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Toronto (Canada)

20th November 2001

M. M. Afrah

"Mr. Hassan Abshir, I presume?" Sorry to use the famous phrase by Stanley after meeting Dr. Livingstone in the heart of Africa after a long search, but I could not resist writing this letter to you with that opening whilst you are in the middle of receiving the baton from your predecessor. I am not sure there's anything to hand-over, except grief and a country that has gone belly up.

Many of us regard former officials of General Barre's regime with suspicion because there are more questions than answers about their past modus operandum during the General's heydays.

Nevertheless, what the country urgently requires now is a robust kick-start after years of lawlessness and bloodshed perpetrated by people with guns who vandalized our country and massacred our people. Somalia has virtually become a past tense. In fact the name Somalia is a dirty word in many countries for obvious reason. But we in the Diaspora remain defiant and try to preserve our culture and way of life in spite of everything. But the big question is: how long? Children born abroad have been assimilated and pretend that there's no such thing as Somalia or Somalis. They absorbed everything that is handed to them. I was really shocked to see Somali boys wearing ear-rings! But these are minorities.

The Irish immigrants encountered comparable animosity in North America at the end of the 18th Century. They too defied bigotry and stereotyping. It is no wonder Richard Burton called us the Irish of Africa in his "Footsteps in Africa" chronicle. The difference between the Irish and us was that they are white and easily blended with the mainstream Anglo-Saxons in North America.

Hundreds of questions stream into our minds, but the crucial ones are: will the new Prime Minister be able to make the country safe for us to return? Has he got the guts to subdue the people with guns and tell them in black and white that their days are over? Is he capable of cultivating lasting friendship with our nervous neighbours? Can he challenge the only superpower in the world to prove the allegations against Somalia's link with international terrorism and that we have own home grown terrorists to worry about? Can he make a difference? These are pivotal questions laced with suspicion. Yet, you might turn them to your advantage. Regarding my first question; most of the young Somalis abroad have acquired skills in the field of science and technology that would certainly benefit the country. Their loyalty to their native country is beyond question and they know exactly what to be done to resuscitate the economy. Because all educational system in the country has been virtually destroyed I am confident that these young Somalis from abroad could make a lot of differences in the recovery process with their acquired know-how.

As a senior Somali citizen who had passed through the mill of colonial rule, the "fruitless" independence, military/revolutionary regime, the inferno that's Somalia today and self-imposed exile, and survived, I am anxious to know what is in store for Somalia now that you are the new Prime Minister.

If your past record is to be believed you can do the job of running a fledging government better than the fellow next door, that's if you immunize yourself against that venom we call tribalism and clansim.

Now you have a choice to make: either you are with us or with those who vandalized our country and massacred our people. The choice is yours. Of course tempers will flare, but that's to be expected in a country where the gun rules. For a starter, let's get the gun out of the Somali politics once and for all.

The Somali people deserve a new start after suffering for so long. The ball is now in your court. Get on with it.

M.M. Afrah 2001


Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two decades".

Many of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in the country. He received several death threats from the warlords and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction to Reuters news agency. He still is!


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