Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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The Somalis are crying over their dead Shakespeare : Mohamud Abdullahi Isse Sangub (1944-2019)

By Asad Mumin

Many Somalis pay tribute to Mohamud Abdullah I Isse “Sangub”, born in 1944 in Dhagahbour in the Somali region of Ogaden, and died on 18 June in a hospital in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The man was, philosopher, poet, composer, actor, singer, director, producer, playwriter, in a one word, the father of modern Somali literature.

Mohamud Abdullah I Isse “Sangub”

With the partition of Somali territory decided by the powerful European colonizers at the end of the 19th century, his country, the Ogaden region  (also known as Somali Galbeed, Western Somali), was ceded to Ethiopia by England. Another part of Somalia, the Northern Frontier District (NFD), was also transferred to Kenya by the British. The division of the Somali people for the benefit of neighbouring countries remains to this day one of the major causes of the evil that still affects Somalis in East Africa.

Like thousands of people who could not bear the abuses committed against them in their country of origin, the philosopher’s life was marked by exile. He had fled to Mogadishu, the Somali capital. With only one idea in mind, how to make his people free.  In Somalia, he began with others, a struggle for dignity and freedom not only for the Somalis who remained under the Kenyan and Ethiopian rule, but also for all African peoples under colonization in Africa.

Sangub had a gift from God, the words, expressed in the form of concerts, poems and songs, could reach all Somalis in the Horn of Africa. His creations have been and remain the very essence of those who are still fighting for the freedom of their people. Although he was a lover of freedom and much of his poetry and songs were devoted to freedom, his composition for songs and love concerts is exceptional. The grave of love and the world is a play where people are actors (waa maadeys addunyadu dadku wuu ma talayaa), among other concerts remain the most performed and known.

The man was also a producer who helped many women and men to become singers and made a breakthrough in Somali literature.

Sangub had been very sick for the last two years. Accompanied by the Somali Minister of Aviation, he was transferred to a hospital in Addis Ababa on 18 June, on his return from a trip to the holy city of Mecca sponsored by the Somali government. Following an operation, his death was announced on the same day.  The Provence he had fled from almost 60 years ago, in which he has not set foot since, he will not return to his native country that he loved so much until he has died.

For historical and current reasons, Somalis are suspicious of Ethiopia. His death in Addis Ababa raised legitimate questions. Some argue that it is inconceivable for the man who has devoted his entire life to the struggle for freedom would have agreed to seek medical treatment in the country he considered a black colonizer and who prevented him from fulfilling his dream of independence. 

Others say that Ethiopia is no longer what it once was and that his family at home wanted to see the man very weakened by the disease come back. Whatever the explanations on both sides, the reason for the legendary man’s presence in Addis Ababa and the failure of the operation that led to his death remains unknown to the general public.

The country for which he gave his life is not yet free today. With the “reform” under way in Ethiopia, Somalis are still dominated on all aspects in their region except that since last year no one is imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit and people move freely in the region. Ethiopia finds itself a turning point, either a real democracy or sessions and chaos involving all the ethnic groups that compose this country are to be feared. 

However, it should be noted that the “reform” in Ethiopia allowed the legendary deceased to receive a national funeral in Jigjiga, capital of the Somali region in his native Ogaden region on 21 June. His family and Somali officials from Djibouti, the Federal Republic of Somalia, and the NFD paid tribute to him and his memory was saluted. His funeral brought together all Somalis from the Horn of Africa divided by the Scramble  for Africa or the civil war in Somalia.

(Allaha naxariistiisa waasica ku qaabilo)

Asad Mumin
Email:[email protected]

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Related articles
An Obituary letter to the Late Sangub By Faisal Roble


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