Returning to Mogadishu

Abdurahman Warsame mourns the once beautiful city he grew up in, now destroyed by 20 years of civil war.

    I've returned to Mogadishu, the city I grew up in, for the first time in years.  So I spent the first few days traveling through city, I went everywhere.

    Mogadishu was once a thriving beautiful city. It's by the Indian Ocean and it's blessed with beautiful weather and white sandy beaches. A short drive out of the city and you enter the lush gardens of Afgooye. Now it's a miserable and broken city.

    The scars of twenty years of civil war are only too visible. The streets are gone, famous structures like the parliament and the national theatre are nearly or completely destroyed. 

    There is hardly a building without bullet marks. The areas al Shabab withdrew from are even worse: people who fled from there haven't returned yet. 

    The war also damaged the psyche of the city's residents. People are used to the sound of gunfire: they can accurately guess what type of gun was fired. Is it fighting or shooting in the air, they wonder, or if it was fired by the AU peacekeepers. 

    For example, government soldiers clear traffic jams by shooting in the air and people can tell from distance it's not a big deal. But death is also taken lightly. 

    Everyone also listens to the dozen or so radio stations: it's essential to know which areas to avoid. There are guns in every house, aside from the thousands of uniformed armed. 

    And now Mogadishu has become one large refugee camp. New camps are created every week and hundreds of people are fleeing to the city. 

    But there is one positive change. There is less fighting in the centre of the city. But still the armed men who were once the militias who terrorised residents are now government soldiers. They lack discipline and have not changed their old ways. 

    If the government can train them, impose discipline and remove most of them from the streets then that could be the beginning of sustainable security in Mogadishu.

    Mogadishu is Somalia's capital and the largest city. Without finding peace here it's difficult to create a functioning government for the all of Somalia. 


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