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A Court Of Fowls: Episode Nine

...However interesting these spits of history, they paled into insignificance for me personally, when I read the following one Sunday morning in The Observer:

‘In the Horn of Africa the Government of Somalia is locked in escalating
‘troubles’, to use the Irish term, with opponents of President Siad Barre’s regime.'...

Stewart Munro, sent back to London by his company, realises his ladyfriend Amina is in great danger.

Chapter 3

My downfall had all happened so suddenly, as if helplessly cast
into the core of a twister. One minute I was enjoying the life of
Riley in Kenya, the next I was sucked up and dumped unceremoniously
in London. Worryingly, I had been unable to contact Amina
before I was turfed out. I ought to have put two fingers up to
Brickman and stayed put in a Nairobi hotel until I had been able to
sort something out with her. With the weight of pressure upon me, I
hadn’t thought rationally.

Suits in the company’s Grosvenor Square headquarters suggested
I take a month’s leave while they considered my fate. This was convenient
in the circumstances. I faced practical difficulties not least of
which was finding somewhere to live at a rent I could afford. I settled
on a grubby little flat above a fruit and vegetable shop in Brixton.

I was familiar with the area, having once lived in Herne Hill’s so
called Poet’s Corner – a few parallel streets named Shakespeare,
Milkwood, Chaucer, etcetera. Way back when, it had been run down
and I’d rented a place for five quid a week. I had the Black Panthers
on one side whose booming reggae parties shook the entire neighbourhood.

On the other lived a camp old gent named Hyman, who
delighted in sunbathing his crinkly old naked body in the front garden,
for all of ‘souf ’ London to behold. On return from Africa I
found that the area had been gentrified. It looked juxtaposed against
the still rough and dodgy Railton Road.

Soon after my return to London, Panam 103 exploded over the
hills of Lockerbie. I knew the town well. Before the M74 cut it in
half, I used to walk the Minister’s Loaning with an old girlfriend.
Media footage showed dead passengers scattered across the Dumfriesshire
countryside, a number of whom, still attached to their
seats, hung like oversized Christmas decorations from winter-bare
trees. This was terrorism at its worst. I pondered why press interest
had been so muted in a similarly horrific event six months earlier.

The gung-ho crew of USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655
with the loss of all on board. Peculiar I thought, that the Libyans
should be blamed for Lockerbie. Why were the Americans not better
held to account for the actions of their servicemen? Instead, George
Bush awarded the Legion of Merit to the ship’s captain, Will Rogers.

There were other notable events that year. The Soviets initiated
perestroika; and they withdrew, defeated, from Afghanistan. Kurt
Waldheim, the face of the United Nations, was branded a Nazi war
criminal. The British SAS shot dead three unarmed Provisional IRA
men in Gibraltar. Explosions destroyed the Piper Alpha drilling
platform in the North Sea, killing 165 oil workers. The Iran/Iraq
war ended with one million dead. But not before Saddam Hussein
launched a poison gas attack on Kurdish Halabja killing (more or
less instantly) five thousand civilians. The microscopic jockey, Lestor
Piggott, was stripped of his OBE for tax evasion. Unfancied Wimbledon
won the FA Cup Final, beating Liverpool.

However interesting these spits of history, they paled into insignificance
for me personally, when I read the following one Sunday
morning in The Observer:

‘In the Horn of Africa the Government of Somalia is locked in escalating
‘troubles’, to use the Irish term, with opponents of President Siad Barre’s regime.

The Somali National Movement (SNM), comprising mainly Isaaq clan-family,
have launched sporadic military strikes against government targets. These have
intensified of late and SNM are reported as having captured within days of one
another, the northern town of Burao and the strategically important port of
Hargeisa. Government forces have not been slow to retaliate. Both towns have
been bombarded extensively, forcing thousands of people to flee across the border
to Ethiopia. Barre’s much feared Red Berets have conducted savage on-the-ground
reprisals against the Isaaq including poisoning of water wells, burning of
grazing land and widespread raping of women. A staggering 50,000 Isaaq are
thought to have been killed, the majority of whom were innocent civilians with no
connection to the rebels. There are reports of extensive bayoneting of women and
children caught up in the fighting. Mogadishu has not escaped the troubles either.

Faced with vengeful sabateurs and snipers on the capital’s streets, the President is
thought to have ordered his units to ‘eradicate’ southern clan members having
even tenuous associations with the Isaaq. Torture and murder have become the
order of the day.’

A former Somali diplomat once described Barre as ‘brutal, hard,
despicable and cunning. The Somali people (he said) were prisoners
of the whims of their President for more than twenty years. His
greatest disservices were nefarious actions by which he pitted one
clan against another.’

I was stunned with the realisation that Amina’s family was Isaaq.
Would she have been able to keep her head down? Or like the Hutu
and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi, was it obvious who was who?
I was sick with fear for Amina’s life, yet powerless to do anything to



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