THE DIRTY AND CRUEL WAR IN THE SOUTH
By M. M. Afrah, Toronto (Canada)
A Note from the Webmaster:
Mr. Afrah was very optimistic after the fall of the
military regime in 1991. "People wanted to live in peace,
to rebuild their shattered country; their traumatized
lives and society", he wrote in his diary, later converted
into a best selling book with the title of "TARGET:
VILLA SOMALIA" which was self-published in Nairobi.
That prophecy had quickly evaporated into a thin air
when warlords and outright banditry lay waste to the
once beautiful Somali capital with its Mediterranean-style
buildings. Baidoa became The City of Death and Kismayo
became a Ghost Town. Everything was destroyed or looted.
The land between Juba and Shabelleh Rivers, Somalia's
Breadbasket, has been devastated by guerrillas of the
United Somali Congress (USC) and the retreating government
forces. The only thing Somalia has a surplus of is gunmen,
weapons and warlords. A conservative UN estimate says
guns outnumber the population in Somalia, estimated
at seven million before the civil war.
Mr. Afrah's eldest son was killed and his home destroyed,
he organized his terrified neighborhoods to take refuge
on the Lido Beach, away from artillery range, until
he himself became a refugee. He single-handedly buried
his son on the doorsteps of his partially demolished
house. A T55 tank shell hit it. Undaunted, he continued
to get the carnage stories out of the country. He received
several international awards for his BRAVERY UNDER FIRE
(Esquire magazine, British edition, April 1995). In
1996 he was The Newsman of the Year (Reuters World Magazine).
is Mr. Afrah's eyewitness account, in the form of a
personal Diary about The Dirty and Cruel War in the
South and Southwest of the country.
JUNE 9, 2002
Johan Galtung, professor of peace studies and consultant
for several United Nations agencies recently discussed
with us at a seminar in Toronto about news reporting
in conflict areas and the search for fair and accurate
ways to frame coverage.
said war journalism reinforces the mainstream belief
that conflict can be resolved only through enforcement,
in which the end result consists of winners and losers.
there are no losers or winners in the dirty and cruel
war in the South and Southwest of Somalia. This dirty
war goes on and on with no end in sight. The only losers
are the civilian population who never had a chance for
a breathing space or transition, as in other conflict
areas in the world. For 12 long years the people are
still reeling under the effect of brutal and an ending
bloodshed perpetrated by a bunch of warmongers masquerading
as clan elders and faction leaders. Translation: Warlords.
answer my question, Professor Galtung said that the
Somalis, as a homogenous people, should put the gun
down and learn to live in peace without seeking help
from outsiders. "These outsiders could have adverse
impact on the cultural heritage of the people", he said.
(I presume the professor had MacDonald, Coca Cola and
explicit sex movies in mind!).
WAR DIARY 1991-1993
Mogadishu September 2, 1991
the situation in Mogadishu is very tense as the struggle
for power among officials of the guerrilla organization;
the United Somali Congress (USC) is beginning to intensify.
General Mohamed Farah Aideed had a falling out with
his rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed over the question of who
will be the new President after the overthrow of the
former military dictator, Major-General Mohamed Siyad
Barre. A group of politicians and elders who call themselves
The Mogadishu Manifesto elected Ali Mahdi as the interim
President of Somalia, to fill the vacuum. The Manifesto
Group included Somalia's first President at independence,
Adan Abdulle Osman, human rights lawyers, two former
police chiefs and businessmen.
General Aideed who was in Mustahiil (Ethiopia) during
the popular uprising in Mogadishu, arrived this morning
with a big bang, leading a force of 200 well equipped,
battle-hardened militia. In a speech at Mogadishu Stadium
this afternoon, he declared the nomination of Ali Mahdi
by what he called Afar-jeebleyaal (merchants) as null
and void, and vowed to destroy Ali Mahdi and his supporters.
He said these merchants hijacked the government without
consulting with the Somali people at grassroots level.
will crush them," he told a crowd of enthusiasts who
defied the hottest day in living memory. The temperature
was hovering at muggy 65 Celsius. It was hot, hazy and
At 6.30 P.M. supporters of Ali Mahdi had halted General
Aideed's advance towards the center of the city. They
had then dug in at the old Parliament Square and Taallada
dal Jirka Dahsoon, where they are having a final stand.
Casualties have been astronomical as both forces use
everything in their arsenal. And for the first time
the notorious Green Line that divides the city into
North and South came into existence with a staying power.
In our neighbourhoods we are all suffering from delayed
shock. Shelling, arson, rape and lootings have devastated
the city. Ironically, all the weapons they are using
are those left behind by General Barre.
Horror and disgust! It has been a costly war. Thousands,
mostly innocent civilians have been killed or maimed
and homes destroyed in a single day as most of the fighting
was taking place in residential areas of the city. Everything
from artillery guns to mortars have been used by both
Afterward, I questioned the senseless factional fighting.
The two warring groups belong to the same Hawiye clan,
but of different subclans, the Habar-gedir and the Abgal.
Could any clan be justified in sending the flower of
their youth to endure such hell in the name of the subclan?
The carnage is sickening and repulsive. When a disaster
occurs you want to hope it's not true. You want to find
out it was all a mistake and that a miracle will occur
for the disaster to go away.
Hospitals are filled with shreds of broken humanity.
In one instant I saw a man's intestines fall into the
tarmac after he was hit by shell- fire. I saw men and
women with eyeless sockets, without noses, with shell
splinters sticking out of their skulls. I listened to
men screaming like animals. I watched them coughing
up their lungs as they gasped for air-the last air on
of dirt and rubble lay everywhere. Fresh shallow graves
began to appear in every space, including public gardens.
The unlucky ones were left unburied, to be fed by stray
dogs and cats.
all communications with the outside world have been
destroyed during the month long uprising against the
Barre regime, today I managed to send my first horror
story to Reuters news agency via SOS, a children's village
run by an Austrian humanitarian organization in the
north of the city. Trekking to the SOS village was shear
madness and a dance with death as strings of makeshift
road barricades manned by Qaad chewing trigger-happy
young gunmen sprung up overnight.
Hartmann, the Austrian in Charge of SOS looked at me
and asked if I am okay.
think my heart stopped twice on the way over," I said.
are using tank shells in crowded areas. We have even
received couple of artillery shells this morning," he
said after a dejected sigh.
casualty figures?" I asked him. He said luckily there
were no casualties, only some property damage.
thought they were done with Siyad Barre, and now brother
is killing brother. Shit!" he exclaimed in his German
the astonishing thing," I said.
tell you God works in mysterious ways," he said and
closed the gate with a big bang.
windfall is that the story was broadcast this afternoon
by the BBC, the Voice of America, RAI, the Italian State
Broadcasting Corporation, Cairo Radio among other international
radio stations, and of course with my byline. That could
cause me some trouble with the armed militia from both
I sleep and wake up with the sound of machinegun fire.
But my next-door neighbour calls the shooters "cir-toogtayaal!"
In Mogadishu tempers are getting lower and lower these
Mohamoud M. Afrah © 2002