Somaliland: ALI BANFAS, THE SOMALILAND ODYSSEUS, AND THE CHAMPION FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

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Mohamed Ahmed Abdi

By: Mohamed Ahmed Abdi Bacaluul

Somalilandsun – Today, the sky is heavy with dark clouds and our hearts with the sadness of Ali Hassan Adan’s departure. He was popularly known, as Ali Banfas.

Banfas means more than a surname, it demonstrates his artistic talents in the Somali literature, it was a title in which he earned when he won the competition of Somali artistic show ( Bandhiga fanka Somaaliyeed) in 1976.He was a man with multiple personalities, a most loved teacher, an outspoken dissident poet in a time that walls had ears, and the air was thick with the fear of Siad Barre’s repressive regime. No one was daring to say a word or express a gesture that can be interpreted as a critic or dissidence against the System. Unlike most of those who lived that time, Banfas never succumbed to the intimidations and Brutalities of the dictator’s men, but shook his words with castles of oppression and woke up the arrogant blood-sucking vampires from their nests… the high ranking Generals and Captains. His poetical awareness was a nightmare that haunted them and taught them, they will never go away with their cruelty.

Banfas, though conceptually was analogous, he was artistically different from the revolutionist poets . He never hesitated to be proud of the nobility of his origin as an Isak-blooded man and Hargiesawi too. He was not wrong about that, because Isak-cleansing was the principle of the suppressive campaigns’ in which the regime launched against Hargeisa, Berbera,Burao and Erigavo. With bravery, he stood for his ideals, his determination for freedom, and his position in human dignity. In the face of the arbitrary judges of the regime’s notorious courts, he broke the walls of silence with his strong rhymes; spoke out loudly against the repressive policies. Mocking judges and prosecutions wiped with beads of sweat from their foreheads, embarrassed with the truth of his poetical revelations. While women and children were cheering and ululating outside vicinity of the court, tingling with the sense of patriotism as they heard Banfasi’s daring response from the speakers.

“Oh Bidhiidh,do not let the fear overwhelm your senses,

The time is changing! ( Ha u biqin Bidhiidhaw waqtigu ways badalayaaye)

It is the most remembered verse of his inspiring poem at that moment—-A lion remains to be a lion even if it is behind bars.

It was not message for Bidhiidh only, an inmate who shared the chains with him. This ill-treatment, torture and degrading practices were not confined to them personally, but it was something that systematically subjected to every prison in the detention facilities and police stations. It was common fate that was waiting for everyone who had conscience.

Mujahid Ali was not a man of words; he was also a man of action. He would have served 15 years, but he got his back freedom, as a result of carefully orchestrated Military operation of SNM fighters who conquered Mandhera Prison in January 1983.This successful combat which was known as Bad-baado ( The Rescue Mission) was led by Mohamed Hashi Dirie ( lihle )…..a senior Commander in SNM warriors . According to the context of his poetry works, Banfas was always optimistic about future. He assured that there was always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The roar of explosions around me

Are the symbol of my rescue”….( Inaan garab haysto, gariirka agtayd ayaan ka gartaaye…..)

It was a poem he made when he was inside the prison. As they heard the sound of sporadic fires behind the walls, the sense of smile came back to the desperate faces of the inmates, his colleagues….the woods of hell. The time has changed…..and after few hours, the whole place was covered with smoke and blaze, as the dead bodies of the notorious prison guards and tormenters were piled up in the corridors of the jail.

“The time had changed”…as Banfas foretold.

From that day, when the chains of oppression were broken, he put himself in the fire line of the SNM battlefields, exposed himself to the hissing bullets of the enemy. Because freedom demands more than words, it wants to consume the blood and the souls of the braves. It was an obligation that vested upon everyone who could understand the circumstances of that day. Schoolboys turned into warriors who fought with morale and courage. Teachers like Ali Banfas, started to teach another classes in the heart of thick jungles, preparing their attentive pupils to the miseries of war and roasting themselves in the middle of its suffocating flames.

Our odeysseus ( Banfas) you passed away, but you won’t disappear as long as freedom of expression exists as an ideal within our system. You were the champion of this liberty and proved to the world that nothing could suppress the voice of truth even if all the tools are in the hands of the tyrants. Truth erupts like a volcano, puffing up its ingredients when the scale of the oppression goes up in to intolerable extent. You are one of great poets who ignited the fire of freedom with their tongue. No wind can turn out the candle of your legacy.

Those who went through hard times for the sake of us and lived enough to witness the fruits of their struggle are luckier than Ahmed Genius. Because he implored Allah, not to take his life before he sees the accomplishment of the mission.

“Ilaahoon horteed dhiman, iyadoon dhammays noqon”, Genius.

Unfortunately Mujahid Ahmed missed that chance. He martyred in the battlefields before the liberation.

May Allah rest all of you in peace and bless all the martyrs with his paradise.

By: Maxamed Axmed Cabdi Bacaluul

waddi12@hotmail.com

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