No other city in the continent would have survived what Mogadishu has gone through…
Bashir J. Addow
If Mogadishu was a human being, it would be that person with a spirit so strong it defies logic. Those people who can go through tough times, experience every bit of hardship and be so beaten that everyone gives up on them, but when they think it is done, they would see the person rise up again, stand tall and get on with life.
This is the story of Somalia, specifically, this is the story of Mogadishu. This has to be the most resilient city in the continent. It is baffling that with all Mogadishu has gone through in the past 30 years; it still even exists as a city. And not just a city, but a city with thriving businesses, a vibrant population, an economic renewal and a cultural reawakening that is set to shock the world.
It is an amazing feat, to rise up time and time again after events that would cripple some cities for months if not years. Even better is that fact the forces that intended to keep Mogadishu on the ground have never actually left the city in peace or given it time to breathe. At every possible opportunity, from the 1990s to 2019, these subversive elements have carried out their treachery and unspeakable acts in the city.
Hardly a month
Hardly a month passes by without some sort of incident happening in Mogadishu. Mogadishu has seen it all: A car bomb, a roadside bomb, a kidnapping or an attack at a hotel etc. When they do happen, these attacks often lead to loss of life and serious destruction of property. Take the case of the early March attack in central Mogadishu that went on for nearly a day.
The attack took place at a popular area and involved car bombs and gunmen attacking people in buildings, restaurants and hotels. The attackers even tried to force themselves into the home of Appeals Court Chief Judge Abshir Omar but they were repelled by security forces. At the end of the siege, about 24 people were reported dead. The target, it was revealed, was Maka Almukarramah hotel, which is often used by government officials.
These attacks, that target government officials and businesses, have not stopped Mogadishu from moving forward. In these tough conditions, being targeted for doing their jobs, Somali politicians have not cowered. They have kept the faith, going about the business of rebuilding the nation and debating and passing bills in parliament. Over the past couple of years, individual politicians and government officials have been assassinated by roadside bombs or attacked on the streets. Yet despite these life threatening instances, there are still young men and women who see public service as the best way to serve their country, and they can’t wait to get into public service.
A helping hand
One of the things that continues to baffle the world when it comes the emergency response to these unfortunate attacks in the city is how quickly the people of Mogadishu come together to offer the needed help to the victims of these attacks.
In most situations, the public rush to the scene of the attack, the pull out those trapped in buildings, they donate blood and water and in some case they even follow up later and give money to offset the medical bills of some of the victims. Corporates that operate in Mogadishu have in the past, through their CSR wings offered help to terrorist attack victims, donating thousands of dollars, getting fire
trucks and even ambulances to the scene of the attack to help handle things. This response by the public and private institutions, though not unique to Somalia, has often got outsiders talking about the closeness of the residents of the city and how they are there for each other.
Businessmen with hearts of steel
There are businessmen in Mogadishu whose establishments have been attacked, bombed or destroyed more than twice. These men, often hotel owners, have watched their property go down to ashes and have woken up the next day to rebuild as though the attack never happened.
It defies business sense, to keep fighting for a market that seems determined to bring you down, particularly in a market where there is no political and terrorism related insurance cover. Yet Somali businessmen have done exactly this: Facing business ending prospects after attacks but back on their feet a few months after. It is possible that this resilient spirit of Somali businessmen, this undying faith in the future of their city is what has given external investors the courage and hope to invest in Mogadishu.
The amount of international brands, including Apple, that are turning towards Mogadishu is increasing by the day.
The other group of people who have shown immense faith in the country are the diaspora returnees. For about 10 years now, Somalis who lived abroad their whole lives have been coming back to the country with capital to set up businesses and to do work in various sectors. These men and woman have left the comfort of their US, Canada, Turkish homes and lives to come and set up businesses in the country, build up their families here or work for the government. The move to come home is a sacrifice that they have made for the nation.
And the corporate world in Mogadishu is greatly benefiting from their point of view and from their approach to business and to boardroom politics.
Conquering the world
In all this, hope still shines in the country and out. Somalis across the world keep pushing positive boundaries, challenging global standpoints and traditional narratives that bear negativity.
They are having difficult conversations with the world. From the US politics where 37 year old mother of three, Ilhan Omar, has taken the world by storm to the Canadian parliament where Ahmed Hussein, Somali-born Canadian MP and Immigration Minister has become a key ally to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Ahmed Hussein, a lawyer, activist and York South-Weston MP is offering new perspective to Canadian politics.
Outside politics Somali singers and actors and poets are making their mark in the UK and other places. The spirit of Mogadishu refuses to be cowed as clearly espoused by these trailblazers and by the common men and women back home.