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Toronto (Canada)

2, Jan. 2004


M. M. Afrah


(A note from your Webmaster:
Some of you have disagreed with M. M. Afrah's historical jewel about minor discrepancies, such as dates and army ranks of the protagonists who played different roles during revolutionary era. One of our readers said Salad Gavere was a General and not a Colonel etc. etc. Another said that he thought the old man is going blind! The question is: can a blind man write such excellent chronicles? Disagreeing is what democracy and free expression is for, but personal attack against journalists and authors in the civilized world is considered as defamation of character or character assassination. Needless to say everyone has the right to freedom of opinion; this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Objectivity, free from profanities and personal attack is the catch phrase. If you think you can do better than us please write your own version of historical and contemporary events in Somalia-
your Webmaster).



The tragedy that is Somalia has sadly continued to rage since the overthrow of General Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 with no sign it will end soon. As a matter of fact, the country has regressed into the depth of anarchy and a veritable pirate country with ruthless warlords running virtual killing fields and fiefdoms based on clan hegemony.

As the world watches, clan hegemony takes center-stage at the expense of central authority, national sovereignty, unity, cohesion and integrity. In fact, the country has for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist, and to this day, the status quo remains without hope of change Consequently, the peoples' hopes for peace and stability have been dashed so many times that they are now resigned to their fate and continue to suffer the rule of the gun, silently.

It is evident that the petty political power barons are using everything in their rotten arsenals to derail peace initiatives in a bid to seek hegemony through clan entities.

Numerous attempts to broker a political settlement that is all-inclusive and representative, including the current shouting match and occasional nasty fistfights that stunned the Kenyans, woefully failed as the warlords continue to pursue parochial and insular objectives. These objectives range from the tenure of the office of a non-existent presidency, clan issues, the return of stolen farms and real state properties to their original owners, accountability, transparency and a broad-based federal system of government as well as bringing to justice those who committed crime against humanity.

But those with blood on their hands vehemently object these optimistic and rosy objectives for obvious reasons.

General Barre must have been turning in his grave at the thought of his ex pupils hitting each other over the tenure of Villa Somalia, his former residence and power base, now in ruins.

In hindsight, the nail-biting question is: why didn't the warlords who toppled the military regime order their militia to lay down their guns and embark upon setting up a broad-based government of national unity, instead of turning the guns on each other? Evidently, this was a political earthquake, which continued to shake the whole country to this day.

The epicenter of the political earthquake was Mogadishu, but the shock wave was felt throughout the country. Dozens of new warlords made their presence felt and started to keep the people as hostage to the gun, replicating Mogadishu-style quagmire.

Only days after General Barre fled to his home region of Garba-harey, the victorious guerrillas and a civic group known as Mogadishu Manifesto installed Ali Mahdi Mohamed as interim President of the Fourth Republic.

Late one night in a small hut at Mustahiil inside Ethiopian-controlled Ogaden region, General Mohamed Farah Aideed, Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess and the late Abdirahman Tuur had came together for a rare meeting to discuss how to divide the Somali cake between them and what steps should be taken against the Manifesto Group, who they thought have usurped power in the capital by installing one of their own, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, a wealthy Mogadishu hotelier

The trio in Mustahiil was so irritated that they could not hear the names of the Manifesto Group mentioned in their presence. The Manifesto Group was comprised of prominent citizens, including the first President at independence, Adan Abdulle Osman, two former police chiefs, lawyers and merchants.

Aides described how General Aideed visibly squirmed as the BBC's Somali Service and Focus on Africa heaped compliments after compliments on the popular uprising led and financed by the Manifesto Group and executed by General Mohamed Noor Galaal and his young warriors under the banner of the United Somali Congress (USC) Committee of Mogadishu.

Aideed has been sidelined in the past by AFIS (the Italian administrators under UN Trusteeship Council) and later by General Barre, but now his vanity and pride will never allow him to believe that a mere hotelier and a group of what he called Afar-jeebleyaal (people with four pockets i.e. merchants) would have the temerity to sideline him. No, he would not let that happen again.

Days later he arrived in Mogadishu with a big bang and declared war against the Manifesto Group and the Afar-jeebleh, who he said had hijacked the government without first consulting with the Somali people.

Then he and his well-seasoned combat militia went straight to the radio station in order to declare his own coup, but was foiled by militia loyal to General Galaal, the man who directed the popular uprising against Mohamed Siyad Barre and who was allied with Ali Mahdi and the Manifesto Group. General Aideed watched his battle-hardened militia overpowered, without firing a single shot.

After his aborted coup to take over the radio station, Aideed, a powerful orator, addressed a huge rally at Mogadishu Stadium. He repeated his accusations against Ali Mahdi and the Manifesto Group for "stealing" the office of the Presidency without a mandate from the majority of the Somali people. He vowed to crush the group, who he said were colluding with the ousted dictator "to return the country back to the dark days of dictatorship and clan hegemony."

He said Barre's forces, led by one of his sons-in-law, General Morgan (the Northerners called him The Butcher of Hargeisa), continue in the Bay and Gedo regions of southwestern Somalia and the struggle is far from over.

"If the hated dictator comes back to the capital it would be a grave insult and disaster to those of us who fought hard to dislodge him," General Aideed told the crowd.

Soon after that Aideed extended his influence by enlisting the support of several smaller Hawiye sub-clans and vowed to dislodge Ali Mahdi and the Manifesto Group even if he had to level the city "making it look like Hiroshima." One irony is that Ali Mahdi, General Mohamed Noor Galaal and General Mohamed Farah Aideed belonged to the same Hawiye clan, but of different sub-clans.

As predicted the city was devastated as supporters of General Aideed and Ali Mahdi fought it out with long range-artillery guns, mortars and Katyusha rocket launchers, and it indeed looked like Hiroshima. It was strapped bare by looters who carted away anything they considered valuable, including the National monuments, hospitals, schools and historic buildings, such as the National Museum, banks and government archives. Nothing was left intact and the fighting continued unabated. An estimated 45,000 lives, mostly women, children and the elderly, were lost in only two months as each man tried to consolidate his position. This figure had escalated to hundreds of thousands in successive internecine.

Some 4000 prisoners, including hardcore convicts from death row, who escaped Mogadishu's Central Prison, joined the mêlée with hundreds of guns stolen from the prison armory, after overpowering their guards, and the result was very devastating.

The first foreign journalist who reached the city found dogs and rats feeding on decomposing bodies, which littered the streets and in public gardens. Customized armoured vehicles, with young boys behind the wheels, raced the streets, and Mogadishu slipped further into insanity. Teenagers mounted makeshift barricades and shot at anything that moved. The notorious Green Line that divides the capital into north and south sprung up overnight, and it has become one of the worst killing fields, rivaling Pol Pot's killing fields in Cambodia. To cross it is tantamount to committing suicide. Other parts of the city automatically became No-go areas.

Taking advantage of the inter-Hawiye clan warfare in Mogadishu, Mohamed Siyad Barre rallied his own clansmen and made an attempt to repossess his seat of power in the capital as earlier prophesied by Aideed, but like previous attempts, he failed to achieve his goal as former archenemies, the Abgal and the Habar-gedir sub-clans conveniently joined hands, for the time being, to push "the invaders" back to Garba-harey.

Clan armies from both sides laid waste to Somalia's breadbasket. As they fought, they pillaged crops and massacred Somali Bantus, the Rahan-weyn and other traditional farming communities, eventually triggering off the first seeds of man-made famine in the country.

To be continued…
By M. M. Afrah©2003,

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