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By M. M. Afrah 

Almost every merchant/businessman in Mogadishu retains a private army to protect his business from marauding gangs of looters and arsonists, locally known as Mooryaan. Members of these private armies themselves are cut adrift from the militia of the local warlords and were convinced that the grass was greener on the other side of the warlord’s fence.

There have been frequent skirmishes between these private armies and the TNG police force at the Bakaraha main market when the latter attempted to collect levy from the big merchants and petty traders. Several innocent bystanders were caught in crossfire, as both sides tried to destroy each other (the gunmen believe that there are no innocent bystanders in Somalia!).

Ironically, these are the same merchants who initially gave high-pitched praise to the head of the TNG and his colleagues after the Djibouti conference, hoping that Abdiqassim would be their new boy on the block. Now after almost three years, the intensity of their attack surely surprised those who witnessed their dramatic welcome after his return from the Arta conference.

As a matter of fact the big merchants immediately did untold damage to the dwindling economy of the country by flooding the markets with trillions of counterfeit currency. Those who are familiar with Abdiqassim say that he believed the last person to whisper in his ears.  This last person was said to be none other than Ali Khalif Galayr, the ousted Prime Minister of the TNG who was rumoured to have nurtured his own hidden agenda against the merchants of death.

“He doesn’t know where to place his trust,” our spy in Mogadishu reported, referring to the man who pledged to fight all the evils in Somalia, including shady deals.

In a stunning about-face, as soon as the honeymoon was over the merchants begun to openly attack Abdiqassim and his TNG for sending his starving recruits to the Bakaaraha. It is not the first time, of course, that the Mogadishu merchants praised their ally one moment and attacked him the next. These merchants, unlike the faction leaders, are concerned with more wealth than with the acquisition of territory.

Another case in point is the TNG’s futile attempt to reopen the main seaport and airport that the inhabitants dubbed as “Bloody Wednesday”. The account of the defeat ran like wildfire through the city.  Dozens of people died in the mêlée before the TNG recruits retreated to their camps to lick their wounds. The number of botched operations by the TNG goes on and on. But as was expected by many, the TNG quickly blamed the faction leaders, in connivance with the regime in Addis Abeba, for being obstructionists and for undermining peace and stability in Somalia.

On the other hand the faction leaders celebrated the TNG defeat with pomp and circumstance!

Meanwhile, the battle-hardened, well-paid, Qaad-chewing private army nourish an abiding hatred of anyone in the TNG, the faction leaders as well as the suffering population who are squeezed between this unholy tripod.

The merchants plan the operations behind the scene and the private army carries them out to the letter, period. Only in Mogadishu protection money works with satisfaction. The idea was for the private army to dug in around the huge market, with its network of narrow streets, and let the TNG to bring the battle to them. And it worked as planned, not by a silver haired general but the fat merchants.

 But watch out. Failure to pay the private army without delay means a sudden death out of the blue. Of course, the merchants knew all along that if these mercenaries are not paid promptly, they will fight for somebody else, with or without a cause – just for money to soothe and tame their Qaad addiction.

“I sure don’t want them on the other side,” remarked the owner of a newly opened sesame oil factory in Mogadishu.

Then there are the freelancers who do not recognize commands from anybody. No one has tell them what orders to follow. They are not committed to any politics or clans. They are insensitive, fearless and indifferent to fate.

By M. M. Afrah © 2002


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