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Mogadishu needs robust support to reclaim its lost glory [By: Eng Yarisow]



Recently, I was moved from Ministry of Information in the Somali Federal Government where I served as a Minister for Information, Culture & Tourism to a new post as the Mayor of Mogadishu and the Governor of Banadir region, which has at least 3 million residents.

While I felt honoured and accepted the offer, I knew very well in my mind that the new responsibility would not be easy. Mogadishu, the ‘mother’ of Somalia or the “face of Somalia” as many call it, is always in the news for good or bad reasons.

For instance, in October last year, we lost more than 500 people in the city while hundreds others were badly injured after horrific bomb attacks by Al Shabaab.

No one can easily forget that tragedy. We cried and grieved painfully but above all we have not given up on our plan and will to reclaim the lost glory of Mogadishu.

Somalis are regarded as one of the most resilient people on earth. Despite the heinous act that made us feel terribly sad, we moved on with our lives.

We know in our minds, as always, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will never give up. We will stand day and night to ensure we have our lost city back to its glory through enhanced service delivery and better management of public resources.

We are working to restore Mogadishu to a place where you can walk freely and park your car wherever you want, the Mogadishu where you can go out in the evening with your family and enjoy the cool breeze coming from the beach, the Mogadishu where you can sit outside your favourite restaurant sipping your favorite camel tea.

We want to implement a robust community policing initiative to enhance security in Mogadishu. A team of volunteers have helped us to conduct a comprehensive research about “Neighborhood Watch” (“Dariseyn” in Somali language).

The initiative will mobilize residents to know and engage their neighbours better to help our security agencies identify and deal with potential security threats effectively and in a timely manner.

This community policing system is not new as it is also being used in some countries like Kenya and is referred to as ‘Nyumba Kumi initiative”. Implementing it fully in Mogadishu will have a positive impact in improving the security around the city.

Also, we will soon begin the implementation of a comprehensive National Strategy for Preventing & Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) for the country.

We will begin cultural programming, singing competitions (Somali Pop Idol), and engaging young people so that our youth can make valuable contributions to the society in order to stop our youth joining terrorists groups.

In addition, we are planning to have public libraries in all the 17 districts of Mogadishu and Banadir Regional Administration in a few months to come. I believe this will help the youths to find more time in engaging in positive activities than to be idle.

All this if improved, I believe, Mogadishu will be competing with rest of other cities in Africa such as Kigali in Rwanda which despite the historical challenges they faced, is today regarded as one of the cleanest city in Africa with free Wi-Fi connections in the streets.

My new administration has put together strategic priorities that will need the full support of our people as well as our international partners.

We want our international partners to look at Mogadishu with different lenses, and focus on its plight. The city has the highest population in the country compared to any other Federal Member State, and more than 500,000 of its residents are Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

The city has more young people who graduate every year from universities and colleges compared to the total of the rest of the regions of Somalia. If this is not addressed urgently, we worry about the consequences.

We are also putting together strategies and policies to put in place durable solutions for IDPs but we need better coordination, better understanding and commitment so that our vulnerable communities are looked after in a more appropriate way.

But unfortunately, we have a huge challenge in terms of lack of enough resources and funding to enable us to deliver on our mandate.

For instance, the reduced European Union funding for African Union (Amisom) troops payments is an indication of the prevailing donor laxity regarding Somalia despite the global outpouring of support and sympathy after the deadly Al-Shabab attack in October that killed 500 people in Mogadishu.

For sure, the slow involvement of the International community in Somalia will have an impact and the future of conflict prevention in Mogadishu may suffer.

Our international actors and we Somalis need to have a sincere and effective plan for Mogadishu. We can sit down and draw the plan together based on concrete research rather than taking superficial steps that won’t tackle the challenges facing the city.

