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Toronto (Canada)

08th Jan. 2002

M. M. Afrah

The message that there can be no peace without justice and no justice without forgiveness was the theme of this year's World Day of Peace. And in the Vatican Pope John Paul last weekend said that violence in God's name was never justified and that a "Cry of Blood" in the Holy Land must persuade Christians, Muslims and Jews to seek peace.

Sweet words, indeed. But the frail old Pope did not say who is committing injustice against whom.


Close to home, Ethiopia's pressure on Washington to attack Somalia, a country that's still in the intensive care unit seems to evaporate in thin air.

"We are not fools. We're of course aware of Ethiopia's hidden agenda," an American official in Nairobi was quoted as saying. He said that Washington was concerned about Al-Qaeda's link with Somali groups, including Al-Itahaad and Al-Islaah. "But we are not jumping the gun in Somalia at the moment."

Then Ethiopia took matters in its own hands by sending troops across the border for the upteenth times. Shaatigaduud, one of the warlords made famous by the clan warfare, had the guts of telling the press that the invasion was part of a "demobilization process." (That's if you believe him).

Baidoa, the epicenter of frequent Ethiopian invasions in the past is highly explosive and dangerous. The latest invasion could lead to the situation spiraling out of control, said a Somali reporter who visited the town, adding that several members of the Rahan-weyn Resistance Army (RRA) threatened to dislodge Shaatigaduud and launch a guerrilla warfare against the invaders.

Here's a dilapidated Isuzu van driving around Baidoa with a sticker that would raise a wry smile in many places in the world. "Don't shoot," it says, "the Somali warlords do not like competition." The driver-cum-gunman said the message is intended for the invaders.

Diplomats in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi predicted that the menage a la trois (the warlords, the Ethiopians and the visiting American officials) did not induce the men in State Department, the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA. They have been musing often as to what the Ethiopians and their proteges were up to. Maybe they were trying to pull a fast one, by playing Afghanistan's Northern Alliance in the Horn of Africa in order to take over power from the beleaguered Arta Group with the help of the Americans and their allies.


I asked this question before and I'll ask once again. Are there Al-Qaeda terrorist cells and training camps in Somalia? I do not know and I wouldn't even bet my worthless Shilling on it.

My colleague Nuruddin Farah said that there are more terrorist cells in Rome, Paris and London (than in Somalia).

I also recall the words of an American journalist who wrote that Osama bin Laden would stick out like a sore thump in Somalia.

Somalia is not a country where you could build tunnels, caves and canyons, if we count out Golis Range, Gacan Libaax and Buur Hakaba. It is not a country where you could build a stout wall and a castle on a hill so you could roll down rocks on your enemies or unbidden strangers. Of course guns are galore and more saturated than in Afghanistan. But these weapons are for the Somalis to kill each other (you might say they are for home consumption only) and nobody in the world gave damn about Somalis killing each other. In fact, foreign gunrunners have been doing a thriving business and are smiling all the way to the banks.

I am aware that President Daniel arap Moi is panicky about guns and lawlessness spilling over into his country from Somalia. I would say "Pole Mzee". But Mr. President, you must also understand that your other neighbours, Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda too have been contributing to the spillage with impunity. I feel I know you so well in a way, and I don't know anything about you at all in another. For example, while you were hosting the Somali peace talks in Nakuru weeks ago, you ordered your police force to crack down on Somali refugees in your country. Being a refugee is a dreadful thing, and so is hosting a peace conference for people who are not seriously interested in peace in their own country. It's like dealing with pandemic conflict on a school playground. It is very tough gig, so tough that even seasoned Hollywood movie producers and directors would get heart attack trying to film the an ending tragedy that is Somalia. But for the life me I could not fathom why you ordered the crack down on people who fled their own country for obvious reasons. The war-weary refugees were actually welcoming the peace talks, so that they could return home. In fact they were praising your painstaking efforts to bring the participants to their senses and talk peace. They were waving the national flags of our two countries and placards with the words "PEACE NOW" and "THANK YOU PRESIDENT MOI". It was a peaceful demonstration. But the Kenya Police were very eager to use their Gestapo tactics in the name of law and order.

I shudder to think of my reaction if I was among those poor souls who were forced to pay TKK to the Police. The Kiswahili acronym is toa kitu kidogo, give me little something (bribe) or else…

Those who failed to cough up the TKK are conveniently thrown in small cells they shared with hardcore criminals and drunkards. To say that the Somali refugees in Kenya are treated as humanly as possible in accordance with the 1952 Geneva Convention on Refugees would be one of the vaster understatement of all time.

Remember even Albert Einstein was a refugee.

Mr. President, the overwhelming majority of the Somali people are hungry for peace, justice and forgiveness. Despite your noble efforts, peace is any closer in Somalia, because a war-planing key member of IGADD is breathing hot upon the Americans to attack Somalia. Which takes me back to the theme in the beginning of this commentary: THERE CAN BE NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE AND NO JUSTICE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS.

We shall overcome!

M.M. Afrah © 2001


Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two decades".

Many of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in the country. He received several death threats from the warlords and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction to Reuters news agency. He still is!


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