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COMMENTARY: A SECOND OPEN LETTER TO HASSAN ABSHIR

COMMENTARY BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)

21th Feb. 2002

A SECOND OPEN LETTER TO HASSAN ABSHIR
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

As you can see I have used some recycled material I used in my first Open Letter to you, in order illustrate that we Somalis are suspicious of whatever the new crop of politicians or warlords say or do since the ouster of General Barre from power 11 years ago. But make no mistake: we are distinct majority who feel betrayed, not by colonialists or imperialists, but people who masquerade as Somali nationalists, while at the same time are wheeling and dealing with arms traffickers in order to arm their clan against the "enemy" clan, real or imagined.

Now that you have gathered all the doctors, know or unknown (I had never imagined that all those doctors are within your grasp in war-torn Somalia), our dream for reborn Somalia, with good governance, peace, stability and accountability could become a reality. We are homeless wanderers of the five continents, but there is still a purpose in our being - the purpose of seeing Somalia stand with its own feet again. That's all we in the Diaspora daydream so that we could come (literally) in from the cold.

To our "solace" you had included in your cabinet a minister responsible for the Somalis in the Diaspora. This is unprecedented step in the history of our country - a recognition that the Somalis abroad could be a force to reckon with if a new Somalia is to take off from the ashes of the civil war. With a fine comb this minister could lure young qualified Somalis free from the virus of tribalism and clan loyalty to serve a new administration. They could play a pivotal role in nation-building with the acquired know-how and tenacity they had learned from the world.

Many of them are in the business of leaving in Somalia's history books signs saying, "TOUR MY WORLD, SEE IT THROUGH MY EYES; I AM YOUR GUIDE. I WAS PROUD TO REBUILD MY COUNTRY." Many people at home may or may not accept the returnees' "foreign" ideas and actions. Their tactics may startle some but would have the virtue of getting the drill over with quickly. The seeds of progress would be disseminated and harvested in no time. After all, people with rigid "unconventional" ideas built the New World otherwise known as North America.

There are practical reasons why the returnees wish to share their experiences with their fellow countrymen. One of the reasons is that they came face-to-face with racism, depression, injustice and favoritism in their adopted countries. In the process they also observed governments being voted out of office, noisy demonstrations against unfair government measures as well as cabinet ministers and top government officials tender their resignations after they were accused of abusing the trust of the people who paid their salaries. That's called democracy with capital D.

We may ask each other why this should not happen in Africa. Pardon me while I laugh. No African head of state I know of had been voted out of office since independence in the 1960s, except of course, Adan Abdulle Osman and Julius Nyerere. Another example worth repeating here is the peaceful transition from Nelson Mandela (a man who spent 27 years in prison, breaking stones) to Thabu Mbeki. One might have assumed Africa had learned a hard lesson. Using a host of security agencies, the police and the national army, African presidents cling to power for life until disgruntled young army officers ousted them in bloody coup de etats.

In my first Open Letter to you I said that the country needs a Prime Minister who knows what he is doing, a man who speaks for the underdogs, the oppressed masses, the silent sufferers and those who have the best interest of Somalia at heart. This country cannot remain a pariah state forever. It cannot remain a failed state any more, because for one thing we have the human resource and the necessary know-how to make any administration work and bring Somalia back to the world arena.

In my first Open Letter I also made it clear to you that, although you was a mere blip in the hiring and firing radar of General Barre, many of us regard former officials of the General's regime with suspicion. Because there are more questions than answers to their modus operandi and their sincerity during the General's heydays. Another question I asked was: has the new Prime Minister got the guts to subdue the armed militia and tell them in black and white that their days in the killing fields are over?

Since that letter another crucial question emerged from the market place, flooding the country with billions or trillions of counterfeit currency that put the living standard of an already suffering population well below the poverty line. Do you have the courage to put these crooks behind the bars once and for all? If you do, you will be remembered in our history books and school textbooks as the man who defied the merchants of death in order to protect the lives of the men and women in the street. Somalia requires charismatic leadership, courage and willingness to depart from the gun culture, if it is to survive at all.

M.M. Afrah 2001
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com

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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 decades".

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 is!
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