Accessibility links

Breaking News

Somalia Suicide Attack Snuffs out Promising Political Career

The suicide bomb that killed Somalia's security minister also claimed the life of a young Somali diplomat and politician who spent much of his career trying to heal the country's wounds.

Thursday was Abdikarim Farah's 39th birthday. But as was the case all too often, he was away from his family. He was in the Somali border town of Beledweyne, a few kilometers from his birthplace, trying to persuade skeptical clan leaders to support Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's embattled government.

His wife Mariam was planning to call him with birthday wishes from Addis Ababa, neighboring Ethiopia's capital, where she stays with their one-and-a-half-year-old twins and six-month old baby.

Then the news came. A suicide bomber had killed Somalia's security minister, Omar Hashi Aden, in Beledweyne. Among the scores of victims was the former Somali ambassador to Ethiopia. It was Abdikarim.

Abdikarim Farah was Somalia's youngest ever envoy when he was appointed in 2003 to the important diplomatic post of ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union. The gifts that made him a skilled diplomat, and before that a highly successful businessman, also made him a natural as President Sheikh Sharif's envoy to the clans, whose support is essential to the survival of Somalia's fragile transitional government.

The procession of diplomatic cars to his home in the Ethiopian capital Friday was a tribute to a man U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto called one of Africa's most effective and visionary politicians. Ethiopia's deputy foreign minister, Tekeda Alemu, described him as a true Somali patriot.

"I have always known him to be a committed Somali, interested in advancing the cause of peace and national reconciliation in his country," he said. "Therefore, it's tragic and a huge loss for Somalia, the sub-region and to Africa as a whole."

The government in Mogadishu issued a statement condemning the suicide attack in Beledweyne. The statement read in part, "these bloody murderers will not succeed'."

But outside Abdikarim Farah's Addis Ababa home Friday, the Somali exiles who came to mourn said efforts at stabilizing their lawless country are complicated by 18 years of virtual anarchy that has allowed criminal business interests to thrive.

Mohamud Isse was Abdikarim Farah's cousin. They were schoolmates in Mogadishu, and partners in London where their family fled when Somalia was falling apart in 1991. He says Farah was worried by the recent arrival of foreign fighters in Somalia, who see the lawless Horn of Africa nation as a safe haven.

"Now, international crime organizations, what I call extremists, have come together, and they really want to destroy the Somali government and lead Somalia," said Isse. "And its' really worrying all East Africans, not only Somalis. What's happening now is well-organized crime from all over the world."

Isse says his cousin Abdikarim Farah's diplomatic skills allowed him to work for the administration of former Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf, and to continue serving President Sheikh Sharif, even though the two leaders represent powerful opposing clans.

One of Farah's strengths was that he was not a member of either of the country's main clans.

Isse says what motivated Farah to work for both presidents was his firm belief in the need for functioning central government in Mogadishu.

Diplomats and family friends gathered at Farah's house Friday say his death, along with that of Security Minister Hashi, are a harsh blow to their dream of a unified Somalia, but not a fatal one.