Mogadishu, once known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is now more than twenty years into a crisis that is not of its own making. This prolonged crisis has had a way of altering its landscapes. What was once a beautiful, peaceful and inviting city, the consequential result of its devastation is indeed heartbreaking. Some of the obvious changes are: buildings and other vital infrastructures blown apart, roads ripped up, the ancient sites in a shambles, and a striking change in its demographic structure. The old parliament, where fifty years ago the first President of an independent and united Somalia was sworn in, is now hardly identifiable.
But Mogadishu, the destruction it has sustained notwithstanding, continues to assert in a dominant fashion the Somali nation’s sovereignty. It has been bestowed with a unique historical responsibility to lead the country. This is the city that had given birth to an independent and united Somalia. And as we continue to honour the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence and national unity, we salute you Mogadishu. For better or worse you are our national inspiration. You possess all the qualities that give you matchless national political and economic leverages. You are envied for the degree of national pre-eminence that you possess.
And what astounds me most as I keep on looking at our crying city is: its resilience. When it is listened to, it can, at least for some brief moments, remind you of its glittering charm and elegance, its love and past smile, its unscathed and clean air – when deeply inhaled turns into a reminiscence of the good old days: those beautiful days when Mogadisciani would take the old-aged swing at the city centre, or drive through the streets of Mogadishu without any fear of anything, without any fear of the insane insurgents who are now amputating or chopping off people’s arms and legs, just to cite some of the heinous crimes perpetrated against innocent people.
And paradoxically, and albeit the insecurity that still prevails in certain quarters of the city, Mogadishu witnesses an unbridled growth of the private sector: thriving but unregulated telecommunication firms; hawaala banks, which facilitate the transfer of the remittances from the diaspora to the needy in different parts of Somalia; and other businesses that are also perceived as being a bit insensitive to the externalities that are generated as a result of their unregulated activities. And while these businesses enjoy an uncontrolled access to resources, it is yet to be established whether they are bound by and committed to the principles of corporate social responsibility.
Mogadishu hosts a plethora of non-governmental actors. Rising above all adversities, they have shown to be a symbol of perseverance. They have been able to fill the void engendered by the absence of effective government institutions. They have built schools, hospitals and independent radio and TV stations. But a disconnect discerned between governmental actors and non-governmental actors, on the one hand, and within the non-governmental actors themselves, has precluded the development of potential partnership models essential for delivering key issues confronting institutions in the country.
Mogadishu, the wishful thinking of those who want to divide the nation notwithstanding, will remain the sole guarantor of Somalia’s national unity. Nobody expects sweeping and immediate changes in the city anytime soon – even the most straw-clutching of optimists. But the Capital City of our beloved nation will eventually witness a return to normality. It will usher in a renewed peace and stability. It will shine again, restore its elegance, and resume its leadership as the nation’s only and only Capital City.
In conclusion, I hope my fellow Mogadisciani in the diaspora would not shrug off my plea. While I trust they are fully aware of the grim repercussions of their indifference, yet the need for understanding the underlying root causes that have led to their indifference is very dire. The quintessential Mogadisciani now in the diaspora were forced to abandon their city – they had succumbed to all forms of tortures, injustices human rights violations, and expropriation of their assets. The perpetrators of such despicable acts are after all our own compatriots. They ought to be forgiven. But they must first confess that they had committed crimes against their innocent brothers and sisters and ask to be pardoned.