Friday, August 24, 2007

Ismaaciil Mire and Jaamac Cali Nuur

"On or about 21st March, 1935, the late Musa Adan head Illalo and 16 other Illaloes were sent to collect 28 camels from Hussein Abdi and Aidid Ahmed, Dolbahanta, Ali Gheri, Reer Gulaid Ali Gheri, in connection with a Political case. On the evening of 25 March news was received that Musa Adan had been killed."

So begins the story of Jaamac Cali Nuur and the events leading to his death, a death that provoked one of the most sustained and dogged pursuits of Somali tribal justice and became the inspiration for the composition of countless poems that have gained a place of high honour in the literary pantheon of the Somalis. the opening paragraph is an extract from a report written by the District Officer of Burco, Reginald Hopkinson (R.H.) Smith, the infamous Geelqaad who was the bane of the Somali pastoralists that were rearing livestock in the Northern Parts of Somalia during the Thirties and Forties.

In early April, 1935 a force of Illaloes led by R.H. Smith descended on the Dhulbahante settlements of western Nugaal and arrested three men of the Guuleed Cali Geri for the murder of Muuse Aadan (Habar Jeclo, Ba Gahayle). Muuse Aadan was the sixth Illalo member to be gunned down by the Cali Geri, a situation that caused consternation in the British administrative circles. Crucially, one of the Illaloes killed by the Cali Geri was Guuleed Garaad (Barkad), with suspicion falling on Jaamac Cali Nuur himself. It was the murder of the Barkad man that was to have the greatest ramifications, creating ill-will between the brother lineages of Barkad and Cali Geri.

The following three men were arrested for the murder of Illalo Muuse Aadan:

1. Jaamac Faadhyoon

2. Ismaaciil Abokor

3. Jaamac Cawl

The case against the latter two collapsed for lack of evidence but Jaamac Faadhyoon, a teenager, was convicted of the Illalo's murder after it was conclusively established that he was the man who pulled the trigger. R. H. Smith in his report recommended that the case should be treated as a political one rather than as a straight-forward criminal case. He argued that the ill-will and hatred for the British and their soldiers was stoked by the tribal elders of the Cali Geri and that the youngsters of the tribe were not to blame for carrying out the edicts of the tribal elders:

"I consider the whole of this affair is more of a tribal affair than an individual criminal act on the part of the accused. The chief blame rests with the elders of the Dolbahanta who for some considerable time have not ceased from propaganda against the Illaloes. In consequence of which the youths only consider they are playing the game by their tribe by obstructing and shooting at the Illaloes on every occasion."

The judge in the case, a Mr H. E. Long, concurred with the evidence presented by Smith and wrote that the violence against the Illaloes was "the result of of the propaganda preached by certain headmen of the Dolbahanta and some of the town dwellers which is responsible for the feeling which exists amongst the Dolbahanta generally in regard to the Illaloes."

He imposed fines on the Guuleed Cali Geri enacted under the Collective Punishment Ordinance. One hundred camels were given as compensation to the family of the murdered Illalo. One hundred camels were credited to the government funds. Additionally 25 rifles were confiscated from the Cali Geri. Jaamac Faadhyoon received a mild sentence. He was given a two year sentence in Berbera jail as political prisoner.

During the search for the three assasins who killed Illalo Muse Adan, R. H. Smith despatched forces to all the various settlements of the Guuleed Cali Geri. One group of Illaloes under the command of Ducaale Muuse "Qadhoon" (Habar Jeclo, Reer Yuusuf) were sent to Xargaga to patrol aggresively in search of the Reer Guuleed. They were joined at Yaaheel by Xidhkayoon Axmed Gawaafe who had some scores to settle with the Cali Geri in connection with the Barkad who was killed earlier by the Guuleed Cali Geri. They pushed on to Xidhgalool and there they spotted 7-8 men with several Kadins(kadin = 100 camels) and armed with rifles. The Cali Geri, according to Ducaale Qadhoon, started firing and after a sustained firefight one of the Cali Geri men was dead and two wounded. The others ran away despite the words of Jaamac Cali Nuur who was urging them to stand fast.

