of the odd things about my profession is that questions
came in waves. For weeks every other E-mail says:
"What is your tribe or clan?" Then "What's
wrong with the Somali warlords?" "What were
you doing in Somalia during General Barre's regime?"
Another familiar question is: "Why don't you
write about Somaliland. Is it because you are a Southerner,
number of emails from teenagers who were born or brought
to the Diaspora when they were still toddlers say
they were disappointed about their parents. For example,
15-year-old Hodan felt she was obliged to confront
her father about what has happened in Somalia and
why they fled their own home in Casa Popolare Estate,
South Mogadishu. "My father is reluctant to talk
about his track record in Somalia and why we fled
our own home," Hodan bemoans
one day she met a man who said he knew her father
personally during the heydays of General Mohamed Siyad
Barre. After a number of persuasive questions, eventually
the man confided to her that her father was high-ranking
official of the fearsome National Security Service
(NSS), but changed his name and clan on arrival in
Canada. He claimed at his immigration hearing that
he was member of a persecuted Midgan clan in order
to achieve refugee convention status in Canada.
dear Hodan, your father is not alone in this fiddle.
But why on earth would you even contemplate confronting
your father about his track record in Somalia? Don't
lose your beautiful sleep on these shadowy affairs.
After all he is your father and he doesn't have to
answer you about what he did or did not in Somalia
during his stint in the National Security Service.
Also, many of the current leaders, both in the South
and the North had served and kowtowed with the military
despot in one capacity or another.
to what happened in Somalia since the toppling
of General Barre's regime in 1991, I'll send
you a copy of my book "THE
SOMALI TRAGEDY, THE GANG RAPE OF A NATION,
free of charge, that's if you send me your mailing
the mushrooming clan-free Somali websites (at
least some of them) would give you clear images
of the murky situation in Somalia today and
what went wrong.
in Arizona who said he gets "kick" out of
my Talking Points, wanted to know which tribe or clan
I belonged to and what was my profession before coming
to North America? a) I do not belong to any tribe,
clan or political affiliation before or after the
country became independent in 1960. I am very confident
to say that I had outgrown all these bindings. You
too must try it. And I can assure you that your conscience
will be clean of this cancer called clan worshipping
and petty politics. And b) about my profession, I
became a scribbler or journalist with the courtesy
title of The Fifth Estate since the day I had graduated
in the 1950s. Since then I had earned my share of
journalist-bashing, several hours of nasty interrogations
at the notorious NSS headquarters, death threats,
kidnapping and defamation of character. We in the
profession utter that all these comes with the territory,
a professional hazard, if you will-- nothing to lose
a good night's sleep. We felt all these should not
intimidate us. As a result many of my colleagues lost
their lives while trying to cover very dangerous events
in conflict zones.
You might say journalists thrive in conflict zones.
It is our bread and butter!
I don't write about Somaliland, Puntland, Jubaland,
Banadirland, Maay Maayland etc. etc.? Well, the answer
is that I write about the Somali Peninsula as a whole,
with particular emphasis on the South where guns are
still blazing and where the warlords are still wrecking
havoc on the country long after the overthrow of the
military regime 13 years ago. This reminds me of Giuseppe
Garibaldi who refused to write anything about the
then Italian principalities "until Italy becomes
a mutually unified State." On the other hand
the Italian princes, like the Somali warlords, were
greedy and petty politicians who thrived on the splitting
up or balkanization of their country. Garibaldi was
considered as the hero and "sword" of Italian
unification through his movement "Giovani Italia"
or Young Italy.
asks: "What's wrong with the Somali warlords.
