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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

March 2nd 1993


10.30 AM
Today I accompanied Sheikh Abdi to a section of the city, which is now called OPEC. Here dozens of armed middle-aged women converge day and night selling petrol, diesel, and motor oil in rusty jerry cans, hence the name. These ladies lost their husbands in the war and are the sole bread-earners of the family, or what was left of them. They turned out to be the only women in the country who brandish fully loaded AK-47s and Berretta handguns with which to protect their earnings from the omnipresent predators. This is in a country where the male population thinks they have the exclusive right to own and wield weapons of all calibers. Some young boys are not even taller than the average M-16 assault rifle. No problem.

Suddenly, we become conscious that we had no reason to be at the thriving OPEC shantytown. So we hit the road back to the dying city again, dodging from flying bullets at Ali Kamiil, one of the most dangerous places in Mogadishu. It is a mini Qaad and cigarette market run by armed militia, mostly hardcore convicts who escaped from Mogadishu's Central Prison during the insurgency to oust General Barre.

In the absence of garbage collection in the streets of the once clean city tons of refuse accumulated daily, attracting a host of blue flies, mosquitoes, rats, cockroaches, and other creatures. It is evident that the recurrence of cholera, malaria and other deadly virus is now predictable. In Mogadishu and other cities and towns at the moment, viruses seemed to be the very last worry. All that really mattered was a quick meal, preferably one that doesn't cost money.

Oblivious of the indescribably chaos around them, hundreds of armed militia from both sides of the conflict, with their fore- fingers on the trigger of their guns swarm day and night over the rubble and refuse, ready to shoot, just to make their presence felt. For them it meant only the faint hope of finding some crumbs to survive until the next day. But in a city that has been looted over and over again, even that possibility does not exist anymore.

Just as I was wondering why we had ended up in this purgatory, the Sheikh started reading verses from the Holy Qu'aan imploring Allah for salvation. Soothing words, indeed!

4.45 P.M.-We returned to the beach, unscathed, but we had a showdown with Professor Elmi who is very much infuriated about our forays into the city. "It's tantamount to committing a suicide," he said furiously. Reprimand: 8 hours work at the Red Cross/Red Crescent kitchens!

March 4th 1993
7 P.M.
While the old Sheikh sat alone, reading the Holy Qur'aan, a young girl walked into his cabin, carrying a plate of Samoosas (A NOTE FOR WESTERN READERS & CONNOISSEURS: Samoosa is a triangular-shaped fritter filled with minced meat, onions and hot spices favored in the East and parts of Africa, including Somalia) and bread, a rare treat in war-torn Somalia, and offered them to the Sheikh. She seemed breathless and very nervous, and looked as if she hadn't slept and wore loose-fitting gown known as Dira'a.
"What in the world has happened to you, my little girl?" asked the old Sheikh, closing the holy book.
"May father forbid me to see the boy I love and I desperately need your help," she said as tears rolled down from her eyes.
"Start from the beginning," said the Sheikh after kissing the Holy book, and put it on his lap.
With more tears in her eyes, she related the story of two young people who have been able to find happiness where others had found only horror and despair. The two lovers are from entirely different clans, which do not normally inter-marry. The boy belongs to the Midgan, Somalia's "untouchables", a minority clan of hunters, shoemakers and blacksmiths, and the girl hails from one of the much-feared warrior clans from the Central Province. Her name is Halima Abdullahi Samatar. The two lovers met at the beach a month ago and decided to tie the knot, come what may. Even after the young-man confessed to her which ethnic group he belonged to.

Eighteen years old Halima and her family moved to the beach three months ago with only few belongings after her father, now in his late 40s, refused to join the clan warfare due to his advanced age. The first time Halima had seen the Lido Beach was when she was only 14-years-old. At that time the beach had been peaceful and a pleasant place where foreign diplomats and expatriates used to lay on the snow-white sand like fat seals. Now she could only stare at the hundreds of shanties and the walking skeletons that inhabited the place. This is her new home. The only consolation is that there were no bombs falling now.

One morning after breakfast of Red Cross/Red Crescent porridge and powdered milk, the father confronted his daughter.
"What is it, father?" She asked, smiling.
"Halima, you have been secretly going around with a boy for sometimes now."
Her smile faded. "Yes, father." She said quietly.
"You are bringing disgrace to the whole clan, and I forbid you to see him again."
"He is fine young man," Halima retorted. "I wish you would see him as a man beyond his clan affiliation." She pleaded.
"He is a Midgan. Stop seeing him again. That's all." Her father said evenly and walked away, cursing the young generation.
Halima stared at his back, her face red with anger and frustration. Then she fled to her mother, but the old lady is nowhere to be seen. She finally decided to see the only acknowledged Sheikh in the area.

After our fishing expedition the Sheikh narrated the story to us. But all we could do was sit down at our "banquet" table and shaking our heads in silence. Only the sound of the waves and the pounding of the surf intruded the silence.
Finally, the Professor said: "We Somalis are making things very difficult for ourselves, even in love."

March 5th, 1993.
After another day spent running about Sheikh Abdi returned this afternoon with a triumphant smile that was altogether unexpected.
"I talked to the young man whose name is Yonis. He knows how to read and write Somali, Arabic and English, and we must do everything in our power to let the couple marry, notwithstanding the father of the girl's objection" he announced.
This revelation led us to launch Elmi Bowdary, (Somali version of Juliet and Romeo) campaign.

War Diary 1991/1993
By M. M. Afrah©
To be continued….

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