Thu, Jul 12, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Laughing and singing in Mogadishu

A new wave of artists, activists and entrepreneurs are trying to improve Somalia’s capital city despite it being one of the world’s most dangerous cities

The Guardian

“When we started, we did not even know what will come out. It was just, go and do and then see. We knew the dangers we were facing but we took that risk,” says Amira Mahad Abdulle, a 24-year-old university student.

Abdulle wears a burqa to conceal her identity and does not respond to phone calls from unknown people for her safety. “There are a lot of threats coming in but I try to stay safe. I do not fear. I want to serve Mogadishu,” she says.

The group decided to act “because nobody else was willing to do it” and the government in Mogadishu is focused on fighting al-Shabaab. “We could not sit behind and wait for someone else to do this for the people of Mogadishu. We are the youth of this country and we decided to stand up for it,” Abdulle says.

‘LOVE ZONE’

So far the group has painted dozens of zebra crossings and have planted flowers on pavements. “We are committed. We were born in Mogadishu and we want to help our city become developed, beautiful and safe like other cities in the world,” Isse Hassan Ibrahim, a 23-year-old typographic graduate, says.

Though his best friend, a government employee, was assassinated by al-Shabaab last year, Ibrahim never stopped working as a volunteer in Mogadishu.

“When my friend was killed, I got scared but I decided not to quit. I want to help my people and my capital city,” Ibrahim says. “We now have new youth groups joining us from other cities.”

In the last 18 months, US and Somali forces have intensified the battle against al-Shabaab, though without achieving decisive success. Last week US officials said a new airstrike killed 14 militants. Though the increased military activity has weakened the extremists, it also led to more civilian casualties.

Kabanle believes his country will soon be at peace. “Somalia is no longer a war zone. It is a love zone,” he says, pointing to a group of young men and women sitting on the warm white sand of Mogadishu’s beach.

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