Somalia’s former president Ali Mahdi Mohamed has died in Nairobi aged 83, officials in Mogadishu and members of his family announced on Wednesday.
According to the family, the former president fell ill in Mogadishu last week and was flown out to Kenya for further treatment.
Mahdi was appointed president of Somalia by loyalists of the United Somali Congress (USC), the rebel group that deposed the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991.
But his rule was immediately challenged by the late rebel leader Mohamed Farah Aideed. The power struggle between general Aideed and Mahdi led to months of bloodshed in Mogadishu. Decades later, the country is still struggling to rise from the aftermath of the conflict.
Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo and a host of several opposition politicians condoled with his family, describing Mahdi as a man who loved his country.
President Farmaajo announced a three-day national mourning period and a special committee to conduct his burial. He said the former leader will have a state funeral.
“He played his part in saving our country during difficult times,” said formerpresident Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. “May God give patience and faith to the Somali people and the family he left behind.”
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, another ex-president, also offered his condolences, praying for strength for his family and Somalis in general.
Mahdi was born at Addow-Guul village in Middle Shabelle region, about 100km north of Mogadishu, in 1938.
He began school in Mogadishu and went for further studies in Egypt in 1959. Mahdi later became a civil servant in the Ministry of Health.
In 1968, he left the government service and joined politics. He was elected to the 123-member civilian National Assembly, having won a seat in the last multiparty election Somalia had in March 1969.
When Gen Barre and his army officers overthrew the civilian government and abolished the constitution in October 1969, Mahdi returned to the civil service, becoming a departmental director at the Ministry of Health.
Mahdi left the government’s civil service again in 1977, becoming a businessman in the hospitality and export sectors. He was considered one of the wealthiest businessmen in Somalia.
In the late 1980s, Mahdi joined a large group of former politicians and businesspeople who sent a letter known as ‘Manifesto’ to president Barre, demanding a change of government in the face of escalating armed rebel movements.
Gen Barre resisted the Manifesto’s suggestions.
His rule collapsed when armed youth invaded Villa Somalia on January 26, 1991, ousting him after ruling Somalia for 20 years.
Rebel loyalists in the capital chose Mahdi for president. But his rule was challenged by Gen Aideed, who was the chairman of the rebel group, the United Somali Congress (USC).
Loyalists of Mahdi and Aideed fought in what was known asDagaalkii affar billodle (the four months’ war) between November 1991 and March 1992.
For a decade, Mahdi remained nominally a president. He renounced the presidency at Arta Town in the Republic of Djibouti during the reconciliation conference hosted by Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh in 2000