Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Tuesday, September 28, 2021  

Somalia '93


Searching for Weapons

26 March 93

We went out on patrol this morning. We spent the day searching every hut in a corridor between the river and the highway, from just south of Beled Weyne to a point south of Treejante. I found a Chinese AK with a solid stock and folding bayonet locked in a box.

When I entered the hut, I asked the men there whether or not they had any weapons, especially AK's. Of course they said "no." I asked them to unlock a large box and they did. The guy rummaged around in it showing me there was nothing there even though the AK was in plain sight. I guess he thought (or hoped) I was blind. Outside, in another box I found two more magazines in a magazine pouch. All together, it was a good haul for the day.

It bothers me entering people's homes, rooting around in their belongings and invading their property. You would never get away with house to house searches, going through everything without just cause in Canada. It is necessary though. We find so many weapons, mines and bombs that the people always deny they have. How can someone sleep with stacks of armed anti-tank mines under their bed?

The distinction between bandit and innocent farmer is fading. I don't think anyone is innocent in this country. The only difference between bandit and farmer is timing and opportunity. Everyone claims their weapons are for protection from bandits, but the organized groups of bandits we read about in the news don't exist. The only banditry is the people of one clan stealing from and killing another clan. It is not a case of good guys verses bad guys. For the Somalis it is every man, family and clan for themselves.

This evening we set up a roadblock on the highway halfway between Beled Weyne and Moxamed Hasan. I am on early warning with Bravo. I am quite content, pistol in my new shoulder holster and a beautiful AK over my lap as a personal weapon for this patrol. It's funny how they always find their way into my hands. The AK is a weapon I trust, unlike those I am issued. The desert is a harsh environment, but I can rely on the AK to work if I need it.

Look at me - a renegade warrior, sitting in the African bush carrying a captured Chinese AK-47. Everyone thinks I'm becoming one of them - "going native" - speaking Somali, talking with them, reading the Koran, squatting like them, acting too much like them.

What choice do I have? I cannot deal with everything the way most of the guys do. I cannot turn to dehumanizing the people. I cannot hide behind racism no matter how easy and tempting it may be. Only by understanding their plight and working to ease the suffering can I survive.

Slowly we are making a difference. You don't hear much gunfire in the streets anymore. It has been replaced by the laughter of children playing. There is food in the markets and few are still starving. Police stations and schools have been opened. Farmers are working their fields and crops are beginning to grow. Everything is different now, if only peace can last after we leave.

Despite the pain, I am probably happier here than I've ever been. For once in my life I am doing something to ease the suffering in the world. I am helping someone else and that means so much more than the material possessions I've been chasing after.

Back in Canada, I was losing track of what is important. Confronted with so much suffering, I have done a lot of soul searching. I have found something I thought I had lost, the way I once was. I just hope I can hold on to a part of that.

"Being in touch with the kind of suffering we encountered during the war can heal us of some of the suffering we experience when our lives are not very meaningful or useful. When you confront the kinds of difficulties we faced during the war, you see that you can be a source of compassion and a great help to many suffering people. In that intense suffering, you feel a kind of relief and joy within yourself, because you know that you are an instrument of compassion. Understanding such intense suffering and realizing compassion in the midst of it, you become a joyful person, even if your life is very hard."

- Peace is Every Step - Thich Nhat Hanh

30 March 93

A couple of days ago a vehicle ran an RCD roadblock up north. They shot out its tires, but its occupants fled into the bush and escaped. It turns out that the vehicle is Ethiopian and they want it back. The Ethiopians are supporting the well armed and well-trained SNF forces and both wanted us out of their area. Callsign 32 was quickly dispatched into the area as a show of force. It seems to have worked and the situation has temporarily calmed down.

We headed for Bulo Burti at four this morning where we picked up an aid convoy from Mogadishu headed for Beled Weyne. It will be another long day under the sun escorting these trucks through their constant breakdowns.

It took two hours to drive down to Bulo Burti and seven hours to drive back with the convoy. Then we had to wait as the trucks were unloaded at the ICRC warehouse. We didn't get back to camp until after six, but I found two large care packages waiting for me and a couple of letters, a good way to end the day.

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