1, March 2003
THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THE SOMALIA CONFLICT
M. M. Afrah
Toronto to Jesira
An old Chinese proverb says, "Give a hungry man a fish
but it is still better if you teach him how to catch that
In the latest chapter of Somalia's long, but futile battle
to resuscitate the collapsed economy in the middle of lawlessness
and bloodshed, seemed a "no go area". The Somali
entrepreneurs tried hard to make a breakthrough in the field
of communication; import and export but it did not ease the
economic downturn in the war-ravaged country, mainly because
they failed to diversify their business ventures. This compounded
with the arrival in the country of counterfeit currency that
made it impossible for merchants to boast their businesses
in a big way.
However, the curse did not have an impact on Mohamed Ali Jesow,
a Toronto Accountant, who in spite of all the bad news emanating
from Somalia, often travels to his native country to supervise
his thriving fishery company, The Siamo Fishing Company located
in the spectacular Siamo Beach near Barawe, south of Mogadishu,
the Somali capital.
"Despite the unending tragedy, one could embark upon
fisheries, among other projects if one tries harder and thinks
big," said Jesow in a recent interview.
He said he had commenced his company in 1995 with an investment
capital of $25,000. Today the company employs 40 permanent
workers and an equal number of seasonal workers and generates
gross annual profit of $100,000.
He complained that the Somalis paid scant attention to the
rich and unpolluted marine life in our territorial waters
that stretches from Ras Kiamboni in the Indian Ocean to the
Red Sea, "because we have been busy killing each other
for no apparent reason."
He stresses that if we could change the lifestyle of our people
many foreigners, who now scorn the name Somalia, would wonder
how these Somalis got this bright idea after centuries of
harsh nomadic life and feuding.
BUYING FISH FROM THE TRESPASSERS
Many of us buy imported tinned fish from Italy, Japan, Korea
and Russia without thinking that the same fish was stolen
from us. The fishermen of these countries practically vacuum
clean our territorial waters by using factory trawlers with
impunity. Worse, organized crime syndicates, including the
Mafia, taking advantage of the conflict, dump toxic waste
on our hitherto unpolluted territorial waters. And when Somali
gunmen apprehend the ships and crew of these violators, the
foreign press describes them as "pirates". Reuters
news agency recently questioned what a mystery ship, Princess
Sarah, was doing hanging around the Somali shore for two days
before Somali gunmen finally detained it. Ironically, the
Western press continues to describe the detention of these
poachers as "hijack" purely for "commercial
purpose." The United Nations International Law of the
Sea is being swept under the carpet!
Reuters quotes one authoritative source as saying; "maybe
the crew of Princess Sarah were trying to land something and
one of the rival factions didn't like it. Maybe arms, maybe
something else." These something else could be toxic
waste or weapons or both.
Now one wonders why people blessed with Africa's longest coastline
(3000 km) rich in marine resources should be victims of vicious
circle of man-made famine and drought.
"The simple answer is that the majority of our people
are unaware of our rich marine assets. And as nomads they
disapprove the idea of eating seafood which they consider
as repulsive and disgusting," Jessow said. He said we
run to the capitals of those who illegally fish and violate
the International Law of the Sea for a handout when the going
A RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING
Admittedly, lots of competing clan leaders (or warlords) are
at each other's throat, encouraging their militia gunmen not
to lift a finger to help boast food production, except of
course to shoot unarmed civilians and expropriate large tracts
of farmland and prime real estates whose owners fled the country
at the outbreak of the civil war. Others work in their own
farms as slave labours for people with guns.
Beaming with nationalistic pride in his highly decorated office,
Jesow, a holder of BSC, MSA degree from the Oklahoma City
University said Somalia, with its turquoise waters and lonely
beaches, like granules of snow-like sugar could be a haven
for sun-starved tourists from cold climate, bringing in much
needed revenue. To prove his point he proudly displays on
the walls of his Bloor Street West office colourful posters
depicting lonely beaches and tiny islands full of fauna and
flora. One breathtaking spot is the Jesira Beach with its
miles and miles of unspoiled beaches, strewn with shiny pebbles
The photograph of a giant blue marlin that could win a gold
medal in sport fishing is conspicuously displayed on one wall
of his office.
"It is within ourselves that we will find the path of
success," he said with conviction, saying he would keep
the spirit going and project Somalia's image in Canada and
the world at large.
That's a resolution worth keeping. NO MORE HORROR STORIES
Afrah © 2003
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
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