Remembering Abdirahman Osman: Reformer and Friend

People close to Mogadishu’s slain mayor said he never complained about the huge burden of getting the city back on its feet.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 25, 2013 and released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team, Abdirahman Omar Osman, spokesperson of the President of Somalia addresses the Somali media during a visit by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC), on it’s first visit to the Somali capital Mogadishu, with the President of Somalia. – The mayor of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has died of wounds sustained in a militant bombing attack on his office last month, the government said on August 1, 2019. Osman died while doctors were treating his wounds at a hospital in Doha, a spokesman for the Somali president’s office said. (Photo by STUART PRICE / AU-UN IST PHOTO / AFP)

Abdirahman left his family in London to answer the call to rebuild Somalia several years ago. He did so at great personal risk and in spite of the fact that he was leaving a comfortable life and a good job to take on a position in Mogadishu with no salary and immense danger.

He told me that he did so because he believed that there was hope for Somalia, that there was work to be done and that the biggest chunk of that work had to be done by Somalis themselves.

Everyone knew Abdirahman by his nickname, Engineer Yarisow. In Somalia, virtually everyone has a nickname; it’s an affectionate way that Somalis relate to each other. Never mind the nicknames can be as rude as they are hilarious: they are often based on one’s physical shortcomings. If you have a big nose, for instance, your nickname in Somalia will likely be ‘fat nose’ or something along those lines.

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Abdirahman was a great man of summary stature, his nickname, therefore, was naturally ‘short man’ – Yarisow. He was an important man whose door was always open to those who came looking for him, particularly those in the media industry. He was kind, committed and deeply respectful to everyone. He was our friend.

We last met while he was still the Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism. We had coffee in his office and we talked about the editorial I penned on his behalf for the EU-AMISOM Special Edition Magazine. We joked about having arosto at a Somali restaurant in Harrow, near where his family lived and where I had some relatives.

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He went on to become the Mayor of Mogadishu and the Governor of the Banadiir region. It was in this capacity that he breathed his last, having been targeted by religious extremists. Eng Yarisow always knew that the rebuilding of Somalia would require sacrifice and would come at great cost to many. He knew that the toll for a new Somalia would be high. He has paid it at the highest price: with his life.

Rest well aboowe. Your work and your name is indelibly carved in the hearts of your people, your family, friends, colleagues and all who knew you. May Allah grant you the highest place in Janna. Amin.

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