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 6, 1991
A.M. This morning I decided to escort the hundreds of
displaced persons from the hinterland to the beach, away
from artillery range. But I had hard time convincing them
that this place is no longer safe and that they should
follow me. Since they all speak the Rahan-weyn dialect,
I used the international symbol of run, run, and run and
follow me. It worked! We did this in zigzags despite the
long awaited torrential rain. Babies are crying and the
skeleton-looking mothers are helped to raise themselves
from the mud-covered terrain. One respite is that the
shooting had stopped, and we are taking advantage of this
short break. Probably the gun-boys are taking cover from
the rainstorm. Like the first wave of displaced people,
the newcomers have to learn for themselves to dodge bullets
in a zigzag fashion and use allays, for which they were
not so prepared. The main hurdle is the women, the malnourished
children and the elderly. But after several shouting matches
things seem to work the way we wanted-to reach our destination
Thus, I unwittingly joined the exodus and ended up as
a displaced person and a refugee in my own city.
small children and defenseless civilians, or destroy whole
cities, towns and villages is judged evil in any culture,
any race, any geographical location in the world.
When I asked one of the Mooryaan why they were killing
innocent people, he screamed: "There is no innocent
bystanders in Somalia!"
The shriek sent shiver down my back
Al Capone, the notorious Chicago Mafia don of the 1920s
and 1930s would have been proud of these gun-crazy goons,
now locally known as Mooryaan, a scary name that has been
coined recently by the non-combatants in the clan warfare.
These innocent people from Somalia's breadbasket have
gone and are going through harrowing ordeal, and I cannot
simply tear myself away from condemning these Mooryaan
and their godfathers. They are tainted with the blood
of the people.
My neighbour once told me they are just passing clouds,
but the question that baffles me is: how long these deadly
clouds will hover over our heads? It seems we are falling
apart! I am aware that reading this entry is like reading
a chapter from John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes
of Wrath," but this is not a novel, it is a fact,
nothing but fact. Only those who have gone through it
can be my witness and confirm that the once beautiful
capital has now turned into a hell on earth.
pushed farther and farther to the beach. We could hear
ramble of artillery in the distance, by which we had learned
to measure the progress of the war. It grew fainter as
we put a distance between the fighting and us.
BEACH 2. 45 P.M.
Black vultures circle the skies over the beach, anxiously
watching and waiting for the starving displaced people
below. Every day weak and starved refugees die from hunger
and disease and are buried in shallow graves. Once a haven
for anglers, expatriates and foreign diplomats, who used
to lay on the snow-white sand like fat seals, it is now
a poor shadow of it's former splendor. Starving people
now populates Lido Beach, waiting for death to come. And
the walls of the beach cabins are crumbling beyond repair.
On a hilltop opposite the once prosperous Club 55, I spotted
a disabled T-55 Soviet tank with its long barrel swiveling
to and fro as jolly children play on top.
When I arrived at the beach I didn't know a soul, so I
shared the night in a half-demolished beach cabin with
irritant owls and bats. Probably they resist my intrusion
into their turf. All the undamaged beach cabins have been
commandeered by residents from downtown, many of them
with large families, and arrived here with only the clothes
on their backs. Only few fortunate ones had the chance
to grab few bits and pieces for their survival at the
last minute, before the looters arrive.
BEACH 8.45 A.M.
This morning I met an elegantly dressed and bespectacled
gentleman-a rare sight in war-torn Somalia these days.
We introduced to each other without shaking hands. Professor
Elmi Noor was the professor of international law at the
defunct National University at Lafoole before the outbreak
of the civil war. He occupies a well-tended beach cabin
overlooking the bright blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
The Soviet Embassy personnel formerly used it before the
Americans, their Cold War enemies, evacuated them, ironically!
But the Russians smashed everything of any value, including
the generator, the fridge, crockery, pots and pans and
The professor invited me to share the beach cabin with
him, and later congratulated me for bringing along the
portable typewriter, the Nikon, the transistor radio,
spare batteries, few candles, matchboxes and stationeries.
He is a walking library, leaving everything in his burning
home, except a number of books and some clothes. "Now
we can keep abreast of what is going on in our unfortunate
country and the world at large," he said with a smile.
I have learned more from Professor Elmi about international
laws than I could ever learn from books. He is originally
from Hargeisa, where the Somali National Movement (SNM)
is reported to hold the upper hand in their guerrilla
warfare against General Barre's military, the best in
Africa South of the Sahara in terms of training, modern
weaponry and numerical strength; and like their USC (United
Somali Congress) counterpart in Mogadishu they are being
welcomed by cheering crowds with green leafs (Somalia's
Radio Hargeisa is off the air, but a BBC reporter said
that the SNM insurgents are pushing towards Hargeisa,
the provincial capital, and many soldiers peeled off their
uniforms, sold their weapons or joined the movement because
of clan affiliation.
Hawiye pilots mutinied against their commanding officer
and refused to carpet bomb Hargeisa. One of them dumped
his deadly bombs on the Red Sea and flew his MiG bomber
to neighouring Djibouti and sought asylum there, the French
news agency AFP reported. He was quoted by the French
news agency as saying that he was ready to defend his
country against foreign aggression, but not to bomb my
own people. We tuned in to Cairo Radio and CNN, but no
mention was made of the events in Somalia. Apparently
the Gulf war overshadowed everything else.
"It seems we are in vacuum land, null and void,"
said the professor, switching off the transistor to save
the batteries. "The United States is the major stake-holder
and the policeman of the world to boot. But in its rush
to contain communism, Washington allied itself with despots,
dictators and demagogues, and now it is fighting against
one of its former allies, Saddam Hussein, during the Iraq/Iran
War." The Professor ended his little speech.
"Well, I never thought I'd be a refugee in my own
country," I remarked grimly.
And with that we went to bed, ignoring the far-off poundings.
To be continued
Afrah's War Diary 1991/1992