Somalia Journal, Day Eight: Riot!

24.11.07

Categorie: Africa, Axe in Somalia, Extremists |

The first time we went to the tiny movie house near the Mogadishu seaport, with a mind to doing some interviews, the manager fussed at us for not making an appointment. It was tense, but not alarming. We promised to call ahead next time.

And we did. Even so, when we arrived at the cinema a couple days later, we almost started a riot.

imgp3561.jpgOur security guards stayed outside. We went inside with our fixers. A hundred pairs of moviegoers’ eyes — kids, mostly — drifted away from the Bollywood flick on the big TV and followed us as we walked to the back of the room. There were murmurs; a few got up to leave. And outside, we could hear arguing. Someone had confronted our guards.

That someone was a man claiming to be the neighborhood “mayor.” He bustled inside with his thugs, waving at us to put away our cameras. He said we needed his permission to work in the neighborhood — and permission from the government. We said we had government clearance. So he invented a sub-level of clearance and said we needed that, too.

The theater owner was aghast, caught in the middle, having invited us in without realizing how the ‘hood would react. He was powerless to stop the rapidly growing and angry crowd. Several AK-47s were in evidence.

“Let’s get out of here,” I muttered. We raced outside, muscled through the crowd and hopped into our truck. Our fixers and guards tried to reason with the crowd, but it was hopeless. We sped away, the theater owner clinging to the outside of the truck. A couple blocks away, in a quiet alleyway, we interviewed him about his business, slipped him a couple thousand shillings for his trouble and let him go.

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4 Responses to “Somalia Journal, Day Eight: Riot!”

  1. Dave Narby says:

    Let me know if you ever want to make a movie about your exploits..!

  2. [...] Related: Day One: “You Come to Africa, But You May Never Leave.” Day Two: Barnstorming! Day Three: Enclaves Day Four: Everybody Parley Down! Day Five: “I Quit!” Day Six: ”We’re Here and We’re Surviving.” Day Seven: Wise Old Children Day Eight: Riot! Day Nine: Gunfire Is Boring Day Ten: Bombs Are Boring Day Eleven: Games Kids Play Day Twelve: This Cash Is Broke Day Thirteen: Warlording 101 Somalia pics Sounds of the Somali aid crisis Mogadishu’s wheeled battlecruisers Somalia’s mystery weapons 3 Comments so far Leave a comment [...]

  3. [...] Last year I almost started a riot at a Mogadishu movie theater. Last week Alex Strick van Linschoten had his own close call: The atmosphere can change in a matter of seconds while working in Somalia. Today we were traveling with a militia south of Mogadishu in part so that Philip could take some photos of a ‘technical’, the well-known battlewagon in Somalia popularized in the fighting of the 1990s. [...]

  4. [...] by far. Even in Somalia, I felt like there was a fairly clear division between “danger” and “safety.” When I was [...]

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