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TALKING POINT : Commonsense Defiled: “Warlords, Powerbrokers, Proxies, Serial killers, War criminals and Drug barons.”
Toronto (Canada)

April 17 . 2004

“Warlords, Powerbrokers, Proxies, Serial killers, War criminals and Drug barons.”
M. M. Afrah

Many observers at the Somali peace talks scratch their heads and try to place the participants at the warthog infested Nairobi suburb of Mbagathi, also known as the circus of the decade. Others call it Somalia’s quick political sand. And they ask: Who these people are? Who are they working for? And just what are their agendas, hidden or otherwise? Nobody, including this writer, seems quite sure.

Perhaps overstressed Ambassador Kiplagat likely holds the key to the intrigue and brings us into the loop, despite two powerful stakeholders in the region. Or perhaps the truth will begin to reveal itself after the Ambassador retires and write a book about his bitter experience with the Somali warlords and their paymasters. However, one thing we know for sure for the moment is that the critical phase of the talks will go ahead come what may, according to IGAD spokesman.

One event that galled many of us is why it took such a long time (17 months) to reach a simple consensus to bury the hatched (the gun in the Somalia case), and to rebuild the country from the smoking ashes? “Warlords, powerbrokers, proxies or surrogates, serial killers and drug barons are the main disrupters of the peace talks”, a prominent leader of the outfoxed civic society at the talks said. “Their real concern is for someone to fully disclose their past and would do anything to derail any peace overture,” he added.

All this is happening whilst the ordinary men and women are living through long running physical and emotional ordeal. As a matter of fact they have adapted to any circumstances sadistically imposed on them by a bunch of war criminals and their gun-toting thugs.

And that’s not all, there were several fist fights and shouting matches that stunned the normally submissive Kenyans. That was before the venue was moved from the western town of Eldoret to the harsh environment called Mbagathi “to save money.” Since then, the plot has only grown more tangled and complex. And at least one man died under mysterious circumstances. Kenya’s homicide squads said they are investigating what they perceived as “politically motivated cold blood murder”, and pledged to apprehend the culprit(s), but the trail has gone cold since then. According to members of the civic society, the murdered man was an outspoken critic of the warlords and the way the talks were being conducted by the chairman and some members of IGAD.

We recall the assassination of the charismatic Kenyan foreign minister, Robert Ouko, ten years ago under similar circumstances, and the cover up that followed. He too was an outspoken critic of corruption in the Moi government. He was in the process of compiling a list of his cabinet colleagues who were involved in corruption and nepotism before he was allegedly murdered in his own home by big wigs in the government. The trail has also gone cold in that grisly murder.

What is the connection between the two cases? Nasty official and media cover up.

Then there is the case of the merchants of death (arms traffickers) in Mogadishu, who from day one despised the establishment of a national government. They perceive that any government as a plague of locusts to devour their ill-gotten profits. Besides, they have their own private army and stockpiles of weapons to achieve their ends.

But during the recent demonstration in Mogadishu it has become clear that, with the exception of the big merchants, money changers, Qaad and cigarette importers and petty traders, the people in Mogadishu expressed their anger and disillusion about the warlords who boycotted the peace talks. They shouted that they would welcome an all-inclusive national government minus the war criminals and the gun traffickers.


“To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage, or of principles.”

The mandate of the United Nations weapons monitors in Somalia is to investigate, inspect, monitor and stop the flow of weapons into Somalia and name names. But it now seems that the mandate is on hold, citing insecurity in the country.

As in Iraq during the UN inspection of the yet undiscovered WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), the UN appointed team of weapons monitors in Somalia should rely on high-resolution satellite to monitor the country’s porous borders with its neighbours. They should also glean information about weapons activities from local NGOs, such as the Elman and Dr. Ismail Jima’aleh Human Rights Centers, and from publicly available data.

As usual, there has been innumerable instances of UN ineptness in the past, and this is just one of them.

Africa Watch and Amnesty International, for example had also compiled list of arms traffickers in Somalia as well as merchants who printed trillions of counterfeit currency in Indonesia and flooded Somali markets with this bogus currency, thus trigging off hyperinflation in the country. Obviously there was no incentive to share information between these bodies for a variety of reasons. The abovementioned local human rights groups again sent a damning report on the illegal printing of counterfeit currency by big Somali merchants, who also doubled as weapons traffickers, to Interpol in 2002. Typically, no action against the culprits has been taken.


There are people in the West who make a distinction between what they call “licit and illicit” weapons, but the truth is that all weapons are meant to kill unarmed civilians—whether they are sold legally or illegally, particularly to armed groups and to zones of conflict, like Somalia.

A 23-member U.N. experts group, chaired by Mitsuso Donowaki of Japan met in Geneva in September 2001 the objective of which was to develop and strengthen international effort to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and weapons to armed groups in conflict zones, and to name names.

Thalif Deen, UN correspondent of IPS news agency, quoted official UN report, which said the developed countries produce currently more than 500 million of artillery pieces in circulation and small arms. Of this, about 55 million were the Russian-developed AK-47 assault rifle, seven million of which are in circulation in conflict zones in Africa alone, including Somalia.

According to the United Nations, about 40 per cent of the worldwide flow of small arms (semi automatic guns, machineguns, mortars, land mines, grenades and the shoulder fired missiles) could be attributed to illicit trafficking.

These extraordinarily detailed findings are probably gathering dusty at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Over to you, Mr. Kofi Annan!

By M. M. Afrah©2003,


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