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Mohamed Sheikh Osman “Edmondo”, a short profile
by  M. Trunji
Monday January 2, 2023

Mohamed Scek Osman Haile (1913 - 1958)

This is not a biography of Mohamed Sheikh Osman Haile, “Edmondo”; it is rather a short profile of a man, a politician whose name came into a conspicuous position in the Somali political arena immediately after the end of the WWII. Mohamed “Edmondo” (and not “Il Mundo” as he was erroneously referred to), was born in a village in the outskirts of Mogadiscio in 1913. Orphaned at the age of 10, he came to Mogadiscio to live with an aunt who sadly died shortly after. He was then admitted to the boarding school of the Consolata of Beit-Er Ras Catholic Mission where the young Mohamed Sheikh Osman attended elementary school with success.

In 1932 he was employed by the then Royal Government of Somalia, serving as a clerk in the administration of the Railways. Subsequently, he was transferred, always as an employee, at the central government, then, over the years, in various other duty stations including Mustahil, Brava and Merca. Finally, becoming consular employee, he went to serve at the Consulate General of Italy in Bombay (India) and then in Aden (Yemen) at that Consulate. In 1939 he returned to his country to be sent to the Commissariat of Upper Shebeli (Alto Scebeli).

With the British occupation of Somalia, he resigned from the government service and devoted himself to his own small commercial activities and actively entered political life.
His political views evolved over time: In 1946 he became member of the Somali Youth Club becoming Secretary of the Belet Uen section. In 1947 he resigned from the League and joined the African Union of Somalia party, becoming its President. In 1956 he transformed this party into the "Somali Democratic Party" of which he was the leader. In 1958 he had rejoined the Somali Youth League.

With the return of Italy in 1950, as administering authority, in whose hands the United Nations entrusted responsibility for preparing the Somalis for self- government within the short span of one decade, Mohamed Sheikh Osman was appointed in 3 successive terms as Territorial Councilor until its dissolution in 1956. He Represented Somalia several times at the Trusteeship Council and at the General Assembly of the United Nations, always on behalf of Somalia (Il Corriere della Somalia 20 June, 1958)

Mohamed Sheikh Osman escapes attempted murder

The first years of the trusteeship period were characterized by intense political tension between the new Italian administration and the major political party of the territory, the SYL. The difficulties between the two parties were further exacerbated by the backing the so called “Pro-Italia” parties were receiving from the Administering Authority. Against this backdrop, on the night of 6 March 1952, the Territorial Councilor, Mohamed Sheikh Osman, under the cover of darkness, was accosted by 4 men. While one was talking to him, another shot at him with a pistol and hit him on the leg and the head. Luckily the Councilor escaped without serious injuries.

The Police launched a vast security operation to capture the perpetrators of the heinous crime. British sources in Mogadiscio speak of some 700 persons rounded up by the police in connection with the aborted assassination. While the figure reflected in the British report (TNA FO 371/96646, March 27, 1952) sounds grossly exaggerated, it is nevertheless believed that a score of persons were rounded up in Mogadiscio. Many were arrested for questioning and released next day, while others, especially vagabonds, were deported to there ethnic home land. The Councilor had no doubt that his assailants were a gang of ruffians linked to the Lega dei Giovani Somali and wearing the party’s badge. The Lega, however, distanced itself from the crime, which their leadership deplored though it was widely believed that the attempted murder was their work.

Mohamed Sheikh Osman and the Greater Somalia issue

The Italian administration, alerted by the landslide victory of the Lega in the first municipal elections held in 1954, and by the poor performance of the small parties backed by the Administration itself, encouraged the small parties to merge into one party with some policy behind it, which could stand on its own feet and compete with the Lega in future political elections. The Administration was mainly worried about the prospect of leaving behind one party-system after independence.  

As a result of this pressure, a new political party was created in 1956 under the denomination of “Partito Democratico Somalo” (Somali Democratic Party) uniting the small parties collectively known as the Conferenza. The new party was led by Abdullahi Haji Mohamoud “Insania”, other office holders included: Mohamed Moussa Farah (Vice President), Mohamed Sheikh Osman “Edmondo” (Secretary General) and Haji Yahia Mohamed (Treasurer) (TNA FO 371/10810, July 26, 1958, 1954).The party advocated gradual abolition of the traditional social system, through gradual economic, social and political reform, a unitary republican form of government with a decentralized administration (Article 5, Somali Democratic Party Statute)

As a politician, Mohamed Sheikh Osman has always, in a coherent and efficient manner, endorsed the policy advocating the return to Somalia of all Somali-speaking territories subject to other countries. There are two memorable speeches made by him, in two different occasions, in support of the Greater Somalia scheme.

(1) Speaking at a reception hosted by the newly appointed Administrator for Somalia, Ambassador Giovanni Fornani, Councilor Mohamed Sheikh Osman had this to say with regard to the Ethiopian-Somali frontier dispute: “The problem which at present worries us is that concerning the boundary delimitations with Ethiopia, a problem that we would like to see settled in such a manner that our fallings and the material necessities of our people are not and should not trampled on to the extent of undermining our legitimate rights and interests” (Il Corriere della Somalia, 17 Aprile , 1950).

(2) Again, on 4 October, 1951, during the opening of the third session of the Territorial Council in Mogadiscio, Councilor Mohamed Sheikh Osman brought to the attention of Enrique De Marchena (Domenican Republic), Head of the UN visiting mission, the question of the provisional border with Ethiopia and the economic hardship Somalia would suffer from losing those territories. He said: “I must hasten to declare that, no Somali has ever abandoned the Greater Somalia project. In fact, we placed a reservation on the matter at Lake Success during the discussions on the future of Somalia. Nevertheless, before the transfer of power from Britain to Italy, the borders changed three times, none of it done on ethnic or logical basis. These changes of borders did not receive our consent and, despite our repeated protests, borderlines continued to be changed and drawn” adding that “the areas now detached from Somalia proper, are areas rich in agriculture and livestock, and most likely, in mineral resources. (Afis, Bollettino mensile, Novembre 1951, p, 7)

The Somali Democratic Party fared badly in the first political elections of 1956, securing only 3 seats nationwide. He was elected Deputy in the constituency of El Bur for the Somali Democratic Party. The Legislative Assembly, since its establishment, appointed him as its Secretary.

He was an able and articulate speaker, displaying determination as well as powerful knowledge when debating on the merits of questions discussed in the Parliament. The obituary page of “Il Corriere della Somalia” newspaper published the following eulogy to the late MP. : “Territorial Councilor, first, and Deputy of the Legislative Assembly, later, Mohamed Scek Osman always gave the debates a high tone with interventions that, even if sometimes contained a touch of controversy, a particular that denotes even more how passionate and disinterested his work was, were always marked by a spirit of acute observations and a profound knowledge of the subject under discussion”. (Il Corriere della Somalia 19, June, 1958)
Mohamed Sheikh Osman Haile’s life was cut short after long illness on 18 June, 1958, before completing his first term of office as elected Member of Parliament, and less than two years before the independence, an event he cherished for so long. His body rests in Sheikh Mukhtar Sheikh Mohamed Ali Maye’s Mosque in Wardigley, Mogadiscio.

M. Trunji
E-mail: [email protected]


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