Saado Ali Warsame, killed in Somalia, is remembered in Minnesota
By Issa A. Mansaray
Saado Ali Warsame, was known as a singer and a community leader. Many times she expressed her misgivings about injustices and corruption with the various governments in Somalia, her native country, and she sometimes complained bitterly through her songs about the political chaos and human rights violations and the lack of development there.
When she was gunned down on Wednesday, July 23, in the streets of Mogadishu, members of the Somali community at the Cedar Riverside development organized a memorial for Warsame on July 24 to talk about her life and how she expressed the need for peace and unity in her divided country. They also remembered her contributions to their community.
Warsame came to America in the 1990s, living in Minneapolis and later moving to St. Cloud. She returned to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in 2012, where she became a member of parliament.
“I’ll describe Saado as a singer, but all [of her] songs are about the political situation in Somalia,” said Ahmed Abdi from St. Cloud. Saado, as she was known in the Somali community, was not only a singer, but a human rights advocate and a mentor. Although she later became a member of Somalia’s parliament, in the U.S. Warsame was a community leader who was always willing to help anyone in need, according to many Somalis interviewed.
“Saado was a big celebrity singer, and we’re young-generation singers. Saado was like our mum, we sang on many weddings,” says Fartun Omar Abdi, who sang with Warsame in Minneapolis. “I cannot even express how we feel. Saado was a model. I feel very sad.”
She stood for Somalia’s nationalism and as a unifying figure for Somalis at home and abroad. Many like Abdi said they can’t understand why she was killed. Though they have no clue on her last day in Somalia, Abdi said it is a failure on the part of the Somali government for not protecting her.
Warsame invited many young Somali singers to share the stage and perform frequently with her. It is unheard of in Somalia for celebrity singers to welcome young folks to sing with them.
Warsame is also remembered for her critical songs against former Somali dictator Siad Barre, who was ousted in a coup in 1991. She is remembered for her song about politicians in Land Cruisers. The song, titled in Somali as “Land Cruisers Gado Soo bari Galey,” expresses the people’s feelings against their leaders during Barre’s regime.
According to the song, the then-leaders received food donations from the international community for Somalis, but they were sold by the then-Barre administration to get money and buy expensive cars, explained Ahmed Abdi, a blogger and writer in St. Cloud who met Warsame on many occasions.
“She was arrested and fled the country. She never stopped talking about Somali issues,” said Ahmed Abdi. “She is someone who doesn’t support because of tribe, but supports someone who is good for the country. She is an advocate for the people.”
Warsame was gunned down and killed in a drive-by-shooting. Her killing was condemned worldwide, including by the U.S. State Department.
“As a singer, songwriter, poet and parliamentarian Warsame exemplified all the best qualities of Somali culture and tradition. This is a tremendous loss to the people of Somalia and to Somalis around the world,” said the State Department in a statement.
In recent weeks, the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. If the claim is valid, Warsame would be the first female lawmaker assassinated by al-Shabab. She was one of few women parliamentarians in Somalia. This year, the militant group has killed four lawmakers, thus undermining the democratic process in a country known for its political chaos.
Abdimalik Askar, Warsame’s nephew, said Somalia, which has been politically fragile and insecure for many years, has lost one of her daughters to militants. Warsame and her driver were killed in Mogadishu’s Hodan district, considered as one of the safest and most heavily secured areas, but now a constant target by al-Shabab, with close links to al-Qaida.
At her memorial, Somalis believe she was assassinated for advocating women’s rights and good governance. “The community is discussing how to continue her legacy and her work,” said Siad Ali, a Somali community activist. “She has always been a voice for people who need a voice. We truly miss her.”
Issa A. Mansaray welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.