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Toronto (Canada)

25th November 2001

M. M. Afrah

Wow! The Americans really know how to dangle a carrot in front of an impoverished African country. But do they also carry a stick? Remember their failed mission (Operation Restore Hope) in Somalia? Neither the carrot nor the stick worked there. They would have worked had they stayed put and stuck to their guns against a ragtag army of militia gunmen, analysts say. They blame lack of clear guidance from the State Department and the Pentagon. The analysts say there was also lack of communications between the various UNITAF and UNOSOM contingents, particularly the Italian contingent and the Americans. Because for one thing the Italians wanted to run the show, just because Somalia was their former colony and knew how to deal with all the political honchos and warlords. They claimed that the warlords are graduates from Italian military academies in the 1950s and 1960s and spoke perfect Italian. That was before the Soviet Union snarled Somalia. Then we became giddy with Scientific Socialism and Marxism and Leninism.

But now it seems Ethiopia, our ancient neighbour and rival in the Horn of Africa swallowed the carrot with a promise of economic assistance and the old fashioned label of "Good guys," taking a leaf from old Haile Selassie policy who successfully trumpeted anti-Somalia shrill within the OAU in the 1960s and 1970s, only to be taken over by his predecessors in Addis.

As I write this dozens of TV and newspaper stories raced through my head. I watched B52 bombers discharge their deadly "Daisy cutters" and "smart" bombs over Afghanistan. Would they do the same to poor Somalia? I know now how it feels to be bombed by people who do not care about the sanctity of life. I know enough to be scared as hell. I know because I had covered Somalia with Katyusha (BM) rockets zooming over my head. It was like an earthquake. Unlike Afghanistan there are no mountains, caves or tunnels in poor Somalia. In hindsight, are there caves and tunnels in Buur Hakaba and Gacan Libaax? Thinking about the B52s and the "Daisy cutters" dropping on poor Somalia I broke into cold sweat. The same cold sweat poured from all over my body when the terrorists (whoever they were) slammed the two commercial airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon September 11. But linking those terrorists to the Somalis makes me dizzy. I fretted. I tossed and turned.

An old man in Toronto told me that he was insane with fear for his family in Central Somalia. "After closing the Hawaalla lifeline, now they want to finish the job by dropping bombs from the sky," he lamented. There was nothing I could do to suppress a shudder.

I know the ordinary Somalis, with the exception of the few with guns, are harmless. They're playing cat and mouse with homegrown terrorists who are as lethal as the international terrorists. I also know that no one in the world had a single good word about us. We are misrepresented in the world arena, yet we are quick with supportive comments and warm smiles. Take for example the Somali businessman at the sprawling Bakaaraha Market who told a visiting American journalist that he had a lot to worry about Somalia's homegrown terrorists than Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network. Like many Somalis he said he never heard Osama bin Laden until the Americans gave him unprecedented media blitz.

A Message to Meles Zenawi. Let me take this opportunity to remind you that you have been traveling all over the world on a diplomatic Somali passport during your struggle against the successive regimes in Addis. The Somalis also allowed you to open an office in Mogadishu after the Saudis threw out your representative in Jeddah. During an interview at Mogadishu Airport in 1981 you personally told me that you are a Somali by adoption, using the Somali word "Walaal". I am sure you will remember that interview.

You must understand our history, how many attacks we have suffered and how much adversity has been unfairly thrust upon us. It is difficult to deal fairly when that person will not deal fairly in return.

We are not asking for magnanimity. We only want to survive as your neighbour without interference and sabotage. You should not take foolish risks by invading our country and finish what was left of our people - a people you called Walaalayaal (brothers and sisters). Don't take adventurous risk that you would later regret.

As I said before, you cannot choose your neighbour.

M.M. Afrah 2001


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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