Monday, September 20, 2010 0 comments

Media wars in Somalia.

Mogadishu, September 19 - Al-Shabab militants early on Sunday morning seized another radio station in Mogadishu bringing to five the number of private radio stations they have confiscated since the start of the year.

This times round, it was not just another radio station but they went for the kill by confiscating radio and TV equipments belonging to HornAfrik Radio and TV station, the pioneer of private broadcast and TV station in Somalia. They did not stop there but also confiscated radio equipments belonging to its sister station called Capital Voice.

HornAfrik has also a working relationship with the global news agency Reuters, my former employers. Reuters buy's video footage from HornAfrik TV, also Somalia's first private TV station. They got away with a professional camera and a laptop belonging to Reuters and which was under the care of HornAfrik. Fortunately a B-gan, also belonging to Reuters was left behind by the gunmen who thought it’s a useless gadget!

After the Al-Shabab raid, its copycat Hizbul Islam group also decided to take over the Global Broadcasting Corporation GBC radio in a bid to outwit the Al-Shabab. The Somali media are again caught up in the middle of this battle to control the media by the two antagonist groups.

I spoke to a HornAfrik staff who was present during the 2:00am morning raid that involved 60 heavily armed Al-Shabab fighters at the station. Below is an excerpt from his interview describing the early morning raid. The staff’s name has been concealed for his own safety.

"They came around 2am this morning and knocked the main door. They were around 60 heavily armed Al-Shabab gunmen. One of our guards sought to know who was knocking that late, they ordered him to open the door threatening to kill if he did not heed their call. He had no option but to open it, they forced their way into the compound and beat him up before locking him into a room. They also beat up the second guard. They then went to look for another staff member who had the keys to all the rooms. They were well informed and knew what they want. I locked myself in another room praying all the time to Allah to protect me from them. It was a very nervous experience for me and I thank God for the protection,"

"They took away radio equipments for HornAfrik radio and television, its sister station capital voice as well as all the archived audio and video tapes. They also got away with a professional camera and a laptop belonging to Reuters news agency. Fortunately they threw away the B-gan thinking it’s a power supply,"

"The estimated total cost of equipment taken is estimated to be around US$200,000. This is a huge blow to our operation. HornAfrik was Somalia's biggest private media house and it will for sure have a negative effect in the Somali media in generation. Our station has been closed so many times by different factions but the equipments have never been seized until this morning. This is really a dark day in Somalia,"
Thursday, September 16, 2010 0 comments

The story of Somalia, Al-Shabab boys and drugs

Mogadishu, September 16 - I returned to the city of Mogadishu this morning for yet another reporting assignment. After spending the early part of the morning in meetings, I got an opportunity to meet a former Al-Shabab "tender" fighter aged just 14. He calls himself Abdi. The teenager is undergoing treatment at the AMISOM hospital.

His story is as baffling and intriguing as his former masters, the notorious Al-Shabab militant group.

Abdi is one of thousands of brainwashed boys who have been promised heaven on earth by men as old as their parents and who seem to have mastered the art of religious deception and specialize in sending these kids to unpopular war's while they enjoy in the backdrop of the unceasing violence that has now become synonymous with the Somali capital Mogadishu.

However, before I can tell you anything about his confused past. The boy had wounds all over his body and his right knee is so swollen, you'd think it will burst the next second. As any curious person would ask I was so touched by his plight and sought answers from the skinny boy who claims to originate from the insurgent-held area of Ali Kamin of Wardhigley district in north Mogadishu.

This is what I deduced from his conversation that lasted nearly an hour and a half most of which he kept himself busy doing insane stuff like pouring water on his body in his confused state of mind.

I must admit the boy is seriously suffering from a drug withdrawal. Don't ask me what drug he was on because that is what is baffling even the AMISOM doctor’s treating him.

Before I bore you with other finer details of Abdi’s state, below is his story according to his rescuers, AMISOM.

Abdi was caught in Mogadishu's Shangani district 5 days ago which recently witnessed one of the heaviest battles between the government supported by AMISOM peacekeepers and Al-Shabab. He was found confused largely due his swollen knee that was hit by one of flying shrapnel’s in the bloody battlefield never ment for kids, his entire body is full of wounds that covers most parts of his body including the head. When they asked him what happened to him all he could utter was "Al-Shabab"

The African Union peacekeepers rescued him and brought him to their hospital at their main base in southern Mogadishu near the main Aden Ade international airport. He has been undergoing treatment for several days now and although his wound has started slowly healing according to medics but is still in a state of shock and absent mindedness common with drug addicts.

He says he was drugged and forced to fight an enemy who have now turned to be his saviors.

