Somalia: In the market for war

Published: June 8, 2010

Farah, a former commander in the Islamic courts union, is now a respected arms dealer in the Huwaika market in Mogadishu. Overweight, he walks with the aid of two mismatched crutches, after losing a leg when a mortar shell exploded next to him. (“Ethiopia … mortar … whoosh … bang,” he says.)
His accounts of how each side in the civil war in Somalia comes to be armed make clear just how grim are the prospects for the country.
“The Ethiopians are arming the Sufi militias; the Europeans and US are arming the government; the Eritreans are arming the Hizb; and the government officers sell us their weapons, and we sell it to al-Shabab.”
Like a business strategist Farah explains that the economy in Mogadishu is part of a bigger picture.
“A Kalashnikov used to be $150, now it’s $500 and it will increase. When there is heavy war your profits are high – everyone goes to the market to buy.”
But when he starts unravelling the network of arms supplies, the picture becomes more complicated. The steady supply of arms means there is no victor and no vanquished – and probably never will be. Each time one side is about to lose the battle, a neighbouring country or other foreign power provides them with enough weapons to keep fighting, ensuring there is no end in sight.
“Ethiopia is the biggest supplier to anyone who wants to fight al-Shabab. Anyone who forms a front to fight the Shabab gets weapons from Ethiopia.”
“Ahlu Sunna (the Sufis) in the middle regions go to Ethiopia for weapons, Eritrea was a big supplier for the Islamic courts during the Ethiopian invasion but they stopped, now they send little shipments to the Hizb. From Yemen, merchants bring small ammunitions of weapons, some pistols, nothing more.
“The Shebab they buy it from the market,” he says rubbing his thumb and index finger together. The big military officers, they sell their ammunitions and guns in bulk, but the small soldiers can’t sell their weapons unless they are not going back to barracks.”
“When the people are poor, when the soldier’s wife says they have no food … they come to me and sell their weapons.”
Source: Guardian

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *