: Canadian journalist assassinated

Aug 12th, 2007, 01:20 PM
Inside Mogadishu's radio station HornAfrik, there's a faded poster that reads: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

This was Canadian Ali Sharmarke's guide for the eight years he reported in the world's most war-torn city.

Yesterday, Sharmarke was killed in a car bombing, robbing the Somali Canadian and journalism communities of one of their best.

Sharmarke fled here with his family when Somalia's government fell in 1991 and the country descended into civil war. Like so many Somalis who sought refuge in the 1990s, Sharmarke was proud of his citizenship and fiercely loyal to his adopted country.

But Sharmarke eventually felt a pull back to his homeland and, again like so many others, went back to try to import some of the peace he had found in Canada.

He established Somalia's first independent radio station with two other Canadians in December 1999. HornAfrik provided what was often the only glimpse the outside world had of the chaos inside Mogadishu. To those in Somalia, the radio station brought the outside world in.

Somehow throughout the tyrannous rule of warlords, an Islamic government and now a fragile interim government propped up by Ethiopia Sharmarke always managed to survive. In 2002, the Canadian Journalists For Free Expression honoured the HornAfrik founders. "(HornAfrik's) journalists have faced constant intimidation and threats in a society where there is no one to protest to, and no protection of the freedom of the press," an awards gala in Toronto was told.

Few foreign journalists reported from inside Mogadishu, but those who did turned to Sharmarke for help. Before travelling to Mogadishu last fall, I contacted Sharmarke who happened to be visiting relatives in Toronto at the time. He came to the Toronto Star for a tour of the newsroom, where we talked over coffee about visiting Somalia.

"You'd be crazy to come most of the time," I remember him saying. "But now you'll be safe." I believed him, and I was.

Last fall, the Union of Islamic Courts had control of Mogadishu and I went to interview a former Toronto grocer who was then one of the Islamic leaders. Sharmarke helped with many details of the visit.

When I first saw him in Mogadishu, he was inside the walled and guarded HornAfrik compound, working two cellphones and reading something on his computer.

When we moved to sit in a shaded area in the garden, he offered fruit and juice even though he was fasting for Ramadan at the time. We talked politics and he explained that he was not a supporter of the UIC, but supported the relative peace they brought to the city. "You'll see for yourself," he said.

Later that evening, he met me outside the hotel where I was staying and looked a little weary. "They just closed our station in Kismayo," he said as he slumped in his chair. The UIC opposed the coverage of a women's protest of the Islamists' takeover of the port city, even though they had allowed similar coverage in the past.

"The problem is it's so arbitrary."

No one claimed responsibility for yesterday's bombing. Both the interim government and those loyal to the Islamists, who were overthrown by Ethiopian troops last December, had recently been critical of HornAfrik's reporting. That likely would have pleased Sharmarke because he always tried to find balance in his reporting.

Earlier the same day one of Sharmarke's colleagues had been targeted, shot dead near the radio station.

"The killing was meant to prevent a real voice that described the suffering in Mogadishu to other Somalis and to the world," Sharmarke told an Associated Press reporter about his colleague's death.

Sharmarke was driving home from his friend's funeral when the explosion occurred.

Source : Toronto Star

He was a great man and a true journalist , myself and everyone who knew him know that the world has suffered a true loss.

He had survived multiple attempts on his life but decided to stay regardless


Aug 12th, 2007, 02:51 PM
I've followed Sharmarke's efforts with HornAfrik for several years - this is a huge blow to the Somali community. It is incredible that the world community of nations has allowed the situation in Somalia to continue for so long. Not so incredible, though, when you realize there's no oil there, and the last time the West had forces on the ground, the U.S. ran from a bloody nose ("Blackhawk Down") and the Canadian forces outdid themselves (and destroyed their reputation) with the Shidane Abukar Arone affair (http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-71-723/conflict_war/somalia/).

Deep Blue
Aug 13th, 2007, 02:51 AM
He was a brave journalist in an untenable position. It is amazing he survived so long.

As a fellow journo I respect his work, marvel at his bravery and am saddened by his violent death.

Yet again, rapacious helpless Somalia eats one of its own.