Monday, September 26, 2016
By Abdalla Dahir
Villa Somalia is Somalia’s presidential palace. It hosts the presidential office, top government officials and ministries. Al-Shabab - Somalia’s Al-Qaeda franchise is fighting the government and wages frequent attacks on Villa Somalia, and here was Bashir, a veteran soldier at the first line of defence protecting the highest office in Somalia. Bashir was many things to many people but he was the face of the resilience of the Somali security forces who chose to put their lives on the line for the sake of their country. He was tough when the situation called, friendly other times. His deep authoritative voice still reverberates in my mind, a voice devoid of cowardice and filled with confidence. Given the nature of his job, he seem to comprehend what was at stake-it was either his life or his country and he was not in quandary over which one to lose. Bashir survived two explosions with minor injuries. Passers-by threw glances, wondering with the resilience of the man many describe as ‘the old guard of Villa Somalia’. What a brave man or something along those lines, they whispered. He on the other hand stood right there with his chin up, used to the attention. He was not blushing, he was brimming with confidence. The fragrance courage hanged in the air.
At the entrance of Villa Somalia-Somalia’s equivalent of the Whitehouse, he stopped us - me and my cab driver. He peered through the windows of our saloon car with his right hand fingers clutching the trigger of his AK-47, ready to thwart any threat to the country’s highest office – Villa Somalia. “Show me you’re ID card” he roared. “Would I deal with this man every morning?” I posed to myself. Yes, I would deal with Bashir every morning throughout the year 2014. I would get to learn that behind the stern face, the dripping sweat and the long moustache was an incredibly amazing human being. I first crossed path with Bashir in late 2013, when for the first time, I visited Villa Somalia to sign a one year employment contract with Somalia’s Ministry of Finance. He was standing at the main entrance of Villa Somalia and there was me and my cab driver wanting to access the presidential palace without Identification cards. Neither my drivers’ charm nor my pressure could coax him to let us in, so we had to call someone from inside Villa Somalia to talk him. I loathed him that day but appreciated his work later. Days passed, and six days in a week, he asked for my Identification card every morning. We would exchange pleasantries, joked a times but he still didn’t forget to ask for the Identification Card. Unlike most of the security personnel in Somalia, this veteran fathomed the context and the dynamics of the volatile security situation of his country and was leaving nothing to chance. He was a professional.
Bashir served in the military for many years. He was stationed at the entrance of villa Somalia for the last 8 years. He welcomed some presidents and bade others farewell as the top office exchanged hands. On 30th August at 12:20PM, a powerful explosion rocked Mogadishu, it happened right in front of the entrance of Villa Somalia, a huge cloud of smoke rose to the air followed by gun shots. When guns went silent, lifeless bodies lay dead and Bashir – the gallant soldier was fallen. The face of Villa Somalia was gone. The local and international media didn’t perhaps consider his story news worthy, he was neither a top government official nor a member of parliament. He was just a soldier and soldiers die every day anyway or so they probably thought. His name stashed somewhere in the figure 26 -the number of people reported to have died in the unfortunate explosion. I pass by Villa Somalia a day after the explosion and for the first time in close to the three years I lived in Mogadishu, I don’t see Bashir. His demise slowly registers in my mind as I familiarise my sight with a Villa Somalia without Bashir. The sombre mood in the faces of the guards affirms that the gallant soldier is gone for good. He leaves behind a widow.
The political temperature in Somalia is high with the country going to elections on October, 2016. The leaders are preoccupied with campaigns and Bashir’s death may fade into distant memory and overtaken by events. Bashir’s death should make the government recognize the struggles of the gallant Somali forces, and come up with policies that supports the families left behind by the fallen soldiers - the unsung heroes.
Abdalla Dahir is a communication specialist and a regular contributor to Hiiraan Online. Follow him on @M_dahir