Monday, December 25, 2006

The Reappearance Of Siyad Barre's Henchman

By Raagsale Danguri

It was a unique Friday's prayers session. It was late the second half of October; 2006.It was the last days of the blessed month of Ramadan in which the Holy Koran descended. It was wet and windy day. The torturing cool winter winds were blowing through the wide-open door of the mosque. The mosque was fully packed beyond capacity. Every open space was occupied by God-fearing pious Muslims who came to attend the weekly Friday's collective prayers.

In the German city of Kassel, which has quite negligible number of Muslim believers mostly from Turkey, praying together during the Muslim holidays; such as, Edel el Fidri, and Edel-Adaha has become a customary celebration during which they exchange greetings and collect contribution for the needy people.

While remained seated in the second row listening attentively to the sheik's speech, my eyes suddenly caught somebody whose face was quite familiar to me. I realized I had not recognized him. I could not help myself brooding deeply over who was the cross-legged, quiet, grey-haired grandfather looking old man, counting white beads with his right hand, while at the same time sucking desperately his gum. No doubt, the cross-legged man whose slightly tilted shoulders helped him to stoop down towards his chest was a newcomer to the mosque of El-Salam. His presence was the cynosure of all eyes. His wrinkled face reflected his true personal images. His gesture may indicate deceit, uncertainty, frustration and mental depression. To trace him exactly who he was, I relied on both intelligence and my instincts. I strove hard to bring back myself to the past memory. As I could not immediately figured out such a weathered beaten semi-emaciated and utterly demoralized lonely fellow, I left the mosque and went home exorcising the demons with a single act of contrition and forgiveness for being mentally absent while the sheikh's speech was in progress.

Next day, rumors were flying around among the Somali refugees that Siyad Barre's right-hand man, who unflinchingly fought tooth and nail during the last days he was in power, was in fact in the city. He was a guest of a gentleman of Shangani (Shanshi origin), who once served as a manager of his lucrative private business in 1980s. Abdulkadir's private business flourished at the time when he was virtually a little baron serving as Siyad Barre's right-hand man. He had his own defined responsibility when it came the running of day today state affairs. The news of the presence of Abdulakdir shocks me from reverie. The man in question has turned out to be Brigadier General Abdulkadir Haji Maslah who, from 1969 till 1992 was a member of politburo and assistant secretary of the defunct Somalia Socialist Party (SSRP), considered to be the highest ruling body in Somalia. From the first day the military wrested power, he gulped Barre's wrong chalice to become the first clan's man to stand beside him through thick and thin.

He accompanied his ailing wife who was suffering from chronic mental depression. His wife, the daughter of Sheik Ali Sufi, whose sons still preach the true Islam, by distancing themselves from the newly established Taliban-like Islamic courts that wrest control much of Southern Somalia. It was in front of Sheikh Ali Sufi's Mosque in Casa Populare district of Mogadishu where the first popular uprising took place in 1989. The next day, 46 highly selected Issaqs, including medical doctors, engineers, journalists, economists and businessmen were massacred in Jazeria beach by Barre's red-beret bodyguards under strict supervision of General Anjeh, who was the commander of the army garrison based in Benadir. General Anjeh himself was ordered to carry out such a heinous massacre by the so called "Gang of Five". The members of the Gang of Five were Brigadier General Abdulakadir Masalah (Chairman); Maslah Mohamed Siyad Barre, the army forces Chief of Staff; Abdirahman Jama Barre, Minister of Foreign Affairs; General Ali Samater, Barre's chosen Prime Minister; and Col.Ayaanleh Mohamed Siyad Barre, Head of the Presidency, who issued decrees on behalf of his ailing absent-minded father. The "Gang of Five" emerged after Siyad Barre was seriously wounded in a car accident which kept him mentally inactive for the rest of his life, despite that he was still a nominal figurehead under strict guidance of the Gang of Five.

He was the first SRC member who declared war against the religious leaders in Mogadishu, against the advice of his own father-in-law. As a would-be future party ideologue of the Supreme Military Council (SRC) in charge of Public Relations Bureau, he was the brain behind the execution of the religious leaders in Mogadishu in 1975. He succeeded in convincing Siyad Barre to issue a decree that banned certain verses of Surat el Nisa from being preached by the Sheikhs in Mosques, as it was against Scientific Socialism.

His lifestyle was quite unique compared to the rest of his colleagues. He lived in a nationalized three-storey posh villa that stood in a highly elevated strategic area located between the Ministry of Information and National Guidance and Villa Somalia, Barre's heavily guarded palace. An asphalt road only separated his villa from the Police Headquarters. Thus, Abdulkadir H. Masalah lived in absolute secured environment although still he had a squadron of selected bodyguards that controlled the slightest movement. He had a backyard door to the Villa Somalia which provided him exclusively an easy entrance excess directly to Said Barre's living quarters, where late night family get-together discussions were held. He was known for watching the panoramic scene of the city from the top of his villa, after taking a postprandial nap. The soothing aromatic smell coming from the daily lavish delicacy assailed the nostrils of severely underpaid employees of the Ministry of Information, among whom I was one of them.

His children were also the epitome of affluent family. They were equally feared by the students of Egyptian run Allah Secondary School. Although the Allah's Secondary School was only fifty meters away from their villa down the road to the main downtown area, they were escorted by heavily armed plain clothes security guards from the infamous "Red Berets". No student of Allah Secondary School had the guts to glance them, leave alone looking at them.

