BBC Somali 1800
BBC Somali 1600
Topic of the week
Somalia (60 - 69)
M. M. Afrah's book
THE SOMALI TRAGEDY
THE GANG RAPE OF A NATION.
Mr. Afrah is a skillful writer
and innovative storyteller.
HERE FOR THE REVIEWS
AND HOW TO ORDER THE BOOK.
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M. Afrah (MM Afrah): JOURNALIST
OF THE YEAR 2005
press conference upon his return to West Berlin, he was
asked his impression about the wall that divides the German
people. He said that the wall goes through the same building
where Africa was divided during the scramble for Africa
Mohamoud M. Afrah was born in the Somali capital
of Mogadishu in 1933 and was raised, educated and
worked in his adopted country of Kenya. He worked
for a local newspaper as a cub reporter in the coastal
town of Mombasa, and took a journalistic course
in what was then the Federal Republic of Germany
and was the first African journalist to cross the
Berlin Wall through the notorious Charlie Check
Point at the height of the Cold War.
M. Afrah (MM Afrah)
OF THE YEAR 2005
"My own country was then sub-divided. Fortunately,
there is no wall dividing the Somali people," he
told the West German journalists.
Asked if he met Soviet soldiers during his three-day visit
in east Berlin, "No, but I felt their presence.
I was being shadowed everywhere by ghost-like people,"
he calmly told the assembled journalists.
Two days later, he wrote a scathing article in the German
mass circulation Bild Zeitung and gave half an hour interview
to a West Berlin TV channel, highlighting life inside the
Soviet-occupied east Berlin that earned him "The Key
of the City" and a life time residence of the city
from the Mayor of West Berlin.
Three years later, he returned to his native country to
set up a popular English language weekly (HEEGAN) and doubled
as Reuters news agency correspondent in Somalia
for more than two decades. He fought tooth and nail against
draconian censorship laws introduced by the military regime
in 1982. His weekly Friday Notebook gave the military regime's
ideologue endless displeasure. However, General Barre, who
knew MM Afrah personally, told them to bog off!
He was detained briefly by the dreaded NSS (the National
Security Service), but was released after protracted pressures
by Reuters in London, Amnesty International, the New York-based
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Paris-based
Reporters without Borders. He refused to sit on the fence
and watch his country fall apart due to outlandish revolutionary
directives called Decreto by a military despot.
Mr. Afrah was there when military dictator, Major-General
Mohamed Siyad Barre came to power in a military coup in
October 1969. He was there when General Barre was ousted
by a ragtag militia youths in beach sandals. He was there
when the young United Somali Congress rebels turned their
guns on each other for the control of Mogadishu, the Somali
capital. He was there when US Marines and Army Rangers stormed
the sandy beaches of the embattled capital to spearhead
an international task force under orders from former US
president George Bush, codenamed Operation Restore Hope.
He was there to see them leave. He watched as their initial
goodwill turn into an impotent rage, and saw their efforts
to protect food aid end in fiasco. It cost the US and the
United Nations billions of Dollars and the lives of several
US and UN soldiers end up in body bags.
The cost to Mr. Afrah was the loss of one of his sons and
the destruction of his home-cum-office after it received
a direct hit from a T55 tank shell. Armed militia loyal
to one of Mogadishu's warlords kidnapped him but he was
able to escape at the height of heavy bombardment by scaling
seven feet wall.
He was the only journalist representing an international
news organization who remained in the war-torn country.
He received more than 20 death threats from the local warlords,
because they were upset about his dispatches from Somalia.
Undaunted, he continued to send stories of the carnage in
Somalia until the last possible moment. He was Newsman of
the Year 1995. He has written several books about the civil
war and famine and contributes hard-hitting Talking Points
and commentaries about the Somali warlords to this website
and to international and community newspapers in Canada
where he writes things that other people are afraid to write
and calls a spade a spade. In an article in the British
edition of ESQUIRE magazine of April 1995, Aidan Hartley,
who worked with MM Afrah in Africa, describes his frontline
reporting as BRAVERY UNDER FIRE. "
Somalia's civil war, the period of the failed United Nations
mission and following their withdrawal, journalists have
been murdered, kidnapped and harassed by the clan militias.
Their offices and vehicles have been attacked and their
freedom of expression curtailed. The Somalis who stayed
on in Mogadishu are brave men and women-but few are as prominent
as in reputation as Mohamoud M. Afrah. He escaped death
and imprisonment at the nick of time on an international
Red Cross flight after ruthless warlords kept him in a dungeon."
ESQUIRE Magazine (British edition)
colleague from Australia wrote: "I found congenial
colleague in M.M. Afrah, long time Reuters correspondent
in the city, who had survived both the destruction of
his own home and the personal tragedy of his son's death,
and continues to file stories to his Bureau in London
throughout the civil war.
Mogadishu was a place of war. Foreign journalists who
went there encountered dangers, and witnessed horror and
were glad to get away. It takes much longer to understand
what that suffering means. To Somali journalists, like
Afrah, this was their life, their people."
Author of SILENT OVER AFRICA,
Stories of war and Genocide,
Canada, where he became an active member of the Journalists-in-Exile
(JEX), a chapter of the Canadian Committee for Free Expression
(CJFE), formerly Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ), Mr. Afrah continued to write a number of hard-hitting
articles and letters in the Toronto Star in response to
Immigration rulings to deport Somali refugees back to
their war-torn country. At the conclusion of one of his
letters to the editor, he wrote: "I would think
how ironic that Canada have a Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals but no such organization for Somali
refugees. It seems the Canadians and their American cousins
love their beloved pets."
particular letter had generated heated debate on the opinion
column of The Star. As a result, Somali refugees who have
been in legal limbo for years because they had no IDs
to establish that they fled the civil unrest in Somalia,
have been granted Permanent Residence Status and many
became law abiding Canadian citizens able to visit or
sponsor their loved ones at home.
Banadir.com is very proud to have MM Afrah contribute
his regular weekly account of Death, Doom and Destruction
visited on Somalia by the clan militias. His lucid, cogent
and thoroughly accessible to the reader is unsurpassed.
It is rare to read Journalistic pieces, which manages
to evoke events so vividly. An engaging work that is necessary
reading for those who are interested a great insight in
the tragedy that is Somalia today.
Mohamed & Ismail Nur,
to post any comments, feedback or suggetions.