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Toronto (Canada)

22th November 2001

M. M. Afrah

This article is intended for non-Somalis in answer to the frequent misrepresentations of the Somali people by the West and their collaborators, like Ethiopia and some Arab and African countries yearning to be praised by the Americans as "Good guys". This make--believe or sham, if you will, started in the 19th century when Britain's Royal Air Force used the first Arial bombardment in Africa against Somali insurgents opposing colonial rule.

That's when the anti-Somali shrill began. Then the colonialists invented words like Mad Mullah, Sufist Fanatics, Muslim Fundamentalists, and Muslim Terrorists. Paradoxically, you will never hear words like Christian terrorists, Hindu Fundamentalists, American Militia (trying to overthrow the US government), the Christian South, the Ku Klux Klan burning the cross in front of African-American dwellings in the United States or Jewish Fundamentalists. Timothy MacVie, the bomber of Oklahoma City building in which more than 300 people died was never disclosed which organization he belonged to. Of course the FBI knew all along that he belonged to a white Christian extremists in the south of the US. The Christian Coalition refused to condemn this heinous act. Oops! It is just another cover up. Edgar Hoover would have turned in his grave!

Although the Somalis were intensely conscious of their independent nationhood, until the country fell into the hands of a military despot and warlords, they also traditionally prize their Arabian ancestry; and this is in keeping with their strong adherence to the Muslim faith. Of course they were aware that not all Arabs are Muslims, yet they maintained their commercial and religious ties with the Arab world for centuries. They believed in peaceful co-existence with other races and religions. Thousands of foreign nationals, including Arabs, Asians, Italians and a sprinkling of Anglo-Saxons were engaged in thriving commercial activities in big cities, like Mogadishu, Seila'a, Berbera, Hargeisa, Kismayu, Merca and Brava. The Somalis also tolerated other faiths, including Christianity. Africa's biggest and oldest Roman Catholic cathedral is in close proximity with Arbaca Rukun Mosque in the heart of Mogadishu, the capital.

This fact contrasts a statement made by a British colonial officer at the end of the 19th Century who said: "Don't go to Somalia, but if you go in don't stay there too long."

One often hears the bells of the cathedral striking the hours while the Muezzin climbs the stairs of Arbaca Rukun Mosque to call the faithful for prayers! Where else in the world can you find a place like that? But that was then. The cathedral is now in ruins and many mosques have been vandalized or were hit by artillery shells during the brutal civil war that drags on and on for more than a decade.

Many people blame the military despot for sowing the seeds of discontent among the Somali clans. Settling of old scores is the order of the day. As a result people flee from one battle zone to another only to be shot by snipers on rooftops.

"We have our own home grown terrorists to worry about. We have no time for international terrorists, Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda," the American news agency Associated Press (AP) recently quoted a Somali businessman in Mogadishu's sprawling Bakaaraha Market.

Other historians blame the colonial competition between Britain, Italy, France and Abyssinian expansion in the 18th Century that paved the way for the current turmoil in Somalia. Ethiopia, a landlocked country, still continues to dream an ancient dream dreamed by Menelik and by Emperor Haile Selasie, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam and now by the current Tigrean regime in Addis Abeba. The regime in Addis regard the current terrorist scare in the World as a golden opportunity to rise their centuries old anti-Somalia shrill even louder, hoping to gain financial assistance from the Americans and win the old label of "good guys" against the "bad guys."

In 1897 France, Italy and Britain all signed treaties with Ethiopia curtailing the extent of their Somali possessions to dimensions acceptable to Emperor Menelik. For France and Britain other wider issues were at stake, the principal concern being the rivalry for control of the Nile, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and the defeat of the Mahdists Sudan.

Now in the 21st Century the same tune is being played with Ethiopia as the lead singer once again. It is about time that Somalia and Ethiopia move few steps away from this shibboleth and talk peace. After all you cannot choose your neighbour.

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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