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Talking Point
By M. M. Afrah, Toronto (Canada)

I have never been so offended as I was by dozens of emails from Isaaq clansmen in the Diaspora who unjustly branded me as "Just Another Southerner who woefully failed" to go deep into the crimes committed by the Barre regime in the 1980s/1990s against the Isaaq people.

I am not tainted with the virus of tribalism, rather I am one who focused on the human rights of the Somali people wherever they are, with particular emphasis on the events that took place both in the South and Northwest.

In my present and past writings I recognized and respected the dedication, dignity and devotion of the Isaaq people and their desire to live in peace and stability, while guns are still smoking in the rest of Somalia. But to poke a joke and try to distort my last TALKING POINT by people who claim to be "Isaaq patriots" is unacceptable and warrants hard-hitting talkback. To stoop so low as to brand me as Just Another Southerner, shows up a crude mean-mindedness on the part of these "Isaaq patriots" in the Diaspora. In the civilized world it is called character assassination, but as one who has gone through the "mills" more than once, I consider such negative criticism as pointless as chalk lines in water.

Journalist bashing is common phenomenon, especially among many Somalis. No wonder many of my colleagues gave up the profession as very hazardous and thankless. A former colleague in Sweden said he gave up journalism "because I cannot please everyone" he said. He now writes children's books in his adopted country.

It is difficult to be more concise in summarizing the root cause and who was responsible for the destruction of Hargeisa and the death of thousands of its inhabitants unless one was close to the source. The truth is that when the Hawiye pilots of the disintegrated Somali Air Force refused to carpet bomb Hargeisa, the Barre regime hired white Rhodesian mercenary pilots to do the job, which they did mercilessly. One Abgal mig-19 pilot by the name of Ahmed Hassan (Ahmed Gaal) dropped his deadly bombs on the mouth of the Red Sea, instead of dumping them on Hargeisa. Then this courageous young pilot landed his mig-19 bomber at Djibouti Airport where the Belgian Government in Brussels eventually granted him a refugee status. He is still living in Brussels and deserves the highest award ever given out to persons who saved humanity from the jaws of death.

And in Mogadishu the answer to Siyad Barre's nationwide call to join the army was: "Dalkaaga daafac diidi mayo, Isaaq se ku duuli maayo" by the Abgal clan. Then the regime press-ganged people to be drafted into the demoralized army that led to the death of many young people who have been shot by the Red Berets as they tried to escape the dragnet. The same Red Berets summarily executed a number of draft dodgers behind the Xalane Boot Camp in Mogadishu. Some of these were students at the defunct Somali National University. I happen to know one of them personally. This was 1970s/80s when even Suleyman Gaal, Silanyo and most of the present crowd worked for the Revolutionary Government.

As you and I know very well that to disobey orders in "Revolutionary" Somalia was tantamount to committing suicide. In the 1970s when almost everybody was toeing the revolutionary line, only one man, the highly respected playwright and songwriter, Mohamed Warsame Xadraawi, defied the Revolutionary government. He refused to toe the line by depicting in one of his famous plays, a play about a despot who tested the loyalty of his subjects by pointing to a camel and calling it a horse, his people were too afraid to contradict him. Though Siyad Barre himself often said that government depended on the truth, what matters was that the people do not dissent from what their rulers tell them, even if it is not true. Xadraawi was sent to a very remote corner of the country to serve years in captivity, incommunicado and without trial, after producing another "anti-revolutionary" play in Mogadishu. Those who are old enough will certainly recall this episode which was secretly celebrated in the country by people who have not even see the controversial play and dubbed it as "Xadraawi Versus the Regime". We journalists representing international news organizations were forbidden to see him or to send any story pertaining to his captivity - a complete news blackout.

The majority of the present leaders, whether in the Northwest or in the South heaped praises on the achievements of the "blessed" October Revolution, singing "Ceynaanka hay, Weligaa hay". No wonder, the current crop of leaders insist that it is necessary to call a camel a horse in order to test the loyalties of clan members, win their support and enrich themselves in the process. It is back to square one, and trying to contradict them is like dancing with death! Apparently the Warlords, who are mainly former army officers, had learned a lot from their erstwhile Master of Manipulations.

One email from a Somali student in Australia was upset for rewriting the history of Somalia and asked why I wanted to talk about "all that old stuff, all the anti-Barre garbage when you know that the warlords are the real butchers of the Somali people?"

One man who writes from Italy (Hi Ahmed!) said he had recently paid a frighteningly short visit to Mogadishu. "I was afraid to open my eyes in the morning. Somalia is becoming more like Dante's Purgatory. But some people succeed there not because they're talented, but because they can easily deploy heavily armed militia at a short notice in a bid to kill people they perceive as their enemies," he lamented. "By prolonging the armed conflict the Warlords are transporting Somalia back to the stone age", he added.

A woman who goes by the name of Zam-zam in San Antonio, Texas in the United States, castigated me for failing to name names, such as Morgan, Gaani, Jess, Gabyow, Ahmed Suleiman Dafleh and Buluq-Buluq who she said were responsible for the death of thousands of innocent civilians in Hargeisa, Mogadishu and Kismayo. She said that it was Buluq-Buluq who hired the white Rhodesian mercenary pilots who destroyed Hargeisa. She said, like Siyad Barre, all these men are from the Darod clan "bent on destroying the Isaaq and the Hawiye".

Well, dear readers, I had recorded all these events, including the mass executions of Isaaq tribesmen living in Mogadishu at the Jesiira Beach at the height of the SNM rebellion in my news dispatches and in my first book "Target: Villa Somalia", which unfortunately is out of print now. However, I plan to reprint it in the very near future. I was the only journalist who was fortunate to interview the lone survivor of that massacre carried out by the Red Berets and the NSS at the crack of dawn. The mass graves are there for anyone to discover.

Writing from Sheffield in England, one man had one last question: "What is your tribe?" he asks. I could just say I belong to one of the clans who are responsible for the circle of violence in Somalia, but that would be cagey and somewhat evasive. However, there is no need to agonize over that question. A cold logic dictates the answer pronto: "I am a Somali regardless of what some will think, and I believe Somalia will survive one way or another". Just like every peace-loving Somali I am hoping miracles to happen, that's if you still believe in miracles.

Speaking of mass graves in Somalia, I urge the UN War Crimes Tribunals in The Hague and Arusha to investigate the carnage in Somalia as they did to the genocide in Bosnia committed by Milosovic in the Balkans and the Hutu Interhamwe murderers in Rwanda against the Tutsi minority. At the same time I urge the UN International Law of the Sea and the Green Peace to investigate the Mafia crime syndicates who repeatedly dump toxic waste on the Somalia coast with impunity. Something must also be done to the foreign trawlers who illegally vacuum clean the marine resources in our territorial waters.

These illegal activities must cease immediately in compliance with the United Nations International Law of the Sea. It is a matter of life and death.


By Mohamoud M. Afrah 2002

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