At Lido beach, beach-goers and young footballers criss-cross the beautiful white sands in a chaotic manner. Not far away, the waves of the Indian ocean crush the walls of the nearby expensive restaurants and embassies. Armed soldiers and private security guards keep checking and rechecking the well dressed and mostly young Somalis who compete for a seat in some of the most expensive cafes on this seaside.
My guide and friend, not comfortable with the idea of spending time in high profile areas such as the Lido beach, brought me to one of the sea-side cafes that he thought had the best escape route in the event of an attack. His fear was not misplaced. The cafe we were sitting have been attacked in the past and the trenches at its gates were also testimony to his firmly held belief that the city is not under control.
Mogadishu, once one of the most beautiful cities on the continent still bears the brunt of a long and protracted war. The once stylishly luxurious streets and buildings lay in ruin. Our taxi driver, highly emotional due to nationalistic and glory narrating songs in his Bluetooth playlist, reminded us of how the Ethiopian and the AMISOM forces indiscriminately bombarded these areas. He said and I quote “that the missiles and the bombardments were a daily routine for more than 3 years”, in reference to the period following the invasion of the city by Ethiopian forces in early 2006 until their withdrawal in 2009.
Living in Mogadishu is truly exhilarating. As a returnee who left the city 12 years ago, I felt the changes it had undergone. Roads are better and there are street lights. Governments offices, ministries, police stations, security checkpoints and different soldiers with different outfits are new additions. However, my friend and a guide pointing to the sandbags and countless security measures in every corner and streets reminded me that Mogadishu is not all roses. In the two weeks following my arrival in the city, two suicide attacks have targeted government ministries causing a large number of casualties.
While Mogadishu and Somalia as a whole are undergoing transformation, nuanced analysis of the complex and sometimes conflicting stories that are emerging indicate progress in all spheres of life. Educational institutions and hospitals, despite their rumoured low quality, are plenty. Employment though scarce is an improvement over what existed in the past and there are even many small-scale industries producing products ranging from washing powders to soft drinks. On the whole, Somalia is doing well but could do better.
By: Mohamed Abdullahi Khalif.