HARGEISA, 24 August 2009 (Somalilandpress) – On July 11, 2009 four prominent Somaliland citizens were kidnapped from a public highway and later on massacred in a tribal ritual. On August 6, 2009 Ali (Marshall) Gulaid died in a car accident on his way to Berbera. Ali Marshall was an economist, journalist, and leading opposition politician, in short a renaissance man who moved from USA back to his country of origin (Somaliland) to help bring about democracy, freedom, peace and stability to his people. This ugly massacre and this untimely death have brought the nation of Somaliland to its knees.
This article explores the reasons behind the massacre of 7/11. It articulates the hopes, dreams and also the nightmares of the people of Somaliland. Neither Ali Marshal nor Somaliland’s 7/11 victims will die in vain. Their blood will feed the tree of liberty and democracy. Freedom will win in spite of the forces of the extreme right of dictatorship, darkness and extremism.
I dedicate this article to the loving memory of the 4 victims of the Somaliland’s 7/11 whose murder will unite a nation to defeat lawlessness
Cali Maxamuud Nuur AKA Cali Bagaashle (Businessman) Daauud Xaashi Jaamac (Engineer) Mawliid Xasan Omar (Businessman) Cali Aw Omar Barre(Educator)
And in loving Memory of Ali Gulaid (Marshal)
His untimely sacrifice will teach the nation about sacrifice, decisiveness, discipline and commitment to the people’s cause of justice, transparency and honesty
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Midnight Forever Part I: Grief
July 12, of 2007: The words are blurry. I focus. The letters move on their own. I feel wetness on my face and on my shirt. Arrows of sorrow and pain pierce through my heart. My breathing misses a step then another. Things around me look different. Darkness closes in.
Ali Aw Omar. I remember his last words to me at the Ambassador Hotel in Hargaysa, Somaliland. “This book, my present to you, delivered me from a state of utter ignorance. I pray it does the same for you. Look here for example, read this aloud if you have not forgotten your Arabic”. He challenged in the way only an old friend can. I noticed he was talking a bit louder. I made a mental note to check his hearing later. I accepted the book with the gravity it was offered. It is a book of Hadith (oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the prophet Mohammed, upon him be peace and blessings ). playfully I declared: It is an old book, old man. And it was. Yellow with age, over used, lovingly kept. I read the passage in Arabic taking up his challenge.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Apostle said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”
July 12, 2009. Sheikh Abdullahi Sh. Ali Jowhar walked into the make shift morgue in Borama. The body parts of four men viciously murdered the day before were laid out for identification. This was no ordinary serial murder. The brutalized bodies spoke aloud of a dark tribal ritual murder ceremony only one step removed from frank cannibalism. The dead bore silent witness to the brutality of man to his brother.
There was something familiar about the head among reassembled body parts. The nose broken and twisted around before death looked both grotesque and familiar. The mouth was frozen in horror. The high forehead was serene as ever; shinning dark spot in the middle; the sign of prostration and submission to Allah (SWT) in Salaat (prayers). The marks on the torso left behind by a blunt knife stabbed and twisted around in the innards of the still living victim left no doubt about a tribal ritual signature intended for the living. The Sheikh moved on to the next body. But there was a foreboding sense, a subconscious alarm. The Sheikh looked back again. A face; a name, a pattern recognized! Ali Aw Omer. He is Ali Aw Omar; the Sheikh confirmed “Ina Lilahi wa inaa elayhi Rajucuun” (Verily, unto God do we belong and, unto Him we shall return Quran “The Lion 2:156)
2:155 (Asad) And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of [labour’s] fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity 2:156 who, when calamity befalls them, say, “Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return.” Quran “the Lion”
7/11, 2009 was a day like any other. Ali woke up fresh and immediately made a decision that will cost him his life that very night. He decided to delay his trip to Borama and to go shopping for that particular dress his daughter wanted now that he has few dollars to spare. That is all it took. But then again no one who knew Ali will be surprised that this was his last decision in this world.
