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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 13:37 GMT
Life in Somalia: Bashir's story
Eight residents of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, tell us what the new government's priorities should be and how they have survived 13 years of anarchy.

Mahamut:
Scrap metal worker

Nimo:
Khat dealer

Abdullahi:
Cattle-herder

Abdi:
Refugee
Abdidir:
Bus driver

Bashir:
Gunman

Halima:
Refugee

Idi:
Singer

Bashir Aden Ibrahim

I have been a gunman for 14 years.

I used to be a driver but I was press-ganged into fighting for Somalia's last government, led by Siad Barre.

After he was toppled, I started to use my gun to earn the money to support my family.
Our clan elders have told us to stop fighting but they don't have any money, unlike our faction leaders, so we follow those with the money

I live in a former government building with my wife and six children, along with the families of my comrades.

I work at a check-point, where we stop passenger buses, taxis and good trucks but if we see a vehicle with its own security guards, we leave them alone.

The amount we charge depends on how much the truck is carrying.

If it's fully laden, we can charge up to 1m shillings ($60) but if it's only carrying a half load, we only charge 500,000 sh.

For a minibus, we charge 50,000 sh for the full day and then an extra 10,000 in the evening.

If the driver doesn't pay, we won't let him through.

This is how we earn the money we need to live. We don't have to give any of our earnings to our faction leader, we keep it all for ourselves.

'Zombies'

The gun rules Somalia today and my gun is the tool of my trade - it is my pen.

If we fight, we fight for our clan.

I know this is not a good life but it is the only thing I can do at the moment.

Things were much better during the regime of Siad Barre. Then we were human beings but now we are living like zombies, just surviving, because there is no direction.

From time to time, our clan elders have told us to stop fighting but they don't have any money, unlike our faction leaders, so we follow those with the money.

There is mistrust among the Somalis, that's why other governments have failed.

We are ignorant - we just do what our leaders tell us. If our leaders tell us to start fighting, that's what we know best, so it's very easy.

It's better to have a government but I am not confident that a government can come and control the whole country unless foreign troops come and disarm us because there is so much distrust between the clans here.

Or maybe Somalia's former soldiers could help us to disarm.

For myself, I have no problem with the newly elected president [Abdullahi Yusuf] or his prime minister [Ali Mohamed Ghedi] but I will do what my leader tells me.

Once all the different militias are disarmed, then we will all be equal and we can live together peacefully.





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