Somalia Journal, Day Eleven: Games Kids Play

28.11.07

Categorie: Africa, Axe in Somalia, Infantry, Reporters |

Ashen, gaping faces. Limbs bent at strange angles. Clothes all twisted and askew, chilling evidence of these Islamic Courts soldiers’ final desperate seconds, tearing at themselves to find the wounds that were killing them.

Next, a band of Islamic Courts fighters hiding around a corner from a Transitional Federal Government patrol. The youngest fighter looks to be around 13 years old; the oldest might be in his early twenties. One carries a Russian light machine on his shoulder, ammo draped and dangling. One of the youngsters totes an RPG that’s longer than he is.

The oldest, the leader, peeks around the corner then urges the others on. They take turns darting out into the street, spraying a few rounds then ducking back, smiling sheepishly, looking to their elders for approval. Some glance at the camera, but only for a moment, just making sure their heroics got caught on tape. 

times3.jpgThe leader encourages the kid with the rocket. He runs out to shoot the thing but loses his nerve and comes scampering back. They cheer him on; he tries again: whoosh! The rocket disappears from the frame in a puff of smoke and now the rocketeer is all grins. Watching this video, it’s clear to me these guys have no formal training whatsoever. They’re just kids, playing a game with guns. And they’re in way over their heads. On the tape, an Ethiopian Hind gunship churns overhead, a reminder that adults play this game, too – and play harder.

I wonder about the cameraman. He’s sitting next to me as I watch his handiwork. He speaks maybe ten words of English. How did he get inside this fighter cell to shoot this tape in March? I know for certain he’s no friend of the Islamic Courts. Just yesterday he drove into downtown Bakara Market with two acquaintances, members of the TFG, to pick up a camera he’d left behind during the recent fighting. Some Courts guys spotted him with his TFG pals and shot up the car, killing one of the TFG and wounding the other.

This war is tough on Somali journalists. Eight have died this year, and dozens have been forced to flee their homes by a government that doesn’t want the world to know how bad it is here. The other day I polled around 20 photogs, writers and radio producers: every one of them had been arrested; most had received death threats; many were now unemployed. They asked for a few dollars apiece to cover the cost of coming to see me. And when I agreed, they were almost pathetically grateful.

The cost to me for the cameraman’s combat footage, for which he risked his life? Just $100. Plus, he asked me to send him a baseball cap from the States.

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13 Responses to “Somalia Journal, Day Eleven: Games Kids Play”

  1. All this reminds me of my tour in Mog in 1993. Except it all sounds much worse. Is there still the hotel at the K4?

  2. ELP says:

    Again, great photo. Those kids look perfectly normal and yet they are loaded up with guns. Sad.

  3. Andrew Wagner says:

    Agreed ELP, very dismal scene in that photo.

    Keep up the awesome work David!

  4. [...] 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 Day Fourteen: Arresting All the Wrong People Day Fifteen: U.S. Playing Both Sides Somalia pics Sounds of the Somali aid crisis Mogadishu’s wheeled battlecruisers Somalia’s mystery weapons A.U. Patrols Moga Sounds of African Peacekeeping No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  5. [...] 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 Day Fourteen: Arresting All the Wrong People Day Fifteen: U.S. Playing Both Sides Day Sixteen: Back on the Air Somalia pics Sounds of the Somali aid crisis Mogadishu’s wheeled battlecruisers Somalia’s mystery weapons A.U. Patrols Moga Sounds of African Peacekeeping No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  6. farhiya says:

    no point u.s they am going to dye one day so i rather stop the fighting now!!!! all them kids suffering of aids or something like that and one thing why are u actually fighting????

  7. [...] Related: CJR on Somali press freedom Somalia Journal, Day Eleven: Games Kids Play Somalia Journal, Day Fourteen: Arresting All the Wrong People  Flacks run amuck No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  8. [...] Related: Somalia’s wise old children Somalia’s child soldiers No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  9. LizEtta says:

    This article on child soldiers is as informational as it is disturbing. I talk with many somalis that are all over the world and none of them seem violent to me, in fact most go to school and have jobs. As far as the somalis in the country its self, insha allah one day they will come together and unite for the good of all people, all tribes. Salaam

  10. caitlyn says:

    What kind of person encorages and kid with a rocket. I mean that is a kid and u are an adult.I wouldn’t do that thats like telling some one to jump off a cliff or the bule water bridge.

  11. caitlyn says:

    hey its caitlyn again i think that they should tell us more. i may just be a kid but even a kid can think that this stuff is interesting.

  12. Kyle Mizokami says:

    Thanks for commenting, Caitlyn!

  13. Hanad Aden says:

    i was born and raised in somalia and i never seen such thing. so white people just stop with all you lieing storys jus to try and make some money