Upon questioning by the inquiry, held 13, April 1935, Ducaale Qadhoon stated that he shot Jaamac Cali Nuur in the left arm. He also admitted that Jaamac was alive after the initial firefight. But he refused to answer who actually shot Jaamac. It was left to the witnesses for the Cali Geri to furnish the missing details. Aadan Mirreh, a Qayaad man who was with Cali Geri men at the time of the fight, stated the following:

"One Illalo called Abdullahi Farah said it was good when Farah Diyeh fell down and said that was revenge for Musa but we didnt know what Musa he meant at that time. Jama Ali Noor was walking although he was wounded. One man came running from the Illaloes and stood in front of Jama Ali Noor and shot him again in the chest. He fell down dead. This man was Barkat man called Had Kayune. We all ran away and left the camels."

The Illaloes drove the camels back to Yaaheel and they were met there by Caaqil Maxamed Cali Bulay and 20 Barkad men mounted on ponies. Maxamed Cali Bulay was a respected and famous Dhulbahante elder and he is the father of the late Siciid Sheef (AUN), an outstanding public servant and once Governor of the Somali Commercial Bank among other high appointments. Maxamed Cali Bulay asked the Illaloes about all the firing. He agreed to give the Illaloes 2 messengers to take news of the firefight to the Hakim at Widhwidh asking the Illaloes to provision the men from the seized camels.

The Inquiry's findings were a complete whitewash. They found that the Cali Geri were at fault for starting the firefight. No fault was attached to the Illaloes for never identifying themselves. The cold-blooded murder of a wounded Jaamac Cali Nuur was dismissed despite the fact the fact that the evidence furnished by a Solamadow Illaalo who claimed that Jaamac was shot and immediately died from a shot by Ducaale Qadhoon was contradicted by Ducaale himself. The latter claimed that he merely wounded Jaamac Cali Nuur. No effort was made to check this incostistency against the account given by the Cali Geri. The evidence and testimony of the Cali Geri were summarily dismissed thusly:

As regards the evidence of the witnesses produced for the reer Ali Gheri it was obvious that they had been well tutored in the evidence they had to give. It was given so very correctly without hesitation that it was obvious they learnt it off by heart and I do not believe a word of it. It should also be noted that all the witnesses belong to the rer Gulaid Ali Gheri the section concerned in the death of Musa Adan, except one and he is connected by marriage.

This caused great bitterness among the Cali Geri and they vowed revenge on the Illaloes and the Barkad. Feelings against the Illaloes were running high to begin with and this bloody intervention only exacerbated the situation. In the ensuing years many Illaloes were killed and the bad blood between the British and Dhulbahante reached its zenith when 11 Illalo members were shot by the reer Hagar at Harawaati.

In regard to the case of Xidhkayoon and his cold-blooded murder, it was agreed among the Cali Geri that they should treat with the Barkad and seek compensation for Jaamac Cali Nuur who was cold-bloodedly murdered by Xidhkayoon. This entirely reasonable proposition was rejected by the Barkad who argued that Jaamac Cali Nuur already had Barkad blood on his hands. This was an explosive development and tensions reached fever pitch even before a man called Maxamed Deyl stepped into the fray. Maxamed Deyl composed a poem, a graveside testimonial that affected to channel the dead spirit of Jaamac Cali Nuur. He said:

Inay maytiyuhu qayliyaan ma anan moodayne
Malkadii la dhigay Jaamac baan maray socdaalkiiye
Anigoo maqlahayuu i yidhi Maxamedow joogso!
Malmaleeyey oo waxaan gartaa midab wanaagiiye
Maalkaan dhaqaayiyo dadkii maaragtuu yidhiye
Waxaan idhi macnaha ay yihiin waanan marinayne
wuxuu yidhi miciin kama sugayn midhaha Guuleede
Cabdinaasir haysaga manqaxo maanso iyo jiibe
Sidii nimaan adeerkii la mudin haw makaabiro e
Ha maddaysto ceelkuu fadhiyey maalkii reer Debey e
Ilma Ciise aqal moolo weyn hays maldhiqiyeene
Magaalada Widhwidha rodol qaxwaa ha iska miisteene
Maadhiinka baas iyo gacmaha ha isla maadsheene
Naftana haw marwoodeen sidaan meleg haleelayne
Miyaan Khayr-Mataan iyo Shawana murugo ii haynin
Moolkii Warfaa iyo miyuu Gorodkii mawtooday
Ismaaciil ma moog yahay inaan muranna lay geysan
Cali Geriga kale sow ma maqal mag iyo aar waaga!


