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Toronto (Canada)

18, March 2003

M. M. Afrah

Mohamed Osman Omar quoted in his book Mr. Sam Toussie, one of the medical doctors sent by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1991 describing the situation in Mogadishu in the following chilling words:

“I have been in wars for eight years, and I have never seen a slaughter like this. We were getting 150 casualties a day at one hospital. Seventy five per cent were children and we were losing five persons an hour. We had parents coming into the hospital compound armed.”

Somalia’s Self-destruction
By Mohamed Osman Omar (page 221

Mohamed Osman, a former Somali diplomat and an old friend of mine, also quotes the ICRC Press release of November 20, 1991, which said:

“The situation in Somalia is a human disaster of the first magnitude. Fighting continues unabated in Mogadishu with heavy shelling and continuous gunfire.

“There are thousands of wounded, including many women and children. A large number of them are not treated in hospitals because of lack of security and the impossibility of transferring them. The medical infrastructure is quite inadequate to cope with the extreme emergency of the situation.” 

That was 1991 and the situation was getting from bad to worse since then and there’s no end in sight, in spite of futile peace talks that heaved and dragged for almost 15 years.

Today as it was then, nobody stops to pick up the wounded or bury the dead. The United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League, and the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) of which Somalia is (was) a full member pay no attention to the unending human tragedy in Somalia (or is it a conspiracy of silence?). Some say that unless the United States was involved in any given situation, as in Afghanistan or Bosnia, it is not worth paying attention to it. The Western media prefers to call it “The Big Profile” just because Washington was “alarmed” about the orgy of violence in those countries.

In this electronic age and satellite technology the world is getting smaller and ignorance of what is happening in Somalia is no longer a valid argument.

In 1993/94 the Americans and UNOSOM were well aware that a social cancer confronted the Somali people and they should have employed whatever surgical procedures were necessary instead of pulling out prematurely. They were also aware that they were dealing with tribal shibboleths and power hungry warlords who were bent on destroying a whole country and its people in order to fill the vacuum left by the former military dictator. The end justifies the means was their preferred catch phrase.

In 1993/94 the Americans used a hundred-ton steam hammer to smash one roach. It is true they could still be walking into a fusillade again. But that’s to be expected in a country where guns are galore. It can be irritating and the Mooryaan are like horned vipers. Something irks them and they lash out. That’s always fixations.  But with a different approach this time, they can easily be disarmed and send to a rehab center.

With all their hi-tech weaponry and helicopter gunships, not to mention their intelligence network, the Americans, after storming the beaches of Mogadishu, should have rolled up their sleeves and invite the warlords for a Pow wow and immediately whisk them out of the country to a penal colony ten thousands miles away, preferably Pappilon’s Devil’s Island.  There were only 14 warlords who were at each other’s throat at the time. Since then the number has jumped to 25, mostly wannabe warlords/faction leaders who endeavor to mimic their more “experienced” Dons.

Today the 911 tragedies and the war against Iraq paranoia, a second visit to Somalia by Uncle Sam would be unlikely in the very near future, unless we can convince Washington that Osama and his minions are entrenched in Mogadishu (or Shimbiraale, the bird sanctuary) for regrouping.      

It would have been an enormous sigh of relief for the ordinary people of Somalia.

Yes, I accept the old adage “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.” But it was not the vulnerable Somali people as a whole who sow the seeds of conflict and bloodshed. The UN and the Americans knew from the very beginning that the warlords are not exactly choirboys.

In his book, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway said: “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” In the end the warlords and their henchmen will become a past tense and the masses will win. Hobbesian self-survival is the only target at the moment, and we earnestly hope that one day healing and self-esteem would prevail in the country and reconstruction will start from ground zero.

Am I repeating myself? But that’s how things are and have been for more than fifteen years of death, doom and destruction never seen before.   Not since Britain’s all out war against Sayid Mohamed Abdille Hassan and his followers. The Sayid was destroyed but not defeated. He died peacefully in the small nomadic encampment at Iimey in 1920 as he was in the process of regrouping his forces for another go at the British forces that resorted using the Royal Air Force, the first ever used against African insurgents.

One bamboozling bombshell is that Britain recently declared it would save the shaky Somali peace talks in Nairobi. One of the irony of history is that Britain had given huge tracts of Somali territories (the size of Britain) to Ethiopia and Kenya against the wishes and desires of the inhabitants of those territories in order to gratify “the king of kings, the lion of Judah”, emperor Haile Selassie and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, father of the anti-British colonial administration known as the Mau Mau movement in the 1950s. Historians believe that Britain was mainly responsible for the current nightmare of violence and brutality in the Horn of Africa. 

What is more puzzling is that the British delegation at the Nairobi talks did not say how they intended to save the peace talks or gave any pointers as to what extent their government planned to save it from the brink of collapse.

Is it another British façade to farther re-divide the Somali Peninsula? Why Britain’s sudden interest in the complex Somali politics? Or is it an attempt to redress the wrongs they committed against the Somali people? I think only 10 Downing Street is in a position to answer these questions.

Over to you, Mr. Blair.

M.M. Afrah © 2003


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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