On Saturday evening, August 6, 2005, a memorial event for the fallen Somali peace activist, Mr. Abdulkadir Yahya Ali, was held at Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Over 200 guests, including family, friends, colleagues and a large number of the Somali Community in the area attended to pay tribute to one of the most respected peace advocates in Somalia. Among those present were Dr. Mohamud Abdi Nur, Yahya’s former professor, a retired world bank officer and a prominent figure of the Somali community in the Washington Metropolitan area, the former US ambassador to Somalia, his Excellency Frank Crigler, the deputy director of War torn Societies Program (WSP), Mr. David Whittlesey, former director of USAID under President Clinton’s administration, Mr. Dick McCall and many other high ranking officials representing international NGOs.

The memorial event attracted members of the Somali community from as far away as Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana and North Carolina. Among those who traveled long distances were Professor Abdi Nur, Professor Hassan Mahadalle, Engineer Ahmed Ga’al and the Arif Qassim family. They came from different backgrounds and professions, transcending regional and political affiliation, united by their grief for the slain peace activist. A sort of awakening, a new energy, rarely seen before, spurred by Yahya’s tragic death, seemed to have taken hold among the Somalis, propelling them into action to form committees and organizations to affect change in the turmoil of their country. There was a clear sense of common purpose and unity among them. Many stayed up late into the night after the event discussing ways and means to kick-start mobilizing the Somali Diaspora into action. A scholarship fund for all high learning institutions in Somalia in remembrance of Yahya and his legacy was among the proposed and discussed ideas.

Wareysi ay BBCda la yeela Jabriil Ibrahim Cabdulle oo ka tirsan hay'adda CRD ee xuska munaasabadda Cabdulqadir Yaxye Cali oo ka dhacay magaalada Wasahington

The event itself was serene and solemn befitting the celebration of a man who paid the ultimate price for an opportunity to reclaim peace and stateliness for his people. It invoked strong emotions in the audience and a deep reflection among the Somali community members present, many of whom never met the deceased but touched by his courage, vision and the sudden violent death which in the end cut his life short when most needed.

Each guest speaker lamented Yahya’s loss but also highlighted his devotion and unflinching commitment for peace and reconciliation in Somalia. Dr. Mohamud Nur spoke about an encounter with his former student in Nairobi, Kenya as a World Bank representative during the peace mediation efforts and said, “Yahya, by presenting film clips and speaking about the root causes of the civil strife and its impact on the ordinary Somali people, was the teacher this time”. And when one of the delegates learned that Dr. Nur taught Yahya, asked if Yahya was a good student. “He wouldn’t have been here, at the national peace mediation efforts, if he wasn’t” replied the Professor.

Ambassador Crigler vividly remembered interviewing Yahya, one of his employees at the US Embassy in Mogadishu, for a promotion in the diplomatic office as one of the most impressive, energetic, and enthusiastic young men he ever saw and the only Somali ever to work in the diplomatic section of the embassy. “Yahya played a major role in strengthening the friendly relationship between the US and Somalia”, said the ambassador.

Mr. Hjelt, a senior advisor of WSP and a close friend who worked with Yahya, spoke about the fallen hero’s courage and relentless pursuit to bring peace to his people. Mr. Hjelt captivated the audience by talking about a speech given by Yahya’s father at his son’s funeral in Mogadishu. Seeing the outpour of condolences and the well wishes from around the world as well as the sea of people mourning with him in the streets of Mogadishu, the father said, “ My son did not die today, he is born today”.

Jabril Abdulle, the CRD co-director, who worked with and knew Yahya more than anyone, spoke about his character, humanity and compassion. Jabril narrated about a visit he received shortly after Yahya’s death from high ranking, unemployed former military officials in the previous government. They said, “Yahya regularly contributed financially to every one of them to care for their families.” Jabril remembered no such arrangement and could only conclude that Yahya must have been generously giving these gentlemen money from his pocket so they could look after their immediate families and be around when needed in the future to serve their country.

Mr. Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed, an active member of the Somali community, read letters sent by Sadia Ali Aden and Professor Abdi Ismael Samatar. Sadia, a medical student and a true Somali patriot, touched by Yahya’s sudden and premature death, wrote, “Without Abdulqadir Yahaya, Somalia stands naked, humiliated and stripped of her dignity ”. Professor Samatar, a distinguished scholar and a true patriot who could not attend the event, sent his condolences and promised to be the first one to contribute to the Scholarship Fund, when established, on behalf of Yahya’s legacy.

Khadija Osoble, a successful business woman as well as a distinguished member of the Somali community, was still visibly distressed as she was one of the last people to see Yahya in less than a week before his assassination. She spoke about Yahya’s tireless efforts and involvement in the negotiations to remove the widely spread road-blocks around the capital city, Mogadishu. “Yahya was one of those rare, irreplaceable people in this hour of our greatest need”, said Ms. Osoble.

In closure, Yahya’s brother, Rashid, brought the audience to tears as he often choked with emotion in the middle of his statement. “Yahya saw Somalia falling apart and he tried to hold it together, he saw his country naked and shivering in the world stage among the community of nations and tried to cloth and cover her. Yahya saw brothers warring and tried to bring peace among them and he died for it”, said the brother. “Not only must we be concerned about those who so violently took his life, but we must be worried about the mentality, the way of life and the philosophy which produces those types of killers. We Somalis must take a deep look into our conscience and do a serious soul searching as to how we perceive each other and how we relate to each other, contempt and distrust simply because we happen to be of different lineages of which we have no choice in choosing”, said Rashid.

Many of the guest speakers, amongst them Jabril Abdulle, Jack Hjilt and Rashid Yahya, expressed a sense of healing and closure at the end of the memorial event to their long lapses of pain and loss. They stated, as many others in the gathering did, that Yahya’s death reaffirmed their conviction to carry on the torch and continue his legacy.

Source: CRD, Aug 09, 2005


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