About the Author: Robert E. Patterson serves as Counselor for Somalia Affairs at the Somalia Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
Those of us involved with Somalia are, unfortunately, used to daily reports of violence and tragedy in that long-suffering country. However, the December 3, 2009, suicide bombing at a graduation ceremony for Mogadishu's Banadir University stood out. On that day, we witnessed a grisly suicide bombing at a graduation ceremony for the future medical doctors of Somalia, a nation desperately short of medical professionals. Several graduating medical students were killed, as well as three ministers of the Transitional Federal Government, all of whom were serving in critical social services ministries. A fourth minister remains in critical condition at a Saudi Arabian hospital. Other victims included three journalists and several bystanders, including parents of the graduating students.
The courageous faculty and students of Banadir University were undeterred by the attack or the daily chaos of Mogadishu. A new class of medical students has begun study, and the university is searching for ways to use the talents of the Somali diaspora in order to compensate for the loss of key faculty.
As part of our effort to help the university recover from the attack, we organized a benefit concert in Nairobi on the evening of February 9. The very talented American pianist Ned Kirk, who was in town for some cultural activities on behalf of the U.S. Embassy's Public Affairs Section, generously volunteered to perform for the event. He played pieces by Beethoven, Debussy, and Liszt and explained the intricacies of each of the pieces to the audience. We were honored to have a number of distinguished guests in attendance, including Somalia's Ambassador to Kenya, the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative to Somalia and many of our colleagues from other embassies. The concert netted almost $8,000, which will be donated to the university.
For more information, visit the Somalia Virtual Presence Post website.
Editor's Note: The fourth minister mentioned in the entry, Saleban Olad Roble, succumbed to his injuries on February 12, 2010.