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 banadir.com).
JOURNALIST'S DIARY ABOUT THE WAR IN MOGADISHU 1991/1992
WAR DIARY BY M. M. AFRAH 1991/1993
Beach January 26, 1993
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.
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
"Can he?" I asked him with a quick glance at
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
"Five hundred dollars, US Dollars only." He
stressed the last two words to make sure that we got it
"When can we leave?" Aweys, who did not utter
a single word until now, asked him.
"Any time between Thursday and Friday."
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
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.
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.
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
"But there's always a first time."
"Our bush telegraph is very effective and reliable."
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.
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
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.
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
"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,"
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
"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
WAR DIARY 1991/1993 BY M.M. AFRAH©
To be continue