Short Story in Simplified English for our younger
This episode took place between 1991 and 1994 during
the US and UN debacle in Somalia and the Author was
there to observe the event unfold before his own eyes.
This short story was contribution to a BBC's World
Service International Radio Playwriting Competition
and was serialized in the Life Magazine section of
the Daily Nation, Kenya's mass circulation newspaper.
The Webmaster www.banadir.com
Somali people want peace so much that the warlords
had better get out of their way and let them have
Mohamed Ali Kaariye 1936-1995
Song composer and playwright
went to the Bakaaraha arms bazaar to find the whole
area was bombed out and almost all the stalls, shops
and warehouses have been razed to the ground by scores
of Black Hawk helicopters and F15 fighter planes.
Miraculously, her fiancé's tiny wooden hovel
stood intact amid the rubble and debris.
She took out her key, but the door hung open and askew
on its hinges. She went inside, calling "Ahmed.
It's me. Oh!" She stopped in the doorway. The
place was in a mess, and if it had been looted or
there has been a fight.
Ahmed was not there.
Suddenly, she was terribly afraid. It was the rival
clan, she thought, holding her breath and looking
over her shoulders. She walked around the darkened
hovel, feeling dazed, looking under the bed. All his
weapons were gone, the mattress had been slashed several
times, but all his money and other valuables were
still there inside the wooden ammunition box. I'm
sure it was not the work of looters from the rival
clan, she decided. She also knew that Ahmed stashed
away several guns and hand grenades in a disused bore
hole, miles away. That was hours before the US Marines,
spearheading an international task force, stormed
the beaches of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, under
orders of former US president George Bush.
Araksan wandered aimlessly in the rubble and debris
outside, after putting Ahmed's money in her hand woven
carryall bag, still trying to make sense of what might
have happened to her fiancé.
The owner of a half-demolished warehouse stood in
his doorstep, trying to figure out how much it would
cost to rebuild his warehouse. Araksan walked towards
him and said the customary greetings of Nabad (peace).
"What happened?" she asked.
"He was arrested yesterday," the man replied,
"by the Americans," he added.
And the sky fell.
fainted. She leaned against half-maimed tree for support.
"Arrested? But why him?"
"It seems he was one of the bandits who ambushed
the Pakistani UN peacekeepers," the man said
suggestively, and added, "Whatever else he might
have been. Good riddance!"
"At least tell me how and when it happened?"
"Some UN peacekeepers backed by American Marines
with machineguns came to his hovel in the wake of
the helicopter assault early yesterday. And seeing
his hovel was the only one that was still intact,
they kicked the door and took the young gunman and
all his weapons."
"What else could you tell me, like which direction
they took him to?"
"That's all I can say. I'd say good riddance,"
he repeated, this time with smile, showing gold-filled
front teeth. The ire in his voice was aimed at her
fiancé and all the militia teenagers, rather
than the American Marines or the UN peacekeepers.
And instead of answering him that her Ahmed is a true
patriot who fought against dictators and big merchants,
she pulled herself together and made her way slowly
down the rubbish strewn streets, where few people
were trying to salvage from the wreckage whatever
little was left from their belongings.
ran from the gutted arms market to the nearest building,
wondering what to do. She never met the clan elders
or the Somali warlords who used the teenagers as cannon
fodder for their own selfish interest.
The good news is that she had the presence of mind
to grab the tattered bag containing Ahmed's money
from the wooden box. Surprisingly, the soldiers didn't
bother to open it, and if they did they left the huge
bundle of Somali bank notes untouched. Evidently,
they were only interested to confiscate the weapons
and arrest Ahmed. To the American Marines the Somali
Shilling is worthless.
"One day we will go to a country without guns
and warlords, where soldiers of the national army
use sticks, instead of guns," she remembered
Ahmed saying one night during their evening meal.
tried to discuss the matter of Ahmed's arrest by the
UN peacekeepers with an old neighbor across the street
from her lean-to, but the woman was so preoccupied
about how to gather ingredients for her next meal
that she didn't understand anything Araksan was saying.
And the encounter had only left her more frustrated
and offended than usual.
