02, May 2003
HOW LONG WOULD WE REMAIN ISOLATED?
M. M. Afrah
is a powerful anaesthetic. First it dulls sensibilities then
Even from the distance and "comfort" of North America,
Europe, Australia and New Zealand, many Somalis easily feel
in the Diaspora are certainly worried sick about their loved
ones back home and the future of the country after more than
a decade of crisscrossing the continents, face to face with
stony-faced immigration officials, bigoted landlords, (from
warlords to landlords!), bullying security guards, racial
and religious- profiling, not to mention the harsh winter,
and culture shock.
should be ashamed of these acts and the people who call this
"unusual times" should know that their ancestors
too arrived in the "New World" as refugees and immigrants
with only the clothes on their backs. They should know that
there is nothing wrong with being a refugee or immigrant.
After all it was the refugees and immigrants who built the
"New World" with
their sweat and blood.
Albert Einstein was a penniless refugee.
what is known as 911 tragedy coming to America has turned
out to be a nightmare for people with Muslim sounding names
or who looked "different."
case in point is a former colleague of mine who was photographed,
interrogated and fingerprinted. He passed immigration and
security at New York's JFK Airport, yet he was determined
to pose a threat of some kind by some Home Security people
just because he wore a turban (Cimmaamad), carrying worry
beads and his name was Mohamed Hussein. This people should
know that the name Mohamed or Hussein are just any other name,
such as Smith, John, MacDonald or Cohen. One can only wonder
what the authorities would have done if the people who committed
the heinous crimes against the twin towers of the World Trade
Centre in New York City and the Pentagon carried Christian
case of Mohamed Hussein, it transpired later that the captain
and crew had radioed the Home Security that a "potential
terrorist" is traveling a first class cabin in their
airliner and that the passengers and crew feared his presence
in the plane.
strange that airlines report a "different"
looking fare-paying, law-abiding person to airport security,
while at the same time are saying that they would go bankrupt
if they don't get people to fly.
should be ashamed of these ridiculous acts, or else they would
go bankrupt, because for one thing, the people who fly these
days look what they perceive as "different" from
born, award winning author, Rohintan Mistry, after one interrogation
too many at airports, abandoned a US book tour in frustration.
One of his books, "We must
all say No" tells it all.
case in point is the allegation that Omar Jamal of the Somali
Justice Advocacy Center in the US has allegedly committed
fraud filing immigration documents in Tennessee years ago.
And following the 2001 terrorist attacks, Jamal pleaded with
US government officials to fight terrorism without targeting
"If I get deported, it will be with a big smile, knowing
that I have received so much support," Omar Jamal said
before hundreds of Somalis at a recent meeting about his case.
not grasp why now after more than seven years in the United
States? Why single out Jamal from among thousands of Somalis
who made their homes in the United States after fleeing the
inferno that is Somalia? Is it because of his outspokenness
on behalf of the Somalis in the US? Just wondering.
CLOSE TO HOME
that is not enough the world closed its eyes, covered its
ears and shut its mouth, even when it is evident that the
streets in Somalia still run with blood. But the world fled
to cross another line, because there's no oil in Somalia to
attract the attention of the oil barons.
headlong into the random violence that once seemed to happen
only to other people in other places, or in the movies, Somalia
has momentarily lost its equilibrium as it tries to reach
safety and stability that eludes it. But fear, like other
anaesthetic, eventually wears off. Given more time, sensibilities
return and the brain recovers. When that happens, a nation
created to deliver the freedom that comes with homogeneity
and religious tolerance will adjust itself, show the warlords
the door, bury clan worshipping and regain its natural course.
leaders have been meeting in Kenya since October last year.
It wasn't for the purpose of establishing a broad-based responsible
government, but to farther divide an already fragmented people,
the purpose of which is to maintain the status quo. It was
clear from day one at the old Eldoret venue that most of the
warlords/faction leaders represented themselves, talking one
thing while having other things in mind.
are several basic questions that concern the ordinary Somali
people: To disarm the gunmen once and for all, remove the
chain of makeshift barricades from the streets, a credible
police force to keep law and order, an independent judicial
system, the supremacy of human rights, the restoration of
vital civic services such as the reopening of the schools
and hospitals, reopening the main airport and seaport and
the provision of clean drinking water. Regional and international
organization can play a pivotal role in putting Somalia on
its own feet again.
Nyerere said in his book, "Uhuru
na Ujama" :"The essential point is
that no individual or group of individuals would be able to
hold ransom either the society as a whole, or other individuals
by means of their exclusive control of an instrument which
is necessary to the increasing well-being of the community."
difficult to see how this could be achieved without the existence
of some system of free elections in a country where the gun
rules. Hence the importance of nation-wide disarmament in
order to pave the way for elections free from violence and
intimidation, which I believe is the logical approach of rebuilding
a country like Somalia from scratch.
shaky theory because some of the warlords do not like to change
their horrendous décor at home, fearing that some day
there would be an accountability and would end up in a corner
to answer their past records---they will have to account for
their crimes against humanity.
THE BOGEYMAN THAT FRIGHTENS PEOPLE
now apparent that, after failed peace talks in the past, the
Somalis have to deal with their own problems in their own
ways instead of relying on others to settle their problems
for them. One recent suggestion is that the Southerners should
take their unending problems to Hargeisa for a workable solution.
After all, it was the Northerners who came to Mogadishu in
1960. "We can learn from the Northerners and that the
healing must start now", the suggestion says. But I doubt
very much if the Northerners would have anything to do with
the Southern debacle anymore.
that frightens our brothers in Somaliland is that "all"
Southerners were responsible for the destruction of Hargeisa
during General Siyad Barre's autocratic rule and that Southerners
held all key ministerial portfolios and top military and civil
service positions during Barre's 21 years rule in Somalia.
They have a point there, but they should know that Barre was
a master of manipulations and had played one clan against
another in order to remain in power. They should also know
that, like every dictator in Africa, these key positions in
government were usually held none other than by his own clan
and we were all complacent.
us, including the Northerners, could speak out for obvious
reason. To do so at the time would have been tantamount to
committing mass suicide both in the North and the South. Regrettably,
we continued to sing "Caynaanka
hay, weligaa hay." And felt good about
it until the brain returned. But it led us to self-destruction
never seen in our history. Just ask Maxamad Warsame Xadraawi.
He is the one man who had suffered in isolation and incommunicado
the most for a long time.
all the pain and suffering, I am confident we will surmount
the pumps on the road to peace and stability. Only time will
Afrah © 2003
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