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Biography of Yusuf Haji Adan

Apr 08 2005 Our father, the late Yusuf H. Adan, was a national icon who cut his image as an educator, artist and a visionary freedom fighter, truly a beacon of the Somali Nation. Survived by ten sons, six daughters, forty grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, his was a life crammed with fascinating achievements although this had not gone into his head. On the contrary, humility and simplicity always remained his forte.

During our childhood in Hargeisa, it was not possible for us to contemplate the intricacies of the day-to-day life of that man who, together with mom, was the centre of our little, simple world. But, as we grew up, we became steadily intrigued in his endeavours.

As an educator, he was a disciplinarian and adapt organizer. At the same time, the artist in him was often pushed to the surface by his soft side that oozed out while he played with us – his children. Add this to the fact that although he had taken numerous risks in his political and professional activities, the wellbeing of the family always remained uppermost.

The man, whose devotion to his inclinations and responsibilities knew no bounds, was born in 1914 in the Hargeisa neighbourhood of Jamo-weyn. Hargeisa was known then as Herer from which he drew his alias “Yusuf-Herer.” By age 10, he completed his Quranic studies in 1924. Subsequently, he proceeded to the countryside in a bid to be steeped in nomadic culture and get good command of both the Somali language and literature – a fact that gave him the tools for turning out an accomplished poet.

In 1928, he was off to Sudan for formal education which was unavailable in British Somaliland Protectorate at the time. But, it took a decade before he emerged the only one among a bunch of compatriot students in Sudan to readily throw his weight behind the late Mohamoud Ahmed Ali’s drive to extend formal education to the protectorate. Thus, he attended a teacher’s training college after graduating from high school, coming back to Hargeisa in 1939, fully prepared for his role as a future educator-cum-co-founder of a system that would prove the spring-well of a nation thirsty for formal education. And in 1940, our father kick-started his teaching career, joining Mr. Ali as the only other teacher at the just established Berbera elementary school.

A year later, however, their ambitious plan to entrench the system they strove for had a setback. Dislodging briefly Britain out of the protectorate, Italy destroyed the Berbera school, the only institution of its kind in the protectorate. With the return of the British rule, Our father was transferred to the District Commissioner’s office in Hargeisa. But, no sooner had the new situation materialized than the duo opened Sheikh Bashir Elementary School in Hargeisa, the first center for formal learning planned and established by Somali educators. Civil servants at the time, both of them devoted their spare time to running the school, which they financed with their meagre salaries. The first lot of their students includes:

Dr. Ali Sh. Ibrahim, the first medically-trained doctor from Somaliland the first enrolled student of the new school. The late Ambassador Mohamed Hashi Abdi, the late Abdirahman Ahmed Ali, the First President of Somaliland, the late Mohamed H. Ibrahim Egal, the Second President of Somaliland, the late Suudi H. Adan, a teacher prior to his premature death in the 1958, and father’s younger sibling.

Our father’s political life took shape in the 40s. As he was still a student in Sudan in the 1930s, he had exposure to the anti-colonial revolutionary spirit of Almahdi whose long-drawn-out struggle took the British to task in Sudan before being defeated. So, with the germ of nationalism already in his blood by the time he came back to Somaliland in late1939, his determination to establish a political movement to rid Somaliland of colonialism was strong.

In 1943 he founded the first political organization, Somali National Society (SNS), in Somaliland. His pivotal supporters in this endeavour were: the late Yusuf Meygag Samater, the late Mohamoud Jama Urdoh, the late Mohamed Osman Fod and the late Abdulqadir Suldan Abdullahi, (who eventually replaced his elder brother, Suldan Rashiid) The SNS, however, was banned in 1945, being re-established on January 1st , 1946 in Burao before morphing into a political party called Somali National League (SNL) in 1952, which, eight years later, together with other political groups like the United Somali Party and the National United Front, enable Somaliland to wave bye to more than seven decades of colonial rule.

Thanks to his indefatigable political activism during that crucial period, the colonial government forcibly exiled our father to England in the same year as the SNL was born. Much to the chagrin of his tormentors, the move proved to be a blessing in disguise since it gave him to chance to further his education at Exeter University in the U.K.

With the advent of independence and unity between the protectorate and the former Italian Somalia, in July 1960, he opened the first Somali Embassy in the Arab World in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, as the Charger De Affaires. During his four-year sojourn in Cairo as a senior Somali diplomat, he continued his ceaseless struggle for educating more Somalis. Hence, he managed to create thousands of scholarships for Somali students from every corner in the Horn of Africa.

