. There does seem a lot of interesting emails pouring
in this week. Some are outraged about my recent eyewitness
accounts and some from US Marines former President George
Bush committed to Somalia "to do God's work."
what an American who said he was one of the Army Rangers who
survived that hostile firefight around the downed Black Hawk
helicopters by what he calls "the skinnies."
"Hi, Mr. Afrah,
I thought the world had forgotten the carnage in that hellhole
you call Mogadishu. Anyway, thanks for your impartial and
balanced description during our involvement in Somalia, which
I personally think was wrong. We should have left the f*****Somalis
alone to kill each other till doomsday.
Now, I've been talking to a Somali-American who has just paid
a visit to Somaliland and I asked him if it was safe to go
to Mogadishu in order to revisit the scene of the carnage,
but he advised me to avoid Mogadishu, because he said nothing
has changed during the last 12 years or so.
As you seem to know what's going on inside that Hell's Gate
I'd appreciate if you advise me on the following:
1. How safe is it for an African-American guy
who admires the courage and bravery of the skinnies?
2. How is the immigration and customs situation,
i.e. do I need a passport and a visa to enter
3. Do I have to carry with me cash or credit cards?
4. Are there hotels in Mog?"
Thanks for your receptive and touchy email and I try to unwrap
some answers in my own modest way.
A character in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart advises readers
thus: "The world is like a dancing mask. If you want
to see it well, you do not stand in one place."
the situation report "sitrep" in U.S. militaryspeak.
Is Mogadishu safe? The answer is: Absolutely No. You don't
have to have a reason for killing somebody, other than
a loaded gun in your hand and a fancy to fire it off.
Usually the militia fire off the whole magazine to prove
no one raises an eyebrow, let alone weep. The inhabitants
of the city have been weeping and mourning for more than
a decade and have lost the feeling of weeping and mourning.
way, Somaliland, where your Somali-American friend has visited,
has gone solo in 1991 and its capital, Hargeisa, is much safer
than the mean streets of New York City and Chicago where daily
mugging and home invasion are no longer newsworthy and are
often buried on page 6 of the New York Times or The Chicago
might have witnessed during your ordeal in the city of sorrows,
guns are everywhere. Even kids as young as 10 or 12 go armed,
and every city or town is run by different groups of gunmen.
Clan ties loosely linked them, but inter-clan disputes and
shootouts regularly break out, so an area that was safe on
Tuesday may be best avoided on Wednesday. Score settling is
the order of the day. However, the epicenter of the hell is
Mogadishu. Very often bullets whistle over your head until
the real thing comes along and poof you are dead, finished!
No 911 or a policeman to pursue your killer and no ambulance
to pick up your dead body to take it to the morgue.
Also you must have observed during your short anguish in Mogadishu
that the warlords made the capital a mini-Nagasaki. There
are no rules only pillage, arson and rape. Oddly, it seems
these warlords and their ragtag militia gunmen never run low
on ammunition. It defies logical explanation.
As one U.S. Marine in Mogadishu later muttered to me that
the "Somali militia are pretty dangerous motherf****ing
are no customs or immigration officials at the string of makeshift
airstrips in the country. You can come in and go out at will.
No problem if you hire the right armed bodyguards. The Mogadishu
International Airport was closed when you guys pulled out,
leaving the inhabitants to fend for themselves. But your first
priority is to hire armed bodyguards on arrival to protect
you from rival gunmen or free lancers. Even then there's no
guarantee that you'd be safe. Your own bodyguards could spray
you with bullets if they suspect you are carrying with you
a fat wallet and expensive electronic gadgets, such as cell
phones or a laptops, the most sought after in Mogadishu these
know from experience that by paying your bodyguards in
time for their evening Qat-chewing session could save
your skin. Qat is a narcotic drug imported daily from
neighbouring Kenya on light aircraft. It helps the boys
to get through the day to the next. Also, in a traumatized
and frightened society, their classical Somali love songs
as they sit on the hood of the vehicle with their guns
at the ready, is a good diversion from the culture of
violence. The Qat importers on the other hand laugh all
the way to their Swiss banks, while the people are dying
of starvation and disease.
and the giant U.S. media accuse the Somalis of harboring international
terrorists, but the truth is that no international terrorist
will survive in Gun Rising Somalia. He would be a sitting
target for homegrown terrorists locally known as Mooryaan,
the freelancer predators mentioned above. But as an African-American
you may easily mingle with a crowd, masquerading as a Somali
Bantu, but once you open your mouth you're dead meat.
