Hussein Samatar, a Somali-American leader, dies

Nathaniel Rabuzzi

Hussein Samatar, a leader in Minneapolis' Somali-American community, died from leukemia on Sunday, MPR News reports.  He was 45.

The first Somali-American elected to public office in Minnesota, Samatar was instrumental in establishing the Somali-American community as a prominent voice in Minneapolis' civic life and politics.

Samatar considered running for Minneapolis mayor in this fall's election, according to a Star Tribune report, but health complications forced him to halt those plans. He was diagnosed with leukemia last December.

Five DFL candidates for Minneapolis mayor held a debate in June that focused on Somali-American community issues, an example of how the community is a crucial voter group for candidates.

“[The Somali community] will make a difference because they vote,” Samatar said in an interview with the Minnesota Daily. “Their numbers are thriving, and they can be a difference for [the election].”

Samatar was a member of the Minneapolis school board and founded the African Development Center, a nonprofit that works with businesses in Minnesota's African communities.

Mayor R.T. Rybak appointed Samatar to a position on the Library Board of Trustees in 2005, according to Mshale, an African community newspaper.

"I am heartsick about losing him," Rybak said in a news release, "but I will look for solace in knowing how many people he helped."