Somalia’s capital Mogadishu finds hope for peace


undefinedHalkaan ka akhri


Somalia‘s capital Mogadishu has a glimmer of peace for the first time in more than 20 years after Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab quietly withdrew two weeks ago.


ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has been a battleground for more than 20 years.

First, there was an on-again off-again civil war and for the past four years the Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab has held the country hostage.

But just two weeks ago, Al Shabaab quietly withdrew from the capital Mogadishu, offering its inhabitants the first glimmer of hope of reclaiming their previous lives.

The ABC’s Africa correspondent, Ginny Stein, travelled to Mogadishu to file this report.

And a warning, it also contains some disturbing images.

GINNY STEIN, REPORTER: Mogadishu’s frontline is slowly being reclaimed.

The symbolic heart of the nation, Tarabunka Square, is now back in government hands.

COLONEL ABDULLAHI HASAN BARIISE, SOMALI POLICE SPOKESMAN (Translation): Where we are today is where all the celebrations used to take place. This place is called Tarabunka. It is the symbol of our statehood. People used to sit on those steps and the soldiers would parade over there.

GINNY STEIN: After years of terror, Islamic militants Al Shabaab pulled out of the city.

It is the main market in Mogadishu where the final battle was waged. Government forces were too frightened to enter. Instead, they squeezed it shut, cutting off Al Shabaab’s main source of revenue.

This is the main market area not just for Mogadishu, but for the whole of the country. For about four years Al Shabaab reigned supreme here. But what we saw in the last few months is that it was effectively shut down, the country was about to collapse. Faced with the prospect of losing control, Al Shabaab retreated out of here.

A retreat so unexpected and successful, they were gone almost before anyone, including the African forces fighting them, actually noticed.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL PADDY ANKUNDA, AFRICAN MISSION IN SOMALIA SPOKESMAN: This has created more security. It has widened space for the delivery of humanitarian aid and I think the country is getting more peaceful now.

GINNY STEIN: For the two million inhabitants of this city, al-Shabab’s departure represents a chance to claim back both their lives and their property. But the government is warning caution of possible land mines and unexploded weapons.

ABDIWELI MOHAMED ALI, SOMALI PRIME MINISTER: Most of the areas that the Shabaab were in control, eventually people will go back to their homes.

GINNY STEIN: They’re going back now aren’t they?

ABDIWELI MOHAMED ALI: Some of them may be going back but our policy is to secure the area first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They’re not letting you in, they’re nervous and they’re not letting you in.

GINNY STEIN: Raha Janaquow is the head of the largest local aid agency in Somalia.

The agency’s offices and her home were taken over by foreign fighters.

This school which Australian funds helped create, has all but been destroyed.

RAHA JANAQUOW, SAACID HUMANITARIAN AID AGENCY, CEO: I can say destroyed by Al Shabaab because they’re the ones who come inside because we were always trying not to go anywhere upstairs to fight. But there’s something that we don’t have control on it, so they come inside.

GINNY STEIN: Returning to her own home for the first time is confronting.

RAHA JANAQUOW: Yeah. I’m really happy to come back and to get my house back. So I’m little bit excited, nervous. Happy.


RAHA JANAQUOWA: The lot, yeah.

GINNY STEIN: From the rubble she finds a few family photographs, but that’s all.

RAHA JANAQUOW: This my two children.

GINNY STEIN: The reality of a lost life hits hard.

RAHA JANAQUOW: I’m really emotional. So, I don’t know what to say. But you know, to be house less is another life, yeah.

GINNY STEIN: I’m sorry Raha.

RAHA JANAQUOW: Yeah. (Wipes away tears)

GINNY STEIN: Al Shabaab’s retreat from the city has given Somalia a chance to move down a different path.

But this remains a nervous nation.

On this occasion, a misfired shot resulted in a shootout.

Somalia’s future remains perilous.

Ginny Stein, Lateline.

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