Ibrahim Jama obituary

Other lives: Legal officer at the Commission for Racial Equality who spent much of his spare time campaigning for international recognition of Somaliland

My husband, Ibrahim Jama, who has died aged 72, was a dedicated campaigner for international recognition of the country of his birth – Somaliland.

Although a de facto sovereign state, Somaliland is still considered by most other nations – and the United Nations – to be part of Somalia. A legal officer at the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in the UK, Ibrahim, like many of his compatriots in the diaspora, gave over much of his time to help the campaign for recognition, including by providing legal advice and by helping to organise European Union observers for the state’s first democratic elections.

Ibrahim was born in Hargeisa, in the British Protectorate of Somaliland, to Haji Jama, a veterinary assistant, and his wife, Shamis Mohamed, a shopkeeper. As the eldest boy in a family of nine he was designated by his father to receive an education, and went to Amoud secondary school in Hargeisa, where he did O-levels.

He was then given financial assistance by the British Foreign Office to go to the UK to study for A-levels at Wallasey further education college in Wirral (1970-72), before going on to study law at the University of Liverpool (1972-75). We first met in Liverpool in 1974 at the local Somali club.

Ibrahim returned to Somalia in 1975, and began a promising legal career in Mogadishu, working for the Ministry of Justice. However, it soon became clear that the then dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, was surrounding himself with his own clan, and Ibrahim’s days were numbered. In 1977 he went to The Hague to do some training in international law, and I took a holiday from my teaching job in the UK so that we could meet up there.

That year Ibrahim also did a few more months of training at the UN in New York, and used his diplomatic passport to break his journey home to Somalia with a visit to the UK. He and I got married, and he decided to stay.

After a spell working for Liverpool city council’s housing department, in 1982 Ibrahim joined the CRE, investigating discrimination cases, supporting community relations councils with legal advice and running training programmes for employers and trade unions. He remained there until retirement in 2011, by which time he had become senior legal officer and the CRE had merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Back home, events were unfolding tragically, with a civil war raging in Somalia. The north of the country was now calling itself Somaliland again and attempting to establish an independent state separate from the control of Mogadishu.

Ibrahim became involved from afar in supporting many of his erstwhile school friends who had become leading lights in the reconstruction of Somaliland. He contacted MPs and MEPs, issued press releases and lobbied various NGOs and the EU to fund observers at the first elections. He also helped to produce a handbook on Somaliland electoral law.

Always driving him forward was his pride in his homeland, where he believed the people had created a peaceful, enterprising, democratic country out of the ashes of civil war.

He is survived by me, our three children, Miriam, Adan and Malik, three grandchildren and six siblings.

Julia Jama

The GuardianTramp

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