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Toronto (Canada)

06 Dec 2001

M. M. Afrah

Mr. President, I take this opportunity to remind you that it is unfair, unethical and outright ridiculous to blame innocent people for a crime committed by few others.

Of course I am well aware that the old adage: "Damned if you do and damned if you don't" magnifies your paranoia, forcing you to attack a dying Somalia. (It has been in an intensive care since 1991) As a senior Somali citizen on self-imposed exile in Canada, my advice is: DON'T.

Attacking Somalia on a mere tip-off by Ethiopia, Somalia's arch enemy in the Horn of Africa so that your B52s could level against a country that's reeling from a decade of self-destruction perpetrated by people with guns, defies human imagination.

"What's the point of dropping bombs on us? We've been fighting each other here for so long there's nothing left to destroy," Naema Ibrahim, an impoverished Somali mother quoted by a visiting BBC reporter in Mogadishu last week. She complained that after cutting off her lifeline, the Hawaala, remittance from her brother abroad, she is now so desperate that she doesn't care about your B52s droppingg their "Smart Bombs" on her and her emaciated children!

Mr. President, many of my countrymen believe that you are out for revenge for the 18 U.S. soldiers killed in Mogadishu at the height of your father's disastrous Operation Restore Hope in 1993.

Are there terrorist bases in Somalia to train members of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network? That requires basic intelligence work. Played right it could lay the groundwork to clear the atmosphere of suspicion and speculations.

For more than thirty years the Somali people have been living under the shadow of the gun - military dictator and a succession of ruthless warlords until their country was completely destroyed beyond recognition. It is like twisting and turning a Rubik's Cube: when one part of the pattern worked, the flip side didn't.

Rounding the circle is the Arta Group who flunked what they pledged to deliver under oath more than a year ago and the circle of violence and mayhem continues unabated. People with guns still continue to carve the country into little clan fiefdoms. An area that was safe on Tuesday should be avoided on Wednesday. Boys as young as 12 and 14 carry AK-47 assault rifles and shoot at anything that moved, to prove their manhood. But to call Somalia a haven for international terrorism is the understatement of the year. No international terrorist will survive in a country where even street beggars carry guns. He will be gambling with his life. The truth is that a foreign terrorist in Somalia would stand out like Count Dracula on a chicken farm. We have said more than once that we have to worry about our own home-grown terrorists and are ready to give a honorary citizenship to anyone who would help us eliminate them once and for all.

Mr. President, I know you would not take my word for it, but that's the truth, nothing but the truth. It is too hard to justify giving haven to international terrorism when neighbours scrambled and prayed for food. The ordinary Somalis deserve to be understood. They do not want you to destroy their country, but to help them rebuild it after a decade of doom, death and destruction. The overwhelming majority of the Somali people are not the enemy of the American people, despite Washington's distorted foreign policy and double standard. Somalia was a business friendly country until people with guns gang-raped her. I urge you to weed out the lies, the misrepresentation, the speculations and the excuses, and instead seriously focus on the reality on the ground.

Mr. President, it is best to know well one's enemy before jumping the gun or dropping the so-called "Smart Bombs" on innocent people.

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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