20, Sep. 2003
SOMALIA'S SEASON OF DESPAIR
THERE'S ALSO A BRIGHT
SIDE TO IT
M. M. Afrah
seen the devil of violence and the devil of greed and the
devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! These were strong,
lusty, red-eyed devils that swayed and drove men-men, I tell
you. But as I stood on that hillside, I foresaw that in the
blinding sunshine of that land, I would become acquainted
with a flabby, pretending weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and
--CONRAD, Heart of Darkness
No one doubts that the next President of Somalia will be in
an extraordinary position to deal with-a full plate of troubles
and desolation. I sympathize with him the more because new
and more aggressive faction leaders had entered into the situation
to rock the boat.
that long series of betrayals and bloodshed would end and
be replaced by some attempts to implement the principles of
human rights and a responsible government have been dashed.
open defiance and rebellion by hitherto unknown faction leader
who goes by the of Bashir Raage Shirar last week entered in
the murky Somali situation to rock the city with fear of a
renewed bloodshed, by mobilizing his heavily-armed young boys
in order to obstruct a scheduled second meeting by the G-5
faction leaders in Mogadishu with the aim at "salvaging"
the ongoing Somali talks in Kenya.
smelled another fruitless meeting, but one of these leaders
denied their meeting "did not constitute" parallel
talks. These are key faction leaders and the TNG President
Abdiqassim Salad Hassan who walked out of the long dragging
Somali parley at the warthog-infested Mbagathi, a Nairobi
suburb, in protest.
in Mogadishu says that the inhabitants of the City of Sorrows
who have gone through hell and high water in the past are
quite literally keeping their chins up, even with the likelihood
of a new carnage in the city. But the days of Afminsharis
(influence peddlers) and revolutionaries who instill fear
into the minds of the people are gone forever. Business is
booming as usual despite the anguish, he reported.
young as 12 and 14-years-old, with their forefingers on the
trigger of their AK-47s are deployed in every corner around
the venue of the aborted meeting of the G-5 leaders and are
ready to shoot at anything that moved. "The gun has now
become the rite of passage for young boys in the country.
Some of the boys are not even taller than the average M-16
assault rifle", he concluded in his report.
mystery why this new faction leader mobilized his forces at
a time when the proverbial glimmer of hope appeared at the
end of the tunnel. Or was it a show of strength as often happens
whenever a faction leader feels that he is being sidelined?
I was watching a Wild West movie with my 9-year-old grandson
in Toronto. On the TV screen, two cowboys were exchanging
rifle fire at a distance of thirty meters or so. They were
fighting among enormous rounded boulders, and as far as one
could tell each was trying to move as close as the other as
possible. One cowboy was middle-aged, handsome and smartly
dressed, the other young and poorly dressed. There was music.
At length, the handsome cowboy surprised the young one loading
his weapon. The young cowboy threw his rifle down and attempted
to draw a sidearm. The handsome one blew him away. Both men
were fighting for the control of a small frontier town called
Laramie. Obviously the young cowboy was trying violently against
the status quo without a back up.
the warlords are former army officers who graduated from Soviet
military academies in the 1970s and favored a sudden, surgical
military action instead of political dialogue based on give
a quick mental comparison between these two Hollywood cowboys
and the Somali warlords. A seasoned warlord is fully prepared
to blow away a greenhorn, or a wannabe warlord to protect
his domain, and at the same time send a strong signal to others
who attempt to risk their lives in a bid to topple him.
"It's the same in Somalia," I told my grandson.
"Are they like those cowboys?" he asked.
"They're worse than mindless robots," I answered
him, recalling the red-eyed, drug-crazed devils who massacred
innocent civilians in Mogadishu and Baidoa, just because they
happened to belong to the wrong tribe and found themselves
in the wrong place. In the film, at least the poorly dressed
cowboy had a gun and tried to pin down his more powerful opponent.
I belong to the vanished era in Somali history. I've been
around long enough to witness that the petty politicians in
Somalia are modern day Marquis de Sade who are playing teeter
tooter in politics, clinging on to their evil domains non-challantly.
Maybe I'd hold my hands pressed to my ears in the position
of hearing no evil. No, no, not yet, anyway. Because optimism
keep pumping into my veins, hoping against hope that one day
Somalia would return to the community of nations.
bright side, the Somali people are resourceful and had enough
wisdom to guide them through the turmoil they are in. But
deep down they are stretched beyond the limit of all endurances.
However, the years of hardship and mayhem had masked a lot
of their emotions to the outside world. They knew they have
been abandoned by the oil rich Arabs, the Muslim world (the
Islamic Conference Organization), the United Nations and other
regional and international organizations of which Somalia
was a full member. No other people on earth could endure what
the Somali people have undergone and are still undergoing
for such a long time. As a matter of fact, they can teach
the world how to survive against all odds without the luxury
of basic necessities. They can easily beat "THE SURVIVORS",
the TV series for surviving in the most dangerous place on
earth without outside assistance.
who fled the country, with only the clothes on their backs
are doing thriving businesses of their own and added more
color and buoyancy to their adopted countries, and in cities
like Toronto in Canada and Minnesota in the United States,
they outfoxed other ethnic groups who arrived there long before
them. One of the newcomer Somalis, Mohamoud Wardhere, has
even run for mayor. Many of the newcomers were impressed.
