Talking Point is primarily intended for the younger generation
who are at a loss to comprehend the murky situation in Somalia
today and how it all begun. It is beyond petty clan politics,
nepotism and tribalism. It is fair, accurate, candid and witty--The
would anybody want to be President of a country in an intensive
care unit? What a crappy job? Who needs it? You're never going
to win. You're never going to please every clan. You're destined
to surround yourself by illiterate yes-men and smiling flunkeys,
assuming you don't get shot or die of stroke, of taking nothing
but criticism for everything you do or even think.
Aden Abdulle Osman, the first President at independence who
faced this phenomenon during the dying days of his presidency
everybody made him look zombie, but had survived. Now in his
eighties he is very much alive and kicking. He is one of the
very few African heads of state who conceded defeat at the
ballot box (the others are Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda
and until very recently Daniel arap Moi).
congratulated his rival Presidential contender, Abdirashid
Ali Shermarke, loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves and
went to the land, farming. Today he refuses to talk politics---the
murky Somali politics. Somali politics, it became clear, is
not something he remembers with affection. He is farmer of
first category, and clearly prefers that way. He gave himself
to this obligation and has no nostalgia for his years in politics
and later in Villa Somalia.
close to him say he refused to be visible during the brutal
clan wars and it is easy to see why he has refused to get
himself involved in the present quagmire. It is a country
of warlords, shameful blackmail, kidnapping, clan worshipping
and guns. It is a scene from hell.
joined the fray it's difficult to visualize him presiding
over the carnage in the country. Soft spoken and charismatic,
but unlike other politicians, he always meant what he said
and never minced his words.
As a result,
an umbrella of suspicion and rumours by vocal minority aimed
at unseating him prevailed in the country in those days. But
like most educated Somalis, he had political science and palace
intrigues on the tip of his tongue. He must have read Machiavellian
handbook during his student days. He patiently spoke of how
the Horn of Africa will engulf in unending bloodshed if the
West, notably the United States supported powerful Ethiopia
against infant Somalia. He predicted the streets would run
with blood unless a political solution is found. Needless
to say, his prophecy came true.
not own Swiss bank account and answered his enemies with compassion.
He tried his very best in silencing internecine tribal rivalry
and political jostling within the SYL, the ruling party. He
wanted to bring the missing territories diplomatically, not
by war, because he knew that a newly independent, but economically
weaker Somalia, surrounded by Western supported enemies, he
was not ready to go to war against the king of kings, the
lion of Judah emperor Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta and the
daredevil French Foreign Legionnaires in Djibouti.
Mohamed Siyad Barre, who came to power in a military and police
coup in October 1969, ruled the country with an iron fist
for more than 20 years, which is an appropriate gauge for
a country that's difficult to rule. Despite his gentle art
of hugging babies in public, General Barre indoctrinated the
people with what he called Scientific Socialism and made it
clear from the very outset that he will not allow any challenge
to his rule. The consequence would be the Tiirka behind the
Police Academy, meaning death by a firing squad. It seemed
that the people, weary of corruption and nepotism, needed
the spin at the time. It worked, because law and order was
fully back on track.
But when his seat of power became as hot as brimstones and
shaky he fled to his hometown in Garba-harey, southwest of
the country, leaving behind a catalogue of death and destruction
in his wake.
people then found themselves down a dark tunnel with no end
in sight. After more than two decades of military dictatorship
their biggest long-term problem now is the warlords who have
the qualification for membership in the "axis of evil"
George Bush Junior, please take note.
the large scale of destruction and the general mayhem they
are causing in the country, a Somali doctor at Digfer General
Hospital told a visiting reporter from the French news agency
AFP that the warlords and their militia gunmen are clinically
insane. He told the awe-stricken French reporter that his
worst nightmare is how to cope with the growing number of
injured people, mostly women, children and the elderly who
were caught in the middle. "The ugly truth is that the
warlords are in a race to eliminate each other," he said.
It was distressing sight at the hospital with supplies critically
SO-CALLED PEACE TALKS
the question which continues to linger in people's mind most
is: Why are these people in Nairobi's Mbagathi are dragging
their feet on the crucial question of returning Somalia into
the international community of nations. This clearly amounts
to uncertainty, hypocrisy, self-centeredness and contempt
to the wishes and desires of the long-suffering people of
leader at the Mbagathi Peace Talks is fighting tooth and nail
to become president or prime minister of a country he reduced
to a wasteland, while the inhabitants in the wasteland are
traumatized beyond comprehension. They can't even muster a
single quiver of voice when describing moments of absolute
any warlord/faction leader, he will swear that he is fighting
for "peace" or to right a wrong done to his clan.
You will never hear him order his trigger-happy, drug-crazed
militia to lay down their weapons. His mundane answer/question
is: "Who will protect us from the other clans if we put
down our weapons?"
more, you will never meet a warlord/faction leader who misses
the requisite five times a day prayers. Even at the height
of heavy artillery bombardment he patiently waits for the
Muezzin's call for the faithful to prayers, then performs
his prayers in his heavily defended stronghold.
the same man who used long-range artillery guns to destroy
mosques, Quranic schools and the main Roman Catholic cathedral
in the heart of the capital, after a looting spree. This is
the same man who ordered his militia to mercilessly massacre
women, children and the elderly, Hutu-style, just because
they happened to belong to his "enemy" clan. He
does not believe he was murdering unarmed fellow Muslims and
does not lose sleep over the carnage.
of arms embargo, unspecified threats by donor countries against
ceasefire violators and lack of meaningful results are as
meaningless as sanctions against apartheid South Africa and
Ian Smith's white regime in former Rhodesia.
endless peace talks the streets in the capital and other towns
are as dangerous as ever before and people are asking themselves:
"When would all these end?" Strange but true the
lawlessness is becoming routine and the inhabitants are trying
to keep body and soul together. "It is God's will,"
they would say.
workers based in Kenya occasionally sneak into the country,
feed few starving people at the border area and retreat back
to their posh hotels in Nairobi before you know it.
live, like they might as well be dead," one relief worker
was quoted as saying upon his return from Baidoa, dubbed by
the international media as The City of Death.
a surreal scenario that would give a seasoned Hollywood movie
director a heart attack before he could says CUT!
Afrah © 2003
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
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