Signs of progress amid the chaos of Mogadishu

"Welcome to Mogadishu, someone shouts out as I walk around the city. Everytime I come back to Somalia - what never ceases to surprise me is that amid all this uncertainty and violence - life goes on.


    We are on the maiden flight of Jetlink Express - from Nairobi to Mogadishu. Along for the ride, a few hardened journalists, and mainly diaspora Somalis, returning home, some for the first time in almost 10 years.

    Somalia's Transitional Federal Government has a message for the World, Mogadishu is safe and, crucially, open for business.

    It is as important point to get across. Somalis living abroad send around a billion dollars home every year.

    If they actually start heading home, and staying, well, then that investment could double.

    Driving around the capital Mogadishu, there is plenty of activity.

    Freshly painted luxury villas are popping up everywhere one close to airport has a price tag of half a million dollars.

    But most are lying empty, landlords have invested in the hope that the Turks with their good intentions, or eventually the United Nations will take their building over.

    But there is one entity that stands in the way of all this planned order and peace. The Islamist group al-Shabab is promising to step up its bombing campaign in the run up to the London Somalia conference on February 23rd.

    They have warned  "all Muslims of Somalia to stay away from the enemy bases in order to avoid being unintentional victims of this new campaign".

    On Friday February 17, Shabab managed to sneak a car laden with explosives into Mogadishu's Central Intelligence building.

    According to authorities, two of the group's members stole mobile phones as a ruse to get themselves arrested, and get their vehicle inside. The explosives were then detonated by remote control injuring several soldiers.

    Attacks thwarted

    Since I arrived here last week, several car bombs have been discovered, just in time, before they could wreak any major damage.

    Deputy Commander Colonel Omar Mohamed, is worried. He believes "al Shabab are hiding themselves among people returning" from the Afgoye corridor just outside Mogadishu.

    It isn't difficult for them to do, thousands of people have been fleeing the region, concerned about an imminent attack by the African Union.

    The security situation has overshadowed any political progress that may have been made in Garowe, the capital of Puntland - a region of north-east Somalia, which declared itself an autonomous state in August 1998.

    For three days Somali leaders gathered there to discuss what will replace the current transitional government, whose mandate comes to an end in August.

    It concluded Somalia would become a federal state, with Mogadishu as the federal capital. The meeting comes days before a London conference, where heads of states and Somali representatives will gather to discuss the future of the country.

    The British Foreign Minister calls the London conference, a "moment of opportunity", but for Somalis who have lived through twenty years of civil war, there is a sense of deja vu.

    There have been so many conferences, and so many agreements that have come to nothing.

    Every time I come back to Somalia - what never ceases to surprise me is that amid all this uncertainty and violence - life goes on.

    "Welcome to Mogadishu", someone shouts out, as I walk around the city. I can't tell who, as the sun is so bright it almost blinds me.



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