Former prime minister, "George Washington of Somalia," dies in Minneapolis

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Somalis around the world are marking the death of former Somali Prime Minister Abdirizak Haji Hussein, who died of pneumonia Friday in Minneapolis after being hospitalized for about a week. He had made his home in the Como neighborhood of the city for more than a decade.

The Star Tribune put his age at the time of his death at 89. MPR News said that he was 90.

Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, the current Somali prime minister, issued a statement a few hours after his death, sending condolences to Hussein's family and friends. Ahmed has appointed a governmental committee to start preparations for a national funeral for Hussein. Flags have been lowered in his home region of Puntland.

In the 1940s and 50s, Hussein was part of the group that worked towards Somali independence. Hussein led Somalia from 1964 to 1967. He later served as its United Nations ambassador from 1974 to 1979.

“In the eyes of Somalis, wherever they are, he is like George Washington,” activist Omar Jamal told the Star Tribune. “He transcended the concept of clan affiliation.”Macalester College Professor Ahmed Samatar told MPR News that Hussein was a key figure in Somali history. "His record is legendary -- no corruption, either in his office or his cabinet and civil service," Samatar said. "And two, he stressed the importance of competence. And third he was always someone who gave attention to the future - not just the present day problems and issues, but the future."

“He died sad having witnessed a country he once led disintegrating,” Jamal said.

Survived by two daughters and a son, Hussein was part of a large extended family.

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