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Toronto (Canada)

7th November 2001

M. M. Afrah

Because of you we have been on the run for more than ten years. Many of us ended up where we were not wanted because of the colour of our skins or our peculiar way of life distinct from the Western way of life. We tend to speak loudly in countries where people whisper when talking to each other in the subway, in the streetcar, in the elevator and even in their own homes. We refuse to stoop low to accept unfair treatment from our landlords and supervisors at work or teachers at schools. Unlike other ethnic groups in the Diaspora we'd rather starve than accept demeaning jobs, like toilet cleaning, snow shoveling, window cleaning or garbage picking. We do not mean harm, but it is not in our nature to be pushed around under any circumstance. However, the crime rate among the Somali community in Toronto is almost zero compared to crimes committed by other ethnic communities, according to Statistics Canada published here. But if you ask a Somali if he was happy living thousands of miles away from home he/she will tell you "absolutely no." He/she will tell you that he/she would go back home as soon as conditions returned to normal there.

It is worth repeating here a poem by a 15-year-old Somali girl who took part in her school poetry competition in Toronto (Canada):

"I came from another country
I wear scarf
I look different
I don't belong here
People look at me
And I know what they say
Weird girl
From another country
Wears scarf
Doesn't belong here
Who am I?
And why I am here?
Take me away
From this place
I don't want to be
Where I don't belong
I want to go home
To Mogadishu."

(I adopted the title of her poem "FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY" for my forthcoming book).

We have been on the run because you destroyed our beloved country, killed our relatives, destroyed or appropriated our homes and farms, looted the Central Bank, put historical edifices and museums to the torch, stole underground water pipes, electrical and telephone wires and incinerated the National Archives. Your militia destroyed our factories and pulled down the national monuments and sold them as scrape metals to Asian entrepreneurs in the Emirates who mixed them with gold. They in turn exported this deluded gold to the sub-continent where they sold them as jewelry.

You kept those who were unable to escape the inferno as hostages to the gun. These are the same people (YOUR OWN) who enthusiastically welcomed you after you succeeded in dislodging the military dictator in 1991 (I was there to cover the event for an international news organization). People were very jubilant, singing and dancing in the streets, hoping against hope that you would put the guns down and form a broad-based government of national unity. We have long prided ourselves as a nation of "welcomers".

1. We welcomed our hard-earned independence with the song "Kanna siib kanna saar" 40 years ago.

2. We welcomed the military coup de etat and Scientific Socialism with new revolutionary songs.

3. We welcomed you in 1991, again, hoping that the transition will be smooth, after suffering in the hands of military dictator and the civilian regimes that preceded them. But things went from bad to worse. It has become Dante's Purgatory. You turned your guns on each other and destroyed everything as if they were the properties of General Barre. Each one of you was obsessed with the office of the Presidency - to fill the vacuum. You believed the old adage that the end justifies the means. We haven't got a clear idea of when this will come to an end. Nobody does. But the ball is in your court.

4. Again some of us welcomed the Arta Group over a year ago. But it seems they're no better than you guys are because they failed to deliver the goods as promised. However, they blame you for obstructing their effort to restore peace and stability in the country. Why did you turn down President Moi's recent invitation for a peace conference in Nairobi? Instead you all run to Addis Ababa. WHY? I understand your stated position that the ARTA Group should attend the Nairobi conference as another faction. But would that make any difference? Since we all know that past peace talks never bore fruits why don't you try and have a go at this one too? If it fails like the previous 12 peace talks, I am sure no one will blame you. But by refusing to attend on flimsy excuses, the table would be turned on you and you would certainly be branded as anti-peace efforts in Somalia. Are you scared of your past records? Or to return the properties you had expropriated? Or a war crimes tribunal (see Africa Watch June 1999)? Rest assured for you are not alone because almost everyone in Somalia has at one time or another had committed human rights human rights violations in his own way. However, it is hard to ignore this fact in our turbulent history. But people I talked to say what is past is past and there is a great deal more that will be required of the current crop of leaders, whether they are the faction leaders or the TNG in Mogadishu.

Perhaps our readers would like to take over at this point.

Send your comments/suggestions to:
M.M. Afrah, Toronto (CANADA)
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