I still can see in my mind’s eye Ali Aw Omar, a single father at the time, riding by me on his motorcycle with his daughter holding onto his back in the streets of Djibouti. She was the jewel of his eyes. In a world where childcare is traditionally left to women Ali will be remembered as the prototype of the emerging role of the new caring father; definitely a welcome evolution in this ultra conservative patriarchal society. He remarried and became the doting father of 7 more children. He ensured that all of his children (sons and daughters) attended school and excelled in it in spite of the modesty of his means. His oldest daughter has just joined nursing school. He inherited this deep capacity to nurture from his mother Mumina (of the Bahgobo tribe of the Jibri-Abokor people of the Isaak tribe). And he inherited the hands on attitude to parenting from his father Aw Omer Barre (of Bahabar Abdalle of the Makaahil people of the Samoroon tribe.) This was Ali Aw Omar and it is important to remember his tribal lineage because the end of his life is so intractably tied up with this prehistoric curiosity.
The delay in travel timing from Hargaysa to Borama to the evening of July 11, 2009; meant Ali Aw Omar entered the vortex of a chain of events that will lead him to the devil’s den and that will end in his torture and death that shook his nation and that may lead to its death as well.
On the road that Ali traveled later that day and unbeknownst to him, Tribal Murder Warriors gathered under dying trees surrounding by dying animals, having come from homes where the monsters of hunger and starvation hunted the weak, the young and the old. It is a particularly dry season in this semi dessert but among the warriors gathered on this particular road on this particular day there was thirst only for one thing; human blood.
“Shaitiin” (Demons) set loose from their chains in fires of hell stirred the bitterness of collective tribal memory in the cold hearts of these men, as they schemed the murder of any one from the “other group” who travelled that route on that fateful day. Yes, yes there was some dispute over a parcel of land between few neighboring families. But that was nothing more than a pretext, and a flimsy one at that. It sure was not the cause of the horror that was to unfold. It could have been anything; a dispute between a student and a teacher over grades in school, an ordinary traffic violation, a mundane crime, anything at all. The real cause is that injustice and corruption has so weakened the newly born state of Somaliland and a budding dictator has chosen solidifying his hold on power on the basis of tribal allegiances, and at the expense of law and order and good governance. In these dire circumstances the tribal monster is rearing its ugly head and getting ready to consume the nation in a frenzy of primitive tribal blood orgies of mutual self annihilation.
Part Two: The Murder
“Face Mecca and profess Islam, before I kill you”
The murderers conspiring on this desolate road carried within them the virus of Africa’s most potent evil; the Tribal Murderer. They were indeed the physical embodiment of this ugliest, most base and most inhumane manifestation of a tribal society. It is essential to elucidate here the role of tribal murderer.
The Tribal Murderer kills on behalf of his tribe. His action is both sanctioned and despised by the tribe. The contradiction inherent in this role gives it a massive destructive potency. It is essential to differentiate the role of the tribal murderer from that of the tribal warrior for there is hope in this distinction. The tribal warrior travels in the day time; he fights his wars in the battle field. He gains stature by his gallantry, his strict observation of the rules of war, his temperance and even his kindness towards non combatants. He is revered in public and loved in private by the members of his tribe. On the other hand the tribal murderer is by definition a psychopath and a vulture. He is the embodiment of cowardice. He never confronts an armed enemy. He sneaks behind the unarmed, the traveler, and the one peacefully tilling his land. Death and dismemberment is a trade he perfects and prefers. He is revered in secret, feared in secret and denounced in public by the members of his tribe. He and his progeny often become outcasts of society for which they played this dirty role as the tribal murderer succeeds in disgusting his own tribe’s men and everyone else. This is because there is something intrinsically offensive about the murder of innocent men in all human societies and the tribe even though a most primitive social organization shares in this disgust. And there is even more revulsion about torturing a human being or any sentient being to death. Yet these are the trademarks and the essential tools of the tribal murderer.
For the warriors who sat under the shade-less trees the names, the nature, the history, the personality, the holiness or lack of it of those who were to be murdered did not matter in the least. There were only few essential criteria that the victims-to-be had to satisfy 1) they should be warm blooded male homo sapiens 2) they should belong to the neighboring tribe “the other”3) They should be unarmed, unaware and vulnerable. The tribal murder warrior does not discriminate. He would accept any unarmed victim.
