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Toronto (Canada)

July, 16. 2004


M. M. Afrah

"In Mogadishu, the capital has functioning schools and factories, but in the streets it's another story: too many young men with guns, too many militias, and too much potential conflict and tensions," Max Gaylard, the UN Resident Representative for Somalia told reporters in his swanky office in Nairobi, pointing at a picture on the wall of young boys with guns on a customized 4-wheel drive in the streets of Mogadishu for dramatic effect.

Yes, it's true the boys considered shooting and killing someone a mere rite of passage. They thought carrying a gun like the grown ups and shooting anything that moved was too good to be true. Moreover, they have witnessed their parents killed in cold blood by militia gunmen when they were still mere toddlers.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist or crystal ball reader to know that most of these kids are war orphans who have been thrown out of their Al-Haramein Orphanage after Washington accused the Saudi-based charity institute of having ties of what it calls with Islamic radical organizations, (their much preferred words, are however, Muslim terrorist network), and a breeding ground for future Muslim radicals, to quote a US State Department official in Washington.

At about the same time former Italian ambassador in Somalia told reporters from the mass circulation "Corriera della Sera" newspaper in Rome that Somalia is a patchwork of feuding warlords, clan-based traditional elders, den of thieves and kidnapping pandemic worse than the Bubonic plague.

The verdicts reached by these two gentlemen are, to some extent, accurate and undeniable. It's a place where visiting journalists and expatriate aid workers are murdered for their cameras, their vehicles, or kidnapped for a ransom.

Somalia, specially the capital, has the highest murder rate of any place in the world. It is a land that had been more cruelly raped than any other in the history, according to a "Decade in Review" by Amnesty International.

But the nerve-racking question is: who was responsible for this chaos? I recall an American Marine Colonel's proposal during the ill-fated US/UN involvement in the Somalia debacle, that the United States should buy back the guns from the militia and destroy them once and for all. But retired Admiral Jonathan Howe, the then UN Envoy in Somalia (a born again Christian in a Muslim country) rejected the proposal as not viable and impractical, saying there were an estimated 3 million guns and heavy weapons in the country, roughly the size of Texas.

But a few days later at another meeting Colonel Montgomery had insisted that the United States as the richest and the only superpower in the world could afford to buy the weapons at rock bottom prices and transfer them to a newly restructured of the disintegrated Somalia Police Force, and the warlords, as the obstacle to peace in the country, should be airlifted to Devil's Island penal colony (Papillon) 10,000 miles away, but Admiral Howe continued to reject the Colonel's modified version. Nothing could make his mind change.

The ideas touted by the Colonel and supported by other military brass were estimated to cost $30 million, whereas billions of Dollars mysteriously disappeared from the UN Compound-money desperately needed to rebuild the ruined country and feed the hungry masses. This was followed by UN official cover-up.

Later, when journalists covering the "Big profile" asked him about his proposals, the Colonel said: "I stand by everything I said then."

Colonel Montgomery's proposal was clearly one of several missed golden opportunities.

As for the former Italian ambassador, history tells me that Italy itself, like Somalia today, was like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces owned by various warlords masquerading as princes, and by various foreign powers. Because of this patchwork of foreign domination and internal weakness, Italy was the last country in Europe to be unified under a native (Italian) ruler.

King Victor Emmanuel II and his brilliant prime minister, Cavour, spearheaded the unification movement. It could not have been accomplished, however, without the leadership and inspiration of the great Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi. Garibaldi catalyzed the unification movement by enlisting a volunteer army to liberate and unite Italy. I presume it was 1517 when the tricolor flag saw the light of day for the first time in the history of that fragmented country.

Mr. Ambassador, I am not a historian trying to edify you the history of your own country, but I fervently believe that Italy, the former colonial power, should have played a crucial role in stabilizing its former colony with all the means at its disposal, borrowing a lesson or two from its own turbulent history, instead of sermonizing young and immature journalists.

Your Excellency, I hope you are reading this humble reminder as I am aware that this website receives thousands of hits from Italy every day of the week, despite its English language modus operandi

Talking about unification, I have a feeling that our Northern brothers are reluctant to reunify with their Southern brothers. I do not blame them for going solo. Why? Because they have legitimate grievances that the Southern politicians woefully failed to address: After their genuine jubilation of the famous words KANNA SIIB, KANNA SAAR in Hargeisa by the great poet Abullahi Tima Cadde on June 26 and the union with the South on July 1st 1960, some of us recall how they were sidelined by the Southern politicians.
a) The capital went to the South;
b) The posts of the President of the Republic and Speaker of the Parliament went to the South;
c) Key cabinet posts, such as the Foreign Affairs, the Interior, Finance and Defense portfolios went to the South;
d) Both the Command of the Somali National Army and the Somali Police Force went to the South;
e) Almost all ambassadorial positions, Director Generals and General Managers went to Southerners. The same can be said of promotions in the armed forces.
Strangely enough, the Southern politicians continued to fail to redress these wrongs until it was too late and too little. Because by then the infant government of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was overthrow by the armed forces and was replaced by the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC).
Mention Southerners, or Wanla-weyn as they call them, and the first thing that comes to their mind is the destruction of Hargeisa by Siyad Barre's hired white Rhodesian mercenary pilots, ignoring the fact that key Southern pilots mutinied against their commanding officer and refused to unload their deadly bombs on their brothers. But the Somalilanders continue to blame all Southerners for carpet-bombing their capital. In one of my previous Talking Points, I had identified to our brothers those who were responsible for the carnage in the Northwest and that it was unfair to blame all Southerners for these heinous crimes, reminding them at the same time of the heroic act of the Hargeisa Hero who ditched his bombs on the Red Sea instead.

Now let's take a short breather about past injustices and turn to what is going on in warthog-infested Mbagathi during the last few days? The facilitators and the chief negotiator for the Somalia Peace talks, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, insist that Somalia will have its own government at the end of July and that a President will be elected by an all-inclusive transitional parliament after all. This sounds good news for those who have been waiting impatiently for the return of normalcy in the country. But, according to our contact in Mogadishu, the majority of the populace is suspicious of the outcome. They say to elect a president is one thing, electing the right person is everything. There are speculations in Mogadishu's Fadhi ku Dirir rumor mills that one of the powerful warlords would be imposed on the Somali people. It is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. No pun intended.
Obviously the issues of trusts are always there.

O Brother Kiplagat, where art thou?

By M. M. Afrah©2004

A Note from Webmaster: Mr. Afrah is off to the United States for a book promotion.

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