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TALKING POINT : The Final phase of the Shouting Matches at Mbagathi

Toronto (Canada)

July, 09. 2004


M. M. Afrah

This is the final phase of those messy shouting matches we continue to insist on calling peace and reconciliation conference, while I'm insisting on calling, with any degree of precision, a crazed tag-of-war match, sound bite brawls and the revival of clan loyalties, by distributing the meat of that mythical Somali camel Maandeeq on the basis of clan, subclan, etc.
Hawiye        61
Darood        61
Digil/Mirifle 61

The Dir share is still in dispute as to who will represent them.
Minorities   31

But on the whole the conference bear no resemblance to the idea of peace talks as it has been practiced, in various forms, for centuries. In Mbagathi every warlord gets to have a go at everyone else, because he feels he has learned it from his teacher, the late military dictator.

His objects seems to be to achieve one really good uncontestable "nailing" the vulnerable civic leaders, who became soft in the neck, or to "do in" other former powerful classmate of his by asking him: "Who is your handler?"

It transpired that during the nearly two years of these talks, each warlord had his own foreign handler or a stakeholder who instructed him what to say or not to say when confronting his adversaries.

In a phrase, the warlord can be manipulated to serve the stakeholders' vested interests. That leaves the playing field open for these hired puppets to bamboozle the talks and get things done the way his handler wants.

In a politically mature society politicians often take the fall when his hired operative (puppet) screws up in a perverse the-buck-stops-here mindset: "I'm the elected official so I must take the heat," they would say.
But in Africa most politicians often defend themselves even when they knew they were wrong. I'll say that little bit louder.
A Somali proverb says: "Nin aanad saacad ku baran, sannad kuma baran kartid." (Roughly translated: "The man who you failed to know within an hour, you will not know within a year.")

We have known these warlords since 1991 and we do not expect the arrival of a Messiah who will reveal to us another way to cleanse the mess they left behind, because the credibility gap has been widening over the years.


One email from a reader in New Zealand said: "You wrote that your readers should vote for Mohamed Siyad Barre if he was still alive (sic). This means that you too would have voted for him."

Yes, but that doesn't make me pro-Siyad Barre's military regime. It means exactly what I wrote in my weekly TALKING POINT. It was simply a way of generating a debate among visitors to this Website, and the overwhelming majority who cast their votes said they missed Siyad Barre and would vote for him if he was still alive and run as a candidate for the office of the Presidency, because they said they are weary of the brutal warlords who shattered our country and slaughtered our people.

But that email from New Zealand and few others from the continents illustrates the problem we all have in the journalism business, because many people don't really read what is written or hear what is said. Not even those who regard themselves as intellectuals are immune.

Just for a change, 16-year-old Hani of Little Rock, Arkansas in the United States said she tried to get the names and ranks of all the members of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) for a very long time, but no Somali in Little Rock vaguely remembers their names, ranks and what branches of the armed forces they belonged to.

Well, Hani, here is the answer to your question:
On October 21st 1969 Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre came to power in a bloodless military and police coup barely five days after the assassination of the elected President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in the northern town of Las Anod by one of his own bodyguards, who was also his own clansman.
Their names and the branches of the armed forces they belonged are:
1. Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre.    Military
2. Major-General Jama Ali Khorshel            Police
3. Brig.General Mohamed Ainanshe Guled Military
4.Brig. General Hussein Kulmiye Afrah       Police
5.Brig.General Salad Gabeyre Kediye        Military
6.Brig.General Mohamed Ali Samatar        Military
7.Brig. Abdalla Mohamed Fadhil                Military
8.Colonel Ali Mattan Hashi                          Military
9.Colonel Ahmed Mohamud Adde              Police
10.Colonel Mohamud Mire Muse                 Police
11.Lt.Colonel Ismail Ali Abokor                   Military
12.Lt.Colonel Ahmed Suleiman Abdalla     Military
13.Lt.Colonel Mohamed Sheikh Osman      Police
14.Lt.Colonel Mohamed Ali Shire               Military
15.Lt.Colonel Mohamud Gelleh Yusuf         Military
16.Lt.Colonel Farah Waeys Dhulle              Military
17.Lt.Colonel Ahmed Mohamud Farah        Military
18.Lt.Colonel Ahmed Hassan Muse              Military
19.Major Abdirizak Mohamed Abukar          Military
20.Major Bashir Yusuf Elmi                          Military
21.Major Abdulqadir Haji Mohamed            Military
22.Major Mohamed Omar Jess                    Military
23.Major Osman Mohamed Jelle                 Military
24.Major Muse Rabilleh God                        Military
25.Major Abdi Warsame Isaq                        Military

