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The implications of the Qalbi Dhagax tragedy

By Abdi Ali
Wednesday - January 26, 2022


The extraordinary rendition of Qalbi Dhagax shows us why Somalia is threatened less by others than by its “leaders”

One runs out of superlatives to describe the dreadful nature of what happened to Qalbi Dhagax. For many, the answer to what took place might look blindingly obvious: a noxious example of the horrifying consequences that followed when Farmaajo’s dictatorial ambition buried any sense of integrity, patriotism or indeed humanity. Many also argue it demonstrates an obvious weakening of the sanctity of life in Somalia as people’s lives are transacted in a game of quid pro quo. However, the first mistake here is to assume what happened was a one-off which would not be repeated, the other is thinking those that were instrumental in this rendition crime have learned their lessons and will find the right moral and integrity compass to do the right thing for the country. The fact is there could well be another Qalbi Dhagax moment and it could well happen to anyone.   

First, the prime minister’s decision this week to reverse the awful decision, to designate ONLF and Qalbi Dhagax as terrorists, is a laudable first step and removes an indelible stain on the conscience of the nation.  It was a belated, but nonetheless, important step in acknowledging what was done to Qalbi Dhagax was unconstitutional and a crime most heinous indeed. The next step must be to prosecute those that ordered his rendition as well as those that were complicit in it.

We know Farmaajo of course – a dictatorial fantasist who sees the country’s progress, rule of law and accountability as his downfall, thus determined to leave scorched earth. How about the others that were instrumental in sending Qalbi Dhagax to face certain death or those in government too pusillanimous to do anything about it afterwards? Not only were they allies in Farmaajo’s authoritarianism, but the burden on their conscience never troubled them even years after Qalbi Dhagax’s horrifying ordeal. They remind us of how the country has reached a point where the sanctity of a person’s life, and the fundamental convictions of humanity, decency and doing the right thing have been entirely lost.

A potent example of this is the prime minster at the time of this crime – Hassan Khaire – who now wants to be Somalia’s next president. It was he, as the prime minster, that facilitated the motion to designate millions of Somalis as terrorists in his attempt to justify this heinous crime. What Khaire did was altogether more pernicious and deeply damaging to the core values every Somali holds dear, putting a question mark on the painful struggle of our forefathers for a united Somalia. When parliament eventually voted against the government’s decision, Khaire was again key in getting rid of the speaker of parliament, turning the House into a servile institution. Indeed, not only was he the enabler in this ugly episode in the country’s history but also culpable for the underlying paralysing chaos the country is currently facing. He, and many others, are suppurating on the side-lines and oblivious to the profound damage they did to the country.

The people of Somalia have no choice over what is done to them or done in their name. However, we have a choice to be cleareyed about the dangers posed by the many dangerous charlatans and quislings in Wadani uniforms. In many ways, this is the ever more present threat facing the country. When crimes like this slide without consequences or are ignored for Qabiil expediency, the deterring effect of being held accountable is lost. It means another Qalbi Dhagax moment could well happen.

And there are those in government at the time who were deeply horrified at what they were seeing, did the right thing and never lost their moral compass. Dr Maryan Qasim was the sole dissenting voice at that fateful cabinet meeting in 2017, voting against the rendition and the designation of ONLF as a terrorist organisation. Five years later, her actions continue to resonate well beyond Somalia.

I was struck by what Dr Maryan said when she explained why she felt she had to stand up for what she believed in. Her response: “I was brought up with a strong sense of fairness and the difference between right and wrong. I could not, in all conscience, send someone to certain death, label every Somali who stood for a united Somalia as a terrorist, or countenance the thought that we were doing this to a human being, let alone one who fought for his country – the same country we call Somalia”. It beggars belief others around that cabinet table did not understand this.

Against the background of the enduring image of a blindfolded Qalbi Dhagax, dragged through the streets of Mogadishu and airlifted from his own city to face torture and death, it is people like Dr Maryan that give me, and millions of Somalis, immense pride.

Dr Maryan is an example of the sort of Somali we thought we never had. It also shows us all is not lost in Somalia.

Aloow wadankeena iyo dadkeena badbaadi

Abdi Ali
[email protected]


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