THE KHAT WAR
SPEAKER TC 00.02.20.17
For the last twenty years, Somalia has been torn apart by a civil war which seems to be everlasting and has already provoked thousands of deaths, the destruction of the country, and the most abject poverty.
The country no longer produces anything but pain and death caused by the tribal-clan war that broke out in 1991, and which over the last few years has turned into a dangerous religious conflict between traditional moderate Sufi Islam and the imported Islamic extremism of the Wahhabi sect.
Eight million Somali survive in a perennial state of destitution receiving little humanitarian aid and, only for the lucky ones, money transferred from relatives working abroad.
But there is yet another terrible evil afflicting the Somali: Khat, a mass-consume drug. The Khat twigs are not just some innocuous agricultural product, but the primary fuel of war.
DRUG DEALER TC1 00.03.52.21
We buy a bundle for 16 dollars...
selling it on makes our day
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.04.00.14
We’re doing this work for our childen
and not to get rich
SPEAKER TC 00.04.06.11
These little green shoots, which seem so innocuous, are actually a powerful narcotic similar to amphetamine, which leads to addiction and causes serious health problems.
The Khat shrub grows spontaneously on the mountain ridges of East Africa and southern Arabia, but not in Somalia.
In a country in the grip of chaos and a never-ending war, for the Somali the trade in Khat is just another kind of work.
DRUG DEALER 3 TC 00.04.43.01
Selling Khat is a job like any other
and it is better than digging sewers
At the end of the day I’m just selling Khat
today I got it for 15 dollars and I’m selling it for 16
other times I buy it for 16 dollars and sell it for 17
SPEAKER TC 00.05.12.19
Every morning the planes of the Khat traffickers land on the airstrips of Somali cities.
The shrub and the young leaves have to be fresh when they reach their destination. Because its active ingredient, cathinone, is highly perishable, Khat has to be consumed within two days of picking.
Every night, in a region 100km from Nairobi, thousands of Khat cultivators harvest the product, which is then sent to the airport of the Kenyan capital and loaded onto aircraft to the total indifference of the local authorities.
Earnings from trafficking this drug are huge, estimated at a billion dollars a year.
The police, the army, and the clan chiefs share the goods like good friends with the local Mafia man. This traffic never triggers conflicts. Everyone wants to have a share of the cake without wars.
Every day of the week the pusher is different to allow all the clans to make a profit.
Today’s pusher is a brusque woman who is giving orders to her associates to divide the goods amongst other pushers, the army and the police.
The immense profits from the traffic allow the “Khat Baron” to maintain a powerful organisation, with planes and means of transport of every kind.
Khat is also what fuels the inexhaustible Somali conflict. Without this drug, which abolishes hunger and fear, and gives a feeling of invincibility, the Somali troops wouldn’t fight.
This is why, every day, the authorities tax the Mafia pushers by taking 30% of the inward bound drugs to distribute them amongst the soldiers.
It’s thanks to Khat that discipline is maintained, while the soldiers’ capacity to fight is increased.
If the daily distribution of the drug were blocked, the troops would refuse to fight and would mutiny.
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.07.55.18
This government’s the best
and does loads!
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.08.00.00
it started trafficking Khat right away
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.08.07.08
So why do you complain about the government?
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.08.10.00
Because they want their cut on this bundle
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.08.12.16
The government’s got nothing to do with it...
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.08.14.03
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.08.16.05
Careful, they’ll make you pay for it!
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.08.18.02
I don’t care about the government !
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.08.19.09
They’ll give you something...
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.08.21.10
The only good thing I’ve got is this bundle
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.08.24.13
Don’t worry, they’ll give you some more...
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.08.28.19
That’s enough talking! Let me chew the Khat!
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.08.30.10
Yeah... let your life cling onto a twig!
SPEAKER TC 00.08.42.11
According to international organisations, Khat is consumed in Somalia by 50% of the adult population. Sometimes children are deprived of every means of sustenance by adults who are dependent on the drug. Khat costs 2-3 dollars for a daily dose, in other words, the entire salary of an average worker.
Consumption of this drug is also a way to escape from reality. A hard reality made up of poverty and disease.
WOMAN 1 TC 00.09.24.13
A family with little babies sleeps here...
over there are the homes of other families...
and other people sleep here...
No one cares about our situation or helps us
we poor have got nothing....
WOMAN 2 TC 00.09.44.01
I’ll show you something...
here there’s a sick person with tuberculosis and no medicine
WOMAN 1 TC 00.09.51.02
She’s a really sick woman
WOMAN 3 TC 00.10.00.19
She is being of God too...
SPEAKER TC 00.10.21.17
The health situation in Somalia is infernal. Every day thousands of people die for lack of medical assistance. Surviving in this country is only a question of money.
MOTHER 1 TC 0o.10.37.08
So far I’ve spent 150 dollars to treat my son...
yesterday I asked for another loan of 5 dollars...
the wound was only treated yesterday
they told me medicines are still needed
we have to stay here a few more days
but I’ve run out of money...
I’ll have to send someone to the village
to take some corn to sell...
They told me to buy meat for the boy
but a small bit already costs half a dollar!
This is our situation
SPEAKER TC 00.11.29.03
In the hospitals they work without equipment and without medicine.
In this case the only way to see ]whether a patient is alive is to put a hand in front of his mouth to figure out if he is still breathing. [avevo usato il plural “their” per evitare “he/she”, his/her]
Even the most complicated surgical operations are carried out by nurses.
NURSE TC 00.11.52.09
Since 2003 there have been no surgeons in this hospital
I have to operate even if I’m only a nurse
The population lives with terrible difficulty
Yesterday I had to operate on someone
but he had no money for the medicines
Here the staff doesn’t earn a salary
and we haven’t any money for medicines
DRUG DEALER 4 (WOMAN) TC 00.12.48.05
We don’t earn anything selling Khat
all we do is work hard
BUYER TC 00.12.52.11
How much do you sell it for?
DRUG DEALER 4 (WOMAN) TC 00.12.53.09
What do you want ?
DRUG DEALER 4 (WOMAN) TC 00.12.59.13
Without this work my kids wouldn’t survive
SPEAKER TC 00.13.15.00
Children and the young are those worst hit by the twenty-year long devastating conflict.
Hunger, poverty and an astronomical death rate are the endemic ills of Somalia. But for the last twenty years there has been no State. The only school system are the madrassa the Koranic schools. Often these are financed by foreign charities with obscure interests and become a reservoir to bring new blood to the ranks of the more extremist Islamic militia.
In this country even drinking-water is a luxury good. Water has been a rare commodity ever since the various warring factions filled each others’ wells with sand to annihilate their adversaries. The only well that still survives in this country town is the one from colonial times. The clans control the pumping of the water and share the profits from selling it to the population.
Astonishingly, there’s also a hi-tech world hidden away amongst the ruins of the houses destroyed by the war. This is the universe of mobile phone microwaves. A business in the hands of large foreign investors. These mysterious entrepreneurs mix business with unconfessable financial support for the extremist Islamic factions of the Wahhabi sect. After Khat, this commerce is the second thing which fuels the war in Somalia.
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.15.31.12
How come you have to sell this Khat?
and why don’t you look for another job?
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.15.37.13
Everyone has his destiny... this is my
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.15.39.20
So you never went to school ?
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.15.43.07
Khat is my school
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.15.44.04
And why didn’t you go to school?
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.15.48.02
There’s only one reason: Khat!
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.1552.19
So you only know this Khat?
DRUG DEALER 2 TC 00.15.54.14
Yes, I’ll die selling Khat...
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.15.56.03
You’re going to die like this ?
DRUG DEALER 1 TC 00.15.58.12
Yeah, I’ll die like this!
SPEAKER TC 00.16.10.19
Every day, at 4 in the afternoon the mass consumption of Khat begins.
The military command posts and the few public offices empty. The politicians, the clan chiefs, the military commandants, and the clergy retire to their fine homes to consume their Khat.
Hour after hour millions of Somali chew Khat leaves to drive away reality.
The nightmare of the horrifying everyday reality of the war is exorcised by the drug.
But the beautiful dream doesn’t last long.Once the effect of the Khat has gone, dreadful new nightmares materialise.