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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 March 6th 1993., 1993


Today 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 in tow.

After 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 adversary."

We 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."

The 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 furiously.

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.

5.30 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.

Professor 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.

After 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 defeat.
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!"

Then, 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.

March 7th 1993
7.30 P.M.
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 surroundings.

WAR DIARY, 1991/1993.
…To be continued.

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