In Somalia, a comedian critical of Al Shabab is assassinated

Warsame Shire Awale was known for pillorying Al Shabab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-allied Islamist militants, in radio plays and poems.

One of Somalia’s best-loved broadcast comedians and playwrights has died after an apparent assassination shooting, making him the 18th media figure killed in the country this year.

Two young men armed with pistols forced their way into Warsame Shire Awale’s home in Mogadishu and shot him several times as he sat talking to his wife in their garden. He was taken to a hospital but died from his wounds late on Monday.

Mr. Awale was the 18th reporter or broadcaster to be killed in Somalia in 2012, making the country the second most dangerous for journalists in the world this year after Syria.

Awale, 60, was known for pillorying Al Shabab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-allied Islamist militants, in radio plays and poems, and it is suspected that his assassination was ordered by the group’s radical leadership.

"He was sitting in the garden and I was next to him, we were chatting when suddenly two men armed with pistols came and shot my husband and then they ran off,” Fowziyo Farah, Awale’s wife, tells the Christian Science Monitor. “Really my husband was a nice man, they targeted him for no reason. He never had any threats made against him before. I call on the government to capture the perpetrators.”

Another recent killing

Two days ago, Mohamed Mohamud Turyare, a journalist and producer with Radio Shabelle, died as a result of wounds inflicted on Oct. 21 when he was shot in a similar attack.

“I strongly condemn the targeted and persistent assault on Somalia’s media professionals,” said Augustine Mahiga, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia and the most senior United Nations official in the country. “The world is concerned that none of these murders have resulted in conclusive arrests, investigations, and due process or convictions of suspects.”

Awale may have become a target because of comments he made on air about gunmen attacking civilians, the National Union of Somali Journalists said. 

He had performed with the band of the Somali Police Force and had reportedly urged people to join their ranks as they struggle to keep order in the face of violent attacks by Al Shabab.

Tom Rhodes, East Africa consultant for the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists, echoed calls for greater government action to safeguard journalists’ lives.

"This has been the deadliest year for Somali journalists ever recorded by CPJ,” he said. “This record fatality rate underlines the urgency with which authorities must act to secure conditions in Somalia, especially in the capital."

Osman Gure, director of Radio Kulmiye, where Awale worked, says he spoke to his colleague less than two hours before he was killed and that they were preparing a new play for the radio station.

Mr. Gure blames Al Shabab for the killing, even though a militant spokesman denied that his men were behind the shooting.

“These are assaults against the freedom of the Somali media,” Gure says. “I believe they killed him for expressing his views. They are against any active person who is taking part in the development of the country.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.