|Courtsey of Wikipedia
In the summer of 1997, I was a member of a delegation of thenow defunct National Salvation Council (the NSC, aka Sodare Group) from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,to Mogadishu, Somalia. The delegation membersincluded NSC Co-chairmen, Ali Mahdi Mohamed and Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as wellas Council members, Mohamud Mohamed Guled (Gacmadheere), Duuliye Sare AbdiOsman Farah among others. We numbered about 13 men and one female. We were onour way to meet with an Italian delegation led by then Deputy Foreign Ministerfor Africa, Senator Serri, who was about to visit Mogadishu for the solepurpose of mediating between disputing Mogadishu warlords despite many otherproblems of Somalia. The vision of the Italian delegation on Somalia was notbeyond the Banadir Region at that particular time. Abdullahi Yusuf’s intentionin the mission was to disrupt the Italian visit (which he did successfully) while Ali Mahdi’s was to win over the Italian favor against Hussein Aidiid andOsman Ali Atto.
We made a two-day stop-over in
Djibouti. The Prime Minister of Djibouti then, Barkat Gourad Hamadou
, honored us with a lavish luncheon with tender baby-goat’s meat and otherdelicacies of
Djiboutiat his residence. After the lunch, we were taken to a large and well furnished room with an Arabic seating with soft cushions specifically designed for long-time session comfort for Kat indulgence, gossipping experience, news and secrets debriefing under the “high” influence of the stuff. In front of every person a bazooka-like wrapping was placed, a large silver tray full of thet ools of the trade: A big and tall golden tea thermos, crystal glasses, shining and engraved tea-mugs, various branded cold soft drinks in plastic Coca Cola–type bottles and commercially distilled water in gravines with swimming crystal clear ice rocks, all to be consumed in the breezing air-condition of the room- an artificial weather hide-out from the environment of burning heat of the City of Djibouti.
After a few chit-chats, Prime Minister Hamadou noticed thatnone of the members of our delegation was using the stuff as they were allnon-chewers at least at that period of time. The Prime Minister was bit annoyed and asked: “Why are you in civil war then, if there is nothing to fightfor?” I guess we spoiled the daily indulgence session for our generous,high-level Djiboutiguest. Luckily, the conversation didn’t break up as we a had had a lot todiscuss on Somalia, Somalia-Djibouti past and future relationships and the Horn of Africa, in general.
During those fewyears, I discovered, in separate sessions, that Ismail Omar Gheleh, the currentPresident of Djibouti, waspondering about his desire to join his tiny country with Ethiopia as he was desperately convinced that Djibouti wouldnot survive on its own. There was rampant corruption in the seaport, the mainrevenue generating enterprise besides high spending men of the Frenchlegionnaires at Djibouti night clubs. The City of Djbouti was on the verge of being taken over by the influx of Ethiopians, who needed noimmigration papers to come in. It was only Puntland help in 1999 to commit himto Somalia’s National Reconciliation process, encouraging him to take it overfrom Ethiopia, an AU and IGAD Mandated Country for Somali NationalReconciliation Process, while President Abdullahi Yusuf convinced President Daniel arab Moi of Kenya to support President Ismail Omar Ghueleh to play the role.It was undoubtedly a diplomatic success that pushed Ethiopia aside from the Somaliissues. One may guess already why Ethiopia was not happy with President Yusuf lately. The second help came to Djibouti frompost-9/11 World Order. Besides God’s wish, it was only these two factors thatsaved Djibouti from voluntary union with Ethiopia.Unfortunately, he betrayed Puntland State during the initial phases of the Arta Conference, a rift that eventually undermined the TNG of Abdulkassim Salad Hassan to pave the way for holding Mbagati (Kenya) all inclusive and broad-based Somali National Conference and finally, the establishment of theTransitional Federal Government of the Somali Republic (TFG) in 2004,transforming it into the Somali Federal Republic in 2012.
Suddenly, the Prime Minister shared with us thesocio-economic devastation Kat consumption has been causing on Djiboutiat the time. He informed us that Djiboutiwas paying Ethiopiaa hundred thousand US dollars daily, and that was only the portion of thepayments that goes though from bank to bank. Think about residents who buy thestimulant on their own from individual Chat traders on the top of train and airpassengers who also bring sacks of the green leaves to their families,relatives and friends in Djibouti cities.
On a number of occasions, I stopped over in Djiboutifor ashort stay. On multiple times, arriving at Djibouti International Airport,I used to see popular demonstration-like commotion at the gates of the airport-population rushing to the airport when Kat cargo delivery from Ethiopia is delayed for only a few hours. One would see custom and passport control officers whose mouths are asymmetrically filled with Qat and chewing it on thejob. Think about the officers’ mental judgement and decision-making capability under the influence of the hyper-leaves at country’s highly sensitive and mainborder entry point.
The situation is even worse in Somalia with a few millions of USdollars spent every day on the habit. With no credible fiscal staticsavailable, the country may be fast sinking into public and personal bankruptcy. Afailed state desperately trying to recover from decades of civil war and totalcollapse of public services and institutions, has also population whollyconsumed by the epidemics of daily Chat use, effectively destroying thesocio-economic fabric of its society, abysmally curtailing manpower productivehours and bringing havoc to family livelihoods and relationships while it isalso at same sometime constitutes an instigator and main source of corruptionand loose social morals. A country with the geographical size larger severaltimes than Italy or UK with porous long borders with Ethiopia and Kenya requires alert and non-Chat-chewing security personnel and efficient bureaucracy.
The irony is that Somalis nowadays like to talk about safeguarding their sovereignty and territorial integrity, while at sometimeallowing their neighbor states to dump poisonous addictive Kat to their citizens, drain their economy, disable their manpower and threaten their vital national security interests. Think about the real double-talk and double standard with a proverbial ostrich attitude!
Somalia has to come up with a solution to the menace of the Qat. While fully it is understandable that it is tough to try to ban the habit outright, at least a committee of experts should be immediately setup to study the problem and submit recommendations to competent bodies for, at minimum, regulating it and eventually outlawing it. Massive public education and media programs relating to its dangerous hazards to personal and public health should be initiated and launched immediately to stop the spread of the habit to young generation.
cannot afford to continue to ignore its greatest, silent killer of its productive members of the society and the gravest national calamity posed by Kat trade.Please wake up!