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Toronto (Canada)

05, Nov . 2004

M. M. Afrah

"The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is different."
--Marquise Du Deffand.

"In Mogadishu everybody shoots everybody; whose sides they were on seemed to have nothing to do with it."
--French Journalist who visited Mogadishu.

Mr. President,
Although we are in the same age group, give or take (I am seventy), but we were merely nodding friends in the good old days. However, people who knew you intimately now tell me that you had passed the test in Puntland, and that you have an inner strength possessed by few people. "He was born to control," one of them told me the other day.

Another one remembers you as charismatic, persuasive, albeit intolerant of dissent and independent press and freedom of speech in your former enclave, which you baptized as Autonomous Republic of Puntland. Many people believe that the most extreme measures would be needed to change things in a country devastated with death, doom and destruction, and I certainly concur with them.

As I said before the South, Central and Southwest are not Puntland, and to be in control there, truly in control, you must remain above conventional emotions. In short, you must exert control back in the country or risk failure. You must channel your foremost endeavors towards higher things, principally service to the country instead of clan loyalty.

Many people still believe that electing a non-Southerner military man is unlikely to be welcomed in Mogadishu, in particular, without the support of the warring (Hawiye) faction leaders significant progress would be problematic. But as the new President of clan-based federal state it is your job to disarm the multitude of boys in the streets, and neutralize the warlords who have been jostling for power without rushing to the gun.

Only then the healing process could begin in earnest.

Speaking of guns, you are all too aware that people in the South carry assault rifles with much the same nonchallence as a Londoner might carry an umbrella. Women and children are equally unmoved by the sight. As a matter of fact market women also carry guns in order to protect their goods display and their daily meager earnings. Children as young as 12 carry assault rifles to prove their manhood to the clan; it is a rite of passage, as they like to say there. Some of them are not even taller than the average M-16 assault rifle! They clump along the streets of the once beautiful capital with the rolling gait of B-movie gunslingers in Wild West. John Wayne would turn in his grave.

Some times I miss Mogadishu!

Guns and other heavy weapons have virtually become part of the people's daily lives. The notorious weapons markets in the heart of the capital are nicely decorated with a display of firepower that would put to shame the organizers of the annual American weapons exhibitions in Kentucky.
Then there's the private army dominated by the warlords and the merchants of death. And here comes the collusion between the warlords and these merchants. The later don't just import the weapons; they sell them to anyone with cash, preferably the US Dollar, which like everywhere else, is the Grand Old Daddy of international currencies. The Saudi and the UAE Rials come as the second best. The source of these weapons and the traffickers are no longer secret.

If your government wasn't grind to a premature halt you must convince the donor community to cooperate. It would be unpleasant in the short term, but there's no choice. The end justifies the means.

Mr. President,

You said yours is not a government-in-exile, but there's nothing to be ashamed of. There has been countless governments-in-exile. For example, General de Gaulle was in-exile in Britain, screaming "France Liberte" via the BBC in London, and only returned to his country in his meticulously ironed general's uniform, after the Americans and their allies liberated France from Nazi occupation, resulting heavy casualties on allies soldiers during World War Two. Dalai Lama of Tibet and his supporters are still in-exile in India. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and his freedom fighters have been in exile for decades, and the African National Congress (ANC) have been in-exile in neighbouring countries until they liberated their country from the brutal apartheid regime.

Mr. President,

Again, we have a familiar problem that needs to be handled with care; and that's the hotly debatable issue of African peacekeepers to disarm the militias. I said debatable because the ill-fated 1993/94 UN peacekeeping forces led by the United States are still in the minds of the people. The fact of the matter is that the current international policy is to steer away from Somalia as much as possible, lest they put their soldiers in harms way amidst people who are not yet ready to restore peace and stability in their own fragmented country.

If, however, there's no other option, the first thing I would do is to put Somali Generals with clean track records in charge of such forces. Their orders must be followed unhesitatingly; obedience must be absolute and that accountability and transparency must be the catch phrase. Of course, there's no shortage of Somali Generals and other high-ranking army and police officers waiting in the wing to serve their own country once again.

The only way to achieve this in the limited time available is to instill terrible fear on the warlords and their militia thugs who thrive on chaos and anarchy.

Again the nagging question is: who is going to pick up the tab estimated at 35 million Dollars? Of course there are several pledges from potential donor countries. But remember in diplomacy, like politics, nobody tells the truth, only instant plastic smiles and bogus handshakes.

The word 'Leadership' is tossed around casually these days, but many of the visitors of this website conclude that, where Ali Mahdi and Abdiqassim Salad, failed you would be able to pull it off despite the road pumps ahead. Those pumps are, of course, to be expected in a city like Mogadishu today, but then you've to start somewhere, and as a military man the new challenge will do you good. It could even work to your advantage.

Well, rank had its privileges. However, being the President of a country like Somalia wasn't very upbeat line of work, where your own bodyguards could spray you with machineguns.

Mr. President,

The situation is approaching the moment of truth after years of uncertainty and bloodshed. People are running out of polite platitudes. They are anxious to get on with the business of living in peace, and without the shadow of the gun.

The onus is on you.

Mr. Chris Mullin is a very junior official at the British Foreign Office and not Minister for Africa, according to an impeccable source in London.

By M.M. Afrah©


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