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In Mogadishu, peace comes at a price

 INSP 02 July 2019

Nearly one year after Islamist fighters were driven out of Mogadishu, the city is recovering from two decades of war but, despite the renewed optimism brought by peace, life remains hard for thousands of people struggling to rebuild shattered lives, and 40 per cent of the population remains unemployed. (978 Words) - By Mohamed Odowa

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INSP_UN-backed government evicts thousands in Mogadishu

Thousands of people have been evicted by Somalia's transitional government. Photo: Mohamed Odowa

INSP_Somalia

Hamarwayne district at the downtown.Photo: INSP


"I have four kids but they must work to help me as a family rather than sending them to school because we don't have good jobs, so need to sell our food. We sell some salts, onions, cabbages, a few potatoes and dry beans," says Sahra Ahmed.

In many respects she is one of the lucky ones having something to sell as beggars are everywhere in Somalia's capital and much of the 2.5 million population struggles to get by on as little as $3 a day. Some people rely on money from relatives living abroad but for those who do not have any family, life is more than harsh. The unemployment rate goes up day after day and experts believe the number of people without jobs in Mogadishu may be significantly higher than the official rate stated. Local government offices are not working properly and there is massive corruption among officials. The current government cannot even pay their soldiers on a regular basis.

Many professionals such as nurses, teachers, engineers and architects left the city during war for jobs in other countries so the recovery is hampered by a crippled civil society.

"Jobs are scarce here in Mogadishu and we don't see enough optimism from the locals towards the country's rich natural resources, because we are still having problems with poor leadership and injustice." said economist Ahmed Man.

"There is no sustainable trade industry or service industries working currently in Mogadishu, except a few businesses in the city whose owners only care about their families and their personal interests and cannot employ more people," he added.

There are no schools run by the government, although there are private schools run by individuals or private corporations.

Crime is on the rise and gangsters are robbing shops and businesses on a regular basis, according to one police official.

The use of alcohol and drugs such as khat - a narcotic used by many people throughout the country - is also on the increase, which plays a significant role in pushing up crime.

"Often we come across many problems because many people - mostly youths - don't have a job and are constant users of khat. For example, TFG soldiers and drug users may come to rob you of khat and you don't know what to do," a khat seller called Fartun Ali told INSP.

Youths often speak of how they joined warring factions because there were no proper jobs. Hashi Omar, a former fighter for Shabelle Valley - a pro-government militia in the fight against the hard-line Islamist Militant al- Shabaab group - told INSP that he deserted from the militia one year ago.

"Jobs are scarce here in Mogadishu ... and we are still having problems with poor leadership and injustice."

Before being joined Shabelle, he was unable to go to school and had no another work options due to family problems. His motivation to join the group was to not die for them but to get payments to survive:

"I was in Baladwayne city in that time," he said. "My grandfather who is in Baladweyne in central Somalia region, advised me to leave the militia, so I did and I was promised schooling. I have it now here in Mogadishu and pleased with it, although my father is unemployed. But my older brother works for local Hawala money transfer, so he can pay the fees of my school."

Meanwhile, thousands of people have been evicted from their homes in Mogadishu by Somalia's UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The evictions began after the interior ministry ordered squatters in derelict buildings previously used by the government to move within 90 days. The buildings include former ministries, hospitals, schools, shops and military academies.

Local aid agencies estimate up to 50,000 people could be affected. The government said it wants to renovate districts to provide jobs and services. But the evictions have exacerbated the dire living conditions faced by the poorest of the poor in Somalia's capital. Squatters complained they had been given no warning by the TFG.

Osman Mohamed, who was in charge of buildings in the Hamar- wayne district of the city, said people had been living there because their homes were either looted or destroyed during the civil war: "All those people were kicked out and evicted from that building just a few days ago by the government forces."

Homeless mother of seven, Hawo Ahmed, said she was evicted from a building in downtown Mogadishu where she had lived for two years after her home was destroyed. She has had to support her children alone since her husband died from a heart attack two years ago. The family is now living in an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp near Mogadishu's presidential palace, which is called Villa- Somalia.

"Our life was normal before we were evicted from the place where we sought refuge after our home in Huriwa district was destroyed by war," she said.

Before the evictions began, Somalia's President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, said that international donors and aid agencies had to assist the TFG to restore public buildings as soon as possible in a city ravaged by war. He said the reconstruction of former government offices would help the economy.

"We are worried about those affected by the evictions but they have to try to find another option - if they go to IDP camps then we will try to help them," added Mohamed Abdullahi Arii, a spokesman for the TFG.

Many of those evicted have sought sanctuary in local refugee camps where refugees affected by drought and famine have been living in dire conditions. Local NGOs say they are trying to help the homeless but IDP camps already suffer from severe overcrowding.

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