By Yusuf Haid
Editors Note: A Mogadishu ‘Killing Field’ is an excerpt from an upcoming book, titled ‘The Somali Clan War’, written by Yusuf Haid, a former head of the Somali Broadcasting Service (Radio Hargeisa and Mogadishu) and Somali National Television. The book is a collection of journal entries of the 1991 Somali civil war in Mogadishu. The book recounts the first two weeks of the conflict.
“I think, tribalism is a mental prison… and pride of identity coupled with arrogance is one of the leading factors that limit one’s ability to abandon it.” Duop Chak Wuol
I left Abdulqadir’s place with mixed feelings. I decided to check my apartment in the African village where we had left our possessions. The USC militia had come close to the African village area, and the Labor Road was now the dividing line between the two fighting ‘parties’. When I got to the Hotel Taleh area, I realized I had entered the firing range of the fighting. Government soldiers and supporting militias were all around and in the Hotel, and the USC militia was firing from behind the barrier wall of the National Fair Ground, and from both sides of Sinai Street. I continued at a brisk pace from the Banadir Secondary School, ducking behind the walls of buildings. Unexpectedly, a man in a ragged military uniform jumped out of the bushes and pointed a gun at me. I froze in my tracks and fumbled an ineligible utterance from my dry throat.
He planted the barrel of his gun hard against my chest and demanded, “Who are you? (What is your clan?)”
“I am Somali.” I said quickly.
He moved the barrel of the gun to my throat and shouted again, ” F— Somalis! Who are you? I am not asking you again!”
I knew I could not reason with him or tell him to remove the uniform he was given to protect me. Before I could tell him my clan, which was the ‘ID’ he was asking for, another man emerged from the nearby shade and told him to let me go. The second man, I presumed knew me.
I ran toward 1st July Square. I then took the trail running behind Horsed Club to reach my apartment. The trail ran through an area covered with bushes and sand dunes. There a shocking and repulsive sight came to my view. The area was ‘a killing field’. Human corpses covered the ground, and from the state of their decay, they had been killed at different times. Some of the bodies were covered with dry blood and watery like drain dripped from them. Others were swollen and ready to burst. Many had exposed broken bones, held together by their dry and baked skin. Swarm of flies feasted on the bodies, and the ground under them was soaked with their bodily fluids. Mass maggots crawled over each other on some of the bodies, searching for a soggy dark spot to hide from the scourging sun. The smell of the decomposing bodies was unbearable. The toiling maggots, fighting for their lives, however, captured my imagination. I wondered if they were any different from the unarmed and innocent civilians fleeing for their lives. Later, I learned that both sides in the conflict were killing any people who strayed into the areas they controlled if they suspected them of spying.
Retired Journalist and educator.
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