Other positions he held in the post-independence era include:
· 1964- 1970 the political councillor in the Somali Embassy in Khartoum
· 1972 the founder of the first Somali National Folklore Dancers to retain the cultural values
· 1972- 1977 Director of Heritage & Culture of the Ministry of Information & National Guidance in Mogadisho, Somalia
· 1978-1980 Advisor in the Academy of Arts in Mogadisho
· 1980-1984 Regional Director of the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education in Hargeisa
· 1988-1990 an SNM Warrior.
· Finally, June 2004, after a long stay in London, our father returned to his birth place, Hargeisa, where he peacefully passed away on February 15th, 2005.

Conclusively, it is not easy for a child, any child, to write about his/her parents. The task is more daunting when that parent is a national figure. Thus, I would like to wind up this piece with a very brief word to my father: “dad, you were one of a kind!”

Bio By the children of the Late Haji Yusuf Adan

Of legend and martyrdom: a letter to the Late Yusuf Haji Adan.

Dear Great One,

There are grim moments when the soul desperately needs to shed tears but the tears refuse to drop out of the eyes and roll down the cheeks because they know one’s grieve is too deep to be alleviated. Such dreadful experience is my lot this chilly, dreary winter evening when the air is empty of soothing, sweet bird songs and the thrilling rustle of tree leaves dancing to the tune of a gentle summer breeze.

Now, as I forcibly drag a reluctant, miserable body along a poorly lit Toronto back street, pulling a mournful, long face reflecting the intense pain gnawing the heart, a gripping flash back of a day in my childhood life forces itself into the forebrain:

It is a bright sunny Hargeisa day. A couple of evenings back, the city was blessed by “miraale” a heavy night rain storm. A large number of happy livestock in festive mood: bleating sheep and goats, mooing cows and roaring camels, with their little ones frolicking around them, throng the “Dooxa”, the dry water way at which Hargeisa valley bottoms.

Today’s scenario could well be as inviting: An overcast sky, together with the humid monsoon winds blowing across the Indian Ocean this time of year, promises more rain to further eliminate the traces of the past harsh “jiilaal”, the dry season. Thus, it is the kind of morning a spoilt brat like me would hate seeing his parents near his bed, especially if it is a school day.

Therefore, after a futile attempt in feigning sickness, my father, a no nonsense man and this morning’s target of my wrath, forces me to go to school. A few decades later, after realizing that I had the good fortune of seeing in the flesh a national icon, who happened to be you, at my school, I would be very grateful to him for having foiled my childish design.

Predictably, I clearly remember how things unfolded in that morning. I was taking the morning break when an Education Department lorry suddenly darted into the yard of my school as I played with some classmates. When the vehicle, which carried students from, Amood came to a halt, an energetic man jumped out of the front seat. From the excitement his appearance had stirred among the teachers and students, it was evident that he was a highly esteemed personality. And that personality was none other than you.

In fact, some vivid mental pictures of the occasion are still glued to the memory. More precisely, your pleasant face, strong and portly body, brisk steps, animated smile and friendly demeanour were a breath of fresh air. That is why, perhaps, a perennially quoted verse in your inexhaustible repertoire sprang into the head the moment I learned about your departure:

Just like a rain which graced a verdant land,
swept by the rays of a rising sun afterwards -
that is what you, indeed, are.

Yes! Vanity was never your ally. Even so, one can’t help getting the feeling that the foregoing lines aptly depict everything that you were during your sojourn in this dimension. That is particularly true if one, only for a moment, forgets the romantic twist too often given to them and reflects more upon the legacy of a giant who gave everything he had to people he selflessly adored.

As a founding father of modern education in the ex-British Somaliland Protectorate, one of the first freedom fighters the whole Somali nation ever knew, an accomplished artist, and a great visionary, you, indeed, were the “rain,” and “the rays” and “the rising sun” which, together, “graced” and “swept” the “verdant land”, the generations of human beings illuminated by the education system you had co-founded with another super hero, the late Mr. Mohamoud Ahmed Ali.
Of course, your unflagging determination and strong passion to educate your people are reflected not only by your deeds, but also by the literature you bequeathed to us to educate the average person about the virtue of education versus the devastating effect of ignorance. In this respect the following lines a make a deep impression on the mind

Right at the seat of ignorance
one get dehumanized
(Ignorance) is the neighbour of all the diseases unleashed by God
It has alliance with poverty, the killer of humans
Oh! Before our people become learned,
The heart bars me from the pursuit of wealth

One day, The love of education will dominate our kin
One day, The upcoming children will be helping hands for you
One day, this lot in Sheikh ,
Their influence , will envelope the land
One day, that ailing stomach will heal.

Today, as a bereaved nation whose heart is heavy with sorrow mourns the loss of yet another hero’s hero - you - several decades after the death of the late Mr. Ali, small wonder that the fruits of your ventures are scattered all over the globe and active in every sphere of human endeavour: they are parents, grandparents, academics, architects, businessmen, doctors, economists, engineers, politicians, scientists, soldiers teachers - one can continue ad nauseam.

If your profuse and undying imprints on the matrix constituting Somaliland is without comparison, your contribution to the wider Somali nation remains equally fascinating, to say the least. When the nationalist movement was just beginning to pick up in the former Italian Somalia, you made indefatigable efforts to alert the whole nation not only to the larking dangers of the day, but also the indispensable need for cooperation:

Oh, Somalis wake up!
Wake up! And lean upon each other
And at any given moment
do prop up the weak amongst you.

Britain occupied Hargeisa and its environs
Snoozing France is in Djibouti from where it (hiifaaye ) us
And further to the Haud
America pushed its scouting mission.
O, Somalis, do arm yourselves
You are encircled.

These are only an example of your revolutionary war cries at a time you were vulnerable as a colonial government employee, the only source of gainful work in Somaliland, then. Even in the post-colonial days, your unyielding commitment to concretizing the aspirations of the masses struck terror in the hearts of successive civilian governments, while the military dictatorship denied your right, to retire in Hargeisa, to keep an eye on you at closer quarters. Thus, you were always under the microscope of corrupt, immoral and ruthless regimes- a fact which drastically jeopardized your personal progress.

The many odds you faced in this world notwithstanding, thanks to your unshakable faith and tenacity, the ruthless ploys of the enemies of freedom and progress utterly failed to deter you from consistently pursuing your principles and harnessing your artistic and intellectual talents for the benefit of the nation.

That is why, o, great one, your departure have brought to a close a golden era in the historical annals of our people - an era in which urbanization widely spread, secular education flourished, and Somali nationalism peaked. It was also a period during which Somali art - theatre, music and singing - entered a new phase and blossomed not only to reflect what is beautiful in us but also emerged a deadly weapon in the hands of relentless nationalist like you.

Unfortunately, while your short-lived joy over the independence of Somaliland and Somalia which, eventually, proved hollow, and their subsequent ill-advised unity was tremendous, the sorry state to which things deteriorated no sooner than the aliens had left our soil was the last straw. Instead of inheriting a country basking in peace with citizens bound together by the warm spirit of universal brotherhood, the whole nation became rent by hatred, wrecked by oppression and unravelled by corruption - trends that spewed massive violence that eviscerated your grand dream of seeing the birth of Great Somalia one day!

All said, however, the gloomy situation which developed immediately after “independence”, is not without its silver lining: just like the sphinx, Somaliland rouse from its ashes and we regained our sovereignty. Thus, “Naaso Hablood,” are, once again, free to resume nurturing us as they did for all their children since time immemorial. Against this backdrop, O, the great one, although we have committed your body to dust, your spirit will never fade away since it is woven into the fabric of the nation!

So long great one.

By Mohamed Y. Urdoh


O, great one, before calling quits, I’ve got a question for you: remember that little stone you took from Somaliland when you were exiled to England in 1952, for your part in unleashing the Somali National League (SNL) By the by, where have you left it? Please tell me. I need it so badly. Well, I’m waiting to hear from you. Until such time, I will console myself with these lines of yours:

O, you, this stone,
Of consciousness and brain
You display none.
God who created you
Formed you in this way
Oh! My country and land,
Their intoxicating aroma (which you exude )
Indeed, I get it coming from you.

When Mr. Adan was exiled to UK in 1952, he took a stone from Somaliland to symbolize his country. One day, a British student at Exeter University, where the former was attending at the time, attempted to confiscate the stone, assuming Mr. Adan was worshipping it. This touched off a physical fighting between them. Mr. Adan wrote the poem from which the above-mentioned lines were extracted after recovering the stone.. The words in the brackets are implied.

Story Posted By
M Ghalib Musa

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