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A Court Of Fowls: Episode 20

The beautiful Amina and her parents, forced to flee from their luxurious home in Mogadishu, head for the border with Kenya.

Michael Wood continues his story which is as topical as today's news headlines.

To read earlier episodes of Michael's novel visit

To purchase a copy of Michael's earlier novel Warm Heart please click on

Chapter 7
Nimrod (Continued)

Kismayu’s history, at least in living memory, is one of occupation.

The port served as a base for the Soviet Navy (and a missile
storage facility) immediately after Barre came to power in 1969. And
then in the 1980s when the Russians were out of favour, it was refurbished
at huge cost by the Americans who used it for the same
purpose. Whatever the ideology, none of them did anything to help
Somalia. They only served to make us indebted to them for the loans
taken out to buy socially useless military hardware.

Few outsiders will know much if anything about Kismayu – except
western human rights organisations. These days the town is under
the effective control of al-Shabaab insurgents; Islamic fundamentalists
with claimed affiliations to al-Qaeda. They have imposed
their own filthy version of Sharia law, most infamously applied in
August 2008.

A twenty three year old woman, Asha Ibrahim Dhuhulow, was
accused of adultery. There was no trial in the accepted sense. In the
town square (the most public of venues) she was placed in a hole
which was then filled with sand until only her head protruded above
the ground. Hundreds of people were herded into the square to witness
her execution by stoning. Poor Asha. By all accounts she was a
beautiful, intelligent woman. She was pulled out of the hole three
times to ascertain whether or not she was dead. Three times she was
shoveled back in. At one point, grief stricken relatives surged forward
in an attempt to rescue her from the torture, or perhaps even
to end her misery by administering the final blow. During the melee,
guards fired shots and a child was killed.

But at the time we were fleeing from Mogadishu, Kismayu was a
more civilised if not particularly dynamic place. ‘Unhurried’ is a
word which would aptly describe it. On the morning of our arrival,
having driven through much of the night we were glad to rest up for
a few hours and eat some delicious canjeero and shakshuka.

We had
stumbled across the Kah Somali Cafe. It was no more than a tin
shack in an out of the way side street. However, the proprietors
knew a thing or two about cooking, and of hospitality too. Papa and
I wolfed down our food. Mother ate and drank little as she sat nervously
wringing her hands and looking about her as if the world was
about to end. Perhaps to her and my father, it was. Such was the fragility
of age.

‘Mother, you must eat.’

‘Don’t fuss, child!’ she rebuked. This was her way of talking to
me. The senior daughter!

‘Papa. How much money do you have?’ I asked him this in a confidential
tone so as not to attract the attention of others in the eatery.

‘Enough, my dear. Don’t let that concern you. You forget perhaps
that I always kept some cash in the safe at home. I took the precaution
of emptying that before we left.’

‘Do you think we will ever be able to go back to our house?’

‘Maybe one day, when things have settled down. Not while there
is any chance we may be held accountable for Mursal’s actions.’

‘What will happen to it?’

‘Amina, it will always be there,’ he replied with a weary, unconvincing
smile. He looked exhausted.

We refilled the old Mercedes with gasoline and got on our way
before the worst of the afternoon heat began to beat mercilessly
down on the car’s black livery. Its engine ticked over beautifully I recall,
but as soon as we took the Afmadu road, our suspension began
to suffer. Indeed I wondered whether this had been one aspect of
the car’s maintenance which my father had not given sufficient attention
to, as we were bounced and buffeted over the pot-holed surface.

Surely a trunk road to Kenya should have been better than this? It
was a further testament to the pitiful state of decline our country
had reached.


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