Monday, December 4, 2017

Mogadishu reunion

Two days ago I was reunited with Mogadishu again, a city I developed an affinity for sometimes back during my heydays as a journalist.

This time round I have decided to live in Mogadishu and again experience what it's like to live here.

As a war correspondent who covered Mogadishu and Somalia's biggest wars of 2016 until very recently, my re-connection now with the city would not have come at a better time.

The city these days enjoys an unprecedented relative peace except of course that peace is shuttered by the local franchise of Al-Qaida, called Al-Shabaab.

Just recently a gruesome attack in a busy intersection claimed the lives of over 500 and more than 300 others wounded after a suicide bomber blew a truck laden with powerful explosives.

Although Al-Shabaab has not owned the attack, many Somalis here say the attack carried their signature and all the hallmarks and cruelty associated with the group.

Such attacks are rare these days compared to the past dark days when clan militias battled each other for control of the city and later when government, Ethiopian forces and later African Union peacekeepers battled Al-Shabaab militants in the streets of Mogadishu until 2009 when Al-Qaeda linked Somali militants were removed the city to momentatily give residents a breathing space.

That war might have been won against Al-Shabaab but certainly not the battle and hence their frequent hit and run attacks including planting mines, roadside bombs and carrying our suicide attacks and assassinations of government forces and officials. Sadly the group has started targeting civilian's as well.


The Mogadishu of today is much different from the old, war-battered and bullet-strewn city of 2005 when I first came. Many Somalis from the diaspora have returned to rebuilt their houses,open up busineses, visit their families while some have since decided to stay put home forever and have permanently moved here.

The city now enjoys all the hallmarks of a capital city. Clogged traffic jams, neat tarmacked roads, well lit streets packed with shoppers and revelers who seem oblivious of the negative connotations associated with this city.

Today if a foreigner visits Mogadishu, unfair titles like the world's most dangerous city will certainly not match what he or she sees. Such negative connotations will for once be a figment of their imagination.

If you drive or walk you will certainly see police officers patrolling, traffic officers controlling flow of vehicles and humans, children going to school, supermarkets open full of shoppers, women and men hawkers selling different merchandise. It's no difference with any other city

The calm and peace you experience might make you question whether this is the city over 500 people were mercilessly killed by a suicide bomber. That unfortunate blast is said to be the biggest and most dangerous.

The only thing you might once in a while hear is a sound of a bullet echoing in the blue skies of Mogadishu which compared to what this city has gone through will sound like a distance whistle.

There is no question Mogadishu city is slowly regaining its elegance and status. New sky crappers are rising up, elegant apartments are increasing by the day and fancy hotels mushrooming along its new well lit roads.

That's not all.

The Mogadishu of today has everything to offer. If you want the latest Toyota car model, iPhone or Samsung mobile phones relax! Your needs will be dully met.

For those interested to visit, the place to be in Mogadishu is its oldest district Abdulaziz. Its home to the city's Liido beach and a chain of beach hotels where revelers go to eat out while enjoying the cool breeze from the Indian ocean and its stunning beach front and sandy beach.

A walk into the picturesque Hamarweyne district or the Old town of Mogadishu will take you down memory lane for once you might assume you are walking in Kibokoni, Mombasa city's old town which has similar rich architecture.

Watch this space for more opinions on Somalia.