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(This is the first diary of war by a veteran Somali Journalist 1990/1992-a war fought under the merciless Somalia sun in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of military dictator, Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre from power after ruling the country for more than two decades with an iron fist.
Like any great-war diary, the force of the talent behind it makes it forever timeless. This is the brutal expose' of the rotten core of a country ruled by ruthless, bloodthirsty warlords, their sinister power and barbaric acts that divided the Somali people along clan, sub, sub-clan lines. Mr. Afrah wrote the Diary (slightly edited with new material) before the international task force spearheaded by the Americans stormed the beaches of Mogadishu on December 9, 1993--
The Webmaster


WAR DIARY BY M. M. AFRAH 1991/1993

Lido Beach January 25th 1993


Late in the afternoon I went to the city center against the advice of the professor. Then I went into Digfer General Hospital and found it in chaos, overflowing with seriously wounded persons and roughly bandaged outpatients. "The dead are being carried out to the back of the hospital to be buried in shallow graves, temporarily," Battula Omar, one of the exhausted nurses told me.
"Some have been in street accidents, mostly they seem to have been hit by flying bullets," said Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, one of the five doctors who decided to remain at the hospital despite the shooting spree, as he removed a bullet from the thigh of an old man. He said non-Hawiye doctors and nurses left the hospital and fled the city in the immediate aftermath of the civil strife, fearing for their own lives. The doctor laments that there is no anesthesia, antibiotics, or simple things like alcohol, bandages and anti-bacteria solutions. And the generators run out of fuel three weeks ago. He said the doctors perform operations with the help of candlelight and hurricane lamps. He said the Mooryaans bring in their wounded comrades and force the doctors to treat them at gunpoint. Many of the wounded gunmen keep their weapons under their hospital beds, ignoring the NO WEAPONS signs conspicuously displayed at the gate and at the main entrance.

In Mogadishu there appears to be no reason for most of the shootout. Indeed, one series of accidents I ran into on my way to the hospital tender to show that these Mooryaans just weren't to be trusted with weapons. Most of them press the trigger merely for show off, which often starts a chain reaction. Men who heard the shot would start firing their own weapons, to make their presence felt, with the result that shotgun bullets began flying around an area, ricocheting off walls, smashing windows and hitting an unlucky non-combatant, who was just trying to scavenge for food or drinking water for his starving family.

An armed Mooryaan is not a man to be trifled with.

The physical hazards of remaining in the city grew as the Mooryaans got their hands on Qaad or marijuana. The later was not mentioned in Somalia previously. The small time gangsters and the former camel herders from the Central Province and Mudug, now taking over Central Mogadishu, are organized ingenious. Some took up positions at intersections and the ransacked thriving commercial district of Hamar-weyne, carting away anything that is not nailed down.

After looting anything of value, their targets are telephone and electric wires and water mains to be sold as scrape metals to burgeoning merchants. Then came the time of the National Monuments. The National Museum, the banks, schools, the National Theatre, the Electricity Agency, cinema houses, the police headquarters, Villa Somalia, the Presidential Palace, the new Parliament, Radio Mogadishu and the Police Headquarters nearby have been ransacked mercilessly. Even mosques and other worshiping places, such as the Solidarity Mosque at K-4 and the imposing Roman Catholic Cathedral in the center of the city did not escape the wide scale devastations.

It is 4.30 P.M. At that hour I was planning to return to Lido Beach, my home turf. Just then armed teenagers on gun mounted Land Cruisers begin shouting the words: "Soo Dhacyeey! Soo Dhacyeey!" Speeding through the smoking ruins of the city, the shouting reaches high point.

It happened that shooting and looting spree stopped altogether and every gun-man rushed to the newly restored Sinai open air market, with everyone ignoring the ravaged city and the men with their heads blown off, their women and children lying dead beside them, and for the first time, the city is eerily quiet. Only the announcement and the reverberations continued, which become unbelievably piercing.

This was the announcement on the arrival of that sordid habit forming narcotic drug called Qaad or Jaad and cigarettes, which is flown in daily from Nairobi by light aircraft hired by merchants closely related to the faction leaders. Thus, the exodus to Sinai is gathering momentum, with every gunman trying to get hold of the freshly arrived Qaad and cigarettes. There are often as many as ten armed youngsters in each vehicle with their forefingers on the trigger of their machineguns ready to shoot.
Sinai is humming with activity and excitement at the arrival of Qaad. The road leading down the market is already lined with customized armed vehicles stopping with each equally armed youth quickly alighting to grab a bundle or two of the drug. I can't believe what I am seeing. While the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are starving to death for lack of food and water these gunmen are spending thousands of dollars on drug and cigarettes imported from Kenya.

At that hour I decided I had seen enough and I wanted to go back to what we now call home, only to be stopped by a middle-aged and heavily bearded man who gave me the first smile in ages. Seeing I could not make him out, he started to introduce himself to me, still smiling. He turned out to be one of my colleagues at the defunct State Printing Agency (Wakaaladda Madbacada Qaranka). With a bushy beard and attired in an army surplus jacket and an AK-47 in his left hand, he just looked like one of the aged gangsters who joined the murderous Mooryaans in later life. No wonder I could not recognize him. He said he now works as chief bodyguard for one of the Qaad and cigarette merchants in Sinai, and asked me to join him for a late night Qaad session "for old time's sake." I told him thanks, but no thanks, as I had never tasted the stuff in my life. After we compared notes, he offered me a ride to Lido in one of the ubiquitous gun-mounted Land Cruisers, which he said he owns it along with three others.

As we negotiated with the rubble-strewn streets, my former colleague said: "Our town's business is war, Qaad and cigarettes. It produces nothing but death. To exist, therefore, it must relay on others. Food, clothing-even the weapons of destruction are shipped in. General Aideed's and Ali Mahdi's only concern is to protect their strongholds." He said the two men are sworn enemies, and the general calls Ali Mahdi the "self-styled" leader of the "voracious" merchants of Mogadishu, using the familiar term of "Afar-jeebleh." Ali Mahdi on the other hand calls Aideed "the Mad General."
"Both men are jerking the country around in the process," my former colleague whimpered but did not shed tears.
I asked him if there is going to be the possibility of a healing process sometimes in the future. "As things stand now, I have my own doubts, and if I were you I wouldn't bet on it. It is a political earthquake," he said. I thought that, with his love of words, he should perhaps join us at the beach!

But then a man who owns four land cruisers and earns hefty salary from his new masters would not stoop so low as to join starving displaced persons who survive on occasional handouts from the Red Cross.

He said that the struggle to dislodge General Mohamed Siyad Barre has taken a deadly down turn, and there is nothing to stop these young predators and their godfathers from annihilating the country and wiping out the people. "The country will either rebound or wither," he said.

On arrival at the Beach the inhabitants become panicky when they saw me alight from the dreaded gun-mounted vehicle with heavily bearded gunman at the wheel! But I assured them that nothing will happen to them and that life must go on.

M. M. AFRAH'S WAR DIARY 1991/1993©
To be continued…

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