For instance, to fight the prevailing security challenges, it requires not only the symptoms addressed but also local partners to be part of the effort to deal with the root causes.
Above all, today all we can say is to be thankful to God. We came from far. I can recall how Mogadishu was in 2008 when I decided to leave my family (wife plus 7 children) behind and returned to Mogadishu.

I had a good job and family in the United Kingdom, but I was convinced that if we Somalis don’t take risk, no one would do it for us. I am very glad that I took that risk and sacrificed for my country.

Yes, I do believe we still have more things to improve on but remember we have city services operating online. Schools are open. Children soccer academics are open. Trash collections, fire departments, electrical power and other municipal services are up and running.

God willing, under my watch, I will work to ensure Mogadishu stands back on its feet once again and becomes an example that other cities facing the same challenges can emulate.

Last but not the least, I urge everyone of goodwill to join hands with the residents of Mogadishu to reclaim back our beautiful city best known as “Xamar Cadey”


By: Abdirahaman Omar Osman

Current Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Banadir Regional Administration

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Somali Articles

How Somalia’s charcoal trade is fuelling the Acacia’s demise




The Acacia bussei, a slow-growing hardwood, has long been the backbone of Somalia’s multimillion-dollar trade in charcoal.

For decades, the country struggled to implement a 1969 ban on charcoal and firewood exports. The gradual erosion of state institutions, which resulted in complete lawlessness and an outbreak of a full-fledged civil war in 1991, only further undermined the initiative.

The production and export of charcoal – an economic activity that dates to pre-colonial times – has long served to meet local and regional energy requirements as well as provide livelihoods opportunities for many families.

However, with the protracted conflict, weak law and order, vague rules over resource ownership, and a lack of alternative sources of energy and livelihoods, the last few decades have seen an increase in unsustainable charcoal production.

Consequently, the trade in charcoal has accelerated threats such as environmental degradation and conflict over the control of resultant revenue. Despite a 2012 UN Security Council ban on importing Somalia’s charcoal, the trade has continued apace: the market value of the exported commodity was estimated to be more than $250 million dollars over the two years following the ban.

Over-exploitation of the acacia for charcoal and fuelwood is a threat to livestock and the livelihoods of pastoralists. (Andy Hall/Oxfam)

Why should the environmental community care about the threat posed by charcoal?

A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization, in conjunction with the Somalia Water and Land Information System, estimated that there is a 5 per cent annual decline in the Acacia bussei due to felling. In 1996, the War-Torn Societies Project reported that northeastern Somalia was producing approximately 4.8 million sacks of charcoal annually. Such a volume would require the logging of nearly 2.1 million Acacia trees.

Consequently, with the deforestation and lack of replanting, the Acacia bussei was placed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.

For years, this evergreen, drought-tolerant indigenous tree has provided feedstock to pastoralists and helped them stay resilient to droughts. But with increased demands for charcoal, the Acacia bussei is becoming an impractical source of fodder. This has jeopardized the livelihoods of many pastoralists.

The losses due to such recurring droughts will only increase in the future: In a global ranking of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, Somalia ranked 7th out of 233 countries and regions.

Following the Security Council ban, in 2016 various UN agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization and UN Environment, launched an initiative to promote international cooperation in support of the ban.

The initiative, the UN Joint Programme for Sustainable Charcoal Reduction and Alternative Livelihoods, notes that due to the absence of an effective government, the country lacks adequate natural resource management and enforcement mechanisms. It calls for an in-depth assessment of its institutional capacity to address environmental degradation.

“Overcoming the challenges charcoal poses to the environment requires strengthening of institutions and the provision of alternative and sustainable livelihood opportunities. Natural resource-sharing and management mechanisms should be implemented in partnership with the Government of Somalia,” said Saidou Hamani, the coordinator of UN Environment’s work on resilience to disasters and conflicts in Africa.

Goma charcoal
The environmental challenges of charcoal production are not limited to Somalia. The thriving charcoal trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, pictured above, is also a driver of deforestation. (UN Environment)

With the prevalent political instability, influential traders and militia groups – who do not engage in the charcoal production process – have infiltrated the charcoal distribution chain to extort income.

