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Inna lillahi wa inna Ileyhi raji’una (We Belong to Allah and to Him We Return), Quran 2: 156

A life dedicated to Somali Independence and Stability

Malak Mukhtar Malak Hassan, 112, passed away on Tuesday, September 4, 2012, at his residence in Baidoa, Somalia. Known as Malak of Malaks and Sultans (chief of chiefs and sultans of the Riverine clans), also the chairman of the Traditional Supreme Governing Council (TSGC) a bicameral council that was created in March 1995 as an  interim legislative body of an autonomous Inter-Riverine State. An authority on Somali customs, languages and literature. He is known as seddi-seddi (the three threes), because of his strong recollection of Somali proverbs in numeral rhythms. He is quoted as the best in his own collection of proverbs and sayings of the numeral types. He is religiously well versed hafidh al-Qur’an and  Khalif of the Qadiriyya order. Mukhtar was born in Jilibow village, 35 kilometers Southeast of Huddur, in the Bakool region (former Alta Juba), in Ehed Golool Gubay (the “Sunday” year of burning Golool trees), for it was a drought year, when Golool trees were burned for their myrrh, which was sold in markets as far as Awdheegle, Marka and Barawa in the Lower Shabelle valley. It was also the year Italian colonial troops started to penetrate the interior of Somalia.

After completing his Qur’anic studies, Mukhtar went to Madi na Jama’a, near Bur Hakaba, where he studied fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), tafsir (interpretation of the Qur’an) and Arabic. In 1927, he returned home with title maalling/sheikh (teacher/sheikh). In 1928, his father Malak Hassan “Borow” (the dark), the Malak  of Leysan died. Mukhtar automatically inherited the title and was formerly invested in the ceremonial Golool village, the traditional birthplace of the Leysan clan, and was carried shoulder high for about five kilometers, in the middle of dancing barbaar, to Sarmaan Wiing, the holy town, for the blessing of the Asharaaf (spiritual authority) of the Reewin people. There he was bathed with the sacred water from the huud (well), dressed up with a white specially locally weaved kar-Guri, ornated with specific designs tarash, specially made for the new Malak ;then sat on a gember (stool), the royal stool,  and officially proclaimed the Malak of Leysan clan.

During the Italian occupation, the young Mukhtar led resistance movement coordinated by his father Malak Hassan  “Borow” to fight against the Italians. This movement cooperated with the Banadir and Shabelle valley resistances of 1900-1923, known as the Benadir resistances.  Jilibow the headquarters of this movement is located in between the two holiest places in the Reverine land, Sarmaan Aw Umur (the headquarters of Asharasf) and Bioley the headquarters of Uwaysiyya and where the shrine of Sheikh Uways is located).  After Italy was defeated  in the World War I. the above movement was a catalyst for the foundation of al-Jam’iyyah al-Khayriyyah al-Wataniyyah (the Patriotic Benevolent Society), in 1920, a philanthropic movement which provided food  and  shelter for the victims of the occupation, educated  them, and  mobilized them against colonial occupation. Indeed this society led also the foundation of Hizbiya Dastur Mustaqil al-Somal in 1947.

During the British Military Administration of the occupied territory of Somalia, 1940-50, political parties sprung in Somalia, particularly Hizbiya Digil-Mirifle HDM, later Hizbiya Dastur Mustaqil al-Sumal HDMS (Somali Independent Constitutional party), and Somali Youth League (SYL). Malak Mukhtar was among the founders of HDM in Huddur in 1947.  In 1948, he invited Sheikh Abdullahi Bogodi the founder of Hizbiya leading a delegation of the founders to Jilibow. Malak Mukhtar used this event as the first national convention of the party and raised funds up to 100 camel (bogol dhow).

During the Italian Trusteeship period, (1950-1960), known as the Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiano della Somalia (AFIS), Malak Mukhtar was elected to Consiglio Territoriale (the territorial Council) from the district of Huddur. He introduced secular, coeducation and  nonconventional technology to his constituency, and in 1953 inaugurated the first elementary school in Korkoor village with Italian and Arabic as the medium of instruction. During the trusteeship period, Malak Mukhtar also introduced new crops and new farming techniques, such as dubiile (ox-powered plowing) which revolutionized the farming industry in the rain-fed regions of Somalia. It is noteworthy that Malak Mukhtar was very keen in community development issues where from late 1950s to mid-1960s, he spearheaded the exploration of subterranean water in his constituency for both livestock and farming. Two well pumps were completed in 1959 and 1962; one in between Korkoor and Jilibow and the other in War Harqan about 40 kilometers Northeast Baidoa.

In 1956, he was elected to the Assemblea Legislativa (Legislative Assembly), the first national executive organ in the history of Somalia. His party Hizbiya won 13 of 60 seats allotted for the whole Somalia under Italian trusteeship administration. In 1959, he was elected to the Assemblea Nazionale (National Assembly) and from 1960-1968 he served president of Hizbiya Dastur Mustaqil al-Somal HDMS, while remained a member of the National Assembly until the general elections of 1968 where the election was rigged and one party, the Somali Youth League SYL won 99.9 percent of the seats of the parliament and HDMS did not win even one single seat. Malak Mukhtar then retired from politics and went back to farming, teaching and preaching in his home village, Jilibow. In 1970, Malak Mukhtar established a congregation masjid (mosque) with an attached Qur’anic school. Jilibow became a center of learning attracting many hir (traveling students seeking knowledge far away from  home), indeed he endowed  resources (scholarships) for these types of students coming from all over the country. In 1980, a delegation composed of many Inter-Riverine Sheikhs, chiefs, sultans and elders came to Jilibow and asked  Malak Mukhtar to lead fighting against Mohamed Siad Barre’s oppressive regime. He formed a group of dignitaries, which led to the establishment of an opposition party, the Somali Democratic Movement SDM with the main goal to topple the Siad Barre regime and establish democratic governance in the Somali Republic. The SDM movement in cooperation with other Somali opposition movements were successful in accomplishing the first goal, toppling Barre’s regime in January1991, but not even close to the accomplishment of the second goal.

