Putting a face to the ‘casualties of war’ in Somalia: Captain Dahir Gurhan Mohamud

Captain Dahir Gurhan Mohamud, a national hero who sacrificed his life to prevent terrorists from killing more innocent lives.
Captain Dahir Gurhan Mohamud, a national hero who sacrificed his life to prevent terrorists from killing more innocent lives.

When Al-Shabaab carries out one of their well-planned and deadly murder campaigns in Mogadishu and specifically inside key government institutions, media houses go on a frenzy news feed with typical headlines like that of CNN on the 24th May: “At least 10 dead in attack on Somalia’s parliament building” or BBC’s “Somalia parliament attack: Al-Shabab attack kills 10.” This is often followed by Somali Diaspora desperately trying to find out if their families, friends and relatives in the capital are affected and social media is the first place to find information and connect with Facebook and Twitter users in Mogadishu.

On the afternoon of May 24th, the Somali Parliament building came under Al-Shabaab attack. “A car bomb exploded outside the gates of parliament shortly before midday local time (09:00 GMT), followed by more blasts and bursts of gunfire.” Reported the BBC. What that or any other “breaking news” reports did not tell you is that among the first groups of soldiers working at the parliament building’s security on the day, was captain Mohamud, who after firing back at the militants on the car full of home-made explosives intended to break the security barrier, ran out of bullets. Instead of running for cover, he incredibly stood in front of the car to prevent it from passing the gate and thus has helped save lives but was instantly killed himself.

News coverage tends to take away the human face of ‘war casualties’ by reporting a number of the dead and wounded and not their personal stories. This leads to people quickly and easily forgetting about the actual cost of war. We get outraged for few hours and the next day no one thinks about those who died except for their loved ones, friends and colleagues who knew them in person. The cost of war in Somalia told from the angle of ‘casualty of war’ will not spur Somalis to react in a sustainable way and seek lasting peace unless the story of the ‘casualty’ is given a human face.

Captain Mohamud was among the ten soldiers and police officers who were killed defending the parliamentarians and other innocent civilians against the barbarism that is murdering fellow Muslims in the name of Islam and jihad. He was born in 1967 in Garbahareey,  Gedo, to Halimo Abdille Mahamed, who died giving birth to him.

The list of the people killed in the attack.
The list of the people killed in the attack.

Mohamud was sent to be raised by his older brother, Adan Gurhan, a member of the Somali national army in Mahadaay, middle Shabelle. He went to primary school in Mahadaay. His brother was then transferred to Jowar Middle Shabelle, where Mohamud attended high school before they moved to Mogadishu , where Mohamud graduated from Mahamud Ahmed Ali high school. Soon after graduation, Mohamud joined the army as a cadet.

Like thousands of other Somalis fleeing the civil war, Mohamud left for Kenya in 1991 and for the following nice years integrated well into the Kenyan culture and learnt to the local language. He spoke fluent Swahili, English and Arabic.

In 2000, he returned to Somalia and joined the government as a law enforcement officer. He was sent to police academy in Sudan for three years and awarded a star upon his return. He received further law enforcement training in Uganda, Kenya, Egypt and Tanzania. He also spent two years in Ethiopia training as a teacher.

In the fourteen years he served in the Somali federal government’s law enforcement sector, he held various positions including police chief positions in Hamarweyne, Yakshiid, and Hamar Jajab districts of Mogadishu. He was awarded medals twice as recognition for his exceptional bravery and performance in the police service.

The list of the wounded.
The list of the wounded.

Mohamud was married with one wife and they had no children. Apparently, after being married for so long and unable to have children of their own, he was advised to divorce his wife or marry another woman in order to have children but he refused. His wife is also a member of the police force.

Mohamud’s younger brother was a major in the police and was also killed by Al-Shabaab in Kaaraan district of Mogadishu. Him and his wife have been raising the children as their own since.

What is particularly tragic about this story is that Mohamud has sacrificed his life to protect government officials who have not put in place even a basic compensation package for the wife and children him and the other nine fallen police officers have left behind. These children have lost their father twice to Al-Shabaab and their mother is servicing the same government that would expose her to harm and even death without a care for what happens to these children and if they will have a roof over their head.

Peace and stability in Somalia will not be achieved if law enforcement personnel have no incentive to fight battles that cost their lives and leave their families destitute. The federal government of Somalia might be under-resourced but security is a national priority and ensuring police officers are properly compensated is key to delivering on security and preventing defection to a well-funded and trained Al-Shabaab side.

By Fatuma