Saado Ali Warsame's Murder: A tipping point for Somalia
by Ali H. Abdulla
Saado stood up to tyranny, corruption, injustice and nepotism during Siad Barre's military regime with songs and poetry. Her famous “Land Cruiser“ song ridiculed the military junta for exchanging donated maize begged from the west for luxurious and expensive land cruisers. In a Play attended by the top brass of the regime, including the late Siyad Barre, she dared address the strong man directly by calling his attention to the pathetic and dilapidated situation of Somalia’s infrastructure and tourist attractions.
She targeted the clan warlords and ridiculed them for failing to pick up the pieces after they brought down the government. Instead of forming a broad-based and representative government, they turned against each other, raped, looted, killed and destroyed the basic infrastructure of Somalia. She blasted them with her now famous song: “Let us go our separate ways if you won't take the lead or won't give me the chance to lead”. It seems that this song is still applicable even after an internationally recognized government took over in Mogadishu. Federal MPs in Mogadishu have more loyalty to their clans rather than to the Federal government as evidenced by the recent mass exodus of the Federal MPs from Puntland who evacuated Mogadishu en-masse after the recent P/L fallout with the Federal Government over including Mudug in a new Federal State. It is a never ending cycle of zero-sum games that will lead Somalia nowhere.
Saado stood up against separatism and division with her rousing song “Las Anod: you will always be part of the union no matter what”, a song that inspired unionists in the former British Somaliland to refuse letting go of the blue Somali flag that symbolizes Somali Unity in the Horn of Africa. Read my article, “Saado sings for Las Anod” about this song when it was first released by Saado four years ago.
One of her latest songs “Somaali ha laisla doono - Let us unite Somalis” urges all Somalis in the Horn of Africa to unite and become one nation, one people under God. With this song, she tried to rekindle Somali Nationalism which waned after the destructive civil war.
She recently sang against the displacement of unarmed groups in the South by clan militia from Central Somalia which she accused of being indirectly associated with the Somali government that supposedly supports and arms them with the latest weapons.
Although the Shabab claimed responsibility for her brutal and senseless murder, the jury is still out as to the identity of the real culprit. The Shabab are not known for murdering women in cold blood except in proven cases of adultery. Saado never targeted them directly in any of her songs. Being an MP who roamed Mogadishu freely without an armed escort shows that she never feared for her life from the Shabab who vowed to kill all Somali MPs. Somehow, she believed that the Shabab edict to murder Somali MPs did not apply to her, being a “Bir ma Gaydo”, a woman.
Somalis include women, old men and poets in a category known as 'Bir ma Gaydo”: those who should not come to harm in times of conflict. Saado should have been the first on the list. Alas, those who killed her have no respect for any norms. They can be compared to the fascist collaborators who murdered Hawa Tako in Mogadishu during the struggle for freedom from fascist Italy. They can also be compared to those who dismantled the statue of Haawa Tako after the collapse of the Somali government.
Saado's murder was against all human norms. She was a poet. She was a lady. She was a lawmaker. She was a beacon of hope for the trampled rights of women in Somalia. She was a patriot who wanted her people to unite and live in dignity. She gave a voice to the voiceless. She had a message for all Somalis. She had the courage to deliver her message eloquently through her music and powerful lyrics.
The so-called government in Mogadishu should not be trusted with the role of finding those who snuffed her life before realizing her vision for a United Somalia. There is a need for a credible and independent tribunal for probing such a heinous crime against a harmless lady whose only weapon was her powerful voice.
The brutal murder of Saado should become the tipping point for Somalia. Her loss should help its people realize their failure to come to grips with the miserable and dangerous state of things in their country. Her loss and the loss of many others like her should push sensible Somalis towards a new era of peace and stability. It is obvious that clan-based politics constitute the major obstacle that prevents Somalis from reclaiming their country from extremists, secessionists and merchants of death who want to perpetuate the status quo. Her murder should spur Somali nationalists towards throwing the shackles of clan-based politics that has so far prevented them from reaching their potential as a dynamic people in the Horn of Africa.
In order to reform Somalia’s clan-based system, it might be worthwhile to emulate Professor Samatar who recently switched his clan of birth to that of another clan. Switching clans may help Somalis in decoupling their clan associations from their divisive clan politics and thus replace the current destructive clan system with one that values noble actions such as generosity, hospitality, fairness, chivalry and patriotism. This will allow Somalis to abandon clans that thrive on conflict and mayhem and join clans that demonstrate real nobility through their noble actions. Professor Samatar’s initiative is not new in Somalia. Somali History is filled with similar incidents.
Finally, may the Almighty Lord have mercy on Saado’s soul and forgive her for any trespasses. And may those cowards who riddled her fragile body with bullets be found and brought to justice.