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Toronto (Canada)

29, Oct. 2004

M. M. Afrah

In this age of free press, email chain letters, and sensationalizing media stories, many people are willing to believe almost anything these days. But if you do a little research you’ll find people who never set foot in Somalia to witness what has been going on the ground, for example, fabricate most of the stories about Somalia.

A case in point is a story written in one of the leading Kenyan newspapers. The author says, among other hackneyed subjects, that Hussein Aideed controls Mogadishu and the rest of Southern Somalia.

Commonsense dictates that, apart from professional ethics, it is crucial that journalists are required to take time to search for the truth before running to the computer keyboard and dish out falsehoods and innuendoes. This is nothing but a gross abuse of free press.

Just talk to the boys with the AK47 in the streets of Mogadishu and they will tell you that no one is in control in Mogadishu except child soldiers and that Hussein fled to Baidoa after a botched attempt to assassinate him in 2002 while trying to take the main Mogadishu port. Several of his bodyguards have been killed in the skirmishes, and vowed not to return to the beleaguered capital. Instead, he has been shuttling between Baidoa and Addis Ababa. The truth is: the buck has nowhere to stop in Mogadishu. It’s free for all. In short, no one is in control.

Factual inaccuracies, misrepresentations and outright lies about the existence of Al-Qaeda in Somalia have been constant and consistent theme in the American and other Western media for sometimes now. I have said and I am saying now that a foreign terrorist in Somalia will stand out like sore thumb, while in actual fact there are terrorist cells in the US, Britain, France and Germany, waiting to strike again. We are also aware that there are Christian terrorists, such as the IRA (the Irish Republic Army) in Northern Ireland that has been waging guerrilla warfare for decades, and ETA, the Basque separatists in Spain, and the Italian Brigata Rosse, but they are never described as Christian terrorists. On the other hand the Western media constantly scream Muslim terrorists, or Muslim Fundamentalists. Personally, I abhor all terrorists, whether they are Christians, Hindus, Muslims or Jews. The question many people ask themselves is why some individuals blow themselves with portable TNT explosives as a last resort? These are called suicide bombers. I remember advisory notes sent by Reuters news agency to its correspondents around the world that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

The incident in New York and Washington, DC was a terrible tragedy. I was watching on television when the two airliners hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. And these heinous crimes remained vividly in my mind to this day and as far as I know no Somali national joined the Taliban in Afghanistan or Al-Qaeda. Of course there are Somali terrorists but these are home grown locally known as Mooryaan who mercilessly massacre their own countrymen.

Many of these Mooryaan have nomadic backgrounds in the Central Province, and a good number of them are old enough to start a family and hold a decent job, if given the chance. Doubtless, they never fought in foreign wars as part of an international terrorism and blow themselves in suicide missions, kami kazi-style.

The American people have my deepest sympathies, but as I had often made it clear in this and other websites at the time, none of the perpetrators was a Somali national.

I know from hard personal experience how high the price was, because I too lost my first-born son and more than ten family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues in Somalia’s savage civil war. Burying your loved ones in shallow graves as bullets fly over your head is the worst nightmare that endures in your life forever.

A President without a Capital

“BRITAIN WANTS SOMALI GOVERNMENT BACK HOME” one recent headline in a Nairobi newspaper screams. Trite words, perhaps, but why Britain’s sudden interest in the very intricate Somali affairs after decades of silence? Is it trying to undo the wrongs it committed against the Somali people during the partition of the Somali Peninsula?

Perhaps 10 Downing Street felt uneasy about Britain’s role in giving large tracts of land, the size of France, to Ethiopia and Kenya under one harebrained pretext or another, shelving Bevin’s pitch of Greater Somalia in the process. And now Mr. Blair has made plans to help rebuild it, and he is all too aware of the risks his government was about to take, and the explosive nature of the Somalia quagmire.

No wonder Britain declined to contribute a British contingent to the United Nations International Task Force (UNITAF) in 1993. The question that bugs me is: would Britain succeed where the United States, the only superpower in the world today and the United Nations, failed with disastrous consequences? If the grim look on Mr. Chris Mullin’s face is anything to go by, this isn’t Britain’s idle whim.

