SOMALIA: 20 years thirst for drop of peace

Summary: Twenty years of the armed conflict in Somalia have taken massive toll on the people who are victimized by violence, abuse, disease, poverty and ignorance. Women and children have been at the suffering end and the once lively country is thirty for a drop of peace. The worst place where the daily attacks hit hardly is Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.

(2 March, 2011) - "It is not only killings that have affected residents in Mogadishu but women are missing their husbands and children, some were forced to live different places, some have not heard each other for years," a civil sociality activist Abdikadir Salad told AfricaNews.

"Young boys are addicted to drugs, children got orphaned and thousands of women spending widowed life."

More than 22, 000 people who are mainly civilians have been killed in Mogadishu alone while more than 1.5 million people fled from their homes since the beginning of the 2007.

Mogadishu is divided into two parts and ruled by Somali government with AU peacekeepers and Al-Qaeda linked group of Al-Shabaab, which have been fighting the city since 2009.

Somali government had argued peace talks many times but have been opposed by Islamist who vowed to fight so as to eliminate the government and its followers. Experts affirm that the psychological scars are inflicted upon people of all ages.

Doctors in Mogadishu said thousands of patients are complaining from gastrointestinal problems, headaches, sleeplessness and mysterious pains.

"Multiple problems are seen in the patients having history of stress due to the turmoil," said a doctor who works at the clinic centre which cares for the mentally disabled people.

The doctor was asked to remain anonymous as those fighting in Mogadishu do not tolerate any comments related to how the war affected the city.

Horrors of war

Doctors said more than half of Mogadishu populations are in physical problem despite few hospitals that care for mental illness people. The horrors of the war have made things harder and more traumatic as women are the most hit.

It is hard to find exact figure of those suffering from mental illness as many do not visit mental health experts because of the huge stigma attached to mental illness and financial problem.

In Somalia, most of the people who are suffering mental illness are tied to trees and remain at houses.

The pain of death

Ayan Ali Omar, a 23-year-old resident of Labo dhagah village is one of many who remain haunted and psychologically scarred by the conflict.

"To me, every day of my life is a living hell," she told AfricaNews tearfully. She says she has lost everything on the day her father was killed by some unknown gunmen four years ago.

"I still remember the evening when gunmen raided our house and shot my father," she recalled. "Not only that, but I also lost my uncle and grandfather who died in missile blast on our house."

Since then Ayan, who has not experienced any peace in her country has been condemned to misery.

For years, she has been hoping peace to come back to the country but she is very disappointed and now is pessimistic. "No one knows who killed and why my father was killed."

For Liban Ali, a 24-year-old boy, the story is all too familiar. "My father was simply a business man who always kept a distance from both the government and militants," he said.

"My father’s fault was that he sold something to the government soldiers."

Thousands of Somalis have gone missing in the country since 1991 and no-one knows their whereabouts.

Many people lament that 20 years of conflict have left their homeland on the brink of collapse as the infrastructure remains in tatters and all aspects of life crumbles.

"Every developed country wants to be number 1, but Somalia returned 20 years back as every aspect of the life collapsed," said Mahad Abdi, a business man.

Many wealthy Somalis are investing in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Middle east especially Dubai but never thought of an option to invest in their country.

“Because everybody wants to put his money in a safe place and it is not an option to put your business at risk”, Mahad added.

Education affected

Many experts assert that education is the most affected sector in Mogadishu. A Lecturer at SIMAD University says thousands of students attend their examinations while guarded by gun men so as to protect them from different armed militias because there is no government which protects the people.

Fartun Ahmed Hassan, a student from the SIMAD University in Mogadishu, contends that damaging of schools and universities is one of the main causes of the poor standard of education system in the capital.

The literate people who were interviewed in this report, demanded not to say their names because armed groups in the country referred a person's comment as a policy of the institution he/she is representing. These shows the challenges the academicians and students face in the war-torn city of Mogadishu.

Those fighting in Mogadishu indicated the conflict as struggle, while islamist rebels are insisting that the sacrifices would eventually bring freedom to not only Mogadishu but the whole country at large including the stable administrations of Somaliland and Puntland.

"Every Somali makes his or her sacrifice for the cause of the country's freedom and sake of God," said Hassan Dahir Aweys, who was the former chairman of Hizbul Islam which later unified with Al-Shabaab.

"Wherever there is a conflict or freedom struggle, people suffer but at the same time the issue becomes more significant and meaningful."

Zakia Hussen who is a general secretary of Hanoolaato political party formed by the youth in the diaspora disagrees.

"All parties that have been directly or indirectly involved with the war in that has been raging in our motherland have all used the freedom banner to further their cause. Yet, the one's paying for it are the general public and this so called "war for freedom" has served nothing but eradicating the very institutions," she said.



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