The act of tribal murder has to be specific, in stark contrast to the randomness of how its victim is selected. The method and mechanism of death of these random victims were meticulously and carefully planned by the tribal murderer. The death of the victim must be slow and gruesome. The body must show publicly demonstrable evidence of pain and dehumanization to teach the living “other” a lesson that “you must not mess with us”- the lions in this jungle. This explains why the body of Ali Aw Omar’s body was found in such a state of gruesome mutilation. The killing process has to showcase the “manliness” of the warrior’s tribe. In the strange world of the tribal feuds this dictum dictates the harvesting of the testicles of the victim. It is reported to me that Ali’s testicles were “taken” as he watched.
The tribal murder is the most primitive version of psych-ops. It could aptly be described as a form of psychological terrorism in a backward tribal setting. The death of “the other” in this most gruesome manner unleashes the vilest of the hidden demons in the psyche of the collective and it triggers a catastrophic chain of events that leads to genocide of a group against the other. In the dirty tribal wars that ensue there are no winners. From the times of posterity tribal wars has always been a lose-lose proposition. That is why tribal society everywhere is in decline, or has become extinct or is about to become extinct.
One must understand clearly and with no ambiguity that this whole shocking process is not personal at all. The warriors, who hunted, captured and tortured Ali Aw Omar to death had nothing against him in person. Their roads never crossed. Strangely enough the warrior appeared willing to help Ali achieve Janna (heaven) in the next world; One of the murderers is reported to have asked Ali “Face Mecca and profess Islam, before I kill you”. In the irrational and schizophrenic mind of the tribal warrior, there is no contradiction between torturing Ali Aw Omar, murdering him and “taking away his testicles” and the warrior’s firm belief that he has nothing against Ali Aw Omar the person.
This is how genocide starts and works. The human, the person, is taken out of the equation and replaced with a mental image of the horribly caricatured “other”. Later on the virus of violence spreads with hyper-inflated waves of hatred with the power of many tsunamis. Killing and torturing the dehumanized “other” become as easy as walking and talking. This is how Auschwitz and Rwanda came about. This is the explanation of the mass graves (the legacy of Siyaad Barre) that keep cropping up in Hargaysa every now and then.
And so on that fateful shocking and ugly day Ali Aw Omar and 3 of his fellow citizens were caught up in the dragnet of the tribal vengeful murdering warriors. We remember. We will not forgot. They are:
Cali Maxamuud Nuur AKA Cali bagaashle (Businessman) Daauud Xaashi Jaamac (Engineer) Mawliid Xasan cumar (Businessman) Cali Aw Cuamar Barre(Educator) They died a painful, horrifying death. I will spare you the details of their horrible death but one small fact needs to be mentioned. One man escaped the mayhem and reported on the manner of their death. In an interview with the BBC Somali services he reported of one particular exchange that he overheard and that could summarize the horror of that day. The man who escaped reported that he heard one of the victims beg for mercy “Men of Islam, my religion; kill me but shoot me with a bullet; are we not Moslems all?” The heartless leader responded with “cut out that tongue that dares to speak” and the tongue was cut off.
And there he was; butchered by evil. The light of death shining from his black eyes, a stone’s throw from Kalabaydh the small town where he grew up working in his brother tea shop. I mourn for Ali Aw Omar and I mourn for my people.
“tribal war is not about politics….. tribal warfare is about revenge. Tribes don’t fight for principles. They fight to get even.” “Tribal wars are therefore particularly and intentionally full of atrocities. Victims of tribal wars may be skinned or burned alive. Their dead bodies maybe mutilated and displayed. The aim of tribal revenge is not to achieve balance, but to attain vindication and total submission or extermination of the other. A tribe that fails the bloody test of revenge takes the risk of finding its resources, land and homes plundered, women carried off and men bullied.” July 2005 Abdishakur Jowhar’s “Essentials of Tribal Psychology
I wrote these words four year ago. I did not know then that I will witness them so vividly, so personally.
Ali Aw Omar: Memories of my Generation
July 12, 2009. I hold on to the book of Hadith. I opened the same passage again that I read with Ali Aw Omar two years before. This time my head hung low in grief, I read the passage again with eyes unseeing flooded with the gravity of the loss.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Apostle said, “Help your brother…
I knew immediately why Ali selected the particular Hadith for my attention. Lifelong bonds of friendship ensured shared experiences and shared memories. Now that he has gone, in these memories, shared no more, I exist. I must remember to pass them on, to those who will come, for to bear witness is a responsibility.
