28, March 2003
ARE THINGS FALLING APART IN IMBAGATHI?
M. M. Afrah
a time when a world diplomatically scorched by divisions over
how to disarm Iraq and the disputed necessity of regime change
by force of arms as envisioned by Washington, the Somali peace
talks in Mbagathi seemed to go belly up once again.
believed from the very beginning that the faction leaders
were not seriously interested in peace as demonstrated by
their endless squabbles and even fistfights. They believed
that given the track records of the faction leaders a.k.a.
warlords the whole shenanigans were all pretence. None of
them has ever demonstrated the organizational skills to actually
run a country they destroyed beyond recognition. Nor have
they elicited a great deal of broad-based public support back
some of the very few intellectuals representing the civic
society did enjoy preferred status, identified and promoted
by some well-meaning delegates from the EU donor countries
and the Kenyan hosts as potential leaders of resuscitated
Somalia, but the powerful warlords and their financiers in
Addis got wind of it and all came to naught. Their voices
literally ran berserk in the Mbagathi wildness, among the
struck me distinctly odd why such talks are held outside the
country, but people who were well versed with the Somali clan
wars said that due to the vast amount of weapons in the country,
holding any peace talks between sworn enemy warlords, out
to settle old scores, would complicate matters even more.
They said that if there were fistfights in Eldoret, there
certainly would be a bloody shoot out, if for example, the
talks are held in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Kismayu or any other
city in the South.
"Let them shoot it out Mafia-style. There will be a sigh
of relief in the country. Good riddance!" one angry Canadian-Somali
in Hamilton retorted.
of meaningless talks and nothing changed. The same tensions,
the same shouting matches, the same walkouts, the same belly
flutters, the same fear of failure and the unwilling hopes
of success. The talks in Kenya are nothing but another circus
or a talking shop, waste of time, energy and resources. But
to the organizers, with their deep pockets, and the greedy
hotel owners the conference proved to be a gravy train out
of which they milked huge amounts of money "for services
was lax at the Conference Hall and unruly local gatecrashers;
mostly Kenyan Somalis frequently interrupted the proceedings
of the talks. The place resembled the Animal Market North
of Mogadishu and nobody gives damn about it.
Abdiqassim's recent proposal to hold yet another peace talks
this time in Mogadishu. There's a school of thought agonizing
over the proposal by a man who was unable to restore a semblance
of peace in the capital despite the money his TNG receives
from some Arab countries. The recent blood feud and the act
of revenge killing in the Medina District went a step too
far even in the Somali equation. The militia went rampage
in slaughtering rival clansmen and in the process killed large
number of innocent civilians, which makes mockery of his proposals.
boot camp soldiers did nothing to try to stop the bloodshed
and the killings in Madina District of Mogadishu, just as
in other conflict zones in the country, it was allowed to
rage unchecked, then burnt itself out.
who knew Abdiqassim say it is a tactical pause to wear out
his opponents in order to cling to his shaky seat of power
and eventually force them to accept his terms, particularly
at a time when EU donor countries are threatening to withdraw
their financial support from the Somalia peace talks. Also,
the touchy IGAD member countries and the Kenyan hosts are
at the end of their tethers due to lack of any tangible progress.
the warlords had underestimated a man who had survived the
tentacles of Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre and held important
ministerial portfolios, including the Minister of the Interior
and Information for over twenty years and later outfoxed other
candidates for the post of Interim President during the Arta
Conference in Djibouti.
himself seemed to note the depth of his dilemma. He sees a
city in flames, the main airport and seaport still closed
and that 60 per cent of the city is no-go area, and the elusive
Mooryaan demons putting makeshift barricades everywhere, threatening
the starving population to pay or else
had predicted that, just like his predecessor, Ali Mahdi,
Abdiqassim Salaad Hassan would lose heart and quit before
his time expires, but instead he continued to cling to his
shaky seat, and sometimes goes out to chastise the rookie
parliamentarians, paying less attention to what was going
around him. Unruffled. But even if he tries there's nothing,
absolutely nothing he can do about it. His boot camp soldiers'
recent attempt to collect levies from the merchants that ended
in disaster is a glaring example. The city is seething with
hatred, hatred of anything that reeks of authority. To many
merchants in Mogadishu authority means jeopardizing what they
consider as "civil liberty" and that no tears would
be shed for the death of a government official.
doesn't matter if Abdirizaaq is good man or not. He is the
one we have now," said a former minister of the civilian
government currently living in New York City, rubbing shoulders
with former members of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC).
As I write
this our man in Mogadishu says the militia are now running
out of ammunitions and cash and are resorting to kidnapping
for ransom and robbery with violence to satisfy their cravings
for Qaad and cigarettes, leaving behind a devastating trauma,
while their bosses are staying at Hotel 680, one of Nairobi's
most luxurious hotels.
have been falling apart in Somalia long before the demons
with guns came to the scene in 1991. But what is the best
prescription for Somalia's chronic disease? It is crystal
clear that the symptom has been clan worshipping.
Barre who himself quietly played clans off one another once
said: "It is unfortunate that our nation is rather too
clannism; If all Somalis are to go to Hell, tribalism will
be their vehicle to reach there."
Afrah © 2003
Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and
a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international
newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through
the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two
Many of us remember his critical articles in his
weekly English language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory
self-censorship introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga
Hantiwadaagga Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am
very proud to know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian
censorship laws and went ahead to write what he thought was
wrong in the country. He received several death threats from
the warlords and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993.
But he remained defiant and continued to send his stories
of carnage and destruction to Reuters news agency. He still