In 1992, the United Nations endorsed a mandate to facilitate humanitarian aid to Somalia, following the country’s descent into a bitter civil war that brought widespread hunger and disease. A US led mission, Operation Restore Hope, was dispatched to Somalia to help stem the chaos and disarm the warring clans.
In Mogadishu Diaries 1992-1993: Bloodlines (published in 2012), Eddie Clay provides a fictional account of the mission, that draws from his real-life experience. Clay is a former US Marine, who served in the Operation Restore Hope mission to Somalia from 9 December 1992 until 21 March 1993. Written in the first person, the story is told by Gunnery Sergeant Thompson.
Thompson gives a rather intriguing tale of war, near death experiences and survival, and the challenges of trying to restore peace in a country as war ridden and divided as Somalia. Right from the start, the US led mission is faced with lots of challenges. The weather is almost unbearable (too hot) and language barrier (a few Somalis could speak English. They have to rely on interpreters and it proves difficult to know who the enemy is or who is on their side). As the hunt for the rival clan leaders intensifies, it is evident that “what initially started out as a humanitarian cause, eventually escalated to a low intensity conflict.”
Gunnery Thompson also tells of the challenges he and his fellow soldiers, the conflicts, bullying bosses and rivalry for promotions or military awards. Despite all this, it was evident that army men “…demonstrate courage, knowledge and a high degree of professionalism.”
At 147 pages, the Mogadishu Diaries indeed takes after its title, it covers a period of one year (but a lot does happen in a year), with well dated chapters. However there are a lot of military expressions that can get confusing but thank fully there is a glossary for continuous reference. And of course the still pictures make the story a more engaging read.