By Abdullahi Yussuf
Osman Abdi sits at a cyber cafÈ in Eastleigh, Nairobi, browsing for jobs in Somalia.
Abdi, 24, has a diploma in logistics and procurement.
He says landing a job in Kenya is difficult and now prays to find one in the war-torn country.
Next-door is a coffee shop. Inside, Hussein Mohamed carries a cafetiere and takes it to two middle-aged men, a table separating them.
The 25-year-old arrived in Kenya three years ago after fighting rendered his country unsafe. He came to Kenya searching for peace and greener pastures.
Ironically, Kenyan Somalis look for better opportunities in a country where the rule of the law has been replaced by the rule of the gun and where the battle for life over death is waged daily.
There are job opportunities in Somalia, including engagements with NGOs and teaching. Many youth in North Eastern Province look up to Somalia for employment despite instability in the Horn of Africa nation. Abdi says if he gets a chance to work in Somalia, he would go there.
"I will go and look for a temporary job, I am sure I can become a teacher," he says.
He says due to prohibitive costs, he would not fly to Somalia, but would go by road through Dadaab or Mandera boarder points.
Every day, many refugees from Somalia cross into Kenya, and at the same time, many youth in North Eastern Province cross to Somalia in search for better lives.
There have been reports youth in North Eastern join the Somali military to fight Al Shabaab militia. Others join for financial gain.
The Government has since denied recruiting military personnel for Somali’s Transitional Federal Government.
Musa Hussein, a Kenyan Somali, was killed together with Fazuul Mohamed, a top al Qaeda operative in Mogadishu last month.
Hussein was recruited by Al Shabaab to transact its business in Kenya because he could speak in English, Somali, Kiswahili and Arabic. He came from Wajir.
Many college graduates from this province have gone to Somalia in search of jobs. Yussuf Bishar, 25, is a graduate from Kigumo Teachers’ College. He graduated in 2009 and left for Somalia in August, last year. He now works as a teacher in Galkacyo, central Somalia.
Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, a moderate Islamic group opposed to Al Shabaab, controls Galkacyo.
Bishar earns $500 teaching in a primary school. He says if he could have worked in Kenya, he would have earned less than $200 for the same job. He is now on leave for two months and came to Wajir to visit his family. There are other Kenyans working as nurses, doctors and humanitarian workers in Somalia, in spite of security risks.
AK 47 rifle
There were occasions when gunmen attacked aid workers. It is
believed Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous places to work.
"For the first few months, I thought of returning home but later, I became familiar with the situation," Bishar said. He adds: "You have to take risks to earn, that’s what I am doing."
Bishar says there were many times he came across roadblocks controlled by gunmen, who robbed him.
Mohamed Abass, a former employee of Development Concern, an NGO operating in Somalia, remembers when a man pointed an AK 47 rifle at him and his colleagues in Girilley, a small town near the border. He says the gunman was demanding money. At the time, the organisation was undertaking a cash-for-work project in Somalia.
"It was really dangerous, other gunmen saved us from him. I don’t regret going there. If I get another opportunity to go back, I would. There’s money," he says, adding: "It pays well working in Somalia but very dangerous".
University of Nairobi graduate Ahmed Billow works for Wasda, an NGO working in Kenya and Somalia. In Somalia, it operates in the southern part where there is anarchy. There are challenges and risks involved in his work. He says there were times the organisation suspended its operation in Somalia on grounds of insecurity.
Young men from Somalia troop to Nairobi. Some end up being traders and others stay in Nairobi preparing to catch flights to North America and Europe.
While Somalis from Somalia flee their country for better lives, Kenyan Somalis hunt for opportunities in Somalia for survival.