can a beret coloured blue erase, just like that the
prejudices of conservative officers from Sweden, Canada
How does a blue armband vaccinate against the racism
and paternalism of people whose only vision of Africa
is lion hunting, slave markets and colonial conquest;
people for whom the history of civilization is built
on the possession of colonies?
Naturally they would understand the Belgians. They
have the same past, the same history, the same lust
for our wealth."
The first Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo,
REMINICENSES - AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS
- PART 8
Some armchair "do-gooders" in Western Europe
(Amnesty International and the United Nations in New
York, for example) now raise the question: "What
is the death toll in Somalia since 1991?"
It is not easy to find an
answer. To begin with, no record was ever kept
of people who died as a result of the mass murder
in the civil/clan wars compounded with man-made
famine, starvation and disease, such as cholera
and malaria, to mention only few.
offers a striking example of the international
politics of inertia and forgetting. Somalia
is not unique. In Rwanda, for example, over
a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus have been
massacred by Hutu extremists. The difference
between the two countries, however, is that
in Rwanda, some brave European NGO officials
who risked their own lives painstakingly kept
record of the death toll and the names of those
who were responsible for this heinous crime.
horrible and gruesome stories never made the Headline
News or the front pages of the Western media until
it was too late. Farcically, a man who had killed
another man's pet dog was conspicuously splashed on
the front pages of most newspapers here in Canada!
Somalia the warlords went to extraordinary lengths
to prevent independent outsiders to enter the country
and the movements of those few NGO officials, who
remained in the smoking carcass of the capital, such
as Oxfam, the Red Cross and Save the Children, have
been severely curtailed, or reduced to certain areas.
Some are killed and their vehicles commandeered by
the deadly Mooryaan. A journalist from the French
news agency (AFP) said that he was threatened with
death for describing the atrocities to one of the
main Mogadishu warlords. "You will be the next
victim if you are not careful about what you say or
write," he was told.
journalists from the Arab News (the first from
the Arab World to visit Somalia) said: "The
Somali warlords are like the Israeli military-they
never see or now about the sufferings they cause."
sum it up, the killing was/is of strictly genocidal
proportion as one warlord or another is deliberately
trying to eliminate one particular clan from the face
of the Earth in a bid to rule what little was left
of the country. The image of innocent women, children
and elderly lying in a pool of blood is burned into
still continue to this day with no end in sight.
often said in this column that the warlords who are
primarily responsible for this ongoing genocide are
often not the bold, bluff, hardy men of legend, but
restless, unhappy, driven many the flight from something
in their past as many of them were lackeys of the
former military dictator and had committed serious
human rights violations in the name of the Revolution
and Scientific Socialism, with blessing from Moscow
in the 1970s/1980s. There are plenty of people who
remember what the warlords used to do during Siyad
Barre's heydays-how they earned their living.
warlords lumber about like the Hunch Back of Notre
Dam, they are aware that their days are coming to
an end. Hence their desperate attempt to keep the
status quo, come what may.
It is a
well-known fact that the killing fields started long
before the military regime was toppled in 1990/91.
A case in point is the mass graves at the Jesira Beach
where hundreds of Northerners (specifically the Isaaq
clan) were buried after murdering them in cold blood
by the dreaded Presidential bodyguards, the Red Berets,
and the NSS death squads.
grisly mass killing was followed by the destruction
of Hargeisa by hired white Rhodesian mercenary pilots,
after the Hawiye pilots of the Somali Air Force mutinied
against their commanding officer. One of the pilot
bombers, Lt. Colonel Ahmed, (called the Hero of Hargeisa)
ditched his bombs on the mouth of the Red Sea and
landed his Soviet-era Mig at Djibouti airport and
sought asylum there (WHO
WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF HARGEISA? (Talking
"The original mission of the Somali National
Army was to protect the nation from external aggression.
I was trained to fight against an enemy force not
my own people; my decision was firm to risk dying
rather than bombarding civilians and their property,"
Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Hassan of the Abgal
clan told the British newspaper Guardian on Friday,
history, people with blood on their hands use a lot
of excuses when cornered, such as: "I was obeying
orders." One wonders whose orders the warlords
were obeying after the demise of the military regime
more than a decade ago? But Colonel
Ahmed Mohamed Hassan of the defunct Somali Air Force
heroically defied such orders. The Colonel currently
lives in the Netherlands with spotless conscience
so estimating the number of casualties in Somalia,
(both South and North), and who was responsible today
requires considerable historical detective work, not
endless debates by people who never set foot on the
country during the genocide.
towns and villages in the country were awash in
corpses, sometimes literally. The Red Cross, in
collaboration with the surviving officials of
the Somali Red Crescent Society (bless them),
recorded some of the death toll, but not all,
as many people hastily buried their loved ones
in shallow graves with the words "It is the
will of God," their teeth chattering like
castanets. The unlucky ones were left where they
Somalia nobody had the time to bury the dead or attend
the wounded in one of the worst carnages in living
memory. The clan gunmen, who proved to be horrifying
monsters that send shivers down the spine stole and
expropriated everything from homes whose owners fled
the inferno to farms, livestock and national asset.
They massacred villagers and put their homes to the
torch and kidnapped young women and girls as young
as 12 in the process. In this carnage thousands of
unwarlike Somali Bantus or Gosha people perished from
famine and extermination by different militia gunmen
from other provinces.
"They are like locusts", said an old man
who lost everything. He said they left him for dead
after wiping out his family.
the warlords and their militia gunmen power is
particularly tempting, and in a sense no power
is greater than the ability to take someone's
life. Once underway, mass killing is hard to stop,
it becomes a kind of sport, like hunting. Ironically,
the same warlords often preach peace and reconciliation
at never-ending fruitless conferences. A palpable
example is the current gathering at Mbagathi,
which some foreign media dubbed as the "Circus
of the Century."
these talks hold less promise than did previous ones.
