THE MOGADISHU PRIVATE ARMY
By M. M. Afrah
every merchant/businessman in Mogadishu retains a private army to protect his
business from marauding gangs of looters and arsonists, locally known as Mooryaan.
Members of these private armies themselves are cut adrift from the militia of
the local warlords and were convinced that the grass was greener on the other
side of the warlord’s fence.
have been frequent skirmishes between these private armies and the TNG police
force at the Bakaraha main market when the latter attempted to collect levy from
the big merchants and petty traders. Several innocent bystanders were caught in
crossfire, as both sides tried to destroy each other (the gunmen believe that
there are no innocent bystanders in Somalia!).
these are the same merchants who initially gave high-pitched praise to the head
of the TNG and his colleagues after the Djibouti conference, hoping that
Abdiqassim would be their new boy on the block. Now after almost three years,
the intensity of their attack surely surprised those who witnessed their
dramatic welcome after his return from the Arta conference.
a matter of fact the big merchants immediately did untold damage to the
dwindling economy of the country by flooding the markets with trillions of
counterfeit currency. Those who are familiar with Abdiqassim say that he
believed the last person to whisper in his ears.
This last person was said to be none other than Ali Khalif Galayr, the
ousted Prime Minister of the TNG who was rumoured to have nurtured his own
hidden agenda against the merchants of death.
doesn’t know where to place his trust,” our spy in Mogadishu reported,
referring to the man who pledged to fight all the evils in Somalia, including
a stunning about-face, as soon as the honeymoon was over the merchants begun to
openly attack Abdiqassim and his TNG for sending his starving recruits to the
Bakaaraha. It is not the first time, of course, that the Mogadishu merchants
praised their ally one moment and attacked him the next. These merchants, unlike
the faction leaders, are concerned with more wealth than with the acquisition of
case in point is the TNG’s futile attempt to reopen the main seaport and
airport that the inhabitants dubbed as “Bloody Wednesday”. The account of
the defeat ran like wildfire through the city.
Dozens of people died in the mêlée before the TNG recruits retreated to
their camps to lick their wounds. The number of botched operations by the TNG
goes on and on. But as was expected by many, the TNG quickly blamed the faction
leaders, in connivance with the regime in Addis Abeba, for being obstructionists
and for undermining peace and stability in Somalia.
the other hand the faction leaders celebrated the TNG defeat with pomp and
the battle-hardened, well-paid, Qaad-chewing private army nourish an
abiding hatred of anyone in the TNG, the faction leaders as well as the
suffering population who are squeezed between this unholy tripod.
merchants plan the operations behind the scene and the private army carries them
out to the letter, period. Only in Mogadishu protection money works with
satisfaction. The idea was for the private army to dug in around the huge
market, with its network of narrow streets, and let the TNG to bring the battle
to them. And it worked as planned, not by a silver haired general but the fat
watch out. Failure to pay the private army without delay means a sudden death
out of the blue. Of course, the merchants knew all along that if these
mercenaries are not paid promptly, they will fight for somebody else, with or
without a cause – just for money to soothe and tame their Qaad
sure don’t want them on the other side,” remarked the owner of a newly
opened sesame oil factory in Mogadishu.
there are the freelancers who do not recognize commands from anybody. No one has
tell them what orders to follow. They are not committed to any politics or
clans. They are insensitive, fearless and indifferent to fate.
M. M. Afrah © 2002