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Toronto (Canada)

06, Sep. 2004

M. M. Afrah

Reading the papers or listening to the radio these past few days must have caused a mixed feelings among the Somali people at home and abroad. And why wouldn’t it be? From the first polluted “peace talks” in Addis and in Cairo 12 years ago to the latest (the 15th) Eldoret/Mbagathi in Kenya the majority of the Somali people are cautious to welcome another Arta-like package.

Analysts predict one thing. That we have a great problem on our hands and an even bigger problem lurking in the minds of some of the warlords who failed to get a piece of the cake, or those who felt they have been sidelined during the swearing-in ceremony for the clan-based transitional federal parliament.
“If we lose this opportunity which arrives after nearly two years of hard work under very difficulty circumstances, the country will regress to where it was,” a Kenyan journalist quoted one of the few civic leaders at the talks, who said he believed the slogan No Clan Left Behind. “Let’s give peace a chance,” said.

They’ve even elected an eighty-year-old chairman in their first meeting at Bomas in Nairobi, despite the fact that some delegates failed to appear for the swearing-in ceremony.

Still I have a problem believing that all clans are comfortable with the so-called 4.5 arrangements.

Disenfranchising certain minority clans in Somalia have gone for far too long because of our long embedded cultural norms, which prevent us from openly condemn this ancient absurdity. The problem is further compounded by the victim’s unwillingness to protest or seek legal redress in the international arena, such as Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

But how do we change this? For starter, intellectuals, human rights advocates, religious leaders, university professors and my writing colleagues in all the media have the collective power to end discrimination against ethnic minorities, the so-called Midgans, Tumals, Somali Bantus (Jareer), and other brutalized groups in our midst. Why not begin with the Imams stepping forward during their Friday sermons at mosques throughout the country. Surely if anything, such bold step would catalyze the healing process.

Secretly many of us will admit that there’s a certain appeal to discriminate against our fellow countrymen just because they happened to be hard working, God fearing shoe- makers, metal workers and savvy farmers, who made their presence felt in the middle of a nomadic society after the famous Industrial Revolution, and the invention of the first wheel by man in the West. They produced shoes from raw hides and melted iron ores, (which they themselves had discovered) to devise important implements, such as hoes, axes, knives, spears and even the slippery needle under very dangerous circumstances.

Instead of being proud of their daring and bold inventiveness in the field of technology, and of providing food to the hungry masses, they became target of scorn, vulnerable both in their homes and on the streets, typecasting them as second-class citizens in their own country.


Going back to the circus of the year in Kenya, the stories recently splashed in the press sounded optimistic, omitting the fact that a big problem awaits for those who were elected to get the country out of the doldrums. One report from the capital said there were smiles on the faces of the inhabitants upon hearing the successful swearing-in ceremony of all the candidates. But this smile could become “the smile of another death” reminiscent to the immediate aftermath of Arte conference and the election of Abdiqassim Salad Hassan’s ineffective Transitional National Government, whose members holed up in heavily guarded hotel rooms in Mogadishu for security reason. Clan militia gunmen virtually kept them as hostages to the gun just like the rest of the long-suffering population.

They knew from the word go that ours is not your typical scenario where law enforcement officers hunt down the culprits and bring them to face the law. They knew ours is where drug-addicted free lance gunmen stop public transport vehicles and forcing the driver and passengers to pay cash or else… Ours is where people suspected of belonging to families who regularly receive remittances from abroad as well as expatriates are kidnapped for ransom.

Some of my colleagues are already predicting the same Arte symptom will show its ugly head again (a repeat performance, if you like) where ministers and MPs bar themselves behind a hotel’s steel gates. Other reports say the new MPs would remain in Nairobi until the capital is deemed to be safe. The question that quickly comes to mind is: how long? Because for one thing the streets are still under the full control of young militia gunmen and thousands of hard core criminals who escaped from Mogadishu’s Central Prisons in the immediate aftermath of the bloody civil war.

In a situation like this it requires strong stomach of the person who wants to run the country. Who that person will be is open to conjunctions. What means will be used to grasp the seat of power is not yet clear. But that someone will assume the mantle is certain.

People close to the venue allege that huge amounts of money have been changing hands, not to mention the promise of cabinet posts. It all boils down to the famous Somali play of the 1960s: “Ama la’idooray ama daadka i qaad.”

I should like to acknowledge the valuable emails from all those who feel as I do: that as long as the Somali people are free to choose the kind of society in which they and their children wish to live, they should at least be fully informed as to what their decisions may mean, and, remember, while most of us like to get a good night’s sleep now and then, the war criminals keep busy all the time.
Let them all rot in a spider hole!

By M. M. Afrah©2003,


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