All nations, whether big or small, colonized or uncolonized, poor or affluent, pride in their past and present historical events with heroes and heroines, legends or legendary figures, nationalists and freedom fighters revered as role models in commemorative events and national celebrations. No wonder Kenyans celebrate Kenyatta Day and Moi Day in honor of the first and second Presidents respectively.
In Somali written and oral history, Ahmed Gurey, also called 'Gran' or the left-handed, is reputed to have been the first Somali freedom fighter to repel with decisive force against Abyssinian imperialism and European colonialism of Somali inhabited lands in the run up to the 15th century. However, many loquacious Somalis, devoid of creative research skills or ignorant and biased in nature seem not to understand the historical significance of the wars fought by this brave man who fought with valor. On the other hand, Seyyid Muhammed Abdille Hassan, a man named 'Mad Mullah' by the British occupation forces based in northern Somalia at that time has not been given the credit he deserves simply because a dangerous cancer in the minds of many Somalis-a disease that has afflicted the young and old in equal proportion and known as tribalism-has tragically swept the faculty of thinking of many into disrepair and dissuaded them from grasping the truth.
Since our discussion today is mainly centered on Seyyid Muhammed Abdille Hassan and his skirmishes against the combined Abyssinian-Italian-British forces and local Somali Askaris in the payroll of the occupation forces, it is equally important we mention that the Dervishes-the gallant forces of the Seyyid-were the first to be bombarded by aircraft in the history of Africa. Also, it is worth comprehending that the Seyyid was the first Somali to graduate from an institution of higher learning and the first to object to the payment of poll tax imposed on his people by the British colonial government. He was the first Somali to construct a garrison at Taleex which is visible to this day. Students and admirers of Somali history need to be reminded of how he contracted a German engineer to lay down the foundations of this massive garrison which up to now stands as a landmark of Somali history.
It was Seyyid Muhammed Abdille Hassan who revived the struggles of Ahmed Gurey and also taught Somalis the importance of self-rule or self-determination. The offspring of the horses and mules he abandoned when he betook himself to the jungles of the Ogaden region-especially in the village of Iimeey-his final death bed- remain visibly scattered in the countryside-a testament to the majesty and prowess of a bygone hero. Never in the history of Somalia has a man so eloquently created a living genesis of poetry and prose that still begs for publication and translation. The letter he wrote to the then British colonial administration protesting against proselytizing, indoctrinating, and brainwashing his people must be put be put into context.
Perhaps, it is wrong to associate or measure or place in par the heroic struggles of the Seyyid with modern African freedom fighters like Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Gemal Abdelnasir of Egypt, and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia-because the techniques the Seyyid applied and the era and duration of his struggles are incompatible with the struggles of modern African freedom fighters.
Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre, President of Somalia from 1969 to 1991, deserves a pat on the back for introducing the Seyyid's struggles into Somali schools curriculum. On the other hand, President Barre left a historical legacy by having statues erected in Mogadishu in honor of the Seyyid and his predecessor-the legendary Ahmed Gurei even though we are told that callous warlords in cahoots with a few misguided militias have uprooted them for sale as scrap metal in the Arabian Peninsula.
It is almost 18 years since General Barre departed the political spectrum and to date, with the exception of a few rapacious hooligans who carved out the nation into Cantons, killed thousands, and displaced millions, what Somalia awaits to see is a leader who will unite the people and rewrite a novel history without distortions.
If there are any Somalis denying Seyyid Muhammmed Abdille Hassan his place in history due to their protracted paucity and meagerness of historical integrity, I would suggest they delve in to the golden pages of living history splashed across encyclopedias in modern libraries or most importantly present their queries before the numerous internet search engines like Google and Yahoo that never shy away from uncovering the truth.