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
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.
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.
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
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
- Peace is Every Step - Thich Nhat Hanh
30 March 93
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
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.