The value of the revenue has also been acknowledged by the Al-Shabaab extremists, who earn millions from this “black gold” and offer protection to export companies that are owned by the group’s ideological affiliates.

However, recent advances of the African Union Mission in Somalia troops, Kenyan, Ethiopian and Somali forces, have led to the recovery of territory from the Al-Shabaab group and appear to have halted the trade.

“Somalia has a huge opportunity to diversify its energy sources through reduction of reliance on charcoal and firewood in favour of alternatives like wind, solar, liquefied petroleum gas, biogas, hydro and high-efficiency thermal generation and distribution systems,” said Hamani.

Despite possessing untapped reserves of numerous natural resources such as uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt and natural gas, Somalia’s energy sector remains grossly under-developed. Organic plant and animal material provide over 95 per cent of primary energy for households either as firewood or charcoal.

The UN agencies hope to exploit the huge opportunity to div

Contact Oli Brown


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UAE is using local instability to sow discord in Somalia




Tensions between Somalia’s Federal Government (FGS) and Somaliland’s government have come to a head over a tripartite revenue-sharing agreement among the Republic of Somaliland, the Dubai-based company DP World, and the Ethiopian government, based on DP World’s management of a port in Berbera. (more…)

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Somali Articles

Civil strife in Ethiopia has the potential to destabilise the whole region




Ethiopia is experiencing ethnic and political tensions that could have far-reaching implications for its neighbors in the Horn of Africa, and beyond.

The Horn of Africa is among the most congested, eventful, and most volatile geopolitical intersections on earth. It is where the West meets the East in a highly competitive game of strategic positioning for economic or hegemonic advantage.

China and Turkey who, more or less, employ similar soft-power strategies have tangible investments in various countries in the region, including Ethiopia. However, the widespread discontent with Ethiopia’s repressive impulses and its ethnic favoritism that led to a particular ethnic minority (Tigray) to exclusively operate the state apparatus has inspired Arab Spring-like mass protests. These protests have caused serious rancor within the ruling party. It is only a matter of time before this haemorrhaging government might collapse.

So, who is likely to gain or lose from this imminent shockwave in the region’s balance of power?

The Nile Tsunami

Ethiopia — a country previously considered as a stable regional hegemon, a robust emerging market, and a reliable counter-terrorism partner — is on the verge of meltdown, if not long-term civil strife.

Today, the Ethiopian government is caught between two serious challenges of domestic and foreign nature: the Oromo/Amhara mass protests tacitly supported by the West, and the water rights conflict with Egypt, Sudan and Somalia.

Ethiopia is claiming the lion’s share on the Nile that runs through it and other rivers that flow from its highlands for the Grand Renaissance Dam – thus presenting existential threats to the connected nations.

For the third time in three years, the Shabelle River has dried up, putting millions of Somalis at risk of starvation.

But the current government is not ready for a substantive change of guard. The longer the mass protests continue and the minority-led government continues to offer artificial or symbolic gestures of prisoner releases — while declaring a second ‘state of emergency’ in two years— the faster Ethiopia will become destabilised and the faster foreign investments will fizzle away.

Worse — though seemingly unthinkable — the ‘favorite nation’ status granted to Ethiopia after becoming the US’ main partner in the global ‘War on Terroris’ is slowly corroding.

Despite this week’s visit from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the US State Department is gradually turning its back on Ethiopia for a number of reasons; chief among them, is its double-dealings on the South Sudan issue.

Despite the facade of US/China collaboration to end the South Sudan civil war, the geopolitical rivalry between these two giants has been pressuring Ethiopia to pledge exclusive allegiance to one over the other.

With China’s huge investments on Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan’s oil fields – making a choice won’t be too difficult.

