After years of bloody violence and civil war, Mogadishu is experiencing a renaissance.
Once an elegant, Italian-colonial era coastal city, the Somali capital of Mogadishu has been reduced to little more than rubble in some areas after decades of savage fighting. But recently the city has begun to renew and rebuild, and its citizens are increasingly optimistic that the city is beginning to emerge from the darkness.
Violence first erupted in Somalia in the late 1980s in an uprising against the dictatorship of Siyad Barreh, culminating in his removal from office after a coup in 1991. There followed a brutal civil war, with rival militias, warlords and Islamist fighters battling ever since for control of the lawless nation. These decades of fighting have left Mogadishu wearied and battle scarred.
Today, however, reconstruction projects are underway across the city, business is booming for construction companies, and land prices are rising rapidly.
Security remains a concern, and for many displaced Somali living in shanty towns on the edge of this war scarred city, there is a long way to go before Mogadishu is restored to anything like its pre-war state.
“Security is still not reliable, but people decided they wanted to return life to normal. People are rebuilding their destroyed buildings,” trader Ahmed Sheikh Gure told the Associated Foreign Press.
Somalis who fled the country are beginning to return to Mogadishu, bringing with them much needed finance. According to the Somali government, the country’s far flung diaspora are now returning to the country, and this has meant an acceleration in the rebuilding process, with homes reconstructed and the reopening of many businesses.
Construction is booming
After al-Shabaab’s fighters left their positions and withdrew from the city a year ago, Mogadishu has got on with the job of rebuilding itself.
“We are not jobless these days, construction is booming,” painter Adan Sharif said. “Every four or five weeks we are called for a new construction job.”
“Most of the buildings in our neighbourhood were renovated in recent weeks and are looking good, the area is no longer looking like the aftermath of war,” said Fadumo Moalim, a a resident of the city’s Wardhigley district.
The rebuilding of Mogadishu has had some knock on effects, sparking a rise in property and land speculation, as well as an increase in the cost of living.
And fears remain that violence could yet return to scupper the positive work that has begun in the last year.
“Buying land is very hard these days because of the rising prices, security is a major concern … traders are also thinking about what could happen next, as the war does not seem to be over yet,” said Abdukadir Bashir, a trader.
Security analysts have warned that Al-Shabaab fighters, who continue to carry out strikes against the city, remain a threat to long term peace in Somalia. Since they withdrew from the capital’s central parts in August 2011, the frontlines were pushed back to the city’s surrounding area. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place.
Mogadishu does not reflect the rest of Somalia and its situation is precarious. Just outside the capital, in the Agfooye corridor, the joint African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) / Somali National Army launched a new offensive against forces of Al Shabaab on May 22nd.
AMISOM issued a statement saying Afgooye has for a long time been a stronghold of Al Shabaab insurgents and is a strategic junction for routes to the north, west and south of Somalia. It stated that in the military action, tagged: “Operation Free Shabelle”, significant progress had been made towards Afgooye town, with the aim of bringing security to the 400,000 people located inside the Afgooye corridor.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that 6,200 people had fled – mostly to Mogadishu – putting a further strain on humanitarian agencies who are already struggling to meet the needs of an estimated 184,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, Force Commander, said that AMISOM was taking every precaution to prevent harm or injury to civilians.