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Toronto (Canada)

May, 21. 2004


M. M. Afrah

One 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, Wanla-weyn?"

A 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

Then 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.

My 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.

As 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 address.

Also, 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.

Someone 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!

Why 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.

Another 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.

Incidentally, 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.

At 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 story.

Needless 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!

But it was 2fast and 2furious for those who saw the movie or read Mark Bowden's book. Sorry, I'm carried away.

Now 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 ( writes:

"Dear 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.

Your 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 columns.
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Liban, Manchester (UK)."

Dear 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 would post it under the title of Topic of the Week, one of the popular columns.

Lastly, 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."

By M. M. Afrah©2004

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