By Hassan M. Abukar
The passing of Professor Said Samatar, 71, was sad and sudden.
I never met the good professor in person, but we had exchanged several emails. I was very familiar with his research and books. In fact, his book, Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism: The Case of Sayid Mahammad Abdille Hassan (Cambridge, 1982), is perhaps one of the best books ever written on the role of poetry as a tool to gain and maintain political power in the Somali society.
Samatar’s writing, sometimes hilarious, mostly insightful, made the reader ponder and laugh heartily. He also had a whiff of disdain in his interviews and writings for past and present Somali governments.
Two years ago, I wrote an article about a conflict between former President Siad Barre and Samatar in the 1980s. I wanted to get Samatar’s take on the story so I sent him a draft of my piece. To my amazement, the professor had another idea. As an editor of the journal Horn of Africa, he asked me if I could perhaps publish the article there. I was stunned. I’d written the article for a general audience and wanted it that way. It was flattering, however, that the good professor liked the article to the extent he wanted to publish it academically.
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