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 banadir.com).
JOURNALIST'S DIARY ABOUT THE WAR IN MOGADISHU 1991/1992
WAR DIARY BY M. M. AFRAH 1991/1993
Beach March 6th 1993., 1993
we set out for our first meeting with Halima's father
who holed up in a cabin at the northern end of the beach.
With his daughter on the lead the old man sensed the nature
of our mission as soon as he saw us coming with his daughter
the usual greeting of Nabad (Peace), Sheikh Abdi cut through
the ice without the usual Somali formalities. When the
man unearthed his G-3, the deadly German assault rile,
my initial impulse was to turn away and run. After all,
what can be done for lovers in hell? We also began to
lose heart when the father started yelling at his daughter
at the top of his voice, repeating the words "whore"
and a "Midgan-lover," but we tried to hold onto
the Sheikh's motto: "Stay calm in the face of the
thanked our stars when the man returned the gun under
his makeshift bed. Finally, when he calmed down, the resourceful
Sheikh began to speak softly, opening pages from the Holy
Qur'aan in the process. He told him that all the great
religions of the world, including Islam, forbids us to
bind large groups of people into stereotypic-straight
jackets, even though stereotypes about various ethnic
communities do exist, we should try to see people as individuals
rather than bunch them all into one basket.
"By dismissing the young man on stereotypic lines,
you could be losing a valuable son-in-law. Each person
is a unique human being, created by God, each of us differently,
yet able to blend with the rest of humankind. It should
be the young man's personal qualities that are important
not his ethnic background."
This was the longest speech I had ever heard the Sheikh
ever made during my long acquaintance with him. I had
expected Halima's father to retrieve his gun again and
spray us with bullets, but he said quietly and slowly:
"I do no not intend to marry may daughter to a Midgan,
regardless of what you say."
girl's mother brought us cups of tea and merely stood
there, smiling, showing snow-white teeth despite her age.
Tradition does not allow her to sit at men's meeting,
neither is she allowed to express opinion, or make a bodily
contact, even to shake hands with any man other than her
husband or immediate family members. So our hopes lay
with the father who remained hostile and uncompromising.
"Think what my clan would say or do if word goes
around that I allowed my daughter to marry an outcaste?
Wars, famine and disease can cause anarchy in a country,
but they can't change what people think," he said
I nudged the Sheikh, a signal that the mission was a failure
and that we should call it a day.
"We are two-thousand-year-old men with the identity
crisis of a teenager," he told me as we left the
family with our tails between our legs.
"It is an endless sea of problem and questions that
nobody in Somalia can really answer," I said as we
crossed behind the old Lido Beach Nightclub, which caved
in like a house of cards, and now serves as public toilet.
P.M. -We skipped monitoring the BBC and the VoA for the
latest developments in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein's
regime after the Iraqi army was pushed out of Kuwait last
week by what the Americans call "coalition forces,"
hours after the Emir fled to Saudi Arabia, and instead
listened to what the professor had to say about his consultations
with other elders at the beach. We also listened to young
Yonis talk about his future with Halima and the dangers
that would be attached to their marriage in the absence
of her father's consent.
Elmi Noor looked straight in my eyes after we briefed
the group about our failed mission, and said: "It
is not like we thought it would be. The other elders I
talked to made the point that there is no hope of a normal
marriage ceremony being performed here, so they suggest
that the couple run away and marry either in Jawhar or
Warsheikh. They also suggested that Sheikh Abdi should
accompany them with three witnesses and perform the marriage
ceremony down there, if necessary.
Then the young man stood up and spoke in a loud voice
that could put a radio announcer to shame: "Why can't
the marriage ceremony performed right here, on the beach?"
The young man's point was well taken, but the Sheikh stood
up to speak. "According to Islamic marriage tradition
the wedding should be performed at least 90 kilometers
away from the residence of the girl's parents, that's
if they are still alive."
"But that is in normal times," I snapped back,
adding that the war destroyed everything we had cherished
in normal times.
a heated debate on the subject, we decided to put it to
a vote. We were all in favour of the ceremony to be performed
here, preferably late at night. Only the Sheikh had objected,
but he was obviously outnumbered and reluctantly conceded
Everyone at the beach was now acquainted with the details
of "Operation Elmi Bowdary", and our involvement
in the affair. The romance of the two young people and
the impending marriage provided juicy gossip for the entire
beach population, except the father of the bride-to-be.
We hoped. After cups of tea sweetened with honey provided
by the bridegroom-to-be, our chairman, Professor Elmi
Noor said: "The wedding must go ahead right in our
shack. After that I would advice the couple to hit the
road. Good luck!"
the question of what the nomads call "fara-qabsi"
(donation) for the couple as a start-up was raised, and
we all agreed to contribute what little we had in our
already shrinking pockets.
We wake up with the sound of random gunfire at the beach,
but one of the Rahan-weyn nomad-turned-fisherman, said
they are the Cir-tookte (sky shooters) who test-fire their
newly acquired guns. It seems a mini arms bazaar was set
up on the beach overnight for the first time. We anticipated
that a fighting could erupt any time in our hitherto peaceful
BY M. M. AFRAH©
To be continued.