Thursday, July 02, 2009
Do Those Who Call The Shots In Nairobi Know Enough About Somalia?
I lived in Garissa for a while. I didn’t like it then. Boring town with hardly any entertainment to speak of and the heat and humidity is always crazy. But looking back now, it was a good experience. I learnt a lot. That experience comes in very handy today as I write about our Somali brothers. I seem to know them a lot more than most Kenyans do.
Indeed when the Clinton administration sent in troops to Somalia in the early 1990s, I laughed to myself, knowing full well what was going to happen next. What fascinates me greatly right now is how Kenyans are displaying the same ignorance on the Somalis that I saw in the Clinton administration.
It is true that Somalis don’t look too intelligent and in my view that is one of their greatest strengths. People always greatly underestimate and underrate them.
As you must know, if you are a regular reader here, I love to tell stories and I am going to tell you two today starting with what happened when I was in Garissa in the 1980s.
One day at about 8 pm loud sirens suddenly went off in the town. I panicked. What did they mean? I was quickly informed that there was a security emergency in the town. I later learnt that there had been a shooting incident in a bar in town where scores of people had been killed. This incident was never reported in the media. Later I learnt exactly what had happened.
A Somali man had earlier been arrested with Elephant tusks. The police were keen to get information from him, especially where he had stashed the cash for his illegal activities. When you want a man to talk, there is a particular area of his body that you press and they are bound to start singing like a bird. Well, this Somali man did not “sing” and the overenthusiastic cops are said to have completely disabled the man’s ability to ever sleep with a woman again. Later, the man managed to escape. He crossed the border into Somalia and came back with an automatic weapon and bullets wrapped across both his shoulders. Now the policemen responsible were having a quiet drink in this bar in Garissa town. The Somali man walked in and sprayed the table where they were seated with bullets, killing most of them instantly. He casually walked out of the bar and disappeared into the night.
I was told that no policeman would have dared follow the man into the darkness and the Kenya army, who have a presence in Garissa, were called in. Months later when the man was finally captured it was hard to believe that this one, small, wiry, thin man who did not look so clever had single-handedly caused so much damage.
One of the things about the dry arid North Eastern province is that it is extremely hot and humid. A Somali man has no problem crossing large tracts of the region on foot having taking only a single glass of water for the day. When you think about this simple fact you quickly realize that the odds would already be greatly stacked against Kenyan troops in the event of a war with Somalis to protect Kenyan terrain.
Story number two coming up. When I was a very young child (about 5 years old) we lived in Isiolo. This was in the late 60s. I still remember the house we lived in and the fact that sometimes in the evenings you would see the silhouette of an Elephant in the distance as the sun was setting. Very romantic I guess and one of the few benefits of being the son of a cop who regularly gets hauled all over the country and sometimes to the most arid and remote corners. One day we almost died. A fierce exchange of gun fire between some Somali Shifta warriors and the Kenya Army (the Shifta war was still very much on) ensued and spread into our compound at about 7pm. My dad had gone for his usual evening beer and he ended up not being able to make it back that night because his house had been transformed into a war zone. Loud gunfire echoed all around the compound. My mother took me and my kid brother and we all hid inside a cupboard where we spent the night. I remember my kid brother vomited inside the cupboard because of the fear he felt. But he did much better than some civilians at a nearby bar some of whom urinated on their trousers in fear (I kid you not). I think I was more excited than frightened. When I woke up in the morning it was all quiet.
Make no mistake about it, Somalis are the most shrewd entrepreneurs you will find anywhere and being an entrepreneur has got nothing to do with speaking good English. Typically you will observe a Somali man waking up very early in the morning and switching on their radio. They will then proceed to sip down their morning beverage while chewing Miraa (khat). You can be sure that the guy is not idling or trying to wake up properly like the rest of us would be doing. He is thinking and trying to roll the whole day ahead in his mind. In many instances he will come up with business ideas and deals that he may want to start implementing as soon as his active day starts. This is a habit I would love to emulate (without having to chew anything).
I can tell you scores of stories about these fascinating brothers of ours but I have to stop there.
As I sit here I worry that folks in decision-making positions in Nairobi may not know enough about our dear brothers. I fear that some of them typically display the same ignorance I have seen in many comments on my previous post on this topic. I will say no more about this seemingly hot topic.
P.S. I have read the comments accusing me of being an alarmist for nothing over our Somali brothers. Let me say that NOT all Somalis are involved in crime and NOT all of them are a threat to the security of our motherland. I know a number of who are good people and may get badly hurt reading my posts and knowing that I am the one who penned them. Sorry guys. However one has to get alarmed knowing what Kumekucha readers now know from my two posts. Especially when suicide bombers start popping up next door and a man buying land in the city centre suddenly and casually comes up with Kenya shillings 100 million.
My point is that there are enough bad Somalis hanging around to make Kenya disappear. May I also add that it hurts… and hurts real bad, when you host somebody for years and then they later turn round and threaten you. To me this is a clear illustration of the psyche in most bad Somalis. They will smile and kiss you shortly before plunging a knife deep into your back and twisting it. Every Somali with good intentions should join Kenyans in condemning this terrible habit.
Okay I will say no more now… for real.