BY M. M. AFRAH
Politics has been described as the art of the possible. That doesn’t guarantee that the result of a clan-based parliament will be sensible and fruitful. But as always, we can hope.
When the FTG and parliament moved from Nairobi to the small town of Jowhar and all of a sudden, and without notice, moved to Baidoa formerly dubbed as (“The City of Death” by the Americans during their disastrous “Operation Restore Hope”), avoiding Mogadishu like the plague, citing insecurity by Abdullahi Yusuf who is obsessed with his own safety, the people may soon learn the next “Moving House” challenge.
Word is that the angry Mohamed Dheere, the former host/ landlord, who was bruised by what had happened to his welcoming open hands, the President and the Prime Minister, with shadowy Ethiopians standing in the background, will at last reveal that the vacant house in Jowhar would be the next relocation following a meeting in Addis Ababa and Nairobi between the three musketeers and Mohamed Dheere. Many factors will determine whether the return to Jowhar would work, given Mohamed Dheere’s frame of mind. Foremost of all is whether their former host/landlord and his militia will receive Abdullahi Yusuf with open arms and his usual plastic smile again, and whether Abdullahi Yusuf would give up his disinclination to see SNAI, the old sugar factory town, now derelict, again.
How will the Transitional Parliament at the helm of the speaker, locally called the “Shariifka” make a decision? Will it have the power and mature enough to vote for the relocation of a suitable accommodation, taking into consideration that the Federal Constitution, signed by the overwhelming majority of the parliamentarians, decrees that Mogadishu will remain the capital of Somalia—not just based on lobbying power.
Looking at the experiences of other countries that have grasped the future of their capitals, we’ll have to admit that success will cost a lot of pain, shouting matches and disillusionment for some candidates who fought hard to place the capital in their own constituencies.
A good example to be replicated is the people of Aden who hoped against hope that the capital of the newly united Republic of Yemen would be Aden with its booming port on the mouth of the Red Sea, but when San’aa was chosen as the capital of the United Republic of Yemen, the Adenis had accepted the conclusion without recriminations and shouting matches, typical in Arab politics.
We can’t afford to remain the laughing stock of Africa forever. Many people at home and in the Diaspora are well aware that nothing a petty politician says is what he means, and you need a decoder. The Mogadishu-based warlords-turned-cabinet-ministers-MPs and the parliamentarians meeting in Baidoa is a perfect example of people saying one thing when they mean something completely different.
A case in point is the chain of illegal roadblocks that are still thriving in the capital and the road to Afgoi, forcing commuters and drivers to dish out what they call Leejo (the bastardized Italian word leggio) or law at the barrel of a gun. Failure to pay is synonymous to an instant death. It is no wonder Abdullahi Yusuf considers the capital as a living hell on earth. And I personally concur with him, because I was there, covering the purgatory.
More than a year ago the warlords during a photo op pledged to dismantle the barricades and relocate their militia at different locations in the country in order to make the capital safe for the fledging federal government-in-exile, and as we all know that instead of relocating their militia, a growing number of barricades manned by more deadly Mooryaans sprung up at commercial sections of the city and busy intersections overnight.
Last month’s unfolding killing fields in North Mogadishu shows just how ugly things can get in Somalia every time the bottom falls down. The story of human greed, lies, revenge killings (score settling) and finger pointing is all too familiar after the country has gone down hill in 1991. No doubt that whenever there is a war, it is always the non-combatants who pay much of the price in terms of their homes destroyed or their loved ones killed or maimed. So last month’s bloodshed is no exception. Both sides employed artillery guns, mortars, bazookas, RPGs and customized anti-aircraft guns to gain control on one another.
An eyewitness who refused to leave his partly destroyed home in the contested Asiley area, after it received a direct hit from an artillery shell, told me over the phone from Mogadishu last week that he has seen men, women and children with eyeless sockets, without noses, with shell splinters sticking out of their skulls, but he and his family refused to leave their home. Come what may. He said the situation is now calm but tense as both sides are preparing themselves for another go at each other, and refused to listen to the voice of reason. “I am like one of those fools who believe that they will be rescued after a certain amount of time, but our real tragedy is hopeless and despair,” he lamented. He said he hopes to be able to hold out and wait to see which group wins in this terrible war.
An estimated 149 people, mostly non-combatants died during the weeklong indiscriminate bombardment and almost an equal number were maimed for life, according to doctors at Keysaney Hospital.
As always, there are more questions than answers why the two groups are at each other’s throat, and as always in Somalia each group is blaming the other group for starting the bloodshed.
Evidently, we are back to where we were 15 years ago when Ali Mahdi Mohamed and General Mohamed Farah Aideed fought tooth and nail over the leadership of the country and destroyed the Pearl of the Indian Ocean and massacred innocent civilians in the process. Just like the present day wannabe warlords they too used all the lethal arsenals at their disposal.
It is back to square one.
By M. M. Afrah©2006.