Politician’s Death Brings Somalia’s Violence Close to Home

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Somali security forces guard Central Hotel in the capital Mogadishu last week. Abdishakur Mire was one of at least 10 people who died in an attack on the hotel, which had been considered a haven from the country’s violence. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS
Somali security forces guard Central Hotel in the capital Mogadishu last week. Abdishakur Mire was one of at least 10 people who died in an attack on the hotel, which had been considered a haven from the country’s violence. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS
Somali security forces guard Central Hotel in the capital Mogadishu last week. Abdishakur Mire was one of at least 10 people who died in an attack on the hotel, which had been considered a haven from the country’s violence. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

Abdishakur Mire spent years working as a journalist in Somalia before he decided it had become too dangerous and went into government. That turned out to be a fatal decision.

On Friday, al-Shabaab militants used a car bomb to blast into Central Hotel then opened fire on a group of top politicians, killing at least 10 people. Mr. Mire, who was 52 years old, was among those who died.

The Mogadishu hotel had high walls around the compound, an electric fence and armed guards. In one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Central Hotel was one of the few places where Mr. Mire, like other Somali reporters and officials, felt safe.

Mr. Mire, a colleague of mine for years whom I met when taking a job at his newspaper Ilyes, knew what it was like to feel targeted. In 2003, he wrote a book on the rise of Islamist movements in the country. The book became a bestseller, but it meant he received threats from people who said he was against Islam. He founded a newspaper in the semi-autonomous Puntland region that called out government officials for corruption. That made him a lot of enemies, too.

By 2009, he had had enough and became the deputy information minister for Puntland, then later information minister before leaving the post in 2012. As a government official he thought he could make change from the inside. The last time I saw him—in December—he told me he was planning to launch an opposition party.

His heart always seemed to be in his former profession, however. “If I thought it would be safe to work as a journalist, I would not have left,” he told me.

As a journalist and contributor to The Wall Street Journal, I have also received threats and have recently fled to Nairobi after my car was shot at. I find his death doubly saddening. I have lost a friend. I have also shed any lingering illusions that journalistic independence somehow shields us from our country’s violence. We all want to make a difference, but doing so means risking our lives.

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists, the past three years have been the most deadly in the country for reporters. In 2012, 18 journalists were killed carrying out their duties and a further seven died in both 2013 and 2014. Right now, five Somali reporters are in the hospital after being shot in various attacks.

Mr. Mire felt safer as a government official than he did as a journalist. He told me he didn’t think terrorists would go after someone like him. He thought that if he was killed it would be because of clan-related disputes, which often turn violent in Somalia. Mr. Mire tried to balance a desire for change with a need for safety but didn’t use armed bodyguards as some officials did.

The former Somali journalist tried every way he could think of to improve our country. And he was killed for it.

By: ABDALLE AHMED MUMIN

NOTE: The author is a freelance journalist and contributor to The Wall Street Journal who met Abdishakur Mire when working on his newspaper, Ilyes.

Source: WSJ

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