WARARKA BARAAWEPOST Sabti 19 december 2009
The Gardener of Villa
Posted by Jon Lee Anderson
While reporting my recent Letter from Mogadishu, I stayed at the presidential compound, Villa
Sheikh Ahmed started working at Villa
Sheikh Ahmed is now a limber, straight-backed man of seventy-five, with a fulsome hennaed beard. On the day we spoke, he wore a white skullcap, a long red shirt, and loose pantaloons.
After a light morning rain, the sky was overcast. A humid breeze blew. Sheikh Ahmed rattled off the names of trees and shrubs in half-remembered Italian. A yellow, bell-shaped flower on a tree was a “campanelli yalo”; another tree, its branches thorned and festooned with beanlike pods, was an “anganelli.” There were also some frangipani trees, and a false tamarind that he called simply “arbol
He walked me around a plaza laid in white, blue, and ochre terrazzo tiles around a decorative flowerbed and a white flagpole. From it hung
We were standing next to the guest house, a white, sixties-era mansion made of concrete and glass. I had been given the V.I.P. suite, a beat-up but spacious apartment with its own balcony. I knew that I was receiving special treatment; senior government ministers and presidential advisers were sleeping two and three to a room.
Sheikh Ahmed recalled that the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada had stayed in my suite. “We welcomed him well,” he said. “We loved him because he was an African president.” Sheikh Ahmed liked working for Major General Mohamed Siad Barre,
Two thin, robed women approached us. They had been cleaners at Villa
Sheikh Ahmed said that the women were from a sub-clan favored by the warlord General Mohamed Farah Aidid, who had seized power at the height of the civil war. After Aidid lost control of Villa
Sheikh Ahmed has a sizeable brood of his own—on his own word, no fewer than thirty-five children, “praise be to God,” and his current wife, his twelfth, is now pregnant. “The whole clan is one hundred and ninety-five, including grandchildren,” Sheikh Ahmed said proudly. “And not one of my children has ever carried a gun. Everything I have has come from gardening, from trees and flowers.” He had seen to it that his children were educated; one son had been sent to
Eyeing my notepad, Sheikh Ahmed instructed: “I want you to hear what I have to say, and I want you to write this down. I am an old man and I have worked a long time, and I am sad my country is in this state. I wish I had a country that could reward its best citizens. If my country were not at war, I would have retired by now; I would have received my reward, because I have worked hard. I never harmed anyone. I raised my children properly, and they have never harmed anybody, either. So I wait for this weak state to give me my reward, so I can go home.”.
Shabakadda warbaahinta ee Baraawepost Muqdisho Somalia firstname.lastname@example.org