Why are you hard on them?" The simple answer
is: the warlords are war criminals, who, as I often
said before, should have been airlifted to the notorious
Devil's Island penal colony (Papillon) thousands miles
away, or better still to a war crimes tribunal, instead
of entertaining them at five star hotels in Nairobi,
paid by donor countries. As you and I know very well,
they turned the entire country into a disaster area-a
no-go area. These are not my sentiments. John Okulo,
a prolific Kenyan editorial writer for the popular
Daily Nation of Nairobi, inspires this gem. Thanks,
John. You hit the proverbial nail on the head. You
are right in a sophisticated society they would not
have escaped the hangman's noose.
reports say that Hotel 680 threw out all the faction
leaders/warlords for failing to pay their hotel bills
and are now on the verge of joining the homeless urchins
on the streets of Nairobi. Other report says that
the donor countries (the European Union, the Arab
League, the United States and others) had already
paid millions of dollars or Euros, but people in the
know say the money had ended up in the deep pockets
of the bigwigs. There were shouting and angry words,
and suddenly the lobby of the hotel was pandemonium.
It was a typical conclusion of all Somali gatherings,
the report said. It came to light that many of the
delegates accused key members of IGAD of misusing
(pocketing) donor funds.
an impromptu press conference, Kenyan Foreign Minister
Kalonzo Musyoka (Lonzo for people with little time),
said the latest drama revolves around 10 million US
Dollars bill the talks incurred, and the question
is: "who is going to pay?" Also, attending
at the press conference was Acting US Undersecretary
of State for African Affairs, Charles Snyder. Apparently
Mr. Musyoka wanted the Americans to play a robust
role in the Somalia quagmire. Perhaps he was hinting
to his American guest a second visit to Somalia, this
time with a different approach, even at a time when
comparison between Somalia and Iraq are being trumped
up by the American media. The comparison had irritated
many of us in the Third World media as cock-and-bull
to say, the problems of Iraq and Somalia are the exclusive
creation of father and son, (Bush senior and Bush
junior)--like father like son. I don't want to duel
again on the dramatized Black Hawk Down and the 18
American soldiers who met their death in Mogadishu.
But what about the hundreds of unarmed civilians who
were sprayed with machinegun bullets by the helicopter
gunners during that fateful day in South Mogadishu?
No mention was ever made either by Mark Bowden in
his book or the Hollywood movie of the 1993 carnage.
Of course, we had our own version of that heartbreaking
episode on this website in an attempt to close the
gap between reality and make believe fantasy. Because
I was there!
it was 2fast and 2furious for those who saw the movie
or read Mark Bowden's book. Sorry, I'm carried away.
going back to my inbox, there's a bright side among
the stream of emails, which ended up in my inbox last
week Liban Abdikarim (email@example.com)
Uncle Afrah, I am pleased to send you this email from
UK, several years after I sent you my first email.
How are you? I still read you pieces, the last being
on Human Rights abuses in Somalia. I am still based
in Manchester, northwest England. I am writing a paper
on the challenges facing the Somali community organizations
in Manchester. Several weeks ago I listened a radio
program on journalists in Somalia: You and Harun Maruf
were exchanging ideas about journalism in Somalia.
You have had the privilege to work in a free press,
media under dictatorship and journalism in a lawless
Somalia. No one can claim such experience. Very few
people may know that while in Eninigen in Germany
you challenged the editor of The Ethiopian Herald
(1966 to be exact--forgive me if I am wrong) who painted
a wrong picture about Ethio-Somali conflicts. Does
anyone remember the letter you wrote about Mogadishu
that has became "sanctuary for pretended beggars"
(The Somali News), nothing to say of your Friday Notebooks
and Talk of the Town in HEEGAN weekly.
sense of justice and Somaliness has never decreased,
that is why people trust your judgment. I always remember
you as someone who encouraged me to write. I would
like to write pieces for Banadir if the website needs
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Liban, Manchester (UK)."
Liban, I thank you very much from the bottom of my
old heart. Please rest assured, your email gives me
renewed oxygen in life and as you can see I had reproduced
the whole wordings of your encouraging email, without
a single coma left out. Please write your observations
about the Somali community in Manchester and I am
confident the Webmaster www.banadir.com
would post it under the title of Topic of
the Week, one of the popular columns.
a reader in Australia thanks me for using plain English
in my Talking Points and wishes if I could do the
same in Af-Soomaali, occasionally, "as a plus
for those of us who are still in the process of learning
the tricky English language."
M. M. Afrah©2004