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SOMALIA: Abdi Mohamed Samatar, "We decided to sacrifice our lives to safeguard the ministry"
Abdi Mohamed Samatar, in uniform, is a Somali policeman who has served as a security officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1991
MOGADISHU, 8 August 2012 (IRIN) - Abdi Mohamed Samatar is a Somali policeman who has served as a security officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since Somalia last had a functioning government in 1991. Samatar has helped to protect the ministry’s offices from looting during years of violence in the capital, Mogadishu, hopeful that the offices would someday be put to good use. He shared his experience with IRIN:
“I was serving as the security officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the armed opposition ousted the central government of Somalia [in 1991]. Civil war broke out between them [opposition and government forces] and they started to loot all the public properties.
“But I knew that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the place where every foreigner visited for one reason or another; I decided not to leave the ministry, whatever happened. It has 110 offices and all its documents from the last 30 years of independence [1960-1990] archived.
“Two former watchmen and I have been the only guards that the ministry has had in 20 years, even though a lot of militias have been everywhere in Mogadishu and even tried to attack the ministry.
“It is not only the militias who have tried to take over the ministry, but even the business community, which has considered transforming it into a business centre. The business community has tried to buy it at an amount between US$60,000 and $120,000, but we have refused because we believe that the ministry will serve its citizens sooner or later.
“We decided to sacrifice our lives to safeguard the ministry from any attempt at looting or destruction.
“We have been attacked several times by local militias who wanted to loot the ministry or sell it to the businessmen, and they shot at us with machine guns. This kind of conflict may continue until they relinquish their wish to enter the ministry or another intervention comes. On 15 April 1995, we were attacked by local militia and we surrendered; I was injured, but I continued to fight them until they decided to go away. I was admitted for 25 days at the Madina Hospital; later, I returned to the ministry.
“During the first days of the war and looting, the local people supported me, and sometime the elders used to come and mediate between me and the militias who attacked me; most of the time they used to persuade them that I was only serving the public. Of course, most of the militia used to threaten to shoot me but…they were afraid that if they continued my fellow clansmen would come and support me; that is why I was safe most of the time.
“After the new Transitional Federal Government of Somalia was established [in 2004], I transferred the ministry’s documents to the government. The only thing the ministry needed was to be repaired or repainted. Even though the president [Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed] and prime minister [AbdiWeli Ali Gas] visited me here and praised me, I am yet to be rewarded.”