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A JOURNALIST'S DIARY ABOUT THE WAR IN MOGADISHU 1991/1992
(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 banadir.com).

M. M. AFRAH'S WAR DIARY 1991/1992

PART FOUR
Mogadishu, December 5, 1991.
This morning I sneaked into downtown against the advice of my neighbour, who after several attempts, failed to visit Hamar Weyne in order to see if close relatives and friends were still alive. The whole city was deserted, making it look like a ghost city. Bloated bodies are everywhere, as in our residential area; no one seemed to have the time to bury the dead. I saw rats and dogs feeding on dead bodies in front of De Martini Hospital. Apparently these were badly injured people who could not make the few remaining yards to the overstretched and overcrowded hospital.

The once vibrant shopping district of Hamar-weyne and the familiar Afar-Irdood gold smiths have been looted. Nothing survived. Even the windows and doors are gone. All but few of the buildings, which had been bombed for days both by the soldiers of the military regime, insurgents and common criminals, are rubbles, and even those that are standing looked as if they are ready to fall down at any time. The soldiers didn't stay in Hamar-weyne very long. They pushed on towards Afgoi with their booties, mostly cash, jewelry, garments and non-perishable food.

Suddenly, four young gunmen appeared out of nowhere. They are smoking and chewing that terrible vegetable called Qaad, and laughing as if nothing is happening around them. Then one of them spotted me and cocked his assault rifle. The other three did the same swiftly. Probably they never expected to see a living soul still in what they considered as their exclusive home turf.

The first boy asked me which clan I belonged to. "The press," I answered with both hands up in the air to show I was unarmed, and therefore a harmless fugitive.
"Who is the press?" asked the oldest of the four.
"An extinct clan," I answered him flatly. Then they looked at each other suspiciously. These days Somalia is a land of small sentence responses.
"Is-baar, oday, ama hawshaas annaga noo daa!" (Roughly, meaning: search yourself or go through your own pockets, old man, or else we will do the job ourselves).

I did as ordered and went deep into my pockets. Finally, I produced a few mutilated bank notes, several changes and my Press Card. The oldest of the four took the money, but before he returned the Press Card with my picture on it, he wanted to know what it was.
"It is issued to the extinct clans," I said with my hands still up in the air. They all laughed and proceeded with their killing and looting spree. Obviously, they run the country to suit themselves and their needs, and the rest of the world could go to hell.

They are the children of former camel herders from the Central Province and Mudug where life means nothing, and where the strong survives in clan warfare. Where men fight over grassing rights, water wells and forfeited dowries. And these boys are just carrying on the legacy to prove their manhood.

At first glance, the boys' look is very frightening, enough to scare some people out of their wits. But to me they are just teenagers doing what they perceived to be their exclusive rights-to destroy a whole country and its people and reduce it to a living hell. They had no idea that they were destroying their own country, and killing innocent people in the process.

I wonder if anyone ever thought about the future of these youngsters when all this is over. The question that bugs me is: Will it ever end?

The warlords on the hand knew good things when they saw them and gobbled up all the prime land and properties whose owners fled the country in the immediate aftermath of General Barre's removal from power. They never had it so good.

4.30 P.M. I returned home after dodging several bullets from snipers on rooftops. Later, I was told these are leftovers of the defeated Barre army who felt betrayed by their commanding officers and become rebellious and shoot at anything that moved. A new name "Faqash" to describe them was coined recently.

There was a knock at the door, but who could be knocking at my door now? Looters never knock doors; they just crush it and walk in with weapons blazing. Then I heard a loud voice calling my name and asking me to open the door in English. It was none other than Aidan Hartley, a colleague and a friend from Reuters Headquarters in London, and the first foreign journalist to visit chaotic Somalia! I could not believe my eyes. It is too good to be true. Aidan Hartley is a topnotch frontline reporter who covered several war zones, and proved to be a hard nut to crack. Like many of his colleagues, he is a man who has overcome the danger and deprivation of life at the front, often boldly confronting destructive military dictators and perfidious politicians with only his camera, notebook and pen, not to mention his persistence.

How he got through the illegal chain of makeshift barricades manned by trigger-happy youths is another story at another time. He says he has volunteered to rescue me from the hellhole against the advise of his colleagues in Nairobi and London.

When I showed him the shallow grave of my son he fought back tears-that's a man who has seen dead bodies in conflicts zones around the world to last him for a lifetime. He accepted my plea to find a proper burial ground for Abdullahi as soon as there is a lull in the fighting and promised to make an arrangement with a Red Cross pilot as soon as he returns to Nairobi. There are occasional Red Cross light aircraft flying supplies to SOS, the children's village south of the besieged capital, and one has to risk his life to reach it.

Mogadishu, December 6, 1991
Today the second wave of internally displaced persons (IDP) arrived in the capital amid heavy bombardment. These are mostly farmers and nomads from the hinterland whose farms and livestock have been expropriated by the invading militia gunmen. The first wave of IDP relocated themselves at abandoned buildings, including the former Italian Tennis Club, pockmarked Hotel Juba and the Central Post Office. Most of the men and women are in rags and completely exhausted after the long trek from the farming town of Afgoi and nearby hamlets, but they wanted, even before food-which they obviously needed badly-shelters so they can rest. Mothers abandoned some of the babies and toddlers they could not carry with them. Aidan's urgent message to SOS, the children's village worked wonders! Later heroic young doctors and nurses with milk-bottles, biscuits and first aid kits arrived to pick up the babies and the toddlers, oblivious of the relentless shelling. They saw me taking their pictures, but refused to comment.

Aidan left tonight for Nairobi with the same light Red Cross aircraft that flew him in, after presenting me with a fully loaded Nikon camera, spare films, first aid kit, called survival kit, packs of alkaline batteries for the transistor and cash. Brave man!


To be continued….

Afrah's War Diary 1991/1992
Afrah95@hotmail.com


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