Renowned Somali Novelist, Literary Critic and Peace Builder Passes Away

Dr Mohammed Dahir Afrah was an intellectual who dedicated two decades of his life to peace-building in Somalia.

London (PP News Desk) — Dr Mohamed Dahir Afrah, a novelist, literary critic and peace-builder, has passed away in London. Born in Somalia in 1952, Afrah was educated in Mogadishu where he went to the former Gamal Abdel Nasser High School popularly known as Allaahida. He ventured into writing short stories during 1970s. His first novel, Maanafaay, was serialised the nation’s now defunct daily Xiddigta Oktoobar.

Afrah’s first novel ’Maanafaay’.

Afrah’s short stories, social critiques studied and academically discussed by leading Somali studies scholars, earned him rebuke from the military regime’s censors, who always read too much into Afrah’s short stories. Afrah briefly joining Somali opposition forces, Afrah relocated to what was People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, where he went to the University of Aden, and upon finishing his studies began to edit Al Hikma (Wisdom) magazine to which leading Yemeni men and women of letters contributed. He published the first Somali language book discussing Somali plays.

Afrah’s collection of essays comparing literary works of three countries — Somalia, Djibouti and Yemen.

Late 1980s, before the collapse of the Somali state, Afrah applied for asylum in the United Kingdom. Undeterred by lack of resources and institutional support, Afrah and his colleagues launched in 1993 _Hal-abuur (Creativity), a bilingual literary magazine, a forerunner of the Regional Somali Language Academy (RSLA) founded in Djibouti in 2012, upon the fortieth anniversary of the decision to give Somali language an orthography.

Afrah attended the 2018 Garowe International Book Fair.

In the year 2000 Afrah joined reconciliation efforts that culminated in the formation of the first post-1991 transitional national government following a Djibouti-sponsored reconciliation conference held in the city of Arta. Afrah combined his peacemaking effort with a commitment to finish his doctoral research at the University of London.

Afrah (left) in Garowe where he discussed his book A window into literary creativity in the Gulf of Aden: studies on culture and art in Somalia, Yemen and Djibouti.

In 2002 Afrah wrote an influential and best-selling essay _Dal Dad Waayay iyo Duni Damiir Beeshay (A country without people and a world that lost its moral compass). Written eleven years after the collapse of the state, Afrah likened the situation of Somalis to collective madness manifested in lack of political leadership able to help Somalia recover from state collapse. As an influential member of the Somali civil society Afrah decided to play a role in peace-building through his work with successive Somalia governments since 2001. He dedicated two decades of his life to playing a remarkable role in rebuilding state institutions in Somalia.

In 2020 Afrah published a collection of essays in Arabic نافذة‬⁩ ⁦‪على‬⁩ ⁦‪الإبداع‬⁩ ⁦‪ ‬⁩, دراسات ⁦‪في‬⁩ الثقافة والفن ⁦‪في‬⁩ الصومال واليمن وجيبوت ( A window into literary creativity in the Gulf of Aden: studies on culture and art in Somalia, Yemen and Djibouti). “It takes more than one person to enumerate the lasting contributions made by Afrah” tweeted Abdirashid Hashi, the former director of Heritage Institute, a think-tank.

President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohammed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble sent messages of condolence to the family of the late Dr Mohamed Dahir Afrah, who was a member of the committee tasked with reviewing the Somali draft constitution in addition to his role as the President of Regional Somali Language Academy.

© Puntland Post, 2021