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Toronto (Canada)

11, July 2003

M. M. Afrah

Somali Warlords Heard their Dismal Records Exposed

"SPR underlined the dismal human rights record of the Somali warlords gathering in Kenya. This was also highlighted by Dr. Ismail Jumale Human Rights Center (IJHRC) which argued that what happened in Somalia in the civil war is much worse than the previous dictatorship.
Amnesty International has also confirmed that what has happened in Somalia is beyond belief in terms of human rights.

All these institutions have asked the international community and the Somalis to pay special attention to the records of certain elements participating in Somalia's national reconciliation conference now taking place in Kenya."

Somali Peace Rally
November 10, 2002

That appeal has fallen on deaf ears. Instead the bloodthirsty warlords continued to derail the talks for their own vested interests from day one. At the same they ignited more bloodshed at home despite a ceasefire brokered by IGAD.

What happened in Somalia was indeed beyond belief. It was often compared it to the horror in Rwanda, but despite the genocide in that tiny African country almost all the infrastructures in Kigali were intact when the Tutsi-led rebels, The Rwanda Patriotic Front, liberated the country from the Interhamwe death machine that claimed almost a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The sponsors of the Somali talks at Mbagathi, not wanting to upset the powerful warlords and their protectors, isn't pressing the button of human rights abuse for the moment on the excuse that things are bad enough now. "We can't ill afford to make them worse," they say. It is like the political version of the American Idol, giving cold shoulder to the best singers (the weaker leaders of the civil society) and sweet-talk the worst singers (the war criminals) as if no evil things had happened in Somalia during the last 12 years or so.

One rebuff to the warlords/faction leaders worth mentioning here, however, is the number of MPs to be elected to the interim peoples assembly; 301, instead of the 400 tossed around by the warlords (see my TALKING POINT June 20, 2003 )


As the mass exodus continued the ethnocidal war was gathering momentum in the epicenter of the conflict, the nerve-racking Mogadishu, while in the Northwest some of the refugees slowly trickled back into Hargeisa only to end up in a ghost city with nothing in it. There was no life at all.

In Mogadishu the murderous militia at checkpoints draw the life fluid from anyone they suspect belonged to the "enemy" clan. The city was divided into north and south and to try to cross the invisible Green Line was like dancing with death. The dozen or so warlords in the country at the time and their militia gunmen experienced a surge of power like they had never known before. They fought over the right to kill, rape and pillage at will.As a result the number of Mafia-like warlords rose to 25 in less than a month.

Another dismal irony is that Somali doctors who tried to save lives became victims themselves. Several Somali and expatriate doctors have been gunned down by these gun-boys for no apparent reasons.

Scott Peterson in his book "ME AGAINST MY BROTHER" described Mogadishu "The City of the Insane". There were barricades everywhere manned by drug crazed baby-faced young militia locally known as Mooryaan. The bodies lined the roads everywhere in putrefying piles. Even mosques and Quranic schools were defiled. No one was trying to stop the madness. Religious leaders, Imams, elders, intellectuals and merchants of death joined their clans in order to save their own skins. Some of them, those with money to burn, financed the clan's war chest and even instigated the mass slaughter.

People were killed by their friends and neighbours just because they happened to belong to the "enemy" clan and found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. It has become ritual to watch childhood friends or former schoolmates taking pot shot at each other. Their days of playing makeshift soccer ball on the snow-white Lido Beach barefoot was apparently over.

The Apocalypse was unfolding in earnest in Somalia and the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, the Arab League or the Islamic Conference Organization of which Somalia was a member did not gave damn about "hothead" Somalis killing "hothead" Somalis.

In short, Mogadishu became the gun capital of the world. It still is.

Specialists said that had the international community stepped in as soon as the former military dictator was ousted, the tragedy could have been averted, because the warlords were fighting over food rather than power, as they turned their artillery guns on the few ships that brought in emergency food aid. One of the Mogadishu warlords did not waste time to commandeer what little food aid brought in by Oxfam by air at the height of the famine to feed his own militia gunmen.

Then Air Africa, the only airliner that dared to fly to Somalia, despite the anarchy, cancelled its flight to Mogadishu when bullets from unidentified gunmen at the airport hit its fuselage.

Three groups of gunmen occupied the lucrative port and airport and in turn guard different zones. They often cream off as much as half of the food and demanded money to escort it to the feeding centers where at least one baby was dying every minute.

Even with the thugs escorting the food convoys, trucks were stolen just as they went through the port gate.

Nationwide, the people who suffered most are the minorities, such as the Bantus, the Rahan-weyn, the Bajunis, the Baravanis, the Hamaris, the Midganis and the Tunnis. These people lost everything they had owned, including their farms, their livestock and even their women. Typically, the big players in the clan war are former camel herders from the Central Province and Middle Shabelleh region. "Like locusts, they stripped the country of everything and massacred the people," said an old Rahan-weyn man who lost everything to the gunmen when they invaded Baidoa.

Hundreds were slaughtered and their homes and farms were burned, sparking the first Somali Bantu exodus to neighbouring Kenya where they thought they could easily blend with the Africans in Kenyans. Originally, Arab slave traders brought them to Somalia from Central Africa and Tanzania in the 17th Century. Many ended up in Somalia's fertile region when their wooden Arab dhows capsized off the Somali Coast. Others drowned in the turbulent Indian Ocean. No records of these harrowing human tragedy was kept, as Somalia itself (Benadir Region) was then under the rule of the Sultan of Zanzibar's administrator, Saeed bin Barqash, a man who spent most of his time counting and recounting the fake gold coins he received from Italian "explorers" as a kickback.

Going back to the talks in Kenya, it beats me why no action was taken against those elements who committed crimes against the Somali people? I recall the wordings in an email sent to me by Khalif Mohamed Diriye of Buffalo, Western New York during the opening ceremony of the talks in Eldoret. Khalif said: "Many Somalis at home and abroad believe that these warlords should have been airlifted to remote penal colonies, thousands of miles away. Better still, they should have been airlifted to Arusha War Crimes Tribunals to face charges against them. Only then Somalis will enjoy peace and stability."

The old adage: "Justice delayed is justice denied" has now become the norm in the international community.

It is Catch-22 situation.


To be continued ...

By M. M. Afrah©2003,
Email: afrah95@hot

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