During the United Nations Operation in Somalia UNOSOM, from 1992 to 1995, he helped to reestablish local authorities in most of Somalia. In 1994, he toured the whole country discussing regional leaders on a compromise mechanism to bringing about peace and reestablishing the Somali state once and for good. He visited Kismayu Mogadishu, Beletweyne, Bossaso and Hargeisa negotiating with their leaders, and in February 1995 he spearheaded the formation of a Pan-Riverine government, consisting of Southwestern regions of Somalia, with headquarters in Baidoa, this form of government had two houses, the House of Representatives which had a rotating chair elected every six months, and a house of elders, called Guddiga Sare ee Malaqyada, iyo Salaadiinta (the Supreme  Traditional Council of  Chiefs and Sultans), chaired by Malak Mukhtar Malak Hassan, who also functioned as head of state. This remarkable initiative was unhappily aborted by the invasion of Mohamed Farah Aideed on 17 September 1995. Malak Mukhtar then left Baidoa and organized the Reewin Resistance Army RRA in the hinterland; a movement that eventually liberated most of the northern  part of the Inter-Riverine land in 1999.

Malak Mukhtar, is a well known Somali political and cultural figure internationally. Since the collapse of Barre regime, he travelled extensively throughout Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the United States, meeting with government officials, academicians, media outlets and public, explaining Somali cause. In 1997, he took a trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and asked Ethiopian government to support his peace initiatives. In 1999, he travelled to Rome, Italy and explained both Somalis in Italy and the Italian authority the need to rescue Somalia from the political meltdown.  Malak Mukhtar believed that Italy destroyed his country during the colonial time and during his visit did not hesitate to ask reparation for the Inter-Riverine people because of atrocities committed by Italian colonial authorities during the cologne, 1889-1941. From August-October, 1999, Malak Mukhtar wound up his trip with a visit to the United States department of State and met officials in the Bureau of African Affairs. His mission was to explain Somalia’s tragic situation  in general but to plea on behalf of the beleaguered Inter-Riverine people who have been under occupation  most of the time since the over through of Siad Barre in 1991.  Malak Mukhtar thanked US government and people for sending special forces to rescue his people, the Operation Restore Hope (ORH), and  praised President George Bush’s visit  to his home town Baidoa in 1992. “We thought there might have been some hope for Somalia in general and our region in particular in organizing local governments and civil entities that would help bring about peace; however, after withdrawal of US troops,  Baidoa and surrounding areas were reoccupied by forces of United Somali Congress USC led by Muhammad Farah Aideed, forces of the Somali Patriotic Movement SPM, led by Adan Gabiyow, and forces of the Somali National Front SNF, led Mohamed Said Morgan, causing another manmade disaster.” Malak Mukhtar expressed to the State Department. He continued to draw the attention of the US Department of State on the grim reality of Somalia and  the nature of his people: “We have undergone much occupation, and the people in our area want to be free to produce food and livestock and to raise the standard of life style and have a local voice in how to govern our own regions.”

Baidoa which was known during the Operation n Restore Hope as the ‘City of Death’ has served as the traditional center for the ‘breadbasket ‘of Somalia.  Malak Mukhtar in a public forum in Washington, DC, reminded the audience, “while people in other areas of Somalia protested UN and international efforts and  killed each other, we began the reconstruction of  a functioning regional institutions based on bottom-up approach of reconciliation.” It is a slow process, he said. “You cannot just  institute a national state after so much disparity and conflict within our own society. It is hard for traditional enemies to sit down and work out a plan for everybody.” Like other parts of Africa that have suffered from colonial and post-colonial conflicts, Somalia is no different. Partisan politics, greed, and blind clan loyalty has overcome the need for consideration of the greater good for the country.

During his visit to the US, he made presentations in public forums and universities in Baltimore, Maryland, Atlanta, Georgia, Savannah, Georgia, Salt Lake City, Utah, Logan, Utah, Alexandria, Virginia and New York City, New York. The Washington Post, New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Corriere della Sera, the Reporter, Savannah  morning News, Demenedung , and Savannah State University Journal covered extensively his international sojourns.

Malak Mukhtar, participated in all Somali regional, national and  international peace and reconciliation conferences. He played a significant role in the outcomes of the Arta, Djibouti and  Mbeghati, Kenya conferences of 2000 and 2004 respectively, and even on his death  bed, he was consulted on the current initiatives on the formation of a Legislative Assembly led by traditional elders in August 2012.

Malak Mukhtar is the second of 11 brothers and 8 sisters who all passed away. He is survived by 4 wives, Kera Alyow Haidar, 97, Isha Liban, 68, Shamsa Sheikh Ali, 80 and Malliya Mat Eden, 57. He has 16 living children, 9 sons and 7 daughters; 68 grand-children; 39 great-grand-children and 13 great-great-grandchildren. He was married 20 times, most of his wives passed away as well as many of his children, grand-children and great-great-grand children.  Some of his wives were divorced, for Malak Mukhtar, children are the bond between spouses. If there are no children, he says the spouses are “good friends.”  One African proverb goes like this: “without children you are naked.” This data does not  include grand-children, great-grand-children and great-great-grand children born or died after 2005.

Mohamed Haji Mukhtar

Savannah, Georgia, USA

September 5, 2012

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About the author


Mohamed Haji Mukhtar Professor of African and Middle Eastern History Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia, USA

1 Comment

  1. avatar Abdihalim says:

    Maashalah, what a legend

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