DIRTY AND CRUEL WAR IN THE SOUTH
AFRAH’S PERSONAL WAR DIARY –1991/1993 FROM THE
ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (UNEDITED)
September 4, 1991.
person who said that, peace, until lost, is seldom
valued was dead right. Coming so soon after the
overthrow of the former dictator, the factional fighting
in Mogadishu cannot be justified. Some say remnants of
his supporters, dubbed as Faqash are bent on massacring
all Hawiye subclans, but it seems that the accusation is
baseless. It was an excuse to kill innocent non-Hawiye
people who decided to remain in the capital, hoping that
conditions will return to normal. But their dreams for a
return to normalcy quickly evaporated, as some sort of
ethnic cleansing is taking place in Mogadishu. This is
revenge killing in the true sense of the word. This
started when the army and the security forces (known as
Faqash) targeted anyone who they thought belonged to the
Hawiye clan at the height of the civil war.
killed unarmed Hawiye people in cold-blood, why should
we let them get away with it,” said one elderly
gunman, armed with a G3 rifle and a number of hand
grenades hanging from his belt.
have been killing women, children and the elderly just
because they happened to belong to the Darod and the
Galgale,” I said.
some thought, he said: “They too have massacred our
women and children. Where were you when they murdered
our elders and other important community leaders in cold
blood? You must be one of those faint hearted people,”
he exclaimed, shooting in the air with his G3 rifle to
prove he is not faint hearted.
cannot justify murder,” I said very slowly in order
not to provoke him. A loaded gun in the hands of an
exasperated man is very dangerous and unpredictable.
murder are you talking? Those who started it in the
first place, or those who defend themselves?”
am talking about cold blood murder of women, children
and the elderly, no matter which clan or tribe they
cleared his throat and spat a mouthful surplus of Qaad
on the ground between my legs in a violent gesture of
contempt and left without another word. I began to
tremble with horror. He did not shoot me, but it was a
generations the Somali people have been fighting with
spears and arrows over grassing rights, boreholes and
forfeited dowries, but killing women, children, the
elderly and the infirm was alien to the Somali
character. But now, with modern weaponry and attitudes
(settling of old scores) things have changed
fundamentally. Helpless women, children and the elderly
became sitting targets.
looking mothers, trying to protect their emaciated
babies, screamed, wept and prayed Allah for salvation.
The sight of these screaming mothers gave me the worst
shock of my life and I hope I may never have another as
bad. It was a dreadful sight.
we are moving blindly towards another disaster. Cholera,
the swift dreaded plague of the Third World is expected
to sweep the city. More dead bodies are scattered
everywhere. A young mother with her two children lay on
the dusty road, dead. Small babies are abandoned on the
streets by their parents. There is acute shortage of
food and drinking water. People are compelled to drink
contaminated water from ancient water wells, because,
like everything else, the water and electricity systems
have been completely destroyed. Pipes have been
excavated and electricity wires are melted and sold to
local merchants who exported them by dhows to the Gulf
countries to be blended with gold. Now they are trying
to dismantle the national monuments.
I told my family to join the exodus to the countryside,
but my elder son, Abdullahi, insisted that he will stay
with me, come what may.
has become too commonplace to matter. The two greatest
products in Mogadishu these days are shootings and
rumours, from morning to night they manufacture rumours,
from morning to night they manufacture shootings.
Civilians are being killed at an alarming rate. People
run from one war zone to another only to be shot by
gunmen on rooftops.
chatter of machineguns rises in a crescendo over our
heads. We can hear the whine of the bullets as they pass
SEPTEMBER 6, 1991
Uncertainty is still
the name of the game here. Simple people can sense how
volatile things have become. The worst of all is that
every time I fall asleep, I wake up with a start and the
bitter taste of fear in my mouth. Shells come whistling
over our houses in great arcs, dispatched from invisible
batteries to strike targets close to our home.
my window I can see houses set ablaze by shellfire
during the night, now burning fiercely. Wherever I look,
fiery red and yellow flashes split the darkness of the
night, making clearly the deadly path of the armoured
new sound mingles with the tank shells. It is the
hollow, whining of the Soviet-made Stalin Organs or the
Katyushas. They fall not far from us, and the holes they
make are tremendous.
group of youngsters with automatic rifles and bazookas
are telling me that General Aideed and his forces now
occupy the gutted Villa Somalia, seat of the presidency.
Villa Somalia is on a hill overlooking the city and
anyone holding it will have amble choice of targets. In
retaliation, forces loyal to Ali Mahdi deployed their
own Katyushas on miniature hills at Sheikh Muhiyaddin
Village and near Lido Beach. Trading of Katyusha rockets
is now gaining momentum without pause. Sheikh
Muhiyadiin’s followers and other religious leaders
from different clans have been running about in the
middle of the attack, trying in vain to negotiate
ceasefire, holding the Holy Quran high over their heads,
shouting “ALLAHU AKBAR” and “STOP THE CARNAGE”,
and reading verses from the Holy Quran, but no one seems
to listen to their plea.
P.M. A tank in front my house just swung out and rumbled
thunderously after mounted jeeps, leaving behind dozens of
spent shells and geysers of smoke and dust. Several bodies
lay spread-eagle on the dirt road, some of them still
gripping their AK-47s in one hand. Part of my roof collapsed
under the impact from the tank shells. I have been deaf and
coated with dusty for several minutes.
SEPTEMBR 7, 1993.
everything was still this morning. So still I could hear my
neighbor cursing Ali Mahdi and General Aideed. The fighting
was over just as it began, and a waiting, threatening
silence fell over the ruined section of the city where we
live. People are taking advantage of the lull and try to
scavenge for food and drinking water.
morning I went to the Sinai Market, where you could buy
everything from toilet soap to machineguns – at a bargain
prices. But now it was razed to the ground. Few merchants
are trying in vain to salvage what little was left of their
merchandise, but the whole place is still smoldering.
we survive on dozens of cartons full of tinned foodstuff
left behind by a Chinese colleague who represented, XINHUA,
the Chinese news agency in Mogadishu before all foreigners
were evacuated. The tins are labeled in Chinese and some of
the contents are bizarre and outlandish, such as bamboo
shoots and pickled onions and duck eggs, not to mention
something that looked like pickled snakes! One look at them
in normal times will produce a shuttering vomit. But this is
not normal times. So we decided to be discerning, throwing
away only what looked like pickled snakes and pork to the
hungry pariah dogs. THANK YOU, LEE. You helped me fight
against starvation and malnutrition.
who still cling to life greet each other with the words:
“Are you still alive? Al-Xamdullilah!”
the dirt road behind the mosque lay the carcasses of cows,
blown up like balloons, with their legs jutting stiff
Habiba, the only human being who refused to join the exodus
to the countryside, apart our next-door neighbour, and us
was trapped in her own hovel for weeks without our
knowledge. She brought us water and charcoal, very rare
commodities in Mogadishu these days. She is brisk, stout and
motherly, and had once been a nurse at Digfer. She lost one
of her sons during the popular uprising against the Barre
regime. She said the Red Berets killed him in front of his
grandfather at the beginning of the uprising.
are regrouping and rearming themselves to have another go at
each other,” she said referring to the brief lull in the
Mohamoud M. Afrah © 2002