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. AFRAH'S WAR DIARY 1991/1992
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
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.
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.
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
"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).
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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