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By M. M. Afrah 

The Technical Committee for the Somali Reconciliation Conference to be held in Nairobi later this month has approved what they call terms of reference, and while no one understands it, every Somali seems to be producing his/her own verdict of “Who will win and who will lose.” There are no new rules to the game. It is either I am elected as the President or else…

What do some people really think about the peace conference in Nairobi?

To find out, I decided to speak to some “Fadhi ku dirir” in the Diaspora by phone and by email.

The first one I talked to was a returnee on his way to New York City. He is straight from a short visit to Somalia.

“What do you think of the Nairobi peace talks?” I asked him.

“Hopeless,” he said. “The Somali people prayed for peace only to be disappointed whenever they hear such conferences turn out to be fruitless,” he added.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because every participant wants to become the President of the Fourth Republic. And there’s no telling what a faction leader is capable of doing as soon as he realizes that he is not going to be the President of the Fourth Republic. Remember that famous Somali play “Ama lay dooray ama daadka i qaad” at the National Theatre in the 1970s?

After speaking to that newcomer, I sought out an optimistic one.

“I would like to talk to you about the reconciliation talks in Nairobi,” I said without preamble.

He was very serene.

“I am very happy that a reconciliation conference is finally to take place. The other day I sent a congratulatory message to our clan leader for accepting the invitation to the conference.”

“That’s a progress. But do you see your clan leader a winner or a loser?”


“I mean do you believe that he will succeed in his bid to lead the country from a decade of predicament and catch-22?”

“This time we are well organized and very powerful. That’s why we support the peace talks in Nairobi, defying the Ethiopians.”

“Does that make you guys winners?”


“Then what you are saying is that even if your clan leader starts out as a loser, your clan will launch another bloody warfare?”

“He will eventually be winner by hook or by crook,” he shouted to attract customers at the Chinese “All you can eat” restaurant. The girl behind the cash register dived for a cover. There was an armed robbery at a convenient store next door two days ago.

“You’re taking it extremely well,” I said, trying to change the subject.

“The art of being faction leader is to pretend that nothing bothers you. The bad BBC calls our leader a Warlord,” he whispered this time.

“What about killing innocent civilians?”

“Some people say the end justifies the means,” he said, still whispering. Many people say there must be a war crimes tribunal in The Hague to try those who committed atrocities against the civilian population during last eleven years,”

“We’ve never committed any atrocities against anybody. We merely defended our fiefdom against intruders from other provinces,” he shouted again. The Chinese girl behind the cash register put her hand on the telephone! Probably she concluded that we were a pair of lunatics who escaped from the local nuthouse and not stickup people.

The last person I spoke to was a middle-aged man who is a dedicated supporter of the TNG in Mogadishu.

“Do you consider the TNG a winner or a loser at the conference?”

“At the beginning they will look as if they are going to be losers, but eventually they will be the big winners. The Arta Group is always winner when it comes to regional and international recognition as the legitimate government of Somalia. They even worked hard to see Ethiopia distance itself from the Baidoa Group,” he said.

“Do you honestly believe that?” I asked him.

“Sure. The reason is that the Ethiopians ran out of steam and propaganda material. There’s a rumour that Meles Zenawi had even encouraged leaders of Puntland and Somaliland to take part at the Nairobi conference as opposition leaders and accept the TNG as the government of the day. Besides the Americans refused to buy his tip-off.”

He was carrying a pile of what looked like posters.

“Is that who I think it is?”

.“Yes, you guessed right. It is the official portrait of President Abdiqassim Salaad Hassan. He has dedicated it to me,” he said, showing cigarette and Qaad stained teeth.

“How did you get hold of it?”

“I got it from him just before he boarded the plane in New York after he attended the UN General Assembly. His Press Attaché asked me to duplicate it and distribute it to every Somali in the US and Canada. Would you like to have a copy?”

“No thanks. I don’t want the portrait of a man who failed to honour his pledge at Arta. A man couldn’t stamp out the billions of fake currency in the country and the people behind it. A man who is unable to open the main airport and seaport and dismantle the numerous blocks in the capital.”

“You support the faction leaders?” He said angrily.

“No. I wouldn’t know one group from the other. I believe that if you have seen one you have seen the rest.”

He was fuming when I left him. But there was a sigh of relief at the Chinese restaurant.

By M. M. Afrah 2002


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