Ali and I have been together in the social justice movement in Somalia since the early seventies when we both joined forces with other members of our generation to confront the military dictator of our time Mohamed Siyad Barre. We were on the side of the progressive left of the political spectrum. Che Chevera of Cuba, Franz Fanon of Algeria, Amílcar Lopes Cabral of Guinea Bissau and Joe Slovo of South Africa were our heroes. We were the post independence generation of Africa. We were fed up with tin pot military dictators and military coup d’états that devastated the continent of Africa like pestilence and plague.
That was the turbulent seventies for my generation. We came to maturity in that decade and were immediately confronted with a nation in a crisis. We met head on a military dictatorship that was systematically destroying a nation. Ours was a political revolt, student movement, popular campaigns. We were determined to stand up to be counted. But we were crushed by the regime. To be brutally honest we failed miserably in the task we set up for ourselves. Our defeat and the victory of the short sighted selfish right set the stage for Somalia to become the prototypal land of statelessness , starving masses, well fed pirates, warlords and of course their social counterpart marauding ferocious machete wielding tribes.
Many of us ended as refugees in the four corners of the world. Few of the more dedicated, hardy, heroic types remained in the country and refused to go. Ali Aw Omar was one of the latter. He stayed with the people. He shared their lot, their wars, their peace, their hunger, their pain and their prosperity. I envied him then for his bravery. I think he knew of my envy, it was never mentioned. He was just too refined.
I sought refuge in the west and quickly got lost in its decadent capitalistic ways. I conformed to the locally prevalent creed of democracy, equality and free fair elections as the gentlest means of human progress. Ali Aw Omar having stayed home was caught up in the wave of Islamism that has swept over the new generations in Somalia. He also conformed to the locally prevailing political mood of a resurgent Islamic exuberance. He found safety in the Quran and sustenance in Hadith and Sunnah.
Ali and I witnessed the death of the ideology that dominated our childhood days as well as the death of the nation in whose bosom we grew. Like orphans in a ruthless world we had to evolve, adapt and improvise with all haste to survive. Like a football on the playground of fate, we were kicked around, cast, molded and ripened by the force of circumstances and times. At the end of it all here we were Ali, a Sheikh, and a pious man in Somaliland preaching to save my soul for the next world, I a Psychiatrist from Canada trying to understand my old friend in this present world.
By sharing with me this particular Hadith, with its beautifully written message of justice and our role in bringing it about, Ali Aw Omar peeled away the residue of time and space to reveal that we both remained true to our commitment to the timeless cause of human equality, fraternity and peace despite the differences in languages and terminologies we acquired over our lifetimes.
It is important that we draw the right conclusions from this national tragedy. What we are witnessing is not merely the murder of Ali Aw Omar, it is much broader and much deeper; it is nothing less than the last gasp of the Somaliland state which will surely collapse and die unless its heroic masses comes to its aid.
The central pillar of any society is law and order. The state has the obligation of protecting its citizens. The current administration failed the people of Somaliland. What has killed Ali Aw Omar is lawlessness, injustice, corruption, weakened judiciary and the mother of them all the muzzling of the free press. These have, unfortunately, all become the official trademark of those in power in Somaliland today.
Even worse it is clear that those who committed this most heinous act remain free and at large because the current administration of Rayaale has reached a cynical calculation that allowing the murderers to remain free is in the regime’s best political and electoral interest. What the leadership has not yet grasped is this: every single day these criminals remain free, rubbing their dirty nose on the face of the national psyche, bears witness to the moral bankruptcy and practical impotence of the regime. Every single day the murderers so openly challenge the state and get away with it constitutes one more nail in the coffin of Rayaale’s administration. It is time to change course, time to dismantle the politics of divide and rule, time to come together and find justice for Ali Aw Omar and for Somaliland.
But there is urgency in the matter, in these most dreadful of times. And I must now address those in my tribe who has become possessed by the demons of vengeance, who dream of basking in its blooded glory, I say to you give me few moments of your precious time, for I too belong to the tribe and I too feel the pain.
Part III: the conclusion is coming ……………….
Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar