I came for peace, and I got a play

Somali warlords and intellectuals came in for mockery here with the staging of a play dramatising the decade-old conflict in the Horn of Africa country.

“My struggle, history and all my bravery for the sake of the people should be raised in the discussions,” a warlord played by actor and musician Ahmed Ali Ba-alwan says in the play. “I came for peace and I support all agreements, but my political share should be on the table before everything else,” the character adds.

The heartless warlord lectures his commanders on how to swiftly dispose of bodies when casualties are high during one of Somalia’s many outbreaks of factional fighting.

“Whitewash and ashes are good at destroying corpses immediately if you are unable to bury the dead,” he advises. The play, entitled “Reconciliation for Future Somalia,” was performed late on Saturday during a pause in talks aimed at setting up a functioning government in Somalia after more than a decade of anarchic bloodletting since the 1991 overthrow of the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Twenty-two Somali groups signed a landmark framework agreement on October 27 including a pledge to halt hostilities for the duration of the talks, which are to resume in this western Kenyan town on Monday.

More than 1 000 delegates are taking part in the negotiations, representing armed factions, the Transitional National Government—a relatively powerless entity set up in 2000—and civil society groups.

Many warlords attending the talks refused to watch the play, one of them saying that he was disgusted by the “bad conduct of some artistes”.

Somali intellectuals are portrayed in it as cunning manipulators out to mislead the masses.
“If you fire a gun it might kill one or two persons, but an intellectual will spread bad messages and poison the minds of thousands,” the warlord character argues.

“I tell the truth. The so-called educated are more dangerous than bullets,” he added in a reference to efforts to exclude unarmed groups from the talks.

Somalia’s diaspora does not escape censure in the drama. Actor Abdi Haynosh played the role of a pseudo-intellectual who repeatedly threatens to go back to the United States whenever contentious issues are raised, drawing prolonged laughter from the audience.

“I will go to America, this place is not good, the people here can’t form a government and I don’t see my future here. I will go to America.”

The drama was accompanied an emotional rendition of “Arligeygow” (My Land), a song by musician Abdi Bashir Indhabur, now deceased, in praise of Somalia. The peace process is being steered by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional east African body. - Sapa-AFP

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