Today, May 31, 2010, it is exactly 22 years since the SNM (Somali National Movement) marched into what was then called (northern Somalia) is now Somaliland. It was 31 May 1988. I remember it like it was yesterday. I want you my dear readers read this newspaper article that was written by the Guardian, January 1989th. I will eventually post pictures and my experience on this particular day. An emotional day that took place in my beautiful city of Hargeisa
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, dispersed or bombed out of their homes in northern Somalia after government military operations, which Western aid workers say, are little short of genocide.
The action has been concentrated on the three northern towns of Hargeisa, Berbera and Burao where some 20,000 people are believed to have died in recent bombing raids by the government against the strongholds of the rebel Somali National Movement.
Many thousands of others are being systematically denied food because Somali forces are deliberately holding up essential supplies.
Aid officials said that up to 800,000 people – almost all of them Issaq nomads- have been displaced as a result of the civil war. A quarter of these, and possibly as many as 300,0000, were now struggling to survive in wretched conditions in refugee camps in Ethiopia while a similar number had been forced to leave Africa. The fate of those who can no longer be traced remains largely unknown.
Several European Aid agencies including Oxfam, Save the Children and ActionAid from Britain, have been working in the horn of Africa for several years. Representatives spoke yesterday to The Guardian because of concern but asked not to be identified so that their work would not be prejudiced.
Officials are talking of the partial destruction of the Issaq and of what amounts to “a great cover-up” to prevent an international outcry against the government. The Americans, they said, had not confronted the government in the way they should have done over “the horrific things”, which have been happening. The US maintains a military base at Berbera on the Gulf of Aden.
A US state department spokesman said last night that the “worst excesses” of the civil war had occurred last summer. US policy, he added, was not to cover up the war but to encourage national reconciliation by urging the government to talk with the rebels in the north.
Until about eight months ago the urbanised population of Issaqs were concentrated in Hargeisa, Berbera and Burao. Although few journalists have been authorised to visit the area, tens of thousands of people are understood to have died during a series of bombing raids on the towns last August, conducted mainly by mercenaries recruited in Zimbabwe.
“They just bombed and bombed and bombed,” an agency man, recently returned from Somalia, said. Hargeisa, which originally had a population of 350,000, was 70% destroyed. Burao was “devastated” in the same raids.
Issaqs who survived from the bombings are said to have been rounded up in the streets by Somali troops and summarily shot. Mass graves have since been found as well as corpses, which were left to rot in the streets where they fell.
The people now living in the three towns are believed to be totally non-Issaq or military personnel who have been deputed to guard what has been retaken from the SNM.
These claims, widely accepted by agencies who have been working in the country for some years, are to be investigated by Amnesty International team, which hopes to visit Somalia next month.
The situation has strained Somalia relations with Britain although the overseas development administration has been heavily involved in several aid programs there.
Several agencies have also had to consider their position carefully. Some have cited “impossible” working conditions, including the deliberate obstruction of food deliveries to areas in urgent need.
An Australian agency, Community Aid Abroad, preparing a dossier of complaints against the Somali government, is expected allege that there have been threats against staff members and local recruits.
The situation of 200,000 Somali refugees living in desert camps in southern Ethiopia is also causing acute concern.
Aid officials talk of “political nightmare” and “potential total disaster area”.
Now, in the middle of the dry season, the camps are said to be without access to fresh natural water supplies, having to depend for minimal supplies on erratic electric pumps.
In addition, more nutrition in the camps has been steadily increasing while food distribution is said to be “appalling”. Food is distributed from barbed wire enclosures where would-be recipients may be forced to wait up to two days only to be told supplies have run out.
Source: The Guardian, January 1989.