Mogadishu Diary

Stephen Smith

The cars drive into the United Nations compound in Mogadishu. The two Somalis get out, and so does the Filipino woman, and the sad-looking Egyptian who has been telling everyone he must be on the flight back to Nairobi at four o’clock. I am the only one who is going on, to the Save the Children Fund compound. Ahmed turns the car around and there are only the two of us in it. The guards open the tall metal gates to let us out, and there is no sign of the Toyota pick-up which escorted us from the airport, a machine-gun mounted behind the cab, a man braced against it as if he were in the prow of a whaler. I catch sight of an anxious face in the wing mirror and recognise it as mine. There is a ceasefire in Mogadishu but it doesn’t involve anything so prosaic as a cease in the firing. What it means in practice is no first use of artillery, a moratorium on heavy ordnance. It has not put an end to the shooting: thirty casualties a day are turning up at the couple of gamy hospitals in the city.

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