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WRITING TO KILL PAIN

TALKING POINT By M. M. Afrah©

Anyone who makes a habit of reading the heartbreaking stories from Somalia is probably sick to death of the new, new waves of violence in places where there was a semblance of peace and stability before.

The clashes sounded oddly familiar Mogadishu-style, one faction leader/warlord from the same subclan in Puntland and southwest (Baidoa) tries to replace his one time comrade-in-arms not by consensus but by the usual method, by force of arms. Towns and villages change hands like clock work. An area that was in the hands of one faction leader on Tuesday is being “liberated” by his sworn enemy on Wednesday. That’s exactly what is happening right now in Baidoa and in northeast (Puntland).

Plagued with endless difficulties, all the goodwill on earth cannot settle our problems for us. All that’s required is put the gun down, or better still incinerate it, and talk peace and national reconstruction, without being told how, when and what to do by people who do not understand the Somali frame of mind. Yes, we can do it, Eldoret or no Eldoret, Mwangale or no Mwangale.  Reports say that some members of the Technical Committee have very deep pockets and allegedly salted away hundreds of thousands of Euros and Dollars. But that’s to be expected in a country like Kenya, where the words Toa kitu kidogo (TKK) or give me little something (Dash, bribe, kickback or hawl-fududeyn) are epidemic.

Let’s hope the new broom would do the job of mediating, instead of dictating the terms of the talks. The lingering question is: Is ambassador Bethwell Kiplagat up to the job? Mr. Kiplagat is a career diplomat who represented his country for more than two decades.

Much has been said about the vulnerability of the non-combatants, mostly women, children and the elderly. In most cases residents caught in the middle of the firefight and bloodshed, one fact became increasingly clear to them. Even as small community of people, their innocence was lost, squandered, flipped as carelessly as a coin in a casual bet. Head says Warlord “A” will win and you are going to die if his militia comes to town with their deadly Technicals, to take away your scrawny livestock, loot your lean-to, rape your daughters. The new kid on the block could point the finger at you before you could say Ma Nabadbaa, Walaal? You will automatically lose your wonderful life, as you once knew it. But tails says if your luck holds out Warlord “B” may win and you may just make it. Good luck, Jaalle!

The way everything was going so ridiculously wrong for the Somali people since 1991 seemed fate was playing a vicious, unforgiving joke. And probably because of the shock and trauma, the people summoned up their courage to cling to life. What else could they do? The faction leaders and their militia have been bad since day one, and we’ve been slowly massacred, the people would tell you. They say it was written, and thus continue with their prayers and ask Allah for salvation, a salvation that seems to elude them.

I remember when some of us scribblers used to write about lies, some shady deals of sorts, mass graves at Jessira Beach, poisoning of water wells, gang pressing of youth for military service.  But what we believed was the truth just didn’t fly with Dafleh’s NSS and the Censorship Board. This sounds small potatoes compared to the severity of what is happening to the country today. 

But now sitting behind a keyboard in the Diaspora, there’s nothing you can do about the alarming situation in Somalia. Not supporting of one group or another. Just feeling the pain of the people, living it, writing it. A colleague in the media once asked me why I was wasting my time writing what he called “garbage”? The simple answer was: TO KILL PAIN. I have no choice but let it out. Frantz Fanon did the same when he was shunned down and ostracized by the native leaders who replaced the colonial administrators at independence. In his Wretched of the Earth, he pointed out the ways in which those who replaced the colonial administrators betrayed the national working-class and their aspirations. He became “enemy of the state” after publishing his “contemptuous” book, “Black Skin, White Mask.”

Now, why am I writing these “scornful” articles? Because my colleagues in the West have adopted a crude habit of creating a story where there is none, ending up as a mix of fiction, drama and dangerous allegations. Example, “Somalis give shelter to Osama and his followers. They are worse than the axis of evil. They should be photographed, finger printed, interrogated and thrown into the can in the United States.” I lashed back at those dangerous reporting in my own way that had gotten me into serious trouble once before. I forged ahead anyway, trying to do the journalism thing, giving my best shot at telling the objective tale through the eyes of those who are there, and not giving damn what was written or broadcast about them by visiting reporters, or worse by armchair journalists in their cozy offices in Washington, Paris or London.

Am I wasting my time? Not at all. I feel it is the sacred duty of every Somali to truly express his feelings, unbiased, even though there’s nothing much he can do about the volatile and nightmarish situation in the Somali Peninsula.

How could anyone even think of being indifferent to the world’s greatest human tragedy, as summed up by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)? For the record, this vulture of tragedy had clenched its claws long before anyone ever heard of the Rwanda genocide, Kosovo, the Palestinian Intfada or Chechnya.

The old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword is still compelling and fitting, to some extent. That’s if you do not take into account the dilemma of frontline journalists in war-torn countries who frequently face unsavory characters toting AK-47 in place of the medieval sword.

Even with their objectives, worldly, hell--could-happen reporter attitude they paid with their lives. According to the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) more than one hundred journalists have been killed in conflict zones in single year alone. Others (including yours truly) escaped death by the skin of their teeth.

Yes, there’s a tragic price to pay chasing the truth. We call it “Professional Hazard.”

By M. M. Afrah©2003
EMAIL: afrah95@hotmail.com


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