Hadraawi Warsame, 'Shakespeare of Somalia', dies aged 79


Award-winning Somali poet Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame, better-known by his pen name Hadraawi, died Thursday aged 79, prompting a flood of tributes to the "Shakespeare of Somalia".

Hadraawi died in a hospital in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland, after battling ill health for the past seven years.

The poet, who composed dozens of songs and epics in verse, spent five years in prison during the military dictatorship of Siad Barre for criticising the regime.

Following his release, he moved to Ethiopia, where he joined the opposition Somali National Movement before travelling to Britain and finally relocating to Somaliland, where he was a popular presence at literature workshops and seminars.

"This is shocking and a great loss, I want to inform the Somali speaking people anywhere and the world about the death of poet Hadraawi, and that we ought to pray for him now," Somaliland president Muse Bihi told a press conference in Hargeisa.

"I send my condolences to the Somaliland people and to all other Somali-speaking people anywhere in the world, we will prepare his burial," he added.

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also expressed his condolences.

"May God have mercy on poet Mohamed Warsame Hadraawi, he was one of the Somali intellectuals who spent efforts in contributing to the awareness of Somali people and their literature," he said in a statement.

Hadraawi had no surviving children and his wife died earlier this year.

Somaliland and Somalia have a long oral storytelling tradition.

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but the move has not been recognised by the international community.