Somalia Lost a Career Diplomat, Veteran Politician, Prolific Writer and Pan-Somalist

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22 March, 2014 in English News by Baidoanews Webmaster
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    Somalia Lost a Career Diplomat, Veteran Politician, Prolific Writer and Pan-Somalist

    Salah Mohamed Ali (1936-2014)

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Salah Mohamed Ali (1936-2014)

Somalia Lost a Career Diplomat, Veteran Politician, Prolific Writer and Pan-Somalist

To the righteous soul will be said: "O serene soul! Return to your Lord joyful, and pleasing in His sight. Join My servants and enter My Paradise. " (Qur’an 89: 27-30).

Salah Mohamed Ali, 78, passed away on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at his residence in Mogadishu. He is commonly known as Sharif Salah, a polymath, literary critic, veteran diplomat, prolific writer and Pan-Somali nationalist. Born in Huddur, Bakool Region of Somalia where he dedicated a volume entitled: Huddur and The History of Southern Somalia (Cairo: 2005). The book in a sense is biographical; it covers indirectly early life of Salah, but most importantly chronicles the role of Huddur in shaping the history of Southern Somalia. Sharif Salah, earned the laurea baccalaureate degree in 1962 from the Universita degli Studi di Roma (la Sapienza), specializing in political sociology and economics. 


From 1963-1965, as a junior diplomat, Sharif Salah became an attaché at the Somali Embassy in Cairo; later he has been ambassador to Italy from 1978-1981, to the People’s Republic of China from 1981-1984 and to the United Kingdom from 1984-1988.  From 1971to 1974, he was president of the Somali National University (SNU), at the same period he served as president of the Guddiga Af-Somaliga (the Somali language Commission). 

From 1974 to 1976, he became Wasiirka Wasaaradda Hiddaha iyo Tacliinta Sare (Minister of Culture and Higher Education). In 1976, he was one of the founders of the Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Kacaanka Somaliyeed (the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party) and a member of its Central Committee. From 1976 to 1977, he has served as president of Hoggaanka Cilmi Barista (the Bureau of Scientific Research), and from 1977 to 1978 he became the party’s president of Hoggaanka Xiriirka Caalamiga (th Bureau of International Relation).

Sharif Salah is a prolific writer in Arabic, English, Italian and Af-Mahaa Somali. His publications include a seminal work for the study of Af-Mahaa Somali and its literature, al-Mu’jam al-Kashaf ‘An Juthur al-Lughah al-Sumaliyah bi al-"Arabiyah (A Dictionary on the Arabic Roots of the Somali Language), published in Cairo in 1996. This was preceded by an introductory volume entitled: Usul al-Lughah al-Sumaliyah bi al-‘Arabiyah, Dirasah Muqaranah, Muqaddamah (Origins of Somali language in the Arabic: A preliminary comparative study), published by Dar al-Nahdhah al-‘Arabiyah, Cairo 1994.

Sharif Salah has been a human rights activist even during the military regime of Siad Barre. He campaigned for the release of Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame ‘Hadrawi’, the prominent Somali poet and songwriter who was jailed in Qassy Dheere from 1973-1978 because of his poem Siinley and the play Tawaawac ‘Lament’. Sharif Salah was behind the release of Hadrawi in 1978. During the Civil War, he published "Madre Cuoraggio di Mogadiscio” (Mother Courage of Mogadishu), in Il Diritto del Uomo (March 1999).

  He was a campaigner for peace and reconciliation in Somalia, and in that capacity, he was elected as Chairman of Civil Society Delegate to the Peace and Reconciliation Conferences held at Eldoret, Kenya, from October 2002 to August 2004 and beyond. In 1991, he published "Il Somalo Circoloare” (an article on Somali Dialects). In 1988, he published an article on the variation of Somali language entitled: "The Unity of Somali Language Despite the Barriers of Regional Variants” in Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Somali Studies, edited by Annarita Puglieli (Rome: Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore, 1988). In 2001, Sharif Salah contributed to Demenedung, Newsletter of the Inter-Riverine Studies Association (ISA) an article entitled: "A Moment in Somali History: Education in Huddur under the British Military Administration (BMA) 1941-1950”. 

This article was published in (Special Issue, nos. 1-2, 2001).  Demenedung encouraged Sharif Salah to expand the issue and indeed, in 2005, Sharif Salah published a whole volume on the History of Huddur, entitled: Huddur and the History of Southern Somalia (Cairo: Maktabat al-Nahdah, 2005). This volume falls over five hundred pages.

Sharif Salah covered in a volume about the split of the Somali parliament into the Asmara, Eritrea Group and the Baidoa,Somalia Group. The book is entitled: Malhamah: al-Nuwab al-Ahrar al-Sumaliyin Didda al-Ihtilal al-Ethiopiyi 2006-2009 (Free MP’s against the Ethiopian Occupation 2006-2009). Although this is part of Sharif Salah’s eyewitness report on the two opposing points of views, particularly the Asmara splinter, it include deep reflections on Sharif Salah’s pan-Somali nationalism. 

He wrote also his daily observations on issues of peace and reconciliation conference in a separate volume. Thus, Sharif Salah could be an authority on the History of Somali reconciliation conferences. Sharif Salah translated into Somali Wole Soyinka’s The trials of Brother Jero and Sophocles’s Electra. He left behind a collection of primary, secondary and tersuery sources on Somalia. His library collection both in Cairo and Mogadishu include hundreds of thousands of books in different languages covering all subjects in history, literature and languages, arts, politics and natural sciences.

Mohamed Haji Mukhtar
Professor of African and Middle Eastern History
Savannah State University
Savannah, Georgia, USA
March 21, 2014



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