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(This is the first diary of war by a veteran Somali Journalist 1990/1992-a war fought under the merciless Somalia sun in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of military dictator, Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre from power after ruling the country for more than two decades with an iron fist.
Like any great-war diary, the force of the talent behind it makes it forever timeless. This is the brutal expose' of the rotten core of a country ruled by ruthless, bloodthirsty warlords, their sinister power and barbaric acts that divided the Somali people along clan, sub, sub-clan lines. Mr. Afrah wrote the Diary (slightly edited with new material) before the international task force spearheaded by the Americans stormed the beaches of Mogadishu on December 9, 1993--
The Webmaster


WAR DIARY BY M. M. AFRAH 1991/1993

Lido Beach January 26, 1993


This morning the former Al-Uruba Hotel cashier, who becomes a member of our "banquet table", introduced us to a man who said his brother smuggles people across the border into Kenya-at a price. But our thoughts quickly turned to informers and scam artists.

"Your brother?" asked the professor, without wasting time.
"He does it all the time. If you are willing to pay I can arrange the necessary transportation and hire a driver and three armed body guards to escort you out of Somalia safely."
"Can he?" I asked him with a quick glance at the professor.

The man whose nickname is Ganey (broken tooth) lowered his voice to a whisper, "my brother has been doing this for a very long time. Takes whole families across the border safely. It is not a big deal"
"How much it costs for two adults?" I asked him.
"Five hundred dollars, US Dollars only." He stressed the last two words to make sure that we got it right.
"When can we leave?" Aweys, who did not utter a single word until now, asked him.
"Any time between Thursday and Friday."

Then Ganey, who was reluctant to give us his real name, explained the plan fully, stressing two points in particular-speed and secrecy are essential before the militia and their godfathers become suspicious enough to alert the gunmen manning the string of roadblocks between Mogadishu and Afgoi.

Obviously Ganey is right. Thursdays and Fridays are Somalia's weekend when the Mooryaans and the warlords sit at Qaad sessions. He said while everyone is still under the influence of the drug, and routinely oversleep for hours, he estimated that the human cargo could make to the port town of Kismayu, about 500 kilometers to the south before anyone realizes they were gone, Guney continued to explain.

"We'll hire a 4-wheel Land Cruiser mounted with a .50mm machinegun and three fully armed trusted bodyguards and the road to Kismayu is all yours." He emphasized, covering his broken tooth with his left hand.

The man seems to inspire confidence, but like the professor I was restless about this mysterious man who appeared in our turf out of the blue. Then I asked him: "What if the plan fails?"
"Don't worry. We've done this many times before and never failed."
"But there's always a first time."
"Our bush telegraph is very effective and reliable."

At a hush-hush argument behind our beach cabin we asked the former cashier the man's real name and his tribal lineage, an important credential in war-torn Somalia, but the former cashier told us that the man is reluctant to give his actual name. A childhood friend of his told him that Ganey frequently changes his real name and clan affiliation, but people who knew him say he belongs to the Shiqaal, a non-warrior minority clan and lost two of his front teeth in a nightclub brawl two years ago. He worked for the Immigration Department before the civil war broke out. He gained notoriety when he became the right hand man of Nur Bidaar, the disreputable Immigration Director, as council on Immigration and passport matters for more than a decade. He was in great demand in the country, but he spent all his ill-gained money on women and nightclubs.

After a dinner of fish and rice, we asked Ganey to visit us again today between 5.30 and 6.30 P.M. and we would tell him who among us could afford the cost and ready to take the risk.

At exactly 6 P.M. Ganey showed up at the beach on the ubiquitous Land Cruiser mounted with a machinegun maneuvered by three Qaad-chewing gunmen clad in surplus army camouflage.

By then Aweys and the ex-cashier have collected enough greenbacks and are ready to take the long and hazardous ride to the Somali/Kenya border town of Dhobley, come what may. The ex-cashier sold his AK-47, his bicycle and everything he owned, while Aweys has unearthed some gold jewelry from a secret spot, not far from our cabin and sold them at a rock bottom price. No sweat!
Both men handed over their money to Ganey with high spirit. Ganey counted and recounted the crispy American dollars to make sure he has got the right amount. The rest of us played the role of silent witnesses during the transaction, and have no power to interfere, even if asked by both parties. Then Ganey suddenly pulled out from the breast pocket of his safari jacket an electronic gadget and fed the American banknotes into what looked like a counterfeit detector. Then he smiled, trying to cover the gap in his mouth with his free hand. Today every businessman in Somalia carries this gadget.
"They are genuine American dollars," he said finally.
"Genuine Benjamin Franklin eh?" the professor asked with his rare smile.
"Who is Benjamin Franklin?" asks Ganey, suspiciously.
"He was one of the Presidents of the United States. His picture appears on the hundred dollar bill," I said.
Until now Ganey didn't care much about pictures on American banknotes. All that matters to him was their denominations and their authencity. But now he is taking a keen interest in Benjamin Franklin, with his receding hair, which the Somalis call Bidaar. Then he pulled out few crumbled banknotes from the pocket of his safari jacket and read the names Lincoln, Grant, Jackson and Hamilton loudly for everybody to hear.
"Am I missing something here?" he asks.
"Nixon, Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Bush?"
I stole a quick glance at the professor for an answer.
"Well, the American constitution does not permit the pictures of living presidents to appear on their currency or postage stamps," Professor Elmi Noor said.
The shenanigan attracted a huge crowd who are curious about the arrival at the beach of the dreaded gun-mounted vehicle for the second time since the days they arrived at this safe haven, away from artillery range.
Both Aweys and his travel companion thanked us for helping them survive from the inferno that's Somalia today.
We said goodbye and good luck to our former comrades-now-turned- human-cargo against our advice, and went back to our daily routine-fly-fishing.

WAR DIARY 1991/1993 BY M.M. AFRAH©
To be continue…

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