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THE DIRTY AND CRUEL WAR IN THE SOUTH

M.M. AFRAH’S PERSONAL WAR DIARY –1991/1993 FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT (UNEDITED)

 

PART THREE

MOGADISHU, SEPTEMBER 8, 1991 12. 30 A. M. Sleep difficulty, what with the bullets and artillery shells flying over our heads, non-stop? I am suffering from sleep apnea and there's nothing I can do about it. I tried to read Victor Hugo's famous novel Les Miserables (The Miserables) with the help of a hurricane lamp, but gave it up. So I am sitting on my doorsteps with my neighbour who is also suffering from sleep apnea.

We talked about what the USC should have done after Siyad Barre, instead of killing each other. He said the students and the intellectuals decided to keep mum in order to save their own skins. I reminded him of the religious leaders from different clans who staged spectacular peace demonstrations yesterday and the day before in which they risked their lives in the name of peace and brotherhood. But the warring factions deliberately ignored them. Some of them received bullet wounds in the process, but they continued their peace crusade until the last possible moment.

"Do you anticipate the warring factions would pay attention to a bunch of students and intellectuals?" I asked him.

"Not likely, but if the lust for blood and arson continues like this, it will leave a legacy of hatred and suspicion that will go on into the future until one day___" A mortar explodes in the middle of the dirt road in front of us, raising chocking white cloud of dusty. We quickly dived for a cover in a makeshift "Bomb shelter," because they always come in pairs.

Ibrahim, my neigbour continues to curse Ali Mahdi and Aideed and starts reading verses from the Holy Quran in a shrill voice that mingles with the reverberation of machinegun fires and the thud, thud of the mortars. Ibrahim who belongs to a minority clan, the Rer Xamar with roots in Arabia, interrupted his readings and said that he was of the opinion that almost anyone would be preferable to General Aideed and Ali Mahdi as Presidents of Somalia.

"They're destroying everything in their path, like a hurricane. In short they are resorting to trampling upon the weak and the meek, turning the city into a killing field!" he exclaimed, and continued to read more verses from the Holy Quran.

Boys as young as 12 or 14-years-old, some of them not taller than the average M-16 rifle, are boasting to have murdered women and children. Apart from these young gunmen, the city is now bursting with pariah dogs that feed on the dead bodies strewn all over the place. Usually one dog starts barking and others take up the shrill challenge until the night rings to the yapping chorus. Their foreign owners abandoned them as soon as the shooting began months ago and are now turning into man-eaters. But the question of disarming the youngsters returns to torment me, because these youngsters are now law unto themselves. Reliable sources in the regions say the whole country is breaking into pieces and dissolving in blood, tears and terror.

New words found their way into the Somali vocabulary. However, most of the words originated from the Northwest during the SNM struggle. These are: Faqash (General Barre's soldiers and security forces) Mooryaan (predators), Bililiqeysi (looting), Isbaara, a bastardized Italian word from the South meaning barricades or roadblocks and Cir-toogte (literally sky-shooter).

10.30 A.M. Fighting resumed again after a few hours' lull. From the street came the screams of women and children who were caught in crossfire as they tried to flee the inferno.

"The mounted jeeps, armoured cars and tanks are all over the streets out there," a man carrying a six month-old baby told me. "They wake up now after last night's of Qaad chewing session and now continue shooting indiscriminately," he said angrily. Just then, a carpet of artillery was laid over our quarters and I threw myself flat to the ground. A huge shell fell behind us, and another burning house crashed on itself. More screams from Ibrahim, our neighbour could be heard.

The impact of the explosion partly destroyed the roof over his bathroom. Bullets are flying again. Immediately after the rain of bullets and artillery shells, I jumped to my feet and rushed straight to my two neighbours, Xaajiya Xabiiba and Ibrahim. They are still alive but intensely terrified and speechless.

6.15 P.M. Fighting stopped abruptly. The Muezzin, another neighbour who returned from the countryside to stay in his mosque joined us this morning. He called the faithful for the evening prayers as if nothing was happing! During his absence in the countryside, the mosque's minaret received a direct hit from an artillery shell and lies among the rubble and debris. Undaunted, he continued to call the faithful to prayers, minus the minaret and the loud hailer.

But no one paid any attention to him. Besides, there's a war going on and to venture outside is like consorting with death.

MOGADISHU, SEPTEMBER 9, 1991

Today I went downtown for the first time in several weeks to examine what damage had been caused during the fighting. The city looked as if it was suffering from some particularly wasting disease. Gunmen are everywhere, stopping people at makeshift barricades to recant their tribe and family lineage. The notorious Green Line at the old Parliament Square became effective yesterday with the Habar-gedir and smaller Hawiye subclans in the South of the city and Abgal in the North. Crossing the line is tantamount to committing suicide - a real killing field.

Everything is in ruins. Broken tree stumps, burnt our cars, dead bodies and shallow graves are everywhere. I treaded very careful, using alleyways and between gaping building walls because everyone is carrying a gun or hand grenades, any one of which could go off at any time, making it so that it wouldn't matter whether it had been an accident or not. Many of the corpses are flattened on the tarmac by heavy vehicles driven by people with no human feeling. When I mentioned this to the muezzin, he said: "It was written, for none may die before their allotted time."

My fears about the outbreak of cholera continue to torment me every minute of the day. This afternoon when an occasional rain-washed the streets human limbs poke through the thin layers of dirt from gutters and drains. The Red Cross, one of the few NGOs that remained in the devastated city, is also worried that cholera may sweep the city and decimates those who survived the slaughter.

Looters and arsonists are having field day.

The capacity for cruelty, the indifference towards fellow countrymen, and the fanatical hatreds that prevails in this country cannot be described in a single diary. One needs volumes to describe the naked children, with their spindle legs, bloated bellies and eye-sores on which clouds of flies clustered all over.

Barely a month ago many people were thankful that General Barre has gone, uprooted from his power base, but now they are not so sure.

Honchos from both sides of the conflict allege that some unnamed elements are trying to derail the objectives of the uprising. Who are these people? We are war weary, and no smooth talk can restore our confidence.

 

To be continued…

By Mohamoud M. Afrah © 2002
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com


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