Members of Minnesota’s Somali community are preparing a memorial for Saado Ali Warsame, the singer, human rights advocate and member of Somalia’s parliament who was gunned down Wednesday in Mogadishu.
“The late Saado Ali was well-known back home. She was a legend. This woman spoke about injustice, corruption, law of government. She was a brave human being,” said Jabril Afyare, president of the Somali Citizens League in Minneapolis. He, along with other local Somali community leaders, have decided to raise money for members of Warsame’s family who live in Minnesota. They also want the Somali and U.S. governments to investigate her shooting.
Warsame came to the United States in the early 1990s, first living in Minneapolis and, more recently, in St. Cloud. But she returned to Mogadishu in 2012 to join Parliament. In the U.S., she became known as a community leader who would help out anyone who asked.
Kadir Abdullah of Minneapolis was just starting out as a singer when he met Warsame in the mid-1990s. He said it was rare for big musicians from Somalia to play with musicians just starting out in the United States. But they went on a tour together, going to cities like Atlanta and Chicago.
“While she was singing, I knew she was a leader, and a politician. She want to lead in the front,” he recalled.
Minneapolis businessman Abdikarime Hassan met her in the early 2000s and remembers her wroting songs critical of former President Siad Barre, who was overthrown in 1991.
“She was against the government and created that song that everybody was listening,” he saod. “In Somali language its called Landcruiser Gado Soo bari Galey, that means the international community Somali give them a food donation and the Siad Barre administration took those food and sell it and get the money to buy luxury cars.”
Warsame died in a drive-by shooting. Her killing was condemned by the U.S. State Department, which said in a statement: “As a singer, songwriter, poet and parliamentarian Warsame exemplified all the best qualities of Somali culture and tradition. This is a tremendous loss to the people of Somalia and to Somalis around the world.”
The Somali Islamic extremist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on Warsame, one of few women in Somalia’s parliament and the first female legislator killed by the group.
She is the fourth lawmaker killed this year in militant attacks that increasingly target members of Somalia’s parliament, which has emerged as a pillar of democracy in the Horn of Africa nation. This is the second drive-by shooting of a lawmaker since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which scores of civilians and government troops have been killed in militant attacks.
Warsame’s driver was also killed in the attack which happened in Mogadishu’s Hodan district, considered to be one of the safest places in the seaside city because of heavy security presence, according to Hussein.
Al-Shabab, which has links with al-Qaida, has previously carried out attacks against government officials, African Union peacekeepers and United Nations staff in a deadly campaign of suicide bombings and gun attacks. Militant attacks have continued despite al-Shabab being ousted from its bases in Mogadishu in 2011.
“It’s a tragic loss to the all the Somali community and we’re deeply, deeply crying,” said Deqa Hussein, who met Warsame while working at the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. She said Warsame was a role model as an advocate for children and women.
A memorial and fundraiser is planned for later Thursday.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)