Monday, February 26, 2001: Hargeisa, Somalia: I woke up this morning still trying to figure out why ex-president Siad Barre felt it necessary to inflict so much pain and death on innocent civilians—old people, moms, children, and babies. And even animals! What kind of a man would have his soldiers sneak in and poison village watering holes? What kind of a man would allow his soldiers to rape and kill innocent civilians and refugees and then hang their bodies from trees along the roadways? What kind of a man would take his American-made jet airplanes and use donated bullets to shoot and kill fleeing refugees on the roads to Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia? Whether in Africa, Iraq, Cuba, Serbia, or the United States of America, the cult-personality is an awesome, unpredictable, and evil phenomenon.
The balance of the day was devoted to tending to political matters. At 1:30 p.m., His Excellency, the minister of information, summoned us to visit him again at his home. He is doing a great job of letting the people of Somaliland know that Project C.U.R.E. traveled to Hargeisa to help the country. While at the minister’s home, I was introduced to the “watchdog” lioness.
Ali Waranade had captured the lion as a cub and brought her home with him. At nine months of age, the lioness is already showing her independence and a playfully ornery streak. As I was taking some photos, she decided to see what I was made of. She chomped down on my pant leg and hung on. I was real glad that my leg wasn’t caught between her teeth and my pants. Ali finally got her attention, and she reluctantly let go of me. I decided then and there that His Excellency will probably experience some kind of alarming trauma with the cat before he realizes that lions are wild beasts with a nature all their own, not pets or guard animals.
At 7:00 this evening, Mohamed and I were invited to pay another evening visit at the home of Hargeisa’s mayor, Awl Elmi Abdalla. The mayor expressed that he would like Somaliland’s president to meet with me. I assured him that I would definitely be honored to meet with the president, but if it isn’t convenient during this trip, we’ll make plans for such a meeting in the future.
As you may know, the reason I want to meet with as many high government officials in a country as possible is to more completely guarantee the safe and simple passage of our precious medical goods into the country and ensure successful delivery of those goods to the targeted recipients. If Somaliland’s president, his cabinet, and customs officials are all on the Project C.U.R.E. team, then it will be difficult for some junior power broker to mess up the system. God has been faithful to Project C.U.R.E. throughout the past fourteen years and has gone ahead of us to the various countries preparing the way and opening the doors for our effectiveness.
I’ve only been in Somaliland a very short time, and I’ve already met with the minister of industry, the minister of health, the minister of information, the mayor of Hargeisa, the mayor of Berbera, the mayor of Burao, and the top medical leaders of the country. That amazes me and keeps me consistently aware that I’m certainly not the one arranging the opportunities or opening any of the strategic doors of influence. God is doing it all. My part of the deal is just to show up.
Tuesday, February 27
This was to be the day of my departure from Hargeisa, but it ended up being one of the busiest days of my stay. The mayor wanted to say good-bye, so once again, Mohamed and I paid a visit to his office. Next, Mohamed and I visited Parliament, and I was able to meet a number of the country’s influential elders and was even invited to sit in the Speaker’s chair.
Mohamed established his Somali Aid domestic offices on the downtown perimeter of Hargeisa and moved into a lovely, new office building surrounded by a high security wall. The facility includes a number of offices and meeting rooms and has adequate space to set up small classrooms with computers, where Mohamed plans to teach English and begin a nurses’ training center. He received all the official approvals necessary and is an officially recognized NGO in the country.
Mohamed had asked me to do the honors of officially cutting the ribbon to open the complex. I was more than happy to comply. There were about forty dignitaries on hand for the ceremony. The minister of information kept his word, arranging for a radio station, a television station, and two newspapers to cover the event.
I delivered a very brief statement just before cutting the ribbon. Then we all moved into the building, where Mohamed’s people had prepared lovely snacks at a sit-down reception. There I was asked to deliver a fifteen-to-twenty-minute speech to close out the celebration.
I spoke of the common tragedy the people of Somaliland experienced, and the sad results that have affected their families over the past fifteen years. I told them that it seemed the entire outside world had abandoned them when they most needed their help. Then I bragged on them for what I had seen in their efforts to rebuild Somaliland:
“I see the bleakness of the flat desert sand. We all can see that. But I also see a miracle happening before our eyes. A desert flower is pushing its way up through the difficult surface. It is to be the eventual blooming of a new and delightfully beautiful desert flower, growing in the north of historic Somali country. I congratulate you and encourage you to let the beauty and fragrance of the blooming flower influence all those who pass your way.”
I then tied Mohamed’s efforts through Somali Aid to the goodness that will permeate Hargeisa and spread to the rest of the country. It had probably been a long time since anyone had bragged on them or applauded their efforts.
From the ceremony, we had to move quickly to the airport so I wouldn’t miss my fancy Russian flight out of Somalia. But as we were leaving the new office, I spotted a scene that demanded a photo. In a large, vacant lot nearby, people had gathered to buy and sell sheep, cattle, goats, and, of all things, camels.
There were no less than thirty-five camels for sale individually. I grabbed my camera, ran quickly to the location, and began snapping pictures. How could I travel halfway around the world and miss what was going on in Camelot?
I was surprised when I arrived at the airport and realized that all the people who had been at the ceremony had piled into cars and had followed us to see me off. Mohamed is going to stay in Somaliland for another week to spend time with his extended family. I was flying to the country of Djibouti, where I would change Russian planes before continuing on to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Another surprise awaited me at the airport. The minister of foreign affairs, the minister of the interior, and the previous minister of mines and minerals were there to greet me. I think that pretty much rounded out the president’s entire cabinet.