last week about what to do about all this. Somebody said, 'Don't you know you're going to Minneapolis next week?!'"

The Twin Cities area boasts the largest Somali population outside of Somalia.

Bono and other ONE representatives listened to K'naan and a handful of community leaders and college students talk about the troubles in Somalia and their often-difficult efforts to get aid to the right places.

Bono pledged the support of ONE, which makes a point of raising awareness and not asking for money. He did not hide his frustration.

"I'm really pissed we're back at emergency level again," Bono said. "This should not be happening in this day and age."

During Saturday's concert, Bono brought K'naan on stage to sing "Stand by Me," introducing him as a "wise man who has shown great leadership on behalf of Somalia."

Mohamed Idris, executive director of the Minneapolis-based American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa, got the call Friday to meet Bono and saw it as a strong step forward. "We appreciate that they are using their music celebrity to help raise awareness for a critical situation," Idris said.

American Refugee Committee president Daniel Wordsworth said he's impressed with Bono's knowledge and believes "he really wants to make a difference."

"We'll see what really comes of it," he added. "Bono made a good point that the Somalis have to lead this effort themselves, but they need someone like him to help spotlight their efforts."

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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