I first got to know Yarisow – as he was affectionately known – back in 2012. I had left behind my career as an Army Officer and moved out to Kenya to be the Chief of Staff in a strategic communications team working in Somalia.
I was living in Nairobi, spending weeks at a time living in Mogadishu, supporting an important UN contract. I arrived fresh from the excitement of the London Olympics, keen to make a difference in my new life outside of uniform.
One of the roles that we were involved in was running a radio station for the inhabitants of Mogadishu, a city reeling from years of civil war. In constant fear from the Al Qaeda aligned Islamic extremists, Al Shabaab, who were intent on over-throwing Somalia’s fragile government based in a city that what was once known as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, the Somali people in the capital needed hope.
It was this role that brought me into contact with Yarisow, who eventually became the Mayor of Mogadishu.
Back then, compared to Somalia, life in Kenya was much calmer. With such an outdoor way of life, there were many cafes where I used to spend time talking about Somalia with friends and colleagues in the relative security that Nairobi offered.
I used to meet Yarisow at a place called Amaica, up a short and bumpy track off the Peponi Road. Surrounded by lush vegetation, with birdsong providing the natural ambient sound, we would sit outside under an awning, and chat.
Sipping green tea, we would talk about ways that I could make a difference. He knew everyone in the Government in Mogadishu and he was always keen to support me in my endeavours.
Yarisow was one of the most kind and friendly men you would ever want to meet. He was a brilliant communicator, he wanted the best for his people and he was willing to do whatever it took to make a difference.
But his commitment and willingness to making Somalia a better place to live also made him a target in the eyes of Al Shabaab.
The sadness I feel at Yarisow’s passing quickly turns to dismay at the apparent ease with which his attacker was able to enter what should have been a safe and secure environment in which to fulfil his important duties.
Whilst there are many Somalis, men and women, who take similar risks every day in Mogadishu, Yarisow’s determination to transcend clan differences and treat every person equally in the various offices he held in Government, will be sorely missed.
My heartfelt thoughts go out to his family and friends in London, and elsewhere in the world; they have lost a courageous husband, father and friend.
RIP Abdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow) – 1st August 2019