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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT

World: Africa

The boring life of a warlord

Warlords put on an impressive show of force when travelling about

Somalia is a country where people have forgotten what it feels like to have a government, and many cannot even remember what a president looks like.

Mohammed Sheikh Gabyow talks to BBC's Network Africa
And those who have emerged to control the country and the lives of ordinary people are the warlords who surround themselves with a huge security presence.

Yet despite this image, it appears that the daily life of a warlord is much like that of a political leader anywhere - plagued by meetings.

Mohammed Sheikh Gabyow, foreign affairs spokesperson for the north Mogadishu faction led by Ali Mahdi Mohammed, told the BBC that meetings take up nearly all of a warlord's time, preventing him from getting on with other things.

[ image: Warlord Ali Mahdi Mohammed: Stuck in meetings]
Warlord Ali Mahdi Mohammed: Stuck in meetings
"The whole day from when he wakes up in the morning until late into the evening. He has very little time for administration. Not only him but all faction leaders, " he said.

"Some 80% of his time is absorbed with meetings with elders and clan chiefs."

He also said that the warlord's door is always open for "common people".

"They bring to him mostly personal problems of a family nature - also problems created by armed youngsters in the area."

Putting on a show

And as for travelling about in big convoys guarded by hosts of technicals - pick-ups with mounted machine-guns - Mr Gabyow admitted that this is just as much for show as for fear of attack.

[ image:  ]
"It is almost a fashion to have four, five, six, even 10 technicals around the chiefs.

"The cost is not a concern. Big men are not accountants. They are big and they do not care for money.

"We consider Ali Mahdi Mohammed a big man. He thinks of himself as a big man and the people think of him as a big man and that is all."

And why could Ali Mahdi not talk to the BBC himself? He was out of town in meetings, of course.

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