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Toronto (Canada)

7, Sep. 2003

M. M. Afrah

Embarrassed by the gruesome images of the mayhem committed by free-lance armed thugs, the people of Kismayu and their leaders finally reacted to put an end to the horrible crisis once and for all.

The people in that city, disappointed with past faction leaders’ abdication of responsibility, their current leaders with the overwhelming support of the civic society, took unprecedented drastic action to crack down hundreds of gunmen, who previously hijacked whole convoys on the open roads, while in camps in the Province malnourished children sit lifelessly with the large eyes staring aimlessly into an empty space.

Rival gangs tightened their hold around the sea and airports to commandeer famine relief, and as nightfall, a familiar sound that no longer raise an eyebrow in Somalia permeates the night sky. As in Mogadishu, these gangs coolly shoot aid workers to get at the food.

The gangs knew that the death of a single relief worker will trigger off an uproar in the world and will force Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to withdraw their workers, citing insecurity.

The Kismayu Mooryaan has even rivaled the Mogadishu-style of carjacking vehicles, pillaging food aid, kidnapping and rape.

The Mooryaan tradition is hard to die in Somalia. The country became a cake with all the warlords claiming a piece. Armoured vehicles with self-propelled guns compete with each to grab the last availably booty in the ruined cities and towns. Because they have already been stripped of everything during the last twelve years or so, only few pieces of scrap lay scattered across the barren landscape. But the thugs are hell-bent to strip every last vestige of the country’s existence as a nation. You might call it a Wasteland.

The warlords are armchair “generals” who are quick to send young men in the spring of their lives toward the mouth of the machinegun.

                             BIRTH OF THE MOORYAAN

How did the Mooryaan come to the scene? In the process of the fight against Siyad Barre’s regime and his final overthrow, many of our able-bodied youngsters have been drawn away from productive sectors and into the big cities and towns. Now these people have not only abandoned economic sectors in which they have been useful, but their presence in the cities and towns is causing a lot of social and security troubles .

Given the present condition of the country, it will be impossible to absorb these young boys in a National Army and sectors of the economy, as the majority have no skills of their own and are numerically too many to accommodate. (See also TALKING POINT August 2002)

This is a problem of great proportions and one cannot simply brush it aside. What makes tackling this problem so important is the fact that the huge arsenals in the hands of these youngsters. The delegates at the Talks in Nairobi are aware that it is paramount importance to disarm in order to affect any security in the country. But what many of the “Talkers” fail to realize is that the question of arms collection is closely linked to the issue of safety for any future government and for the general population.

The cleansing process to weed out the gunmen will only be feasible if the leaders enjoy wide support from the people as borne by the most recent surveys by human rights organizations, which indicates that the general population is weary of the catalogue of crimes committed by these thugs daily with impunity.

The question is: Would the good citizens of Mogadishu summon up their courage to dismantle the armed thugs in their midst as did by the people of Kismayu? Yes, it takes a lot of guts and determination to put an end to this long infuriating menace.

The alternative is for the majority of the law-biding inhabitants to throw dignity to the wind and go arming themselves in order to defend their families, spending their last few shillings on weapons instead of on milk for the babies—no milk for the babies, no clothes for themselves and the children and no food to keep soul and flesh together.

The possession of a gun gives people a sense of confidence, because for one thing there’s no affective government to guarantee their security. They feel that now they can defend their loved ones from the freelancers, even if in the process they violate the rights of other peace-loving citizens.

Many of them will never relinquish arms so easily. A number of sincere and responsible people I talked to over the phone said they will think twice before they hand over their weapons. “Without an affective and responsible government at the helm we will mount stiff resistance. Giving up our weapons at present will put our future in the dark,” a prominent merchant at the Bakaaraha open-air market said. The thugs can run but they cannot hide. The dead would not leave them alone, not just those they fought with, but those innocent people they had murdered in cold blood.

Of course there’s an area of contention, such as which group of the militia should be disarmed first and who is going to disarm them. The people of Mogadishu should take a leaf from the Kismayu operation.

By M. M. Afrah©2003,


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