Shimbiraale, the tiny bird sanctuary island, where intelligence
agencies allege that Osama's Al-Qaeda boys are using as a
training ground is even off limit to the homegrown terrorists,
the Mooryaan, because the birds would not welcome human beings,
especially during mating seasons.
of the new kids on the block-the young gun-totting kidnappers.
are several hotels for visitors, including the old Saxafi
Hotel at K4 where international journalists were housed
during the ill-fated Operation Restore Hope, Global
Hotel, The Olympic Hotel and Shamo, not far from where
you were engaged in a firefight with the local "skinnies,"
as you used to call them.
cash (in US Dollars or Euros) are accepted, but you
can turn your dollars or Euros in Somali shillings,
which would make you millionaire overnight, so far as
the exchange rate of the Somali Shilling is concerned.
Hotel in Mogadishu
are still no-go areas, even for the armed militia, and at
the sprawling open-air Bakaaraha Market you can hear crack
of test-firing and the whole place smells of cordite twenty-four
hours a day. Visit there and you can buy everything from computer
laptops, television sets, the latest cell phones, DVD players
to modern shoulder-fired stinger missiles, RPG7s, anti-tank
mines, mortars, all types of machineguns and even cannons.
with a modest income or receive remittances from abroad have
their own private arsenals. A daily diet of kidnapping is
crashing across the city in recent months imperiling persons
whose families receive remittance from relatives in the Diaspora.
Foreign visitors and expatriates are their prime target.
positive side, business and commerce is surprisingly booming
and small industries are on full throttle to produce daily
necessities. No GST, PST or Value Added Tax (VAT), no government
inspectors or police to give you hard time, no license numbers
for your car, drivers' license or insurance policy. There's
no speed limit and you can drive like you was in the Grand
Prix-that's your insurance. But drive slowly and you are likely
to receive a high-velocity bullet at the back of your head
from the young driver behind you. It is a brainteaser how
these 12-year-old boys get their meals and other logistical
support. But the answer is simple: Looting, kidnapping and
Somalia is the world's first privatized state and as things
are the way they are now it will remain so for decades to
come. Even the Ethiopians who have been dreaming to invade
the country for centuries now think twice before sending mechanized
divisions to Mogadishu, bearing in mind what had happened
to Uncle Sam's misguided boys ten years ago.
Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
do not pretend to be as straightforward as Dr. Phil but I
hope this answers your questions. Good luck!
student who wrote from Finland wanted to know more about Omar
Mukhtar, the Libyan hero who fought against Fascist Italy
for more than 20 years. And says he heard there was a movie
about Omar Mukhtar and wants to know where he can get this
The film LION OF THE DESERT directed and produced by
Moustafa Akkad and starring Anthony Quinn as Omar Mukhtar,
Rod Steiger as Mussolini and Oliver Reed as General Graziani
was one of the greatest film ever produced and directed by
a Muslim Director in a very balanced approach.
SYNOPSIS OF THE FILM
year is 1929 and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is
still faced with 20-year long war waged by Libyan patriots
to combat Italian colonization and the establishment of
"The Fourth Shore", the rebirth of the Roman
Empire in Africa.
appoints General Rodolfo Graziani as his sixth governor of
Libya, confident that the eminently accredited soldier can
crush the rebellion and restore the dissipated glories of
the Roman Empire (he was well-known in Somalia for his arrogance
and high-handed rule.)
in the resistance towards the oppressor is the leadership
of one man-Omar Mukhtar. A Quranic teacher by profession,
guerrilla by obligation, Omar Mukhtar has committed himself
to a war that cannot be won in his lifetime.
imperialist-ideological visionary-the conflict is between
two implacable enemies. Graziani confronts North Africa with
the might of the Italian army. Tanks and airplanes are used
in the desert for the first time.
"mindless" bravery, the Libyans suffer crippling
losses: their primitive weaponry no match for the mechanized
still they strike back
for positive results General Graziani consigns the population
to barbed wire concentration camps. Building his own "Hadrian's
Wall" he encloses the desert from the Mediterranean to
the sands below Jerubub-no supplies, no escapes.
three years 200,000 Libyans perished. And Omar Mukhtar is
captured. In chains he is brought before triumphant Graziani.
Following a trumped-up tribunal, Omar is sentenced to be publicly
hanged. The scene is acted out with all the pomp of the Italian
of Libyans are numb with disbelief, hurt
anger. To the
weird trilling noise traditional Libyan women in moments of
emotions, the great masses of people slowly start to walk
on their captors.
embarrassment the Italians leave the scene and their retreat
becomes prophetic. In immortality Omar Mukhtar lives and the
struggle continued by others until Italy losses its empire
in Africa forever.
Graziani was also Governor of Italian Somaliland in the 1930s
and was notorious for his arrogance and high-handedness. He
was later convicted for high treason and died in Italy in
The film LION OF THE DESERT can be purchased or
rented from Video stores in most countries. It is also available
online by clicking e-Bay.
By M. M. Afrah©2003,