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In the market for peace (Somalia).

On the green line between the warring factions in Mogadishu, Somalia, a small sign of hope is being built. Women from different sides of the confict are setting up a market where they can together sell their vegetables and handicrafts.

The market is the inspiration of Nurta Hagi Hassan, wife of one of Somalia's political leaders. `I wanted to find a way of bringing together the women from the warring sides,' she says. `Many have lost their men in the fighting. I thought if we could set up a market, then we would share in the future.'

She donated a piece of land on the green line to a group of 50 women, 25 from each side. Fifty kiosks are being built, with funds from foreing NGOs and UN agencies. There will also be a centre where the women can talk and `little by little' overcome their differences. Leadership will rotate between the two groups every two months.

`We can share our country,' says Nurta Hagi Hassan. `We must convince our men not to fight, because they are fighting for power, nothing else.' She points out that Somalis have no differences of race, religion or language to divide them--only politics.

She has bitter personal experience of her country's conflict. In 1992, at the height of the fighting in Mogadishu, she was trapped for 50 days in the area controlled by General Aideed, against whom her husband was fighting. `Sometimes I could hear the soldiers calling my name,' she says. `I was scared for my life and I could see that the people hiding me were afraid for their children.' Eventually, `all alone and trusting in God', she made her way to the other side.

`At that time,' she says, `I was determined on revenge. My brother had been wounded and all my property looted.' At a conference in Caux she met people from other countries who had also suffered--`even more than me'--and had found the power to forgive. `I realized that I had to find peace inside.'

She found the courage not only to forgive, but to make contact with `the people we considered enemies'. Recently, she says, she went to offer her condolences to the family of a general who had just died. As she went in, she passed one of her clansmen, who shouted, `Shame on you!'. `But I kept on going.' She is involved in mediation between the different factions in Somalia.

She senses a new spirit in Somalia these days. `We are tired of war,' she says. `There is hope that we will be able to come together and have a government, at last.'
COPYRIGHT 1996 For A Change
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Mary Lean
Publication:For A Change
Date:Oct 1, 1996
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