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Ex-president's death unites Somalis briefly

Special Correspondent

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Recently, Mogadishu witnessed a rare national event. 

The war-torn city came to a rare standstill for the burial of former president Aden Abdulle Osman, alias Aden Adde, who died in a Kenyan hospital on June 8.

The funeral, held at the Islamic Solidarity Mosque (Isbahaysiga) brought together Mogadishu residents and was attended by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, his predecessors Ali Mahdi Mohamed and Abdiqassim Salat Hassan and the city’s elite. The burial took place at Eel Irfid, on the city’s outskirts. 

Radio commentators, government leaders and the public were in agreement that Aden Adde was a man of integrity. 

He was the country’s first president after being deputy to the Italian Governor-General during the four years of pre-independent internal rule. He became president on July 1, 1960, when the former British and Italian colonies joined to form the Republic of Somalia. 

His seven-year rule was a period distinguished by flourishing democracy. 

He organised a constitutional referendum and three national elections. He lost in a widely contested election in July 1967, to Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, a man who had once served under him as prime minister.

He peacefully handed over power to Sharmarke, to become arguably the first post-independence African leader to peacefully surrender power through a democratic process. 

He was ranked among other great African leaders — Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Madibo Keita of Mali — who formed the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, and got Somalia into the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Countries and the Non-Alligned Movement.

In his honour, on June 9, Mogadishu’s main airport was renamed the Aden Adde International Airport. 

His burial, however, came against a backdrop of violence that hit the city in the first two weeks of June. 

On June 3, the residence-cum-office of Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi was attacked by a suicide-bomber. Six guards and two civilians died on the spot when a vehicle crashed into the perimeter wall of the residence. 

The African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) force from Uganda quickly whisked Ghedi and his family to safety. “The premier is safe in an undisclosed location,” Captain Paddy Ankunda, the Amisom spokesman, told the media. The Ugandan peacekeepers know what they are up against. A May 16 blast killed four of their member in the heart of Mogadishu. 

The prime minister was quick to blame groups linked to Al qaeda. “These bombers fear direct confrontations with pro-government forces and resort to this cowardly act of suicide or roadside bombing,” said Mr Ghedi.

Mogadishu’s new governor, Mohamed Omar Habeb alias Mohamed Dheere, said, “This type of action is planned and executed by elements bent on blocking the forthcoming reconciliation conference.” Dheere lost three of his deputies in one month of relentless insurgent attacks.

Although the prime minister’s residence is heavily guarded, his security pales when compared with the well-protected headquarters of the Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu. 

In a show of defiance in the face of the attacks, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi visited Mogadishu on June 5. 

He met his Somalia counterpart, Mr Ghedi, and spoke to his country’s troops in the country. Part of the visit’s agenda was also to discuss the stabilisation plan for Somalia with President Abdullahi Yusuf. 

However, Zenawi’s visit did not go down well with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afeworki. It is not a secret that Eritrea would like to see Ethiopia’s efforts in Somali fail.

President Afeworki is said to be hosting top Somali dissidents in Asmara, among them, Sheikh Sharif, the former executive head of the defunct Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the former speaker of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) and Hussein Mohamed Aideed, a former TFG deputy premier and a small group of former members of the TFP, who refer to themselves as the “independent parliamentarians.” 

The word in Mogadishu is that Eritrea is also hosting two Ethiopian dissident groups (the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Front) and two Somali renegade groups (Somali independent parliamentarians and the Islamists). 

Amid the confusion, hope now lies in the planned reconciliation conference led by an independent organising committee led by Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

At a recent gathering of civil society activists at Mogadishu’s Global Hotel, Ali Mahdi, flanked by his deputy, businessman Mohamud Jirdeh Hussein and former ambassador Abdurahman Abdi Hussein, said the differences within the Somali community should be a lot easier to resolve than those, say, in Burundi and Rwanda. 

Nearly a million people were killed in Rwanda in just 100 days while we lost a fraction of that number in over a decade and half,” he said.

The Somali reconciliation conference organising committee recently toured Rwanda, to learn from the country’s experience — especially the healing process. 

“The Rwandans have established genocide museums to keep the massacres, no matter how bitter, fresh in their memories and to serve as reminder of acts that should never be repeated,” said Mr Hussein Aideed.


Abdulkadir Khaliif Sh. Yusuf
E-mail: [email protected]

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