"I don't know what drug they gave me. They often mix drugs with water. I felt good after taking the drugged water and took was given a gun and told to go and fight the enemy without even a proper training. I have really committed a bad sin. I have shot people... Now look at me. I am as good as dead, am dead. Please take me to my mum," he pleaded holding his swollen knee and looking really remorseful and sad.

This is the sad story faced by many other Somali boys, some even younger than Abdi. Allegations that Al-Shabab drugs their young fighters is the talk of the town in major Somali cities and elsewhere in the region. Ordinary Mogadishu residents who are tired of Al-Shabab's heinous acts will simply tell you: "Forget about these thugs, they drug their fighters and force youngsters to join them. Its not a secret,"

Does Al-Shabab really drug their fighters?

I sought answers from one of Mogadishu's resident. Its important to note that the people of Mogadishu have seen Al-Shabab growing over the years. Many of them helped this group to fight the warlords in mid 2006 and later to fight the Ethiopian troops. The overal belief then was that Al-Shabab was a good Islamic military group committed in bringing peace to Somalia. Many were wrong and have only came to realized their mistake later after Al-Shabab grew roots and was simply out of their league!

Al-Shabab originally grew over the years from a bunch of youths secretly led by anonymous commanders in hiding and who used to lead them via mobile phones. But today it has grown into a huge force with thousands of fighters and a major source of employment for many of the poor youths of Somalia. The militant group uses its financial clout to marshal resources and manpower for their own selfish gains.

Unfortunately, most of their fighters today are basically brainwashed kids like Abdi who have no clue of what war is, what religion is and basically follow the orders of their commander without daring to question them. Even they are told to go and kill their parents, they obidiently do so like robots!

"Al-Shabab deceives these boys. They drug them then promise them heaven on earth. The youths are trained in the bushes with AK-47 rifles, old anti-aircraft missiles and other Stone Age armaments. But when these boys are deployed in the battle field in big cities like Mogadishu and then they hear the heavy tank shells and other sophisticated armaments Many of them simply die in the battlefields while others go crazy and start running around as others simply go into shock," said a Mogadishu resident who has never fled the sea side city 25 years ago since he was born, raised, educated and married in the same city.

He is utterly concerned of his countries future, just like any sane nationalist would be worried.

"Its a pity, a whole generation of Somalia's future population is being completely wiped out,' he added in a low tone.

The verdict is yours.
Monday, September 13, 2010 0 comments

Somalia's human shield - Child soldiers and the civilian population

Nairobi, September 13 - There has been growing concern over the last few months about the ever-rising civilian casualties in the protracted war in Somalia. Mogadishu the capital, has been the epicentre of this bloody endless war that actually claims more innocent Somali civilians than the fighters themselves!
During last week's Eid Celebrations in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Hizbul Islam officials were seen praying in an open space surrounded by young armed men also saying their Eid prayers!

It might sound funny but believe me its very serious. What the AK 47 wielding young men most of who are actually child soldiers were simply doing is to provide cover for their commanders incase of any attack. In simple terms they were a human shield protecting their commanders from any surprise assault.

God forbid, should there have been an attack, the first to be hit would have been the boys while their big-bellied leaders would confortably have sped off. Its like the leaders were prepared for any eventuality because they even prayed with their shoes on!

Jokes aside, civilian casualties is a huge problem in Somalia. However, the answer to this pressing issue lies with the tactics used by the insurgents. They use the population as human shield hence endanger many innocent civilians.

There is a growing public resentment against the insurgents and its just a matter of time before the same public take's arms against their biggest tormentors who wrongfully use the religion to achieve their personal political ambitions.

Remember the warlords? They were ousted by layment some of who now claim to be Shabab and Hizbul islam commanders. If they continue transgressing against innocent civilians they should expect no mercy but the same treatment meted against the warlords

People have been pushed to the wall and its just a matter of time before they turn back. May Allah guide our lost brothers and peace prevail in Somalia, Amiin.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010 0 comments

Students perish again?

Three girls studying business administration at Simad Institute in Mogadishu died late on Tuesday after a roadside bomb planted by Al-Shabab went off killing them as well as other bystanders. The latest attack targeting civilians come's barely a week after two Al-Shabab suicide bombers stomed the Muna hotel and assasinated 35 people including 4 lawmakers. The 3 girls we driving in their college van when the attack occured. Two other public busses plying the same route also lost civilians as a result of the cowardly blast. This reminds me of the Shamow blast where the first ever medical graduates were simply waisted by A-Shabab. What I just want to know is until when will our students be perishing in the hands of these blood-letting gangs who seems to have no clue of what they are doing: This isn't Islam, someone should tell them please.