Thursday, September 16, 2010

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.