Editors’ note

In May 1988 the SNM attacked and briefly captured Burao and Hargeisa, the two main towns in the north west. Siad Barre’s response was genocidal: days of aerial and ground bombardment of both towns by the Somali Armed Forces, backed up by South African mercenary pilots; the round-up and summary execution of hundreds of civilians; the complete destruction of the towns’ infrastructure; and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

By the time the bombardment had ended the city of Hargeisa was in ruins and thousands were dead. Unknown numbers of people had been massacred and buried in mass graves;25 more than half a million people had fled south and to the borderAnti-personnel mines were planted in streets, houses and livestock thoroughfares to kill, maim and deter return. Some 50,000 civilians were estimated to have been killed between May 1988 and March 1989. Such was the government’s suppression of information and the lack of media interest that this war was barely reported in the international press. (Amnesty International & CIIR/ICD 1999)

Shukri Hariir a broadcaster for national radio, was the mother of six young children and at the time heavily pregnant. She lived through the bombardment. Through the detail of how she and her family made their escape we learn something of the dilemma that faced parents of young children as they tried to flee the city on foot, loaded with their infants, in darkness and under constant fear of detection and death.