I knew them so well that their names had been imprinted on my brain forever. I had seen them scream: "Ceynaanka haay, weligaa hay." I had seen them bow to the General in public and ridicule him in private. Proud men demeaned themselves to sing: Guulwade Siyaad, Abbihii Ummadda, Macalinkii Kacaanka. One man even called him a Messiah from Heaven! I had seen some of them humiliated and sent to Labaatan Jirow and Laanta Buur Maximum Security prisons in chains. I had seen others executed by a firing squad behind the Police Academy with Radio Mogadishu putting on air the song Sama diidow dabin baa kuu dhigan laguugu dili doono continuously. The rest of his minions caught his drift immediately and continued to toe his line religiously and without question. He virtually kicked Asses upstairs and downstairs. Later, I had seen his trusted inner circle desert him one by one alla Saddam Hussein, not wishing to die in a losing battle, as poorly trained, poorly armed, barefooted, ragtag Hawiye teenagers beat the hell out of his military (one of the best in Africa South of the Sahara in terms of numerical strength, superior firepower and training).

I had seen the General abandon Villa Somalia, his power base for more than two decades, and later fled to neighbouring Kenya, after a futile attempt to recapture Mogadishu with the help of one of his son-in-laws, General Morgan, capitalizing vicious Hawiye squabbles on who is going to fill the vacuum, Aideed or Ali Mahdi, with both sides leaving behind a panorama of death and destruction. He later died in exile in Lagos, Nigeria, after vocal members of the Kenya Law Society protested his presence in their country. Oddly enough, there was nothing his friend and admirer, Daniel arap Moi, could do for him. In fact he had distanced himself from his one-time friend and icon. He was buried in Garba-harey, his hometown, Southwest of the country.

I had seen those who toppled him in a bloody street battles turn their guns on each other for the control of the capital. The slaughter was senseless because it could not affect the outcome of the civil war. The whole thing degenerated into such a deadly guerrilla warfare that both sides found themselves losing a great deal of revenue and lives to no purpose. Although there were no winners or losers, the main warlords did not have the sense to lay down their weapons and talk peace without outside assistance. The rest is history.
Like every dictator, Barre had his dark side and bright side. However, one of his lasting legacies is:
The introduction of the first Somali script in 1972/73 despite pressure from the Arab world and religious zealots at home, and the formation of Somali Language Committee, that led the publication of the first ever newspaper in Somali, XIDDIGTA OKTOBAR (The October Star). At the same time there was a nation-wide campaign to teach the basics of the new script to the nomads and farmers in the hinterland. The famous catch phrase was: "Bar ama Baro."
Other outstanding achievements to his credit included:
He vehemently opposed Soviet proposal to form a federation with Mengistu's Ethiopia during a summit in Aden, which subsequently triggered off the 1977 war between Somalia and Ethiopia, with Russian and Cuban forces propping up their new Marxist protégé in Addis. As a result General Barre tore up a twenty-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the then Soviet Union, and turned to Jimmy Carter for assistance, mainly for offensive weapons. But Carter who had his own problem with the Iranians on the Embassy hostage crisis and Ayatollah Rohullah Qomeyni, reluctantly agreed to provide him only with defensive weapons on condition General Barre withdraws his forces from the Ethiopian occupied Ogaden region.

Like every Somali nationalist, the General strongly believed that to unite or form a federation with Ethiopia (Somalia's arch enemy) is synonymous to surrendering our cultural heritage, including our language, religion and our unique characteristics in Africa. That's not all. We would be sacrificing our hard worn independence in the process.

He also introduced the controversial Family Laws that gave women equal rights to men that also led the execution by a firing squad of 11 clerics or Imams who preached in their Friday sermons at mosques throughout the city that the law was un-Islamic. He had survived two attempted coups by disgruntled army officers and a nasty road accident. He left his hospital bed in Saudi Arabia against the advice of his doctors, and returned to Somalia to put the shaky house of cards in order. Obviously, a strong hand is what was needed in the country, even if that hand was still convalescing. He lost his magnetism and his speech was slurred and inaudible.

Then in 1990 the house of cards crushed down on his face. The country became out of control, which continues to this day unabated. Ruthless warlords made their debut and, what followed then was sickening. The warlords used indiscriminately all the arsenals General Barre left behind against the jubilant masses, which initially welcomed them with songs and green leafs (Somalia's olive branch). Tragically, the people have continued to suffer the rule of the gun and the jungle as the world watches, too numb and too neutered to act. In fact, the country has for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist. The right to life was no longer a main concern to the warlords.
As for General Barre's dark side, it is somewhat difficult to list all of them here. So I'll leave that to our readers and historians alike to reach their own verdict.

By M.M. Afrah©2004

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