To them, it was sort of oxygen in their new life that a newcomer
could stand for an election.
their gruesome trip through hostile territories, they defied
silently the artic winter, the culture shock and the language
barrier. Similar to the millions of refugees who arrived in
the "New World" before them, the majority could
not utter a single English word. But after months of relentlessly
attending English language classes, and listening carefully
people chatter in the American slang, their hosts admired
the newcomers' attempts to perfect their English. But their
children are doing great in schools and are top on their classes.
Some of them have earned awards in swimming and other athletic
the Somalis traded with ancient Egypt and China four hundred
years before Christopher Columbus discovered America. The
land was then known as the Land of Myrrh and Frankincense.
Paul in Minnesota (USA), Police Chief, Finney, an African-American,
joked during a group photo that since Somalis looked like
him, and he looks like Somalis, they should be comfortable
with each other.
their fashionable new malls in Minnesota, for example, the
Somalis quickly opened colorful bazaars and restaurants specializing
in Somali foods, freshly imported camel meat (free from Mad
cow disease), goat meat, cholesterol free sesame seed oil,
currency transfer businesses, travel agencies, barbershops
and vibrant bilingual newspapers (with English and Somali
sections). The editors and publishers of Juba Weekly
and WARSAN are trying to make them stylish.
Weekly, with the slogan "The Political & Economic
Mirror of Somali-Americans" displayed a screaming headline
on May 16, 2003 that says "DOES BETRAYING ALLIES EMPOWER
FOES?" The Editor-in-Chief of the paper, Yuusuf Budle,
said: "To many Somali observers some members of our community
who are American allies are being marginalized. Furthermore,
people rejecting the American system and philosophy are being
inaugurated to certain leadership status, according to a secular-minded
individuals who want to remain anonymous at the time."
asks his readers these crucial questions: "Could you
one day pay a dear price for being a foreign born pro-American?
Would that kind of treatment from the administration, encourage
future allies go underground to avoid embarrassment in front
of the foes?"
a very good start for the sweet taste of democracy and freedom
of the press, but the Somali community has a long way to go
politically and socially. It is hoped that many potential
candidates would run for higher state and city offices, following
the example of Mohamoud Wardhere.
Weekly also campaigns for the release of Omar Jamal, founder
of St. Paul-based Somali Justice and Advocacy Center. Omar
Jamal is the modern day Martin Luther King Jr. for America's
largest community of Somali immigrants.
was arrested in early April and released on $6,500 bail with
an electronic monitoring device after three days in jail,
according to a well-researched article under the title of
"Silencing an Uppity Immigrant" by Karl Lyderson,
the paper's regular contributor.
their presence felt in the United States and Canada, the community
had even introduced soccer tournaments in their adopted countries
with fledging young Somali teams bracing themselves for national
and international competitions. They are tax paying, law-abiding
new citizens, according to city officials.
in the malls would not be out of place in peacetime Mogadishu
or Hargeisa. The displays are more or less the same, the same
merchandize, the same haggling and the same smile. No price
tags are of course necessary for some of the imported merchandize
in display, such as clothing, the ankle length floral shapeless
gowns known as Dir'a preferred by Somali women and scents.
That's where sincere haggling comes in earnest. No more gun-slinging
Mooryaans, demanding protection money or else
stray bullets flying over their heads, and no more Bakaaraha
supermarket of weapons.
ties are very strong in Somalia, and the first casualty of
the civil/clan wars was the living standard of every family
in the war-torn country. And. Because all banking and other
financial institutions have been destroyed, Somalis in the
Diaspora repatriate millions of dollars each year through
Somali operated money transfer companies known as Hawaala,
a system based on trust, to their loved ones left behind in
the middle of grotesque pileup of tragedies.
from our vantage points in the Diaspora, we impatient old
geezers assume that the people at home are not really ready
for a popular uprising against the modern day Marquis de Sade,
not because they do not want it, but because the merciless
warlords are heavily armed with the latest in hi-tech weaponry,
such as tanks, long range artillery guns, mortars, RPG7s,
anti-aircraft guns, night vision goggles (pilfered from the
U.S. Marines during the botched Operation Restore Hope) and
shoulder-fired missiles, and are jerky to see to it that the
people remain divided along clan lines, borrowing a leaf from
the old colonialists policy of divide and rule. Thus the people
are exposed to day-to-day traumatic events since 1990.
easily forget the fact that the old country has been divided
by war criminals into patchwork of clan fiefdoms. They are
like androids that do not have a vestige of human feelings.
Somali playwright and composer, Mohamed Ali Kaariye drew a
memorable line with this question: "WAR ISKU DAALANYEE
MAXAA INOO DAN AH?" Undaunted by the bullets flying
over his head, Kaariye performed his last play with the same
title in a makeshift open-air theatre in north Mogadishu at
the height of the civil/clan wars in 1992. He died of natural
death in a Nairobi hospital in 1995 with a smile on his face,
according to visitors at his hospital deathbed.
being the way they are we can't simply afford to ignore Kaariye's
legacy, so we must sit down in the traditional Somali way,
and ask ourselves the same question in order to find a lasting
solution to end the senseless killings and anarchy.
Mohamed Ali Kariye's legacy will be remembered.
By M. M. Afrah©2003,