Somalia’s Exiled Press Pack
Speculation continues about the fate of the western journalists kidnapped with their Somali colleagues. As usual with Somalia there are lots of different theories floating around but I learned long ago to steer clear of anyone who claims to know what’s going on so I’m not going to pass on the various titbits I am picking up.
Anyway I spent the weekend with several Somali journalists who are now based in Nairobi. Mogadishu is simply too dangerous for them to operate. They are getting it in the neck from both sides.
Abdirahmen Mohamed Hassan was the director of an FM radio station, Somali Weyn, who arrived in Nairobi a few weeks ago. In January he was arrested by police who accused him of supporting al Qaeda, the reason being that he had sent a reporter to Asmara where various Islamist leaders were based. He was held for 17 days without charge, his home turned upside down as police officers searched for evidence and he slept on a bare floor crammed into a tiny cell with 20 other prisoners – some of them spies posing as detainees. Public pressure eventually forced his release.
After his release he began to receive death threats from government officials and security officers, angry at what they saw as anti-government coverage. (This is, you remember, the government of thugs and gangsters that is receiving millions of dollars of aid from the EU and Britain. The US is content to deliver its aid in the form of missiles.)
Six months later the Islamists decided he was not doing enough to help the struggle against Ethiopian invaders. He was bundled into a car and driven to a villa where he was kept for a day at gunpoint before being released. The death threats began as soon as he was set free.
He is now one of a band of exiled journalists living in hotels in Eastleigh, Nairobi’s Little Mogadishu. But he says he is desperate to return home as soon as it is safe to continue trying to rebuild his country.
“We are trying to educate the people who are fighting to stop fighting. This is my fight for peace. Every day my time on the radio, I was campaigning for peace, organising concerts for bands. The people suffering are my people.”