I learnt today that the dead could talk indeed
Walking past the grave, where Jaamac lay
I heard him call and beckon me to his side
As I beheld his face, he extended his hand
I had doubts, but the handsome face was his
He asked about the wealth and people he left behind
I could not bring myself to tell him the truth
He said, did I expect help from the seed of Guuleed?
Let Cabdinaasir entertain himself with lyrical song
As if his beloved uncle was not cut down
Let him enjoy the fruit of this world
Let the sons of Ciise enjoy their fine houses
In the town of Widhwidh let them drink sweet tea
Let them carry Martine rifles to no deadly end
Let them be afraid of death, death never comes?
Do any of the Khayr and reer Shawa grieve my loss?
Have the abundant Warfaa and Gorod all perished?
Does Ismaaciil know that none argued on my behalf?
Do the Cali Geri at large know that neither vengeance
Nor compensation was sought on my behalf?

This poem caused tensions to rise even further. It is a received wisdom that poetry in Somali culture was used for peace-making purposes. But it is also true that poems had a role in inciting violence and deepening conflicts. They widened the scope of the conflict and generally made the disputants more intransigent since no one was willing publicly to lose face.

It was in this fraught atmosphere that Ismaaciil Mire one day found himself in a coffee shop in the town of Widhwidh. The town was booming because of the British administrative and military detachments based there. Ismaaciil Mire was accosted by the same Ducaale Qadhoon who wounded Jaamac Cali Nuur in the firefight. Ducaale Qadhoon who was entirely unaware of the loathing and anger within Ismaaciil Mire came over and engaged in the usual Somali banter. Ducaale Qadhoon suggested that Ismaaciil compose a poem about some trivial issue or the other. He was heedless of the darkening mood of Mujaahid Ismaaciil Mire. Ismaaciil was struck by the difference in attitude between the carefree and jesting Ducaale Qadhoon and the desolation and despair within his heart at the loss of his great friend and cousin, the formidable and beloved Jaamac Cali Nuur. It was at this point that he composed the poem that became one of the most famous poems in the Somali language, a philosophical take on the contrasting fortunes, the difference in attitude between Two Solitudes, inextricably linked yet unaware of each other. The ferocity of the poem and the intent behind it shook Ducaale Qadhoon who was intelligent enough to realize the intent of the poem; and the tragic consequences it presaged:

Isma oga Ismiidh iyo ninkii, ayro foofsadaye
Isma oga arbaha weerka iyo, adhiga goosmaaye
Isma oga waraabaha amliyo, awr la laayacaye
Isma oga atoor qadow bartiyo, uubta loo qodaye
Isma oga nin urugaysaniyo, iilka kii dhigaye
Isma oga dhillida uunsatiyo, awga taa'ibiye
Isma oga aqoon xume dhergiyo, Meleg Arsaa'iile
Isma oga agoon iyo ninkii, aabaheed dilaye
Isma oga askari qooqaniyo, nimaan afbuux siine
Isma oga abeer qalabliyo, inanka doonaaye
Isma oga ugaadh iyo libaax, adamiyaystaaye
Waxba gabaygu yuu ila ordine, waxaan ku soo ooday
La illow nin Aakhiro tegoo, iilka hoos maraye.


Unmindful of each, Smith and the man who raises camels
Unmindful of each, The killing jackal and the sheep that stray
Unmindful of each, the hungry hyena and the neglected camel
Unmindful of each, The hungry antelope and the baited trap
Unmindful of each, the aggrieved victim and the culpable criminal
Unmindful of each, The fragrant whore and the absolving cleric
Unmindful of each, the satiated fool and the angel of death
Unmidful of each, the orphaned child and his father's assailant
Unmindful of each, The arrogant soldier and the guilty without bribe
Unmindful of each, the rebuffing maiden and her young suitors
Unmindful of each, the wild game roaming and the hungry lion
Do not let long words overwhelm my poem, I finish by saying
We soon forget the departed, firmly interred inside a grave

That was the first time that Ismaaciil Mire waded into the controversy using the poetic devise. His next intervention was when he counselled a young man named Saleemaan Caabbi against rash behaviour. Saleemaan was getting ready to assemble a force against the Barkad when Ismaaciil Mire stopped him. He explains his reasons for caution. Axmed Faarax Cali "Idaajaa", the great Somali historian and prose stylist whose writings I am greatly indebted in composing this historic account, wrote that Ismaaciil Mire's poem bears resemblence to the poem by Sayid Maxamed who was counselling Ismaaciil Mire himself against rash action. Such is the circle of life and wisdom:

Tixda gabay ina Caabbiyow tuducba waa meele
Tahantoog ma huro meel haddaan tuba la qaadsiine
Tollaala'ayda iyo qayladaad tolatay waa yaabe
Tiiraanyo iyo ciil rag qaba turuqday boogtiiye
Oday talada lama dhaafiyee iga ta'wiil qaado
Durba lama tallaabsado haddaad tooggo leedahaye
Tol baxnaani baa igu jirtiyo tacab rasaaseede
Haddaan dunida taambuug cammirin tani ma joogteene
Wallaan tuurta loo wada degeen tawllanoo maqane
Ismiidh baygu taagane intuu tegayo ii kaadsha!
Nin tayiiso maaggani inuu telelo waw ceebe
Tayaaqadu digniin kama taggana laysu tebiyaaye
La turba oo tilmaansada nin raga tuush ma aargudo e
Tuulada markaad ugu tagtaan taaha ka ogaada
Salaanaan tolnimo hoose jirin midigta taabsiiya
Tagoogada miday kaga jabaan toogta la ogaada
Inta taranta reer Cali fadhido tacaddigii raadsha
Tollaala'aye aarsada sidii tabaxsayow aarka!


O Caabi, poems, each touches a particular point
They go wayward unless care is taken
Your loud proclamations were very astonishing
They wounded men nursing bitterness and grief
Harken to the counsel of a wise old head
Never take a hasty step when intent on revenge
I await to turn the dithering ones, and arming myself
But for the soldiers, we would not be in these straits
Peacably we live with the assailants of Jaamac
Wait till he departs, Smith is breathing down our neck
It is shameful to advertise your plans
Revenge never comes with enemies forewarned
Play cards with them, put them at their ease
Mark the best among them, killing fools is unworthy
Extend the hand to them, A hand without friendship
Shoot them where it hurts most
As long as one Cali Geri is alive, seek your recompense
I beseech thee, seek revenge like a lion attacking

The next poetic exchange between the Barkad and Ismaaciil Mire came when Xareed Duubi Deero, himself a Mujaahid Darwiish veteran, composed a poem that was degrading to the memory of Jaamac Cali Nuur. In particular Ismaaciil Mire took exception to the line "Xidhkayoon intuu dhaartay buu dhoocil noo dilaye". Ismaaciil Mire retorted sharply to this disgraceful poem and in kind. The final lines ran this way:

Dumbuq sumuca waa kuula iman duubley aan sido e
Dillaamada horeetay maryaha dacalka kaa qoyne
Dabadana adkee dhayllin baad dir u lahaydeene!

One day, Ismaaciil Mire chanced to see a crying boy who was the son of the late and much lamented Jaamac Cali Nuur. The sight of the boy sent Ismaaciil Mire into despair and he composed this poem full of pathos:

Wiilyahow ilmaa igaga timid aragtidaadiiye
Qalbigaa i oogsaday markaad tidhi adeerow e
Abtirsiimo reer Cali haddii Eebbe kugu raacshay
Ararsamana kuu xigo nafluhu kala ayaan roone
Asaan anigu odayoobayoon anafadii daayay
Ashahaaod mooyee haddaan eebo ridi waayay
Allaa igu og inaan aabbahaa cidi u aarayne
Ha ii iman hana i soo ag marin oohir tariddaada


O young man, you brought tears to my eyes
It shook my spirit when you cried out 'uncle'
If God has made you Cali Geir, Ararsame a closest kin;
Fortune is always unevenly apportioned
I am old and renounced martial pursuits
But for saying my devotions, I am idle
God knows your father will never be avenged
Never come by, walk by me, Your tears are dejecting

Things were at a standstill but Ismaaciil Mire did not entirely give up on a peaceful end to the impasse. To that end he travelled to The Barkad settlements and there he was met by the Chief Caaqil of the Barkad Maxamed Cali Bulay. Ina Cali Bulay flatly rejected any compensation for the killing of Jaamac Cali Nuur and swore the divorce oath that not one single animal would go to the Cali Geri. Ismaaciil Mire was moved to say this:

Ragba Maxamedow horay tashiga ugu heshiin waaye
Hindise iyo toy kala kaxee tan iyo Haabiile
Halka soo mar iyo kayga maqal hiif ku kala raacye
Hantida looma qaybsheen hadduu helayo tawfiiqe
Haadaantu niman bay tahay hilinkii toosnaaye!