Far from providing basis for reconciliation and return
to the rule of law, the situation in many parts of
the country is deteriorating as the recent fighting
in Merca, Shalambod and the Central Province for,
example, illustrates the warlords' antics.
organizations, including Amnesty International and
Africa Watch did not lift a finger to condemn the
more than a decade of upheaval described by the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the world's greatest
human tragedy since World War Two. The same inertia
applies to the United Nations, the Organization of
African Unity (OAU) (now AU), the Arab League, the
Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) and other regional
and international organizations until it was too late.
Even then it was too little and too late. The 1993
ill-fated humanitarian intervention by the United
Nations and the Americans (Operation Restore Hope
and UNOSOM I and II) put more fuel to the raging inferno,
as we recall, forcing them to eventually pull out
prematurely, leaving the vulnerable people to the
carefully recent news stories in some of the Western
media. The same "humanitarian interventionists"
of yesteryears are more concerned now about the appearance
of what they call "Muslim terrorists" (read:
Osama bin Ladin's Al-Qaeda network) in Somalia than
the disappearance of the Somali people into a dark
take several generations to heal these wounds. But
one thing is also clear; the ghosts of the warlords
would not vanish so easily. These robber barons a.k.a.
warlords/war criminals would remain a chapter in Somalia's
dark history for generations to come.
My fellow journalists/authors, Aidan Hartley (The
Zanzibar Chest), James Schofield (Silent Over Africa,
Stories of War and Genocide) and Scott Peterson (Me
Against My Brother), who visited Somalia at the height
of the carnage found that death and destruction did
not break the spirit of the Somali people: "They
are one of the most informed society on earth and
could break the world record in endurance. They are
wrestling with tremendous trauma," wrote James
books stamped with memories of death but restorative
of faith in life, and the authors, an American, a
Briton and an Australian has written these books for
all of us to read.
one often hears the word Bililiqeysi repeatedly, a
slang meaning to get something illegally. It meant
to steal or loot other peoples' properties. Most of
the properties acquired in this way are openly sold
in open-air makeshift markets. In some cases you are
bound to buy your looted properties from the same
armed sellers who looted them in the first place,
the American Journalist/Author, mentioned above, said
Mogadishu is not alone. "It is reminiscent to
postwar Berlin-minus the heavily armed street vendors,"
we have only ourselves to blame for the prevailing
chaos and lawlessness, but I believe that there are
still decent human beings in the World who would come
to rescue the long-suffering people of Somalia from
the jaws of starvation and premature death perpetrated
by few gun-toting demons, and help the surviving Somalis
put the pieces together.
that kept bugging me for quite sometime is Weapons
of Mass Destruction (WMD). In Somalia hunger, disease,
trauma and grief are Weapons of Mass Destruction.
as bullets whistled over our heads in North Mogadishu,
Mohamed Ali Kaariye, the renowned Somali playwright
and song composer, showed me the lyrics of a song
he has written to the Organization of African Unity
(OAU), the Arab League and Amnesty International.
The song was full of despair and anger:
burns, brothers, it burns.
Our little house (Somalia) is on fire,
And you are standing with folded arms,
While it burns.
hard, the dark eyes flashed angry sparks. I shall
never forget that face.
"Mahadsanid Walaal for the song. I'll keep it
with me and never forget it," I told him, and
we parted ways silently. That was 1992, also known
as the year the killing field started in earnest.
was clear Kaariye's patience was wearing thin and
his hopes for peace were dwindling. Apparently he
hated the rotten bunch that destroyed a country once
known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the land of
Myrrh and Frankincense.
By M. M. Afrah©2004
END OF SERIES
NEXT WEEK "ESCAPE FROM MOGADISHU". Don't
Note from the Webmaster:
Reuter's long time correspondent
M. M. Afrah was there when military dictator, Major-General
Mohamed Siad Barre came to power in a military and
police coup in October 1969. He was there when General
Barre was ousted from power by poorly armed youths
in beach sandals, calling themselves the militia of
the United Somali Congress (USC). He was there when
US Marines and Army Rangers stormed the beaches of
Mogadishu in December 1992 to spearhead an international
task force code named "Operation Restore Hope."
And he was there to see them leave. He watched as
their initial goodwill turn into impotent rage, and
saw their efforts to impose Western-style democracy
end in fiasco.
cost the UN and the United States billions of Dollars
and the lives of several UN and US soldiers end up
in body bags. The cost to Afrah was one of his sons
and the loss of his home, which, received a direct,
hit from a T55 Soviet-era tank as a signal to desist
reporting the carnage in his native country to the
an article in the British edition of Esquire magazine
of April 1995 Aidan Hartley, who worked with Afrah
in Africa, described his frontline reporting as Bravery
Afrah told colleagues at the Foreign Correspondents
Club in Nairobi: "There's a total anarchy in
Somalia. You can't tell who is shooting at whom and
why. It is like driving around a Mad Max movie set."
Schofield in his book "Silent Over Africa, Stories
of War and Genocide," wrote: "I found congenial
colleague in M. M. Afrah, Reuters long time correspondent
in the city, who had survived both the destruction
of his own home and the personal tragedy of his son's
death, and continues to file stories to his bureau
throughout the civil war.
was a place of war. Foreign correspondents who went
there encountered dangers and witnessed horror and
were glad to get away. It takes much longer to understand
what that suffering means. To Somali journalist, like
Afrah, this was their life, their people."
-The Webmaster bandir.com