Mr. Mullin, Britain’s Minister for Africa said at a press conference in Nairobi that Britain is prepared to help Somalia train forces to disarm militias and stabilize the country, where he said, lawlessness prevented a new government from taking its seat.

These forces, probably trained by Britain’s crack Special Forces dubbed as SAS would have to figure out what to do about the estimated 60,000 gunmen who control the capital. Storm the city, just like the Americans did in 1993, to mop up resistance? Open dialogue with the greedy faction leaders to order their militia to surrender their weapons without firing a shot, and without rattling non-combatants? Open separate dialogue with local merchants who had valued their US Dollars above tribal loyalty? Our man in Mogadishu says many of these arms merchants at the sprawling Bakaaraha open-air arms bazaar are holding onto their ill-gained money in anticipation of the worst. Evidently, for them peace and return of stability means bankruptcy, and out of business forever.

Britain should be cognizant that impressive arrays of extremely lethal weapons are also in the hands of non-combatant citizens as some sort of insurance policy. But these are locked up in time of relative serenity, which is a rare commodity in Somalia. They know from bitter experience that a tiny spark can trigger off bloody clan warfare, and as always they are of course the ones who suffer the most.

Dear Mr. Mullin, Somalia requires radical surgery, not just empty promises at hastily organized press conferences You talked about the need for the government to return to Mogadishu, but had not addressed the real problem vis-à-vis the explosive situation on the ground, and that even putting a million peace enforcers in Mogadishu and the rest of the country will not help. In fact, they will end up defending themselves inside fortified bunkers and trenches, just like their UN predecessors, UNOSOM I and UNOSOM II spearheaded by the Americans codenamed “Operation Restore Hope” let alone disarming the multitudes of child soldiers and freelancers.
Would the Americans pay a second visit? They are simply not ready, especially in this election season, and with their hands full of Iraq. Once bitten twice shy.

Health workers who are well versed in Third World politics confirm that the job of an African President usually results in insomnia, heart palpitations, ulcers and Alzheimer, among other deadly diseases, and the President of a war-torn country in particular, like Somalia, the symptoms are even more severe. Many left their seats of power peacefully before the virus caught up with them and joined the mainstream. Cases in point are Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Aden Abdulla Osman, Kenneth Kaunda et al. They soon discovered that life in a Presidential Palace is like being caught in some colossal machine, one that’s running down and down beyond control.

Now, there’s no way we can kid ourselves that President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed wakes up one morning in the very near future, (say a month from now) checks out of his Nairobi hotel and presto flies to Mogadishu with his new Prime Minister and his cabinet and starts the ball rolling again as if nothing is going to happen to them. That’s of course another trite that comes from a man like Chris Mullin. Obviously, he is not familiar with the antics of the Somali warlords. They march to the beat of a different drum.

I concur with the idea that buying the weapons from the hungry child soldiers, before the new President and his entourage arrives in Mogadishu, could give the rest of the population the confidence to deliver guns in their possessions. In return they wish to see security cranked in the capital so that they could go about their daily business without the fear of being ambushed at makeshift road barricades. The price tag could be billions of dollars, considering the number of weapons in the hands of the population. Again the nagging question that comes up is: who is going to foot the bill?

I had asked the same question more than once.

The issue of who pays the tab for the reconstruction of the country from Ground Zero has been simmering since the stormy peace talks started in Kenya two years ago, but so far none of the industrialized countries and oil rich Arab countries made any credible pledge.

Returning to Britain’s sudden interest in the Somalia affairs, there are many interpretations at local Fadhi ku dirir rumor mills in the country and in the Diaspora why Somalia is now getting unaccustomed attention again from the United Kingdom after a long conspiracy of silence. But for those of us who know the Brits speculate that 10 Downing Street had its own hidden agenda, that’s the urgent need to see a stable government in Somalia so that the immigration officials could have a reasonable excuse to deport the thousands of asylum seekers in Britain. As a matter of fact the process is already in full gear. Other European countries with sizeable Somali refugees are likely to follow Britain’s example.

It is an open guesswork at the grapevines, and it remains to be seen. But I’m not sure I like the view in my crystal ball.

By M.M. Afrah©2004


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