07 May, 2013

Somalia: Optimism Endures Among The Rubble

Somalia: Optimism Endures Among The Rubble

As world leaders meet in London to discuss Somalia's plight, confidence grows in Mogadishu that years of violence can be halted.

A member of the Somali Navy
Video: Renewed Hope Among Somalian Rubble
Alex Crawford
Special Correspondent
Portrait of Alex Crawford
The customers at Ahmed Jama Mohamed's restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu sip lattes just yards from the rubble caused by another suicide bomber.
But despite the constant physical reminder and the barbed wire surrounding the restaurant, they are stoic and mostly optimistic about what the future holds for their war-ravaged country.
Some are returning exiles, finally coming home after years of being away because of the instability and dangers of staying at home.
Sonkor Geyre left his job in Chicago to restart his career in Somalia 14 months ago.
"As soon as I got the chance, I took it and I don't regret it," he said.
He now teaches at the city's university. He's sharing a meal with another who fled the extremists to live in America - but Abdullah Jama is only visiting Mogadishu.
He won't be coming home permanently to live anytime soon.
"Al Shabaab is everywhere, there is too much corruption, there are bombs all the time and they need to sort out the governance," he said.
Yes, there are bombs still. There was another suicide bombing in the capital on Sunday which killed at least eight.
A few weeks earlier, around half a dozen gunmen stormed the capital's main court building killing another 20 people.
Somalia has elected its first permanent government for more than 20 years
But the terror incidents are far fewer than they were a year ago when there was fighting in the streets.
The 18,000 African Union troops in the country have been mostly successful in driving out al Shabaab extremists from the capital and reclaiming territory they previously held in the major cities.
But there are clearly still terror cells operating and able to mount attacks almost at will.
Nonetheless, the capital and the country appear to have renewed hope of a better future ever since the election - less than a year ago - of their first permanent government and president in more than two decades of hostilities.
World leaders are gathering in London to try to work out how best to help Somalia now. There are signs of reconstruction already in Somalia but much more needs to be done.
The security there is fragile and eminently reversible unless the Somali National Army continues to be bolstered by the thousands of international troops who also train and mentor them.
New President Hassan Sheik Mohamed has a mountain of challenges to overcome ranging from education, tackling corruption, enforcing human rights and ensuring female empowerment, but he has to first of all make sure he stays alive.
Only two days after taking office, the extremists tried to kill him. He has to stay constantly alert but exudes an air of comfortable confidence.
"Every day, every hour al Shabaab is working on trying to spill Somali blood," he told me a few days ago in the capital.
"But our security forces are also working every hour and every day to stop them - and we will."
His job this week is to convince the international donors he can actually follow through on his plans.
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