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In commemoration of the late Somali President Abdirashid Ali sharmarke
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by Hassan M. Khalif
Friday, October 16, 2009

Late Somali President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke
Today is October 15, 2009. It precisely marks the gloomy day, 40 years ago, when the
late Somali President Abdirashid Ali sharmarke- May his soul rest in peace, was assassinated. Probably like many other writers, I wish to write a few paragraphs to pay homage to the first Somali Prime Minister and its second president Abdirashid Ali sharmarke. It is funny that I was born some weeks later when that depressing incident took place in the same autumn. I could have been most likely named after him if he was not slain!

The idea to run this short article on the late president occurred to me following the striking impression I have formed when I was honored, this afternoon, to attend a banquet and chat with H.E. Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the current Prime Minister of Somalia and the son of the late president, in his residence –cum- office in Mogadishu.  Coincidently, the feast was not intended to commemorate the late president but rather to consolidate the effects and impact of the current government.  

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Prime Minister of Somalia
Prior to delving into my writing, let me express the impression I have come under while attending the get-together with the presence of this promising young man, H.E. Omar Abdirsahid Sharmarke. Despite the wearisome and lengthy ministerial meeting previous to the feast, the prime minister was gracefully attentive and following each and every bit of the discussion. He was frankly cheerful and optimistic to the sense of the words throughout the talk. All the whispers and the side line natter pointed to the fact that Mr. Sharmarke, the son, has all the traits and the characteristics of his father who is remembered for his unequivocal patriotism and nationalism. On the whole, like father like son was the mood in the discussion. Holding degrees in political science/economy and having diplomatic capacity in his background compounded with his genetics, Mr. sharmarke undoubtedly fits the hot seat he is occupying. I have come to the conclusion that if he is given a chance, he can lead the tattered nation back to statehood.  

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Back to the core subject-matter of the article, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was born in Mudug region in north-central Somalia in 1919 but grew up in Mogadishu the capital of the country. As the tradition is in Somalia, he started his early education with the learning of the Holy Qur’an. After receiving his primary and secondary education, he went to Italy where he graduated in political science at Sapienza University of Roma in 1958. A year later, he was elected to then legislative assembly through the Somali Youth League (SYL) ticket. All along, Mr. Sharmarke was an enthusiastic proponent of SYL since its inception in 1943. He also tried trade and worked as a civil servant in the Italian administration.

At independence after the unification of the British-somaliland and the Italian-somaliland in 1960, Abdirashid became the first prime minister of post independence Somalia. One of the major achievements during the premiership of Abdirashid was the establishment of ties with the Soviet Union where Moscow agreed to provide loans to finance the training and equipping of the Somali armed forces. The Soviet Union also provided nonmilitary assistance, including technical training scholarships, printing presses, broadcasting equipment as well as agricultural and industrial development aid. As Prime Minister, Abdirashid also travelled abroad extensively in pursuit of a non-aligned and neutral foreign policy

During the first Somali general elections in 1964, Ethiopia marched into Somalia and war erupted along the Somali-Ethiopian frontier. Being the then Prime minister, Mr. Sharmarke was asked how his government could manage the elections and the Ethiopian aggression at the same time. He remarked his popular utterance “we will fight with one hand and hold the elections with the other”. His subsequent election as the second president of Somalia in 1967 was an extraordinary landmark in the African democracy leading to the first peaceful transfer of power in Africa.

Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated in Las Anod, in the present Sool region, by one of his bodyguards on October 15, 1969. With the demise of Sharmarke, the democracy experiment in Somalia vanished and the civilian rule ended. The incident changed the course of Somali history. That myopic elimination of Abdirashid was the mothers of all evils as it opened the door to dictatorship that culminated to failed state. Somalia prematurely lost a great leader. I believe Somali could have been a different place if he was not assassinated. Nevertheless, I hope his son, the current prime minister, will carry on the legacy of president Abdirashid by following his footsteps and salvaging the little that remains of the Somali fabric.


Hassan M. Khalif
E-mail: [email protected]