By Faisal A. Roble
Death has no boundaries, and when it strikes, it does so with venom inflicting you with deep wounds. The deaths of two relatives and friends, the late Hassan Abdirahman Haji Hassan and Ambassador Abdullahi Said Osman were such a blow. Hassan and Ambassador Osman were from the same family, and their death one week apart (January 21th and 27th 2016, respectively) represents an irreparable loss to their families and friends.
Born to a prominent and iconic family, Hassan and Ambassador Osman were raised in Barbara. Their great-grandfather, Sheikh Yusuf Mama, was the grand mufti of the Mosque of Barbara in the early 1900s. A mainstay since Sayyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan challenged the Britons on his arrival at the port of Berbera, Sheikh Yusuf Mama’s Mosque played a central role in the upbringing of thousands of cosmopolitan Somalis who took Berbera as their home.
Both Hassan and and Ambassador Osman received their early religious and modern scholarship inside the walls of the Mosque. In the end, the two, nephew (Hassan) and uncle (Ambassador Osman) took separate routes in their professional lives, but still entwined by a common thread of an unyielding commitment to public service. Hassan became an educator and a warrior for the long saga and the liberation of Western Somalis. On the other hand, Ambassador Osman became one of Somalia’s finest legal minds and a rare breed of African diplomats that came of age following the decolonization of the continent (please see Ismail Ali’s article on Ambassador Osman’s life and work history).
Hassan was a friend indeed. Born in Jigjiga in 1951 and reared in Barbara where he finished his primary education, onto sheikh Intermediate School, he completed his secondary education at Farah Omer Secondary. He also received his BA in Social Science from Lafoole. Between 1973 and 1977, he taught history at 26 June Secondary School in Hargaisa. However, at the wake of the Ethio-Somali war in 1977, he exchanged his teaching job for a non-paying revolutionary commitment and as such joined the then blooming Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF), where he became a member of its central committee.
Among many other things, Hassan is remembered as the first WSLF official to announce the use of Napalm bomb by Ethiopians against the Somali civilians in Qoraxay, Dhanaan, Garloogubay and other locations. Through a significant personal sacrifice, he is also credited to be one of the founders of the current fledgling Somali Region (Kilil 5, Dawlad Deegaanka Soomaalida).
Mainly because of his familial connections, Hassan evolved as an avowed student of both written and oral Somali history. He was the great grandson of Sheikh Yusuf Mama who was the grand Mufti of Barbara’s Grand Mosque; the grand child of Suldan Hashi Elmi Du’ale; and a great grandnephew of Garad Wiil-waal. Both in flesh and in blood, Hassan was an embodiment of a long line of Somali history and cultural connectivity. Because of such an embodiment of the Somali being, Hassan was a glue that held the societal relationship between the residents of the Somali Region( Kilili 5) and Somaliland.
At the wake of the Somali civil war, Hassan, with hundreds of thousands of civilians, fled to Jigjiga. Coming to a familiar land where both sides of his family had roots, he readily took a leadership role in an emergent movement to reorganize the defunct WSLF and unite it with a nascent Ogaden National Liberation Front. In 1991, Somalis all hues gathered in Goday to forge a united front. For days, the delegates fought over what banner (ONLF or WSLF) to take prior to departing for Addis Ababa. Hassan was instrumental in coming up with a proposal to unite the two sides so as to negotiate the victorious EPRDF.
I can’t help but remunerate three qualities that are unique to the few of us. Hassan was one such a person endowed with magnanimity and benevolence, bravery, and piety. One gets these qualities either through a well-orchestrated upbringing environment, or by virtue of God’s gift. Hassan was given all those attributes because of both factors. Just listen to this special segment of CableNewes TV and you will get the picture.
Hassan repeatedly showed magnanimity. In one fateful December day in June 1976, I found myself in the streets of Hargaisa, not sure where I would sleep when the sun sets, and scared of the security forces that were searching for me for I was an escapee from a tortures WSLF camp in Qabribaxar, located in Lughaya, one of Somalia’s scorching deserts. Right in front of the Oriental Hotel, I met Hassan and 5 other friends. All were graduates of Lafoole; they were leisurely strolling in the middle of the street. I suspect they were on their way to lunch and to a qat session thereafter. Of the five, I only knew Mohamed Sanyare, whose love letters from Lafoole to his wife in Jigjiga I used to read and translate.
