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Death, misery of nation beset by insurgency

srcap060411_01A group of men gathered around the Grave, the anger visible in their faces.




One poured water on a mound of soil, And kneaded it into soft balls. They



Were handed to another man below, who carefully placed them underneath




The body of Hussein Abdi Mohammed, 12. the balls ensured the boy was comfortable in his final resting place at the public cemetery just outside Mandera town, not far from where an explosion caused fatal injuries.

A sheikh led the small group of mourners into prayer and lamentation, finalising age-old Islamic burial rites. As the young men turned to walk away, Mohammed’s uncle, Abdikarim Yusuf, stepped aside to pour his frustrations out.

"He should never have died," Yusuf said, turning to look at the fresh grave. "We were used as human shields. Nobody warned us there was going to be an armed confrontation."

He was referring to an offensive against Somalia’s al-Shabaab last month, which residents said was launched from the populated Bulla Hawa neighbourhood in Mandera.

Mohammed died last week, several days after an explosion killed his friend, Abdimalik Mohammed. The children, alongside two others, were playing with what police believe was a bomb when it suddenly went off.

Bomb fears

Residents believe several other such munitions may have been left behind in their midst.

Three such have been detonated by the military after residents found them


Debris of an attack last month in Somalia’s Bulla Hawa. [PHOTOS: EVANS HABIL/ STANDARD]

Outside his house in Bulla Hawa, Mohammed Said receives well wishers streaming into his homestead with a heavy heart. His son, Abdimalik, died on the spot in the explosion a few metres from the house. His two other children, Nurto and Abdikadir, are nursing injuries on their limbs sustained in the explosion.

Abdikadir emerges from the house, struggling to stand upright. When the pain becomes too much to bear, he breaks out in a heart-wrenching shriek, his eyes pleading with his father to pick him up.

Said noted since the fighting ended, no effort was made to sweep the neighbourhood for unexploded munitions. "I blame the Government for his death. They should have told us not to return until the place is safe," he said.

Daily visits

The children have been discharged from hospital but are making daily visits there, where doctors are monitoring their progress.

Said’s family is among those that have returned to live in the now dangerous neighbourhood. However, dozens others are yet to return because their houses were shelled or burned down.

Many, like Habib Ibrahim Adan, are counting losses amounting to hundreds of thousands of shillings. Standing beside the ashes of her family’s four-room house, she says the destruction cost at least Sh800,000. The house was shelled one afternoon just minutes after the family fled the area. She and her husband and seven children are now refugees seeking shelter with relatives in the nearby Bulla Power village.

"Who will compensate us," she says, standing under searing heat besides the ruins of her house. "We are poor people like everyone else here." Next to her are the ruins of a neighbour’s house. Only one wall was left standing after it was hit with artillery.

Adan said although conflict has ensued in Somalia for long, fighting has never spilled into the area. "It has only happened now when our Government got involved," she said.

The affected residents have received little help from the Government, which has only offered 300 and 100 bags of rice and beans. The Government is yet to document or value the cost of damage, and has not even considered compensation for the loss of lives and property.

"We don’t even know who should compensate them," said Benson Leparmarijo.

However, many residents say although the destruction was caused by two foreign armed groups, the Government should take responsibility for allowing Ethiopian military to operate on its soil.

Published on 05/04/2011

By Patrick Mathangani


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