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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

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

LIDO BEACH, December 7, 1991.
7. 30 A. M.
This morning we wake up with the sound of machineguns cracking at high tempo followed by artillery guns and Katyusha rockets in the hills beyond the former official residence of the US ambassador. They continued to pound Shibis and the surrounding residential areas with angry echoes. At times more than 20 separate fires can be seen blazing across the city, a city that had been prosperous and well tended. A militia loyal to Ali Mahdi is fighting desperately at their positions in Kaaraan to hold their northern stronghold of the divided city. On the other hand, General Aideed's militias are using all the arsenals at their disposal to dislodge Ali Mahdi and his Manifesto Group who elected him to fill the vacuum left by Mohamed Siyad Barre. In a speech on arrival in Mogadishu with his seasoned militia gunmen from the small town of Mustaxiil (pronounced Mustahiil) in the Ethiopian-occupied Ogaden region, the General vowed to crush the group, which he called "Afar Jeebleyaal" (Men with four pockets, i.e. merchants).
Already the conflict is snarling hot, but we are safe at the beach-at least for the moment.

1. 45 P. M.
We rushed to the top of the gutted Lido Night Club for the second time to watch the artillery exchange from there, and we were shocked at the intensity of the fire works between the two clans. "It is always the innocent civilians who are dying," Prof. Elmi remarked as we watched smoke bellowing high from several targets hit by the Katyushas. I mentioned in an earlier entry in this Diary the blood-cuddling Katyushas are Soviet made multiple rocket launchers that could destroy whole blocks of buildings, leaving behind huge craters in their wake.
One vexing question is: What to do with those who massacred countless civilians and destroyed whole cities, town and villages, and wiped out infrastructures in the process? Would there be a war crimes tribunal? Would all these end up in the dustbin of history?

I watched with the help of my ancient binocular, two young men enter a building. Fifteen minutes later they re-emerged with spoils and entered another house nearby. Soon white smoke was pouring from its windows.

Several hours after the shootings stopped there was uproar at the beach. The entire population of Lido Beach, men, women, children and the elderly are swarming around a flatbed truck in front of the old Lido Night Club, yelling and cursing in the Rahan-weyn dialect. A Red Cross flag was flying on top of the truck's cabin and a white man and two Somalis holding high the logo of the Somali Red Crescent Society, trying to calm down the inhabitants but all in vain. One of the Somalis recognized Professor Elmi who was standing at the end of the huge crowd, and with me taking pictures. The people are fighting over packages of food and bottled water. Many of the women and the elderly are too weak to raise themselves from the sand. Babies are born at the beach with the help of frail old midwives.

One woman distraught to the point of madness flung herself at the Red Cross official; she begged him to give her some money to buy milk for her newly-born baby she held in her arms. The official then turned to the cartoons at the back of the truck to search for cans of powdered milk. Then she put the baby in the arms of one of the Somali RCS, then she run off saying she would get milk for the baby because there was no milk in her breasts. And when the Somali Red Crescent official opened the bundle of rugs to look at the child he found it had been dead several hours ago.

At that very moment Professor Elmi took matters into his own hands. He quickly jumped on the flatbed truck and ordered the rowdy people to stand in three lines-one for the women and children, one for the elderly and one for the able-bodied young men. It worked and everybody obeyed the order and behaved admirably. What surprised me, however, is that the professor, a Northerner who hails from Hargeisa, spoke the Rahan-weyn dialect perfectly!

Later over a cup of tea, he told me that one of his students at the university, who hails from Baidoa, taught him the rudiments of the Rahan-weyn colloquial speech. He then showed me a translation of the Rahan-weyn vernacular in Latin and in standard Somali, which he self-published it at a private printing press in Nairobi after the Ministry of Education refused to include it in the national curriculum. After that he became highly respected and admired person among the Lido community.

To be continued….

Afrah's War Diary 1991/1992

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