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DIFFERENCES SHOULD BE SETTLED AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE
COMMENTARY: DIFFERENCES SHOULD BE SETTLED AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)
4 April. 2002

DIFFERENCES SHOULD BE SETTLED AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

Politics is such a strange and awkward vocation in Somalia that it pulls two brothers or close friends apart. In fact I personally recall witnessing two boyhood friends at Hodan Estate in Mogadishu going at each other's throat as soon as they helped oust the late military dictator in 1991, just because the two boys belonged to two rival subclans who were jostling to fill the seat of power. That same jostling had been going on with ferocity since then. Tribal elders, religious leaders, the so-called elite and former army and police officers joined into the fray, en mass, to make the country look like a wasteland.

Experience has by now taught us that there is no victor in combats since the actual victims - the bystanders - and the means by which they are dragged into the conflicts, leave a permanent mark on the conscience of both combatants.

In the civilized world, political differences are usually settled on a negotiating table, and in a peaceful manner. You do not see people running to get a gun to blow up their adversaries, gangland style. No amount of misunderstanding can justify the use of guns. Even those who invented it refrain from using it unless it is absolutely necessary, foremost of which is the defense of the country's sovereignty. But in Somalia, guns are the local currency and are used to settle minor disputes, such as traffic accidents and non-payment of debts.

THE NAIROBI PEACE TALKS

Somalis everywhere would be closely monitoring the Nairobi peace talks, particularly the mood of the faction leaders and the TNG at the negotiating table. They are also monitoring the mood of Ethiopia which has been skillfully exploiting the conflict that surfaced between the Arta Group and the Baidoa Group two years ago. As a result Ethiopia has made use of the situation to launch several offensives against a country that's still in limbo. I hate to enter into war of words with Abdul-Majid, Ethiopia's representative at the United Nations. All I have to say is that history is crammed with Quislings, Vichy and turncoats who defend, rightly or wrongly, the hand that feeds them.

Some political observers believe that a number of faction leaders and the TNG now recognized the need for a dialogue and are ready to rebuff Ethiopia's attempts to divide an already fractured people. They have reached the political maturity and regret what happened during the last 11 years or so and are ready to form a broad-based government that would heal the physical and psychological wounds that had been inflicted on the Somali people.

Other political gurus say that some hardliners among the faction leaders might derail the peace talks in Nairobi, just as in previous fruitless peace talks. But no one expected that the hardliners would give a standing ovation to any peace talks whether in Nairobi or Timbuktu. This disturbs all Somalis everywhere. As a matter of fact many Somalis in the Diaspora share this agony with those at home. They too are hostages of circumstances. They have not the least idea of their family's whereabouts or conditions. A good number of them (including this writer) are anxious to return home as soon as conditions return to normal. They are ready to share their know-how with their people to resuscitate the economy and rebuild the infrastructure from what the Americans prefer to call Ground Zero after the September 11 tragedy in New York and Washington, DC.

WHAT DO WE WANT FOR A REBORN SOMALIA?

The question that comes to mind immediately is: WHAT DO WE WANT FOR THE BORN AGAIN SOMALIA?

Whenever bewildered and confused colleagues in the Canadian and American media ask me this question, I have got the following ready-made answers for them:

1. A workable design and national reconciliation and the cessation of all hostilities - verbal, physical or otherwise;

2. The formation of a broad-based national government free from the virus of tribalism and nepotism. Preferably a government of technocrats and that the catch phrase should be "It is what you know and not who you know."

3. No-string-attached material and political input that can chart us out of the muddied waters;

4. Demolition of the string of makeshift road barricades and rehabilitation of the dazed boys with the guns and providing them with shelter, food and detoxification program. If all the contenders join hands and send a message loud and clear, I am sure the boys will have no other option but surrender their weapons voluntarily;

5. An immediate end to the wide spread misappropriation of other people's properties, embezzlement, robbery and hoarding of what little aid has been flown in or floated to our stretched hands. Evidently the begging bowl remains empty after eleven long years of bloodshed and man-made famine.

OVER TO THE DELEGATES TO THE NAIROBI CONFERENCE!

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

RECOMMENDED READING
Are you tired of reading distorted stories about Somalia by armchair authors? Order the "SOMALI TRAGEDY," by M. M. Afrah 204 pages with photos and glossary of Somali history.
It is an eyewitness account of the clan warfare and the US/UN military involvement in the Somalia debacle. $US20/ including H&S by airmail.
Mode of payment: International Money Order or through Somali money transfer companies near you. Order the book directly from the Author by sending your email to afrah95@hotmail.com

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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 decades".

Many 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!
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