O Maxamed men never agree in great affairs
Ambition and greed kept men apart since Abel's time
"Heed my words" and "Take my way" ever leads to conflict
Laws would not be needed if "the better way" was readily taken
Crooked ground , to some, feels like the straight path

Many poems were composed by Dhulbahante poets who jeered at Ismaaciil Mire. Aadan Carab composed a jesting poem ridiculing the peaceful posture of the Cali Geri. But Ismaaciil Mire took it harder when Cali Dhuux wrote a poem of exaggerated praise for Jaamac Cali Nuur intended to needle the Guuleed Cali Geri. Ismaaciil Mire recognized the ruse and sent a rebarbative answer to Cali Dhuux that forced him to withdraw.

Ba'da maanso Cali Aadanow bili laguu saarye
Bushimaa nin kala qaada waa u badisaaye
Markayse bawdo gacalkaa jabtaad boogta damaqdaaye
Buug digasho ah baa kuugu jira baaddinkaa sare e


In the arts of poetry Cali Aadan is king
Of all men who sing poetry, you are peerless
But when disaster befalls your kin
You bring out a book of taunts and reproaches

Cali dhuux took a conciliatory tone and composed this answer:

Ba'da gabay Ismaaciil Miraa buuni ku ahaaye
Beyduu akhriyay weli ma odhan yaa beddela kaase
Maantuuse runtii baal maray bilaha iideede
War bal baaruuda foorari inaan kuugu bogi waayo


NIsmaaciil Mire, you are the sage of poetry
A line composed by him, never needed revision
But on this festive day, you strayed from the truth
I beseech thee, lower your guns
The greater I may admire you

Nine years after the murder of Jaamac Cali Nuur, his killing was avenged when Xidhkayoon Axmed Gawaafe, his companion and the latter's wife were all killed outside Widhwidh. It brought to a conclusion a highly charged and festering tribal animus that defied all peaceful settlement. Ismaaciil Mire and other elders who were suspected of masterminding the murder were taken to Mandheera jail. But Ismaaciil Mire was heedless of incarceration and openly rejoiced:

Isagoo xunnaafyaynaya oo xeeshii samir mooday
Xidhkayoon inaan ku arko wayla xaraarayde
Hadday xuuri shalay feenatay oo xawga laga gooyay
Xaraashkiyo xigaalada luntiyo xadhigu yeelkiisa


Strolling about, he mistook patience for surrender
Seeing Xidhkayoon unscathed was bitter to me
Now that the winged 'xuur' has devoured his corpse
Heedles I am, of detention and forfeited wealth

Samatar Baxnaan, the great poet of the Reer Hagar, heard of the death of Xidhkayoon and composed a famous poem to commemorate the 'victory' of the Cali Geri and the way they reclaimed their dignity. It is a tribute to the martial past of the Cali Geri and their immense contribution to the Darwiish cause during the long years of struggle against the British and Italian colonialists:

Wax libaaxu duurkaa galoo doqon la moodaaba
Goortii la daaruu dhegaha wax u dilaacshaaye
Daraawiishta nimankii ahaa dooxatada miidhan
Kuwii daarihii Nuur Cismaan wada daqiiqeeyey
Dalal iyo Ogaadeen kuwii Deero ka eryooday
Ee laga durkaye noogu yimid Doh' iyo Gaa­roodi
Dekedahii Berbera wiilashii duhur rasaaseeyey
Dulcas iyo Aboorey ku waan daaqi kari weynay
Darbad culusta nimankii Hawiye dakharadaw gaystay
Dayax weerar nimankii ku dilay ama ku daanduunshay
Dubka lagu xanuunsado kuwaan laga dugaalaynin
Maaraha digleeyiyo kuwii duubcad wada qaatay
Doofaarka gaalka ah kuwii dilay waxii raacay!!
Digriga iyo shareecada kuwii diirka ka cadeeyey
Dabiinkoodu nimankuu ahaa duqa Ismaaciil ah
Dab kaloo bidhaama kuwaan duni ka soo waayey
Markii laga daldalay Jaamaca dahar sidiisa ah
Awleba waw dareen qabay inay diillin dhiga­yaane
Dadow maqal degmiyo beel dhan bay damug ka siiyaane

Weekend after this, I shall conclude this series with some closing thoughts on the life of the great Mujaahid.

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