In Summary
  • The amiable and mild-mannered diplomat carried the grief of his baby daughter’s death all these years.
  • Mr Mohammed believes he has taken a bold step at healing and finding closure.

In Somalia, the stories that matter are those about normalisation.

For a conflict-weary nation, it is the simple human stories about the tiny tentative steps, promising a return to normalcy, that inspire people and generate mass interest.

And guess the two most popular stories that have dominated news inside Somalia in the last one month?

Certainly, not the killing of the terrorist leader, Ahmed Godane, or the takeover of the coastal town of Barawe from Al-Shabaab by Amisom, though many would admit they are of huge importance for the stability of the country.

The two most popular stories have been the launch of the first ATM in Mogadishu and the story of the Somali diplomat who met his daughter’s killer some 22 years later and forgave him.

The ATM story gained huge traction with the public because it primarily symbolised a return to normalcy.

Police had a tough time controlling a large animated crowd that had gathered at the hotel where Somalia’s first ATM began dispensing cash dollar bills to a select group of customers last week.

The other big story was triggered by a tweet from Ambassador Mohammed Ali Nur, the Somali ambassador to Kenya, some two weeks ago, in which he recounted how he had forgiven the ex-militiaman who was part of a gang that attacked his family and killed his baby daughter 22 years ago in Mogadishu.

For many Somalis, his moving account and the long journey to put closure to a painful episode in his life struck a deep cord with his compatriots, because, many, like him, are desperate to move on and “to become normal again”.

“I feel a sense of great relief in taking the step to forgive. I feel a huge burden has been lifted off my chest. It was the right thing to do for my sake and for that of my family,” the envoy told the Sunday Nation in an interview in Nairobi.

The amiable and mild-mannered diplomat, who has served as his country’s top diplomat to Kenya and the East African Community since 2007, carried the grief of his baby daughter’s death all these years.

He kept that part of his life away from prying eyes. Only a handful of his closest friends and family knew the full extent of the grief which, as he admits, “ate away at my inner core”.

As a diplomat and a representative of a country just emerging from two decades of civil conflict, Mr Mohamed had to put on a stoical face, aware he had to put his sense of grief and personal loss in the wider context of the collective national tragedy that has befallen his homeland.

“Every family has a story of loss and tragedy to tell and mine was not any different. Until now, I felt no need to talk about issues I deemed deeply personal and private,” he says.

It was in 1992, shortly after the fall of the Siad Barre regime and much of the country and the city of Mogadishu had been carved up into personal fiefdoms by warlords.

Mr Mohammed’s father Ali Nur, popularly nicknamed “Ali Americo”, was a well-known wealthy businessman who owned a chain of businesses, especially in real estate.

The young Mohammed was a manager of the family business in 1992 and because his father was old and frail, he was taking on ever more greater responsibility.

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

One morning he did what was routine — he jumped into his red Toyota car to make a quick inspection tour of some retail outlets owned by his father.

As he was driving, he remembers hearing sporadic gunfire and blasts in the direction of his home district of Abdiasis.

“I did not make much of it at first. You tend to hear these sorts of sounds in Mogadishu.”

But some doubt gnawed at him, forcing him to quickly turn back.

He noticed a huge crowd around his father’s residence in Abdiasis. When he asked what was going, he got a rude shock.

He was informed a group of gunmen had attacked the compound with hand grenades and small arms, before stripping all rooms bare of anything valuable.

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