In 1993, as a Minister of the Republic of Somaliland, “I was given the same office that the National Security Service interrogated me in the first night I was arrested [in 1982]. What can I say? All the demons have been exorcised from my life”. So ends, in characteristic modesty and generosity of spirit, the memoirs of Mohamed Barud Ali. The memoirs titled “The Mourning Tree – An Autobiography and Prison Memoirs” were launched on 20th February – an eventful date for the author and one which has since been commemorated in the Republic of Somaliland. The memoirs which have been published as the well chosen first book in a series titled “men and women” of Somaliland, is not just the story of a man, but also reflect the tale of a nation.

Born, in British Somaliland of the 1950s, under a tree (the Mourning Tree of the title) which was steeped in clan folklore, Barud attended one of the few elementary schools in Somaliland and joined the successive generations which left nomadic life. After independence, Barud attended the prestigious Sheikh Secondary School which was still staffed by redoubtable British teachers, and then, as one of the brightest pupils, he came to the United Kingdom for university education. With a keen eye for detail, Barud narrates amusing vignettes about the inevitable but innocent culture clashes and about the invidious racism of the 1970s seaside town “skinheads” who had never faced before young Somalis jealously guarding their honour.

I can attest to the fact that the curious incident of the “black magic” (hot pepper) powder which reduced the tough Brighton “bovver boys” into sopping jellies has gone down in the annals of UK Somaliland students’ folklore!
Unlike many other Somaliland students completing their overseas studies abroad in the 1970s, Barud returned to the Somali “Democratic” Republic, as the country was known then, at the end of 1978. By then the so called “bloodless” military coup of General Siyad Barre has already shed much blood. On his return, Barud had no choice but to go to Mogadishu “because it was the only place where there was an opportunity for employment in the country”. In 1980, however, he was lucky enough to find employment in his home town, Hargeisa, and soon a new chapter of his life unfolded.

Barud and other young professionals were concerned about the dire state of the British built Hargeisa Group Hospital. With no adequate electricity supplies, relatives of expectant mothers were asked to switch on the headlights of their cars so that midwives and doctors can deliver the babies. A voluntary committee started to improve the state of the hospital and the streets and kept the local officials apprised of their work. The dictator’s extensive security apparatus could neither countenance any voluntary welfare activities that might be seen as highlighting the government’s failings nor would it allow any meetings or gatherings of such volunteers.

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The dictatorship’s idea of voluntary self help “iskaa wax u qabso” was neither organised by volunteers nor undertaken voluntarily. Barud is very characteristically modest about his role and that of his colleagues, but both the nature and symbolism of their actions to the regime, on the one side, and to the long suffering “Somalileyn” people, on the other, set in train the events that followed and are narrated in the remainder of the memoirs.

It started with a portentous nock on the door late at night in November 1981. Five fully armed National Security Service soldiers took Barud away from his home. They reassured his anxious wife “with disarming civility” that he will be back home within the hour – an hour that stretched to eight and half years! 28 other Hargeisa professionals were arrested during the ensuing months. Barud describes the torture and the inhumane treatment to which he was subjected over a period of four months. This included indiscriminate and repeated beatings, various water torture, sensual deprivation, and hunger. In their continual efforts to extract confessions, the teams of interrogators even tried to condemn Barud and the others for absurd inferences drawn for their traditional names – Barud (gunpowder in Somali); Olad (struggle); Abby (defence) and Dagal (war)! Barud retorted by pointing their other names, such as Warsame (glad tidings), Dualeh (blessed) and Madar (nourishing rain)!

On 19 February 1982, Barud was served, for the first time, with a charge sheet alleging that he committed offences under Siyad Barre’s Security Law, which were punishable by death. Barud already knew that the people accused of serious offences were executed promptly with or without short “trials” in special security courts and states that this was indeed the worst week of his life. On the following day (20th February 1982), Barud heard from his prison cell gun fire that continued spasmodically for three days. This was the regime suppressing and killing unarmed students and young people who came on the streets when they learnt that Barud and 28 other detainees were to be sentenced by the dreaded National Security Court. Young students (and others) in Hargeisa and other cities came out into streets in defiance of the might of the dictatorship, and their stones and pebbles were answered with a hail of bullets, and reportedly some artillery fire. 45 were killed and a considerable number were arrested.

The ensuing show trial of Barud and the other 28 men took only 10 hours, including a break of one hour for lunch. The lawyers brought for them from Mogadishu two days.


  1. At the end of the day, Mr. Barud survived and thrived. Somaliland has risen like a phoenix from the ashes. The Somali Democratic Republic has been consigned to the scarp heap of the world's failures.
    With each passing day the atrocities and failures of the defunct Somali state comes to light. There was nothing there. No justice, no fairness, no inclusion. Nothing.

