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Toronto (Canada)

22, FEB 2003

M. M. Afrah

Day in and day out there’s a heated argument that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which his regime is allegedly stashed away somewhere in Iraq, using mobile vehicles. And if you asked me if Saddam owns WMD, my answer would be: “I wouldn’t know. Let’s ask Hans Blix, the Swedish chief of the UN Weapons Inspectors on the ground.”

If there’s a war, any war, it should be in Somalia. An all out war to root out those who massacred hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians and in the process destroyed the once beautiful country.

We in this website as well as many other Somali websites tried to ignore the volatile Middle East politics, because for one thing, we have our own 12-year-old mess to clear up. However, one obvious message is that Weapons of Mass Destruction do not have a return address for those whispered initials, the CIA, to go after and track down the noxious booty.

By the same token international terrorists do not normally leave behind a THANK YOU note in the mean streets of New York City and Chicago for wannabe Sherlock Holmes as “a solid clue” left behind by “some Middle Eastern-looking terrorists”.

What many people in power seem to ignore is poverty, the greatest ill, the source of all evils. The many squeezed by the few in sprawling slums, ridden with crime, drug addiction, rape, hatred and all the evils in the book.

We vividly recall the Contra, General Noreiga’s double-dealings, the DEA, the Medellin drug barons, the Sandanists, the betrayals and the fatal covert operations in Central American countries aptly named Banana Republics.

I hope the Somali warlords are by now wise to this sort of behind the door dealings and wheeling by the sworn enemies of the Somali people. My readings is that these warlords a.k.a. faction leaders would be hanging out to dry as soon as these enemies of the Somali people achieve their ultimate goal—the demise of the Somali Peninsula.

At present the balance on the scale does not weigh on the warlords’ favour. They have upon their conscience the blood of the people they despised and massacred because they have been deafened by the thunder of their clan logic. Expedience became their religion in the pursuit of clan power. They have reached certain level in warlordism and tended to regard themselves as Somalia’s mandarins. That’s one of the reasons why they are anxious to maintain the status quo by all means.

When you’re a warlord you don’t give damn about anything. Whatever it is, bring it on. The powerful clan is behind you. And if by any chance you become the president of the country, it will be a banana skin under your designer’s shoes. Paranoia is already built under your skin.

Now, it bugs me why anyone would want to become the president of a country with a malicious half-life of its own, shallow graveyards and landfill in the cities and towns of sorrows?

But then the Somalis had been prisoners under one warden or another since independence more than 40 years ago. We waited sardonically, and even welcomed the new warden with songs and green branches (Somalia’s olive branch). But the new kid on the block changes colour as soon as he held the helm of power. He vehemently denies that he had ever made any promise in his election platform.

Our true vice is talk. We adore conversations and heated debates, now teasingly called Fadhi ku dirir even when our world is crumbling under our feet. Every step toward disaster must be accompanied by ten thousand words, the current talks in Kenya is no exception.

There’s, however, one bright side to the chaos. Many Diaspora Somalis who landed in war-torn Somalia at first felt unfriendly, nervous and terror-stricken. Why anyone would object his or her presence in the old country? They were quiet, of good appearance, well-mannered, well-dressed and spent their money freely and judiciously, indifferent to the rumors of the thriving kidnapping industry in Mogadishu. After all, they are as Somalis as the guy with the bazooka next door.

The new returnees discovered that a number of Somali Diaspora who arrived here before them have already installed a state-of-the-art communications system, the cheapest in the world, small but booming businesses, including cholesterol-free sesame oil factory (mainly for export to the West), construction material, as well as food processing and distillery of drinking water and soft drinks factories. In Somalia nobody talks about calories of cholesterol for obvious reason. Food is there to be eaten and money was ammunition and the act of committing it to chance was irrational, period.

It wasn’t what they had seen on TV or read in the Western newspapers. One aspect worth highlighting here, however, is that each business must hire fully armed private army to police the legitimate businesses. Then there are the watchers who watch the watchers. The new owners figured out they made back their investment dollars three times over, and that included the payoff to the private army and the watchers.

The private army at the gate frisked visitors as a matter of course. No weapons are allowed inside the perimeters of the factories. A UNDP (United Nations Development Program) official who recently paid a courtesy call to the Sesame Oil Factory owner said he was flattered and thrilled to be frisked for the first time in his life!

There had been few attempts in recent years to heist these businesses. An attempt to rob these business people is tantamount to committing suicide. No doubt Somalia is the world’s first privatized state where you could buy anything without a government to interfere. No customs, no tax collectors, no immigration officials, no GST, PST or VAT (Value Added Tax), no traffic cop to stop you for speeding and no questions are asked. If you can afford a Rolls Royce or Mercedes, drive a scooter or better still a battered FIAT. No Mooryaan worth his salt would pay attention to your battered FIAT jalopy.

All the merchants seek from life is to be allowed to manage their affairs without a government red tape. In fact they do not see in your mind's eye any government, democratic or otherwise.

The new returnees with their money immediately joined the fray and became the new riches. An old colleague of mine, a returnee from Sweden, has just laid the foundation stone for carton and plastic factory in the outskirts of the city. He said there’s a growing demand for cartons and reusable plastic shopping bags in Mogadishu. Recycling is the name of the game, he said.

That has been the experience of man like Jesow of Toronto, who against all odds opened a booming fishing industry in Somalia. Jesow took the risk of a taster.

Some of my readers might think that I am painting overly simple picture, but there are still some smiling sides in the city of open graves. When a drug-crazed militia gunman puts an AK-47 to your stomach, it’s a powerful argument. Still a dry run will do the tricks.

It’s a roller coaster with a risk.

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF SOMALIA will return next week.

M.M. 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 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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