Friday February 23, 2001: Hargeisa, Somalia: To my surprise, when we landed in Hargeisa, I really got the VIP treatment. Apparently, Mohamed had called ahead and alerted the mayor’s office and some of the other officials. The mayor even sent a car and driver to deliver us to the Maan-Soor Hotel on the edge of the city.
The drive through the city was pretty sad. Ten years ago, this city of well over half a million people was obliterated. Ninety-five percent of Hargeisa was hopelessly destroyed. Tanks and troops had systematically bombed, sacked, and burned the city inch by inch. In the aftermath, Hargeisa was a ghost town. It had been their own President, Siad Barre, that had taken donated military planes, tanks and armament placed in Somalia by both the USA and Russia and turned the murderous blitz against their own people as punishment for not completely supporting Siad Barre. It had been a heinous chapter in the annuls of African cruelty.
I was glad I had read up a bit on the history of the war, or the sights would have been even more of a shock. But the northern part of Somalia is coming back to life. People are moving back to the city and using the rubble from the bombed-out buildings to rebuild. Certainly the phoenix is rising from the ashes.
The Maan-Soor Hotel is an adequate twenty-four-room hotel and seems to be the center of the entire region’s political business. After Mohamed and I checked in, I went to my room, took about a two-hour nap, showered, and then started in on the agenda of meetings Mohamed had set up for me.
At the hotel I met with the area’s United Nations coordinator, but even more important, the mayor of Hargeisa came to welcome me to Somaliland. I was quite impressed. The civilized world has pretty much ignored the existence of Somalia since 1991. Bill Clinton readily retreated in embarrassment and under political pressure for mishandling the Somali incident. Like so many of his other ill-conceived foreign involvements, he engaged the United States in Somalia’s conflict, but without the conviction or determination to go all out.
The United Nations’ involvement in Somalia is also a textbook case of mess-ups and disgrace. The more I’ve traveled and observed the hot spots of the political world, the less respect and tolerance I have for the United Nations and its leadership. I’ve concluded from my biased and simplistic global observation that the whole bunch of them should be severely reprimanded, dismissed, sent back to their individual countries, and forced to find honest and noble occupations. Some of them should be tossed into jail for their thievery, dishonesty, and low-life antics.
I don’t want to get too sidetracked here, but let me give you a typical example of what billions of US taxpayer dollars buy for our investment in the United Nations. During my trip to Somalia, it was discovered that United Nations employees in charge of filling certain refugee quotas to countries like Great Britain, Canada, and the United States have been charging the refugees anywhere from $3,500 in US cash to in excess of $5,000 to process their applications and place them. That money has gone straight into the pockets of the UN employees. They also make penniless refugees pay fifty shillings just to talk to a UN employee.
The refugees don’t stand a chance against the competition unless they have sponsors somewhere in the free world who will send them the “front money” to pay bribes or engage in criminal activities to secure the required bribe money.
It was also discovered that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the UN Refugee Agency, actually sells false documentation, phony identification papers, and bogus case histories to people who aren’t even refugees so that they will be eligible to resettle in the United States.
One man went to the UN office every day for three years in an effort to get an interview. The UN officials determined he could never come up with the bribe money, so for three years the man wasn’t allowed to even secure an interview. While I’ve been in Somalia, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees admitted that four staff members were suspected of soliciting money from the displaced persons they were paid handsomely to assist.
The UN officials came to the defense of their workers by building the case that they were really the “victims” in the situation. The UN had been informed of the employees’ scam over the past two years but claimed that the employees were in very difficult and stressful positions, and that outside people just couldn’t understand the unbearable temptations they had been subjected to when nearly a quarter of a million refugees were seeking placement in developed countries but only eight thousand to eleven thousand spots were available.
Finally the United Nations directors gave their workers new assignments elsewhere, where the pressure wouldn’t be so unbearable. But they made that decision only when some refugees—who had paid the five thousand dollars but were never selected to go to the United States—threatened to kill the extortionists. The UN then had to protect their poor victimized representatives. As of yet, no one has been brought to task or punished for the bribery scam.
Incidents like this are only a small part of the reason why I’ve concluded that the UN is totally out of control and is directed by people who in no way have any of the United States’ interests at heart. But the world demands that the US continue to supply billions of dollars per year to promote the organization.
After that short detour, let’s return to my meeting with the UN representative in Somalia. Edward Johns Jr. was a likable-enough fellow. His official title is Office of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, United Nations Coordination Unit, UN Focal Point for Somaliland. It must be quite a job just to carry around that title! Actually, Edward and I hit it off quite well on a personal basis. He really appreciated Project C.U.R.E.’s willingness to consider becoming involved in Somaliland. He took time to explain who the major players are in the area, which people I need to avoid, and whose friendship I need to curry. He also supplied me with a bit of sound advice about travel in Somalia.
“It’s just not worth going to Mogadishu unless you absolutely have to. When I go, we always travel with at least two vehicles, we wear flak jackets, and we take bodyguards who are well armed.”
I quickly made an executive decision as to where I won’t go.
Before my day was finished, I had meetings with four representatives of Hope Worldwide, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) trying to do some local humanitarian work in Hargeisa. They were very eager to pursue a relationship with Project C.U.R.E., and they told me about the severe medical situations they had witnessed.
On the heels of that meeting, Ali Waranade, the minister of information for the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, came to the Maan-Soor Hotel to meet and welcome me. He arranged for an official driver to take us around the city tonight so we could see the marketplace and how the people are operating their economy and free-market opportunities with kerosene and gas lanterns and some electric lights powered by small generators. He wanted to show me how safe it is for people to be out doing business at night in his country.
Additionally His Excellency arranged for Mohamed and me to visit the small TV station in the city. It is somewhat involved in downloading television programming from available satellites. The national radio broadcasting station is located in the well-guarded TV station as well.
Next Week: Make Sure Your Driver is not on “Qat”!