“ We belong to God, and unto Him we shall Return”

By Ismail Ali Ismail

Ambassador Mahammed Garad
Ambassador Mahammed Garad

Ambassador Mahammed Garad, scion of the Sultan family of Eastern Sanaag, passed away at his home in Maryland, U.S.A., on the night of 16 May 2016, having succumbed to a cancer he had been fighting for some time. He was surrounded by family, relatives and friends and was interred the following day, in accordance with Moslem teachings, in the Firdaus Moslem Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland.

He was born in Hubera (the family headquarters, East of Erigabo) in 1931. His father, the historic Sultan Mahamoud Garad Ali-Shire, had returned from a long British exile in Seychelles in 1928. Garad (as Ambassador Garad was called fondly and respectfully by his school mates, friends and colleagues) had, as a result, siblings and nieces in Seychelles. In fact, one of the nieces attended his funeral to represent the Seychellois branch of the family.  The nuclear family of Sultan Mahamoud was so large that the London Illustrated News printed his picture shortly after the independence of Somaliland in 1960, and wrote beneath it, “Garad Mahamoud Ali Shire, still wielding his tribal authority. Father of thirty sons and sixty daughters.” I believe these exaggerations were made for effect, but the actual number of Amb. Garad’s siblings was, still, a big one by all accounts. (To clear a little confusion here, the title of ‘Garad’ was later changed to the universally known title of ‘Sultan’. After all, Garad Mahamoud was called, if mistakenly, in Seychelles as ‘The Sultan of Somaliland’.) The deceased Ambassador Garad (whom I shall henceforth call ‘Garad’) was the uncle of the current Sultan of Eastern Sanaag.

Garad received his early schooling in British Somaliland in the early 1940s when resistance to Western education had melted away and, owing to the lack of higher institutions of learning, he was sent in 1948 on government scholarship to the Sudan where he studied for four years in Omdurman and later in the Institute of Bakht al Ruda in Ed Dueim on the White Nile. There, he was trained as a teacher (apart from receiving instruction in such usual subjects as maths, language, history, geography and science). He returned to Somaliland in 1952 and taught in the intermediate schools of Amoud and Sheikh. He was kind to his students and looked after their welfare. I still hear to this day stories of his kindness from grown up men (now retired) who were his students at that time and still remember the pocket-money he used to give them whenever he found them sad and dejected in the weekends because they could not afford a trip to down town.

Anyhow, he was sent again in late 1959 on a scholarship to the UK for three years to study commercial subjects. His return in 1963 to an independent and united Somalia coincided with the beginnings of Civil Service Integration, and he was posted to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Mogadishu. On completion of the Integration he was appointed Director of Trade and Supplies Office in Hargeisa which, then, covered the entire ‘Northern Regions’. I found him in that position when I myself was appointed District Commissioner of Hargeisa in early 1966, and I can vouch that Garad was highly popular with and respected by, not only the officials but also the business community and all those others who came to know him because he was a man of high personal integrity – a rare commodity in those days.

In late 1968 destiny pushed him to politics. Popular urging for him to stand for the parliamentary elections of 1969 was overwhelming. I would say he was in effect drafted to it, in consequence of which he competed for and won the seat of Las Koreh. He was appointed in Egal’s second government as Deputy Minister of Livestock and Veterinary Service – and, I think, the Fauna and Flora were also included in the portfolio. Not only his constituents, but also very many of his other ardent supporters were livid with anger because he was so patently qualified, compared to others, to a full cabinet post. For Garad and his passionate supporters, however, the disappointment turned out to be a blessing in disguise: for, about six month’s later, the prime minister and all his ministers were swept away in a coup, rounded up in the wee hours of 21 October 1969 and sent to detention, the coup leaders having spared the deputy ministers. So short and dramatic was Garad’s experience with politics.

The country entered a new era characterized by revolutionary fervor, sloganeering and perfervid patriotism. However, when the dust settled and the soldiers felt secure in power the MPs who were in government service before, were allowed to return to their previous positions. In the event, Garad was posted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he then embarked on a diplomatic career.

Garaad1-300x211He was posted to the embassy in Bonne (then West Germany) in 1972 as a political counselor. He was transferred a year later to the embassy in Addis Ababa where he served in the same capacity until he was elevated to the ambassadorial rank in 1977 and posted to Lagos (then capital of Nigeria). While in Nigeria he was also accredited to other countries in West Africa as a non-resident ambassador. He was then moved to Kampala as ambassador to Uganda in 1980. His next and final diplomatic post was in Doha (Qatar) where he served as ambassador from 1984 to 1988. He was reposted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Director-General of the Department of International Organizations. In late 1990 he was a senior member of the Somali delegation to the UN General Assembly, which continued until January 1991 when the Somali State imploded. He was an asset to the delegation because he was, apart from his native Somali, one of the Ministry’s rare bilinguals, for he was completely at home in both Arabic and English, both of which were, as they still are, UN official languages. He was indeed fortunate to have been in the US at that tragic period when Somalia plunged into an abyss of self-destruction, and he was granted asylum together with his family. He died as a citizen of the United States.

Garad was truly an honorable man: simple and humble. He was morally upright – a devout, uncorrupted, self-disciplined Moslem, for he remained a teetotaler and non-smoker throughout his life. He was respectful of others no matter their station in life, and was highly respected. I hasten to say that there was not the slightest blemish on his character. He was a good citizen, a patriotic Somali, and, indeed a good human specimen.

Our sympathies and prayers are with Zahra (his life partner of fifty years); Mahmoud and Ahmed (his sons); Farah and Ayan (his daughters); and all the extended members of the family who are scattered in many parts of the World. I am, myself, among the scattered ones, for Garad was not only my cousin, but also my close friend and elder brother whose life I shall cherish as long as I live. We have spent memorable times together in Hargeisa, in Addis Ababa, and here in the United States and I shall miss him, as will many others whose lives he had touched.

Some people –relatives, friends and colleagues – have even sinned by swearing that he was destined to Heaven. May Allah answer all prayers to forgive his transgressions (for he was only human), reward heavily his generosity of spirit, his rectitude, and all his good deeds on earth, and accommodate him in the highest of Heavens, Firdaus, in sha Allah! Aamiin, Aamiin, Aamiin.