28th Feb. 2002
THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THE SOMALIA CONFLICT
From Toronto to Jesira
Chinese proverb says, "Give a hungry man a fish but it is
still better if you teach him how to catch that fish."
latest chapter of Somalia's long, but futile battle to resuscitate
the collapsed economy in the middle of lawlessness and bloodshed,
seemed a "no go area". The Somali entrepreneurs tried hard
to make a breakthrough in the field of communication; import
and export but it did not ease the economic downturn in the
war-ravaged country, mainly because they failed to diversify
their business ventures. This compounded with the arrival
in the country of counterfeit currency that made it impossible
for merchants to boast their businesses in a big way.
the curse did not have an impact on Mohamed Ali Jesow, a Toronto
Accountant, who in spite of all the bad news emanating from
Somalia, often travels to his native country to supervise
his thriving fishery company, The Siamo Fishing Company located
in the spectacular Siamo Beach near Barawe, south of Mogadishu,
the Somali capital.
the unending tragedy, one could embark upon fisheries, among
other projects if one tries harder and thinks big," said Jesow
in a recent interview. He said he had commenced his company
in 1995 with an investment capital of $25,000. Today the company
employs 40 permanent workers and an equal number of seasonal
workers and generates gross annual profit of $100,000.
that the Somalis paid scant attention to the rich and unpolluted
marine life in our territorial waters that stretches from
Ras Kiamboni in the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, "because
we have been busy killing each other for no apparent reason."
He stresses that if we could change the lifestyle of our people
many foreigners, who now scorn the name Somalia, would wonder
how these Somalis got this bright idea after centuries of
harsh nomadic life and feuding.
FISH FROM THE TRESPASSERS
us buy imported tinned fish from Italy, Japan, Korea and Russia
without thinking that the same fish was stolen from us. The
fishermen of these countries practically vacuum clean our
territorial waters by using factory trawlers with impunity.
Worse, organized crime syndicates, including the Mafia, taking
advantage of the conflict, dump toxic waste on our hitherto
unpolluted territorial waters. And when Somali gunmen apprehend
the ships and crew of these violators, the foreign press describes
them as "pirates". Reuters news agency recently questioned
what a mystery ship, Princess Sarah, was doing hanging around
the Somali shore for two days before Somali gunmen finally
detained it. Ironically, the Western press continues to describe
the detention of these poachers as "hijack" purely for "commercial
purpose." The United Nations International Law of the Sea
is being swept under the carpet!
quotes one authoritative source as saying; "maybe the crew
of Princess Sarah were trying to land something and one of
the rival factions didn't like it. Maybe arms, maybe something
else." These something else could be toxic waste or weapons
wonders why people blessed with Africa's longest coastline
(3000 km) rich in marine resources should be victims of vicious
circle of man-made famine and drought. "The simple answer
is that the majority of our people are unaware of our rich
marine assets. And as nomads they disapprove the idea of eating
seafood which they consider as repulsive and disgusting,"
Jessow said. He said we run to the capitals of those who illegally
fish and violate the International Law of the Sea for a handout
when the going gets tough.
lots of competing clan leaders (or warlords) are at each other's
throat, encouraging their militia gunmen not to lift a finger
to help boast food production, except of course to shoot unarmed
civilians and expropriate large tracts of farmland and prime
real estates whose owners fled the country at the outbreak
of the civil war. Others work in their own farms as slave
labours for people with guns.
with nationalistic pride in his highly decorated office, Jesow,
a holder of BSC, MSA degree from the Oklahoma City University
said Somalia, with its turquoise waters and lonely beaches,
like granules of snow-like sugar could be a haven for sun-starved
tourists from cold climate, bringing in much needed revenue.To
prove his point he proudly displays on the walls of his Bloor
Street West office colourful posters depicting lonely beaches
and tiny islands full of fauna and flora. One breathtaking
spot is the Jesira Beach with its miles and miles of unspoiled
beaches, strewn with shiny pebbles and driftwood.
of a giant blue marlin that could win a gold medal in sport
fishing is conspicuously displayed on one wall of his office.
"It is within ourselves that we will find the path of success,"
he said with conviction, saying he would keep the spirit going
and project Somalia's image in Canada and the world at large.
a resolution worth keeping. NO MORE HORROR STORIES FROM
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
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!