General Abdulkadir was one of the most feared extremist elements in Barre's government. During the last days of the regime, he emerged as one of the unflinching diehard officials who fought tooth and nail to keep in power a family based dynasty, despite the fact that the security situation was at stake as the combined forces of USC/SNM forces were visible everywhere in the country. He traveled the width and breath to the regions controlled by the government forces to mobilize, mainly the Darood people against what he called the "anti-revolutionary forces".

Birg.Gen.Abdulkadir Haji Mohamed, (Inna Massaleh), Deputy Chairman of SSRP was sent to Bassaso by Barre, to immediately mediate Dashishle and Osman Mohamud of Majeerteen, who fought over resources early in early 1989.Speaking pompously to a group of elders from both sides in Bassaso as Barre's especial envoy, he delivered the following speech, as Abdirahman Aden's TV Camera rolled:

First of all, I would like to convey to you a especial message from our beloved leader, who was stunned by such senseless and unnecessary fighting between two Darood sub-clans, at the time when other Daroods were celebrating a historic victory over Issaqs. The timing of such fighting is a great concern for every one of us. Such fighting contravenes the road map that we laid for the Daroodization of all productive regions in the country, which, according to our expectation will inexorably yield fruits that every one of us will enjoy soon.
But, we are desperately in need of a strong and united Darood community that seriously and relentlessly safeguards the achievements of our glorious revolution. Needless to say, today, we are suffering from severe shortages of highly skilled manpower in the regions that we have already Daroodized in the north of the country. Conquering a country is so easy, but effectively keeping it, has proved immense difficulties. But we succeeded in uniting our people against the anti-revolutionaries as much as we differ on certain issues. We have a common interest that binds us all together. In this regard, our unity remained stronger than ever.

In this juncture, I would like to give you a brief account of what the government has done for its Darood people. Hey! Just look at the barren sunburned rocks that encompassed your districts from vertical horizon. The prospect of raising families in the near future in such an unproductive and sun-scorched hostile environment is dim. For your future overall developments, we made relentless efforts since the inception of our revolution. We, as active members of the government are responsible for taking over the most productive agricultural areas in the Lower Shabeele region, where thousands have now become rich landowners of what once used to be the Italian "azendas" (banana plantations). These Darood individuals have become rich through the long-term bank loans which most of them have been written off by the beloved president. We have resettled in the country more than five hundred thousand Ogadenis under the pretext of refugees. Those Ogadanis are now actively serving in the forefront to secure the lands that have been already "Daroodized". We made diversification of funds from other sectors to build long asphalt roads; a modern harbor, water supply and electricity here in Bassaso. The Daroodization policy has worked so fast even beyond our expectation. But to our dismay, you are at one another's throat, fighting for meager local resources that had already evaporated. It took us all by surprise that those who were supposed to safeguard the achievements of our glorious revolution were locked in a senseless fighting and petty squabbles over minute issues. Have your imagination as mentally grown up men! For Jaalle Siyad (comrade), nothing is more worrying for him than your recent fighting. Now, I would like to witness your immediate renouncement of any further hostilities with oath taking ceremony by shaking hands as our traditional way of burying the hatchet. Mind you, the fate of our Darood nation would be sealed in blood.

It seems that Abdulkadir H. Masalah has not been yet convinced that Somalia would never be the same again as it was once before 1991.His war heroes include, General Mohamed Ali Samater who personally laid down the strategic military plan for the air and artillery bombardments that flattened Hargeysa; General Mohamed Hashi ( Gani) who started the military operation against the civilian population in the north; General Mohamed Saeed (Morgan) who massacred tens of thousands of civilians in Hargeysa and other major cities; General Anjah, who massacred 46 Issaq intellectuals in the Jezzera beach, near Mogadishu, Col. Farah Afweyneh, who massacred 28 laborers at Mogadishu harbor, shutting them off in a single container, amid the blazing summer temperatures; and Col.Dhagabaceyr, who massacred nomadic villagers in the Hiraan and Galguduud regions.

Asked if he and his former colleagues would ask forgiveness, he said without mincing words: "Forgiveness comes only after formal ceasefire is signed by all concerned parties".

He did not give further details about the parties that were supposed to negotiate ceasefire.

Asked if he personally, in his capacity as the chief of the party that ruled the country had a share in the strategic military plan that led to the killings of innocent civilian population in the north, (the present Somaliland) he unrepentantly said: "A tank does not shoot at people by itself."

It seems that Abdulkadir is still living in the past. He has not yet convinced himself that he can not turn back the clock. For him, the war has not yet ended. His character is reminiscent to that of a Japan's soldier who refused to surrender himself waiting order from his imperial majesty long after the Second World War ended. In October 1972, at the age of 51 and after 27 years of hiding in the Philippine's thick jungles, Kozuh, a Second World War Japans veteran was killed during a clash with a Philipin patrol. He was waiting an order from his superior officers.

Like that of the Japanese soldier, Brigadier General Abdulakir is chasing hopelessly an endless mirage with Barre's wraith looming large from a distance horizon. He is obsessed with his past lifestyle and glory. But he is waiting order from Siyad Barre who is now in six feet deep where, he is being grilled for the crime he committed against humanity. A dead body tells not tale. The evil that he planted goes after him.

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