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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Somali poet marches for peace
Muhammad Ibrahim Warsame Hadraawi, Somali Poet
Somali artists have been accused of inciting civil unrest
Somali artists have been marching for peace as faction and government leaders at talks in Kenya fail to agree the formation of a transitional government and a national assembly.

The Hadraawi Peace March, after Somali poet Muhammad Ibrahim Warsame Hadraawi, on Saturday reached the southern port town of Kismaio after covering the 500km from the capital, Mogadishu, in less than a week.

The BBC's Hassan Barisse in Somali says that in Kismaio, Mr Hadraawi, the most popular living Somali poet, told the rally not to despair as the "solution to the problems of Somalia will be found one day".

Accompanied by his fellow poets, writers and musicians, Mr Hadraawi said that the march is part of his new initiative to persuade the Somalis to forgive each other and live in together peace in their homeland.

Accused

Our reporter says that Somali artists have always been accused of inciting the civil unrest in country with their songs and poems.

I felt I lost my way and I decided to return back home where I am one of the most respected people
Muhammad Ibrahim Warsame Hadraawi

Mr Hadraawi, in his late fifties, was born in Burau in the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland and graduated in literature and education at the Somali University in Mogadishu in the early 1970s.

A former teacher of literature, Mr Hadraawi started writing poems to protest against the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre in 1970s.

He was jailed for 10 years and when he was released he fled the country to Djibouti, Ethiopia and the UK where he continued to write patriotic songs and poems.

'Down to earth'

The BBC's African Services regional editor, Yusuf Garaad Omar, describes him as a "very down to earth person who would talk to ordinary Somalis in the street without revealing his identity."

"He restores hope in the society and lifts the morale of people in the country which has suffered many years of civil war," says Mr Omar.

Mr Hadraawi, who has lived in the UK for the past five years, has explained to his fellow countrymen about how he felt humiliated in the streets of London, "as thousands of the British people in their cars passed him by without any of them recognising or offering him a lift".

"I felt I lost my way and I decided to return back home where I am one of the most respected people," he said.

"But, before going home, I took with me something for the Somalis".

"It is a big 800-verse poem entitled Daba Huwan (covered in the back)."

In Daba Huwan, he writes about the difficulties the Somalis experience when living abroad.

Traditionalist

Mr Hadraawi's work is used in schools as teaching material and "he spends most of his time going around the country training and encouraging budding Somali writers and poets," Mr Omar says.

The poet is a traditionalist who even in exile managed to continue wearing his Somali traditional clothes and spoke Somali language "without an accent or mixing it with other foreign words".

In one of his most loved songs titled "Hooyo'"which means Mother, Mr Hadraawi praises women and their contribution to society.

During his peace tour, Mr Hadraawi will also pay a visit to the jail in Qansah-dhere of Bay region where was imprisoned for more than five years during Siad Barre's regime.

"I am going to visit that jail," he said, "because it is where the freedom of expression was seriously violated."

His recital tour will take him around the whole of Somalia although he himself comes from Somaliland.

"I shouldn't put myself into a small enclave when I can enjoy the life with all my people," Mr Hadraawi said.

"The country has been fragmented into pieces, and I don't want to become a part of any of the fragmented pieces, but Somalia would be my real place."


SEE ALSO:
Somali leader rejects peace deal
07 Jul 03  |  Africa
Analysis: Somalia's powerbrokers
08 Jan 02  |  Africa


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