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Ahmed died a bitter man for failing to unite Somalia

Updated Sun, March 25th 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Athman Amran

Former President of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed died in Dubai on Friday still regretting his failure to end Somalia’s 23-year conflict.

He had been granted political asylum in Yemen in 2009 after resigning as TFG president in December 2008.

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. He was decorated for courage, but would remain a colonel throughout his military career. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

Ahmed had expressed regret for failing to fulfil his government’s mandate while announcing his resignation on national radio.

As president, he had pledged to promote reconciliation and to set about rebuilding the country.

He left Somalia under the grip of the Al Shabaab, one of the splinter groups of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which with the help of Ethiopia, he drove out of the country.

But Ahmed would perhaps be one of the few internationally recognised presidents who tried to govern a country, which is regarded as one of the most dangerous places on earth. He also presided over a country where a big portion was not under his control.

Ahmed had several attempts to his life. On September 18, 2006, a suicide car bomber smashed his vehicle into the president’s convoy outside the National Parliament in Baidoa.

The attack killed four of his bodyguards and his brother. Six attackers were also killed in the subsequent gun battle. Ahmed’s life was most likely saved by the fact that he was travelling in the second vehicle in the convoy rather than the front one, which was a decoy.

Living on the edge

The ICU, which at the time controlled the southern half of the country, was blamed for the attack.

The former president underwent a liver transplant in the 1990s. And in early December 2007, he was admitted to a hospital in Nairobi for treatment of what his spokesman described as bronchitis.

On January 4, 2008, he collapsed in Baidoa and was taken to Ethiopia for treatment.

Two days later he was rushed to London for tests. He returned to Mogadishu on February 16, 2008, only for rebels to fire mortars at the presidential compound, reportedly wounding five people.

Ahmed has, however, had a long history of living on the edge. As an army officer he has been restless throughout his life and perhaps played a role in the current destabilisation of Somalia.

Ahmed had led one of the clan-based rebel groups called the Somali Salvation Democratic Front in the north, which consisted of several former army officers opposed to Siad Barre’s regime.

Barre was finally overthrown on January 26, 1991, when factions led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his rebel group, the United Somali Congress, invaded Mogadishu.

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