Saturday, March 15, 2008

Let's give our children their basic rights

It is disgusting to see Somali children suffer for a such a long time with no glimmer of hope and no light at the end of the tunnel. While the sons and daughters of Somali warlords bask under the sun in the Middle East, North America, and Europe with full protection paid for by the taxpayers of these nations, the deafening noise of artillery fire from their parents gun turrets is putting millions of Somali children at risk unable to feed because one or two of their parents have either been killed, maimed, or imprisoned in a lawless region generally at the mercy of dreaded militia.

Under President Siyad Barre, Somali children had peace and free education up to university level. Orphaned and illegitimate children had a place in the society. It was like the "no child left behind" policy currently enjoyed by American children under President Bush's concerted efforts of ensuring equal opportunity in the fields of education, housing, and healthcare.

Under Barre's regime, schools and special camps were reserved for those needy children and never at anytime did they experience any form of stratification and embellishment. Upon graduation from high school or university, these children found themselves working in the military ranks, social institutions, and some saw themselves in the forefront combating crimes of startling frequencies.

During the military junta, Somali children had complete love for their country, nation, and ideals as they could be seen singing revolutionary desiderata in school concerts and popular theatrical philharmonicas often competing for recognition and seeking delight in a land of poetrical innovations.

The 21st October revolution, in its effort to refurbish Somalia's institutions to acceptable and habitable levels, conceived the idea of having schools exclusively for disadvantaged children the most notable being the famous "Ubaxa Kacaanka" in the vicinity of Afgoi that produced wonderful, loyal, and inspiring generations of youth committed to social equality and economic prosperity.

Since 1991 when Somalia's central government collapsed, thousands of Somali children have perished in deliberate attacks orchestrated by men they used to refer to as 'uncles', 'grandpas', and 'dads' because at one time when there was peace, these men-turned-monsters carried respect among the general Somali community regardless of tribe, clan, or classification.

An atrocious phenomenon of the worst magnitude that attracted the eyes of the world was the mutilated bodies of children, women, and defenseless civilians left to rot in the streets of Baidoa in the early 90s pitying the administration of President George Herbert Bush to intervene militarily in what was dubbed "Operation Restore Hope" despite the consequences that followed.

Operation Restore Hope at first gained momentum and alsmost materialized as the multinational forces played a great role in resuscitating the dying thousands in the "City of Death" or Baidoa, that, had it been left to descend into chaos would be recorded as the worst human catastrophe of the century. The operation did bear fruits as the dying found solace in the hands of the humanitarian forces who did alot to revive them by distributing relief aid and much needed medical supplies.

General Aideed is regarded by many Somalis as a nationalist and hero because of his antagonistic tendencies towards foreign powers and to local Somali criminal warlords he perceived as aimed at destroying Somali solidarity yet he has been recorded as instigating for the cantonization of the Somali Democratic Republic. Upto this day, those who hail from Somalia's Digil/Mirifle clan feel the pain and affliction metted on them by Aideed and his forces shall remain ingrained in their minds forever.

It was General Aideed who caused the humanitarian disaster in Baidoa and he was the initial mastermind of the worst military scuffles that gripped Mogadishu and Kismayu during his tenure as head of the many guerilla operations. It was Aideed who aborted the humanitarian operations in Baidoa by turning his guns on the relief soldiers until the entire process suddenly collapsed forcing inexperienced President Bill Clinton to order withdrawal of US Forces from Somalia.

Somalia today boasts to have the biggest concentration of orphans in a dwindling economy immersed in political instability and social upheaval. Reports by Amnesty International, European Commission for Human Rights, UNESCO, MSF and other international agencies committed to humanitarian activities in Somalia report cases of atrocities and violence against children by Ethiopian Forces, those of the TFG, and the local armed militia.

The death of Somali children is often carried out by syndicates and death squads whose source of income depend on the nation's chronic instability. Orphanage homes dedicated to caring and educating these children have become targets for ransom and extortion. Many a times has the famous SOS orphanage home in Mogadishu bombed by Ethiopian Forces with no valid explanations.

Foreign humanitarian institutions who could be of service to our children have been viewed with suspicion by religious zealots operating in the country. Fear of evangelism and foreign religious influence has created an air of suspicion with some religious Somali figures advocating for total Jihad against anyone suspected of proselytizing Somali children.

Somali children are dying from minor curable diseases like marasmus, diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, diphtheria and many other controllable diseases. The spread of these diseases is mainly attributed to broken sewarage systems and exposure of uncollected garbage that could have been the responsibilty of the municipality had there been a refuse collection system in place.

Despite having more medical institutions and hospitals, today's Mogadishu is unable to tackle the efficient distribution of immunization services to the most affected parts of the city either because movement has been hampered by insecurity because of the proliferation of roadblocks found almost everywhere. Polio which was long thought to have been eradicated from the face of the earth has resurfaced in Somalia many times.

Besides diseases, Somalia has become prone to devastating seasonal rains that inundate large areas making communication and travel impossible. At times, the Shebelli and Jubba rivers burst their banks destroying life and property and flooding farms that are the mainstay of the local economy. Waterborne diseases and lack of access to clean drinking water are cause for alarm.

Locust invasions have become a hazzard for many in Somalia. Millions of hectares of rich agricultural lands have been rendered useless by the swift destruction caused by locusts. The East African desert locust control research organization is no longer available in Somalia as there is no sole entity to monitor or give early warning data on the locust menace.

In 2007, Somalia saw the worst locust invasions with concurrent menaces afflicting several regions. While Somalis believe locust invasion to be a divine punishment, again, it is business as usual the next day. Killing with impunity continues uninterrupted until the next locust season.

The soil is being denuded of its nutrients by charcoal entrepreneurs who destroy large tracts of land with most perennial vegetation suffering the worst deforestation. The number of merchant ships moored in Somali ports is alarming. These ships arrive at the inviatation of warlords who serve Arab Sheikhs with heating for their fuel-starved furnances.

Patoralists are unable to feed their children due to the spread of trypanosomiasis and tse tse fly. East Africa was so closely knit before the collapse of the Somali Central Government such that in joint ventures neighboring countries were able to monitor the spread of livestock diseases.

The number of children blinded by disease and shrapnel is an issue to reckon with. Crippled children fill the streets of every Somali city with no independent society for their care and education. Neglected street children sniffing hazzardous petroleum products have no where to turn to for help in most towns and villages razed by artillery shells.

Can you imagine a child waking up early in the morning and not going to school. Where there is no safety for children, there is no peace for humanity. When children are at peace, the world rejoices. Every parent wishes to see his children grow up in an atmsophere of tranquility. Somalis need to reflect above clan politics and bring about everlasting peace for their children.

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