Omar Faruk Osman. Photo: UNESCO / Danica Bijeljac
Message from Mogadishu
Over the weekend, we received the following report from our brother Omar Faruk Osman, the journalists’ union leader who is General Secretary of the Somali equivalent of the TUC, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU). This attack follows a similar outrage last month, and the FESTU response mirrors the strong support of the Tunisian trade union movement UGTT, which turned its members out in the protest this weekend against the Bardo Museum killings.
On Friday, 27 March 2015, a terrorist attack happened on a popular Mogadishu hotel. 21 people died, including 12 hotel workers and Somalia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, H.E. Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari. More than 28 people were wounded. Al-Shabaab terrorist group carried out this bloody attack.
The Al-Shabaab terrorists first detonated a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) at the main gate of the hotel before six heavily armed fighters fought their way into the hotel. One of them suicided at the groundfloor, killing those who were having afternoon tea/coffee there as well as security guards. The other five stormed the first, second and third floors of the hotel where rooms are located and killed some people and held several people hostage overnight until they and their hostages died during an operation at the next day at around 7:30am.
At the time of the attack, I was having a meeting with four friends at this hotel, discussing our preparations for Labour Day commemorations. I had to run from the restaurant and get to first floor before they reached me, and jumped from the first floor, hiding inside the next house until counter-terrorism forces arrived 35 minutes later. They took control of the house where I was hiding and let me go after I identified myself. My friends were also rescued as they pretended to be dead when terrorists entered the restaurant.
Ambassador Yusuf Bari Bari was among those who ran to the second floor and he was seriously wounded in the hand and stomach. Presidential guards forcefully entered second floor and rescued the bleeding Ambassador, rushing him to Madina hospital, where, three hours later, he died due to heavy blood loss.
Ambassador Yusuf Bari Bari was a distinguished diplomat who served our country with zeal and dedication. He supported FESTU’s campaign for ratification of ILO core conventions 87 and 98, and signed the decent work programme for Somalia in March 2014. He always fought for Somali workers to get their rights. He challenged successfully saboteurs, spoilers and rogue government officials who wanted the ILO decent work programme and ILO conventions not to be signed and ratified. He knew how to convince his seniors (President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister). He was bold enough to confront abuses of power by some of his colleagues in government. He tirelessly championed for Somalia to have genuine tripartite representation at the ILO. Indeed he is irreplaceable.
Our hearts break at this tragedy – how such a courageous soul & hero is lost in a cowardly act is paradoxical. May God Almighty rest his soul and reward him for his tireless battle for workers and the people of Somalia.
Today (Sunday) Ambassador Yusuf was laid to rest at his hometown in Garowe, Puntland, and our Prime Minister led prayers for the ambassador. FESTU President Ahmed Osman Said led the federation’s delegation to the burial of the late Ambassador.
With all the violence that we had seen before, we have not heard of such absolute madness happening at this scale before and we are simply shocked. Such attacks negate the most basic principles of humanity.
But our message to the perpetrators of this inhuman act is, that their action will not dampen our spirit for the common good of Somalia, but will further strengthen us to work even harder to defeat the enemy of workers, peace and development, with the aim of rebuilding a stronger, democratic and stable Somalia.
As an act of defiance, today I have written to Minister for Internal Security, Abdirisak Omar Mohamed, requesting him to give FESTU a security clearance in order that workers can organise major commemorations on Labour Day, and that security forces provide necessary protection. We shall do it without fear.
Terrorism robs us of the best of humanity, but the evil will not prevent us from doing what we have to do for our members, colleagues and people.
We are determined!