With weary eyes, I greeted them, of course unsure how they will receive me. Unexpectedly, a slender, ultra-light skinned man immediately got interested in what I was saying and asked Mohamed Sanyare,
Who I was?
“Waa Ina Cabdi Rooble”, the son of Abdi Roble, answered Mohamed Sanyare.
In his own uniquely slow and elastic voice, stressing every syllable, Hassan retorted:
“Ahay ah, waryaada, war ma Ina Cabdi Rooble sidan ugu cadiban Hargaysa oo tolkiis ka buuxo,” (why is the son of Abdi Roble suffering this way in Hargaisa with all his relatives in town).
He then turned to Ina Sanyare and asked: “War Ina Sanyarow adigaa xaas magaalada kuu joogaa ee Faysal kexee oo halkaa sadexda wakhti ha kula cuno inta wax sugan aanu u diyaarinayno.” (Can you help Faisal with a shelter and food untile things straighten up)
Thanks to Hassan’s heightened awareness of my needs at the time, Sanyare accepted the proposal, and since then I received generous accommodations and meals from the family of Ina Sanyare.
Another magnanimous deed of Hassan’s lies with what he did for my late father. While he was a minster in the Somali regional government, three Issa traders were arrested, and their commodities confiscated by Ethiopian field forces – fadnodharash – under the pretext of contraband. By using his ministerial portfolio, Hassan helped them get released and repossess their commodities. Years after, upon hearing that this time Hassan was the one in jail, the three traders brought a hefty gift of cash as a token for his good past deeds; they gave him 30,000 bir, a good junk of money in 2003. Upon receiving the money while still in jail, he called his wife and asked her to split the money in three ways; 10K bir to his wife, 10k bir to his mom, and the remaining 10k bir to my dad, Abdi Roble.
Why such a huge share to Abdi Roble was what many close kin of his asked, since some of his immediate family members needed the money. Hassan replied this: first of all, Abdi Roble is geesi Soomaalinimadu ku dheer tahay oo xushmo mudan, (He is a patriotic Somali brave man), and 2, he is Faisal’s father.” With that he sent the 10K bir to my father who himself came out of a long incarceration just days before.
I can never do justice to express how much I am indebted to Hassan. But a simple token of respect that I showed him also happened in 2003, when I last visited my dad before his death. As soon as I arrived in Jigjiga (About midday), I visited Hassan in his jail cell. Proud and unintimidated, he hollered for a couple of the guards and asked me if I have any bir (Ethiopian currency) on me. I said yes, “About 1,000 bir. “Keen” (give it to me), he said. Right in front of my eyes, he gave the money to the guards and said: “these are our heroes doing their job the best way they know it.”
Afterwards, the commander and many prisoners in jail equally recognized me. The commander decided on the spot to furlough Hassan on his recognition so he can spend the entire afternoon with me as long as he returns back at dusk. Next day, the President of the region, Abdirashid Duulane, who issued the order to incarcerate Hassan a year ago, honorably respected my request and furloughed him any day and any afternoon I requested. Despite he was in jail, I had ample time to chat with him for about three weeks. I have not seen him since then.
He was also brave, and never wavered from telling truth as he saw it. He is quoted calling some former TPLF functionary, Gebre-wahid “colonial viceroy.” Gebre-wahid was notorious for intervening in the affairs of the region in violation of the federalist rights of the Somali region; sometimes the region’s budget used to be transferred somewhere else, a practice which the current President Abdi Mahamud stopped. Hassan and his friends helped the region to stand up to bullies from Addis Ababa.
Piety was also one of Hassan’s endearing qualities. I am always reminded of Hassan’s piety when I listen to the debate between the late Gariye and Abdullahi Diiriye on the ownership of “Miisaanka Maansada.” In this passionate debate of Gariye vs. Diriye, Geriye mentions two persons as his ultimate witnesses. The late Hassan Abdirahman, who was incidentally the older brother of the team that runs WardheerNews, is mentioned as Gariye’s witness. I guess Gariya, one of Somalia’s preeminent poets trusted his great and longtime friend to be his witness to his legacy in “Miisaanka Maansada.”
Hassan has also been a role model for seven young siblings, who today make one of the most educated families in the Somalis society with majority of them being graduate degree holders and a Medical doctor who is one the leading Liver Disease /Transplant Doctors in the United States, Dr. Mohamed Abdirahman of Minnesota University Hospital. I will gravely miss Hassan and his magnanimity, bravery and judicious piety that he was known for.
Rest in Peace Brother.
Faisal Roble is a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.
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