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Tribute to an outstanding peacebuilder

April 6, 2011
Est. Reading: 3 minutes
Mohamed Yassin Essa (Ilkoasse). Photo credit: Ryan Anson for Interpeace

Mohamed Yassin Essa
Assassinated 6 April 2011

“I believe that a reward good enough for all derives from good leadership, progress and justice.”
Mohamed Yassin Essa, known to all by his nickname “Ilkoasse.” (The Red Teeth)

Peace, tolerance, justice, and development were the principles that Ilkoasse believed were essential for his society to move forwards. A devoted peacebuilder, his passion was to support the peacebuilding and democratization process in Puntland and further afield. His lifetime hope was to witness his society being able to determine and decide their own future.

Ilkoasse was assassinated on the morning of 6 April 2011, in Garowe, the seat of the regional Administration of Puntland, Somalia.

“Ilkoasse will remain an inspiration to all those he encountered. Delivering against his ambitions and dreams (riyadiisii) will be taken up by his colleagues around the world.”
Abdirahman Abdulle Osman ‘Shuke’, Executive Director – PDRC, Garowe, Puntland

Ilkoasse joined the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) militia as a teenager in the 1980s, returning to the North East regions after the collapse of the Somali state in 1991.

When the War-Torn Societies’ Project (WSP, later Interpeace) began its work in the North East regions in 1996 with offices in Galkayo, Garowe and Bosaso, Ilkoasse approached the director in his uniquely straightforward fashion and was taken on as a junior staff member.He became a cameraman working for the emerging leaderships, during what was then the first phase of the Somali civil war. Witnessing the national and regional peace missions as well as the high-level reconciliation initiatives, he journeyed across the region and abroad, gaining exceptional exposure.

Ilkoasse’s keenness to learn and capacity to grow within the program was quickly noted by the Director of the program, the late Adan Jama Bihi, who arranged a correspondence course in Accounting. Ilkoasse not only demonstrated his ability in accounting but also captured the administrative work of the office and the hearts of the team.

A decade later, Ilkoasse had become the Director of Finance and Administration for the Puntland Development Research Center and led the institution to eight consecutive clean audits from KPMG. In addition, Ilkoasse acquired research and analysis skills, a thorough understanding of Participatory Action Research methodology. He was a powerhouse behind the peacebuilding and democratization work of PDRC, Interpeace, and other organisations, making critical contributions on both context and content.

Beyond that, Ilkoasse was a peace mobiliser par excellence, able to gain access in all quarters and at all levels, forthright in speaking truth to power (as well as to his friends), and equally at ease with militiamen, civil society, intellectuals, or presidents.

Last year, Ilkoasse went to Hargeysa to observe the Somaliland presidential elections and wrote about his experiences. His piece was published to great acclaim in Somaliland papers and read widely in Puntland. His eloquence was honoured by old friends and intellectuals who had watched him grow over the years "Now we see when you take up the pen that you can write too." The article reflects his courage, clarity of vision, and his life mission to support peacebuilding and democratization for the Puntland community and beyond.

The murder of Ilkoasse goes into history as a lasting shame and hard lesson for the community and leadership in Puntland and across the Somali region. The negative legacies of the past and present contexts have to be outgrown by individuals, groups, and society in the 21st century for peace and development to emerge and flourish in the Somali region, causes for which Ilkoasse dedicated his life.

Ilkoasse’s enthusiasm, optimism, fierce commitment to justice, and joyful passion for life are an inspiration to all who knew and worked with and loved him.

Interpeace and its Somali peacebuilding partners, the Puntland Development Research Center, the Center for Research and Dialogue, and the Academy for Peace and Development express their deepest sympathy to Ilkoasse’s family, friends and colleagues.