PEACE TALKS DOESN'T CONVINCE EVERY SOMALI
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
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 theres 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
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.
Thats 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
This time we are well organized and very powerful.
Thats why we support the peace talks in Nairobi, defying
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
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.
Youre 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
Weve 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
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. Theres 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
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 dont want the portrait of a man
who failed to honour his pledge at Arta. A man couldnt
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
You support the faction leaders? He said angrily.
No. I wouldnt 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.
M. M. Afrah © 2002