"Get another boy friend," the old woman
said suggestively, and disappeared through the bomb-scared
alley of the jam-packed shantytown, known as Tokyo,
probably to scavenger for food.
crossed the notorious Green Line, where her fiancé
had once manned a bogus road barricade with several
clan militia gunmen. But now the place is virtually
deserted. Now common criminals and freelancers, mainly
hardcore convicts who escaped from Mogadishu's maximum-security
prison robbed people at gunpoint. It has become a
murderous field. Even the International Task Force
(UNITAF) kept away from it after several futile attempts
to dismantle the barricade.
At that moment Ahmed was sitting in a small cell packed
with others, mostly from his own clan. Sick, hysterical
and near suffocation, he and his cellmates tried to
stay alive and gasp for air in a cell already slick
with vomit and piss.
Like Ahmed, all the other teenagers fought against
the army of the ousted military dictator and agents
of the fearsome National Security Service (NSS) and
paralyzed the city. Many of them lost friends and
relatives during the month long government offensive
against the insurgents of the United Somali Congress
(USC). Later the insurgents, mainly from the Hawiye
clan, one of four major Somali clans, turned their
guns on each other instead of forming a broad-based
government of national unity.
Now Ahmed told his audience in the stinky cell that
he had the worst nightmare to rival his horrendous
ordeal in the fight against the military dictator.
"Many young men lost interest in the clan struggle
as they grow older," said one of the detainees
who was arrested for shooting a member of the Italian
"The young get married and have a family of their
own. I have learned my lesson even if you haven't,"
Ahmed said. He looked at them in silence for a long
moment. Then he stood up.
"I believed what our leaders have been telling
us. Look at what happened to us? We ruined ourselves,
and none of the clan elders cared where we are now."
"Is that what you tell yourself?"
"It is true."
"Do you mean to tell us that all the sacrifice
we made, all the bloodshed have been in vain?"
one of the boys said inquiringly.
"For what purpose? It is evident we haven't achieved
anything. Only death and destruction."
The youngest of the group, a 14-year-old boy who lost
both parents in the civil war, had turned the same
question over and over in his mind. He had never been
able to figure out why they were exhorted to fight
"to the last man," with no question asked.
Before Ahmed was pushed into the cell, the boy tried
to discuss it with his older cronies, but was afraid
to be accused of being a coward. But now Ahmed, who
is more educated than the rest, cleared his thought
process in what he had believed all along but could
not utter it publicly.
"You're right. We must put an end to these senseless
killings once and for all, and accept the UN program
for total disarmament," the youth said heavily.
It was the longest speech he had ever delivered in
a country where boys of his age were not allowed to
air their opinion in public
"I understand exactly how you feel. But I am
not sure if the others feel the same way."
"Well, what do you think we ought to do?"
another youth asked peevishly.
"Just say NO to the clan elders and hand over
your weapons to the UN peacekeepers,"Ahmed told
"It is too late now. We're deep in the quagmire."
"You make it sound incredibly easy. Without our
guns, who will protect us from our enemies?"
said the youth who was accused of taking a potshot
at an Italian soldier of the international task force.
"It is within our grasp. I envision Somalia without
guns. We must use common sense and open peace talks
with the youth of the Abgal clan. It is clear the
elders do not care about our future or that of this
country. No wonder the international press calls them
warlords," Ahmed said with emphasis.
"What do you personally intend to do after this?"
"I want to be totally out of all these anarchy
and mayhem, do you understand? I just want you and
all the warmongers to leave me alone," Ahmed
said, hearing the quaver of his voice.
Then he told his captive audience that the situation
was worsening with every passing hour. He catalogued
the list of troop reinforcement for the multi-national
task force and the arrival of the US-led Quick Reaction
(QRF) to reinforce the UN peacekeepers already in
the country, revealing to them about the grim reality
that scores of American Black Hawk and
Cobra helicopters were hovering over the clan stronghold
ready to release their deadly missiles and "Smart
bombs." He told them about the destruction of
the arms bazaar by missiles from the AC-130 Spectre
Gunships and his arrest by the Pakistani peacekeepers
backed by US Army Rangers.
"There is going to be a disaster of unprecedented
proportions," Ahmed concluded his little speech.
SHORT STORY IN SIMPLIFIED ENGLISH FOR OUR YOUNGER
To be continued…