  2. It's distasteful and ubsurd that after what we have gone through, the same people of that horrible regime are now at the helm of the power. What are we? and is there anywhere in the world that such thing has happened? OK, for the best of the country, we have agreed to give a chance the next of kin in 2002, but why we have agreed the other vultures to join? Those who [the population & fighters] saved the nation are now running away, whenever volgers look at them, scaring like a punch of hyenas who killed a prey, but chased by a strong 4X Lion. Where is the bride and sense of rejecting the "Dulli" opression, inhumane and heinous crimes? Boqoljireh

  3. This is why we will never forget… Those who had to endure torture and prison sentences, those who lost their lives, those whose only crime was asking for freedom.

    Somaliland will stand as a beacon of excellence in the future and the first thing we have to do is get rid of those who abused our trust (aka the current government).

  4. Boqoljireh and Somalilander, are you accusing a specific person in the current government of actually abusing Mr. Barud? or Is it just a generalization. Lest we forget some our most prominent politicians today have served in many governments of the defunct Somali Republic.
    This is a generational matter. This current generation leading Somaliland shall pass on, it is up to future generations to safeguard Somaliland and make sure that we don't squander our independence like we did in 1960.
    Last night, I was watching on youtube the last interview with the late President M.I. Egal. It was illuminating. I suggest you take a look at it.

  5. Mr.Kariye, I believe you know what has happened during this government's tenure and how many people are shot in chest for no reason. What is the difference between Afweyne solders who were shooting the students during the "'dhagaxtuurkii"and that of today by the order of todays government. We have not generalized, but stated the fact on the ground. ''Car juuqdheh'' is the current governments attitute and that is what Mr.Barud have experienced. With due respect, don't you see this or you are trying to instigate us to tell names to implicate us? Here we stand to say and express our opinion and clear our conscious. Boqoljireh

  6. Mr.Boqoljireh, no one is trying to stifle your freedom of expression. But, you are doing Somaliland injustice if you are comparing the regime of Siyad Barre to the current government of Somaliland. Are things perfect? far from it. But, we are all working towards it. So, always look at the cup as half full, instead of half empty.

  7. khayre,don't say this.Mr. boqoljire is not looking the glass as half empty. the reality is that the glass is completely empty and we throw the nation into the hands of ( hadhaagii afweyne). you maybe forgot that we are almost two decades free from said barre regime? where we are standing now? do we utlized the golden chance given by the failed state in the south? do our yangsters see any hope in the near future? we are in square Zeroooo. the curruption is so high and all the resourses of the nation is diverted into bribes and political campaigns.what is going in somaliland is a negative democracy turmoil that will lead to no where.
    gentleman let us change and think like human and stop living for chewing Khat.

  8. Indheer arke, you are obviously not a Somalilander, just someone pretending to be one and hoping to stir some conflict. Your mask has fallen. Muj.Boqoljireh can answer for himself. You Indheer arke, worry about Somalia and Puntland. I am saddened to see you are reduced to having to pretend that you are someone you are not and commenting on something that doesn’t concern you.

  9. Kariye,
    salan ka dib, waxa iiga kaa muuqata inaad tahay nin aan runta ogolayn.waxaad ka hadashay iyo mawduucu isma tihid somalilanderna waxay iigu muuqataa goroyaddii ciida madaxa gelisay.arrintana shakhsi ha u rogin.
    we deeply feel that we are in constructive iskana dhaaf cid jeclaysiga kana hadal halgankii Mohamed Barud iyo raggii la mid ahaa soo galeen ma u tahay jawaab xaalada maanta dadkeena iyo dalkeenu ku jiro. wixii ay ka dagaalameen muxuu ahaa? maanta dulmiga ka jira dalkeena ma la socotaa. sidee dhaqaalaha dalka loo maamulo. haddii aanay ka xumayn xilgii Afweyne kama wanaagsana.
    waxaan rajeynayaa marka danbe inaanad igu odhan waad gaalowday.

  10. Qalinka iyo Qorigaba ha loo rido kor. Waxay iila muuqataa in aynu dhamman wax wada doonayno, hase yeeshee ku kala duwannahay siday u suurogeli lahayd. Runta marka laga hadlayo Dawladda jirtaa may noqon tii lagu rayn lahaa ee aynu higsan lahayn. Kariye iyo Indheer Arkow waxa inna sugaya hawl weyn oo ay tahay in Dadka wax bedeli karaya ee Dalka jooga in aynu tusno dariiqa fiican ee wax lagu bedeli karo oo ah, inay u codeeyaan Xisbi Cusub oo aynu eegno ninka metalaa agendahiisa iyo sida uu wax u qaban doono.

    Yeynaan isku weerarina Websiteyada ee aynnu shicibkeena tusno waxa fiican.


  11. Indhdeer, gaal kugumaan sheegin..Lakiinse wakhti uma hayo qofka yidhaahda Somaliland maanta xilgii Afweyne kama wanaagsana..Hadalkaas oo kale waa been, dadkii naftooda dalka huray baad meel kaga dhacaysaa..

  12. Indhdeer, gaal kugumaan sheegin..Lakiinse wakhti uma hayo qofka yidhaahda Somaliland maanta xilgii Afweyne kama wanaagsana..Hadalkaas oo kale waa been, dadkii naftooda dalka huray baad meel kaga dhacaysaa..