The Kenya Factor

Several years ago I wrote an article arguing that the two most stable nations in the Horn (Kenya and Ethiopia) will become more unstable as Somalia becomes more stable.

Today, the Ethiopian government is facing the most serious threat since it took power by the barrel of the gun, and Kenya has a highly polarised population and two presidents ‘elected’ along clan lines.

Kenya — the nerve center of the international humanitarian industry — could just be one major incident away from inter-clan combustion.

The Somalia Factor

The Ethiopian government has launched a clandestine campaign of strategic disinformation intended to fracture or breakup opposition coalitions and recruit or lure potential comrades.

Ethiopian intelligence officers and members of the diplomatic corps together with some ethnic-Somali Ethiopians have been recruiting naive Somali government officials, intellectuals and activists with a Machiavellian disinformation campaign.

Meanwhile, IGAD — Ethiopia’s regional camouflage — calls for an open-borders agreement between member states. Despite broad-based public perception that for a fragile state like Somalia, such an agreement would be tantamount to annexation, some Somali politicians are eagerly carrying its banner.

These kinds of desperate campaigns and the abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn only underscore the fact that the government’s days are numbered.

The Sudan Factor

Sudan is caught in a loyalty triangle (Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey) with competing powers. Sudan needs Egypt to address threats faced by the two nations regarding the diminishing access to the Nile by reasserting rights granted through the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty.

It needs Ethiopia to protect China’s economic partnership and to shield President Omar al Bashir from Western harassment through IGAD.

It also needs Turkey for development and for a long-term strategic partnership. Sudan has become the second country in Africa to grant Turkey a military base, with Somalia being the first.

The Eritrea Factor

When neocons dominated US foreign policy and the global ‘War on Terror’ was the order of all orders, Eritrea was slapped with sanctions. It was accused of being the primary funder and weapons supplier to al Shabab.

Today, though neither the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia or Eritrea nor any expert free from Ethiopian influence holds such a view, yet the sanctions have not been lifted.

The Ethiopian lobby and certain influential elements within US foreign policy-making circles continue to label Eritrea as a Marxist rogue state that undermines regional institutions such as IGAD and international ones like the UN Security Council; a closed society that espouses a deep rooted hatred towards the West.

Against that backdrop, the UAE has been investing heavily in Eritrea since 2015 or the beginning of the Yemen war that has created one of the the worst humanitarian disasters. The Emirati military (and its Academi/Blackwater shadow) now operates from a military base in Assab. Whether that’s a Trojan Horse or not, is a different discussion altogether.

Ins And Outs

The current wave of discontent against the Ethiopian government is likely to continue. But, considering how the Tigray has a total control on all levers of power, a transition of power will not be an easy process.

Ethiopia is also rumoured to have created an ethnically Somali counterinsurgency force in the Liyu Police. This ruthless force has already been used against the Oromos as they were used against Somalis of various regions that share a border with Ethiopia.

The extrajudicial killings and human rights violations are well documented. Despite all this, the Oromo and Amhara are set to reach their objectives albeit with bruised and bloody faces.

Will their coalition remain or, due to their historical distrust, will each eventually invoke its constitutional right to secede?

Whatever the outcome, any scenario of civil war or chaos in Ethiopia could put the entire Horn in danger and create a potential humanitarian catastrophe, especially in Somalia.

Meanwhile South Sudan is a lightyear away from sustainable political reconciliation especially since the foreign elements fueling the fire are not likely to stop any time soon. Djibouti remains the host of the most intriguing geopolitical circus. So, that leaves Eritrea as an island of stability in the region.

In the foreseeable future, Turkey could divest her investment out of Ethiopia into Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. China will diversify her portfolio to include Eritrea. And the US — with no new policy — will continue droning her way through geopolitical schizophrenia.


Abukar Arman is a Somali political analyst, writer and former Special Envoy to the United States. Arman is also a widely published foreign policy specialist, writing extensively on Somalia and international political affairs.

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