THE MOGADISHU LINE
The United Nations and Somalia
THEY HUDDLED BENEATH the rusting wrecks of army trucks abandoned by fleeing soldiers. They drew their rotting rags around them as they crouched around the embers of a fire. The dying children of Baidoa dragged their fading bodies along the sandy streets of a town engulfed faintly by the soft cries of the hungry. A tall boy eased himself painfully down onto a lorry tire lying beside the road. His legs twisted awkwardly. His bare shoulders stretched beneath skin caked in mud and dust. He slowly twisted his wasted body until he was half lying, half crouching on the tire. Barely moving, he fingered the sandy ground. The owner of the Bikiin restaurant stared out across the street. Militiamen passed in a heavily armed Land Cruiser, a mounted machine gun jutting out across the camouflage-painted bonnet. Two boys ran past, one carrying a model machine gun made from twisted metal, the other with one carved from wood. They yelled and laughed as they chased each other.
Meat and pancakes were cooking in the Bikiin restaurant. The owner said he bought his rice for 120,000 Somali shillings a sack and went all the way to Mogadishu to get it. Outside the restaurant, donkey carts passed laden with the rice sacks. The rice market was thriving. A lorry blocked the main market street. Tiny dying children stared blankly, as they shuffled aimlessly through the throng of adult legs, patient donkeys, stalls selling packets of