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“A note on my teachers’ group”, Jama Musse Jama, 2002.
Published by Redsea Online Publishing Group

Mankind continues to become gradually less cruel because a few people in every generation keep saying, "This isn't right. It hurts me to see it."
- Joan Gilbert (1931- )

Mohamed Barood Ali & Omer Ie Awale in Hargeisa Prison, 1982I have, this evening, watched for the third time the film “Out of Africa,” which was inspired by Karen Blixon’s homonym novel. Karen is a Danish writer who has lived in Kenya at the beginning of the 21st century, and has met several Somalis during her stay in the Horn of Africa. Among them Farah, who is originally from Somaliland, and whose friendship with Karen is widely narrated in the film. In the novel, Karen succeeded in drawing with unusual clarity, her love of the landscape and animals of the area. The film director has been so successful in interpreting these scenes from Karen’s life in Africa in a very dramatic manner. Every time I have watched this film, I have felt an incredible sensation and mixed feelings that profoundly touched the African patriotic chords in me.

I would not have loved living in that era, in that part of the world, because as the sad African history has taught us, the people of the black continent suffered the major negative impacts of colonialism. But when I see the beautiful dawn and wonderful sunsets that invite you to the African warm nights, I applaud the film director and the protagonists of the movie, and of course Karen. I often compare these two scenes of my double-faced sentiment with my memories of Hargeisa, my home city.

On one hand, I relate to Hargeisa as the symbolic-city of the people who have resisted the cruel actions of the regime of the late Somali dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre. The sign of a unilateral conflict that has had affected entire families and quarters. The walls that still carry the scars of the horrors of the strafing from part of the hunters that were taking off from the airport of the city and bomb-shelling the remaining quarters of the same city. What happened in Hargeisa, I believe, is the actions of an evil of the century that caused unquantifiable genocide and material loss.

On the other hand, I remember Hargeisa, with fond memories, as the city where I was born, grew up, schooled and matured. The place of my infancy and adolescence. The city of my dreams and hopes.

Hargeisa, of which its memories fill up a large part of my thoughts, is the place where an “accident” that took place in February 1982, and that I am going to describe here after 20 years, unfolded.

It is within this double-edged sentiment that I have decided to publish this story of the February 20th 1982 “accident” in the city of Hargeisa. I have been collecting pieces of the history of this event for long time, but I never thought of publishing them for the public before now.

This essay tells the story of the case of a group of young professionals, including my schoolteachers, in Hargeisa who were arrested from November 1981 to January 1982 for they volunteered to assist the Hargeisa Group Hospital. These people were put in jail for eight long years in an incommunicado maximum-security prison known as Labaatan Jirow. They are internationally known as “Hargeisa Self Help Group”. Others call them “UFFO” group. I prefer to call them simply “My Teachers’ Group”.

The pages in this essay may, perhaps, be viewed as historical pieces of evidence, but at the same time, they contain the sequence of events that were happening at the time, and some of which I was an eyewitness, and, of course, some of which I learnt afterwards. They may contain emotional feelings of a student who suddenly realised that events had left him an orphan from his teachers.

This essay does not claim that this incident is the worst thing that happened in my country during the despotic Somali regime. In fact many other atrocious actions against the people of Somaliland had happened, perpetrated by the dictatorial regime. What really followed February 20th 1982 requires a separate book and I hope our historians will document the devastation and destruction that the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre has caused the Somali- inhabited territories in general and Somaliland in particular. Nothing good comes without sacrifices, and sacrifices we have given to freedom and prosperity. Let us not forget the ills of yesterday for history can repeat itself.

Jama Musse Jama,
Pisa, Italy.

N.B. I am indebted to Lawyer Ibrahim Hashi Jama, member of Somiland Forum, who provided me with a comprehensive technical analysis of the decision of Siad Barre’s Hargeisa National Security Court which tried the members of “My Teachers’ Group”. I would like to commemorate a lost of friend, Abdirahman A. Ismail (may Allah rest his soul in peace), who encouraged me to write this essay and who provided me with important documents on this case. Abdirahman was memebr of Somaliland Forum. Many other people helped me to collect information (historical photos, video and/or tape recordings, excerpts from newspapers, etc.) relating to this case. I would like to thank them all for their invaluable resources. I would also equally appreciate if anyone provides me with any additional information regarding this case, as I am still working on the final manuscript for publication. Please send comments and/or contributions to