Somalia Professionals Dreams’ Cut Short

Note: On 3 December 2009, a bombing at Shamo Hotel left senior government officials, journalists and students dead and wounded raising condemnation from certain Western countries. The author reflects on the emotional and psychological ‘fallout’, as he recalls friends who had died in that blast.

Medical, Computer Science and Engineering graduates who had hopes of serving their country was shattered moments before they were to receive their hard earned certificates by a bomb which sent them early to their graves.

A local group of international journalists wanted to air this auspicious occasion for their respective media houses, bringing the deaths of these graduates to headlines worldwide. Meanwhile, future graduates at the same institution, Banadir University reflect on their futures.

These are the many un-answered questions that are lingering in the minds of many Somali people. For the last two decades in the lawless Somalia state, everything had come to a halt, but the education system still worked amid the instability. For the last three years, several universities had been closed, but only a few lived by the dream of having an educated Somalia future.

Trying Moments

A student who underwent his education in Somalia narrates of the trying moments in his education life in the war torn country.

“At times we could lie flat on the ground or hind behind bankers. Bullets could criss-cross the school compounds like flies. It was terrible learning from there,” he told IOL at an interview in Eastleigh, Kenya where he now lives.

For many of the students in Somalia, being caught in a cross fire is not a big deal or news to them. Factions could open fire without minding the innocent students going home or attending their lecture halls.

On the fateful day, everything culminated. A man clad in women’s clothing sneaked in at Shamo Hotel, Mogadishu where the celebrations were being held. Survivors said it was fun – the final leg of the long educational journey. Statistics released reveals that 3 cabinet ministers, 3 journalists, 10 medical students and 2 parents were reported dead at the scene.

Twenty-two students, 3 parents, a cabinet minister, doctors and university officials were seriously wounded and recuperating in various hospitals. No medical student has earned a medical degree in Somalia. This was the second class to graduate after the first graduated on December 2009 after nearly 20 years. Coupled by many challenges, doctors in Somalia had in 2002 had wanted to see Somalia be self reliant in human resources, and had started the university. Their dreams were short-lived. They fell victim.

Turn of Events

“A big blast came. Smoke followed. Seconds later, the well décor-fitted Shamo Hotel was like a slaughter house: blood and flesh everywhere,” narrates a survivor from the deadly blast.

Mohamed Amin, a Radio Shabelle correspondent, and Hassan Zubeyr, Al-Arabia cameraman took their last images alive. They died on the spot. I have known the two dedicated journalists for ages: as long as my journalism career entails. We had worked together on assignments in Kenya and Somalia.

Mohamed Amin

He was only 25 years old, and among the active radio journalists in Somalia. He worked for the largest local media house in the restive capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. Joining the media industry in 2006, Mohamed started his career with Jowhar Radio based in Johwar City, 90 Kilometers North of Mogadishu. Local media houses in Somalia had hand his stint as he reported on cross-cutting issues on Somalia.

For only one year, he worked for Radio Shabelle, Mogadishu. To me, he was more than a friend: he was there to ensure objectivity, and was time conscious in news delivery and quality. Amin is the fourth Radio Shabelle journalist killed this year. Only five journalists are still working at the Shabelle media house.

Similarities

His father, commonly known as Aden was felled by a motor shell at Martini Hospital in Mogadishu during the historical Somalia-Ethiopian wars in 1997. His mother also died during a civil war that erupted in 1991 after clan warlords overthrew Siad Barre’s Administration. Mohamed had been turned into a sole bread winner by bombs and motor shells: he raised his siblings. Now they have been left with no one to take care of them. The aging grandmother has little to offer. Civil war has pulled apart a family setup.

Hassan Zubeyr

The mention of the word ‘fantastic’ in Somalia and Kenya is synonymous with journalism. This is Hassan Zubeyr. He was ‘fantastic’ and perfect in his career as a journalist, and an Al-Arabya TV cameraman. He also died in the deadly blast. I personally met Fantastic in 2001 at Radio STN. He had also served as a radio technician for a number of media houses before joining Al-Alabya as a cameraman in 2006.

His father commonly known as Zubeyr worked as a technician at a government run radio station, Radio Mogadishu. I clearly remember how he taught me camera work while together at Al-Arabya TV offices in Mogadishu. He just wanted me to learn, and keep learning. This was the message of a 31-year old father to his child. Everyone was his brother, sister, child, mother, father and others.

Shocked

His death came as a shock to all of us who knew him. Fawzia Hassan Jeilani, his mother, was shocked by the death of her son.

“I will never forget this. I pray that Allah reward him in heaven,” the sobbing Fawzia told reporters in Mogadishu after news bloke out of his death.

The death of Mohammed, and Zubeyr makes nine journalists killed in the line of duty in Somalia this year alone. National Union of Somalia Journalists secretary general Omar Faruk Osman describes the incidence as heinous act towards a free press.

“It’s hard to work under this. Whenever a media personality is killed, the nation is killed. We condemn the killings,” Omar says.

Somalia President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has since described the attack as a national disaster

Abdulkarim Jimale

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