Mogadishu City, Somalia. PHOTO/AXMADYARE
When we disembarked from our plane at Aden Abdulle International Airport I knew we were in a risky environment when I was approached by a man who wanted to provide me with security up to the city centre.
However, our guide intervened and told him we were his guests and he was taking care of us.
After airport clearance we were whisked into a waiting Toyota V8 Landcruiser that was being escorted by a ‘technical’ or a pick-up full of armed men with AK47 assault rifles and a machine gun. The driver told us such an escort costs US$ 1,600 per day.
Just as we were driving out of the airport, our driver pulled his pistol out of its holster and placed it in the dashboard as our journey to the city centre began.
With their guns cocked, the security guards on top of the pick-up escorting us started clearing the way as we eased out of the airport.
This is when it dawned on me that visiting Mogadishu is not for the faint hearted as a bullet being fired at you or grenade being lobbed your way or worse still and improvised explosive device going off is part of the risks you face while in Mogadishu.
During the trip from the airport to our hotel, the security team guarding us was constantly talking on their walkie-talkies maybe consulting with their teammates on the security situation along the route.
One thing that struck me is the number of roadblocks that have been erected around Mogadishu. You cannot drive for more than 500 metres or a kilometer without coming across a roadblock that is heavily guarded by police, intelligence and military personnel.
Likewise patrol vehicles with heavily armed personnel from the police, intelligence and the military pop-up from every corner of the city.
Armed men on top of a ‘technical’ or a pick-up vehicle armed with AK47 assault rifles and a machine gun escorting us from Aden Abdulle International Airport through the streets of Mogadisgu to our hotel. PHOTO/BILLY MUTAI.
What is more interesting is that most of the vehicles offering private security services within Mogadishu city have no number plates.
Travel by road in the hinterland of Somalia is also coordinated by a network of friendly militia who control different parts of the vast nation.
And as things seem to be returning back to normal in Somalia nationals who had fled their country to seek refugee in other countries are now returning.
Among them are a seizable number of refugees from Dabaab refugee Camp in Kenya which currently holds more than 500,000 refugees from Somalia.
Ismail Maalim Ali is among refugees from Dabaab refugee camp who are being intergrated back in Somalia. He is currently working with an NGO in Mogadishu.
Ali is now in Mogadishu where he is starting a new life and preparing the way for his family who are still at Dabaab.
He says: “It feels good to be back home after years of staying in a refugee camp. I am making arrangements for my family to join me soon.”
The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund has approved $3 million for a pilot project that will provide peacebuilding and vocational skills to Somali refugees volunteering to return from Kenya to Somalia
While announcing the release of the money on Tuesday, UN Peacebuilding Fund said the funding will help the returning refugees to settle down and contribute to a community dialogue and reintegration process.
“The project is unique as it reaches across borders and targets the same population, first in asylum in Dadaab, Kenya, and then upon return to Baidoa, Somalia,” the UN Peacebuilding Fund statement said.
It builds on an agreement between the governments of Kenya and Somalia and UNHCR on the voluntary repatration of Somali refugees living in Dadaab.
The initiative is part of a comprehensive set of measures to promote coexistence and peaceful resolution of conflict in Somalia and aims to support the government’s priorities for stabilization and peace dividends, including investment in jobs.
The funding will be directed to UNHCR in Kenya as well as to UNHCR, UNICEF, FAO, WFP, IOM and the ILO in Somalia. With this funding, the Fund hopes to provide momentum to similar initiatives on return and reintegration of refugees.
The UN PBF is currently also sponsoring other projects in Somalia, aimed at strengthening the national authority in areas liberated from rebel control.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) under Security Council resolution 2102 (2013) is providing support to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in its peacebuilding and statebuilding priorities under the New Deal Compact.
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