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Mogadishu rumbles back to life as the Shabaab falters

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For the last 20 years, Mogadishu has been comfortably unchallenged as the bad news capital of the world.


Displacement of populations on a scale and consistency not seen anywhere else, deaths from disease and famine, war and yet more war; those have been the consistent story lines coming out of a port city that was once one of the greatest centres of commerce on the East African coastline.



But that narrative of death and unending despair is changing. The defeat and disorderly retreat of al-Shabaab militants from the Somalia capital just over seven months ago has given way to a spurt of reconstruction and regeneration Mogadishu has not seen in decades.



Business is booming. Everywhere the visitor to the city turns they are confronted by the sight of wheelbarrows piled high with bananas and mangoes being ferried to markets which are beginning to reopen.



Women in bright blue, pink or brown lessos sell dry grains, spices and juice and cooked spicy potatoes at newly repainted roadside cafes that also offer sweetened tea and strong, black coffee. Mogadishu is a good place to be today if you are a cement trader.



Because more buildings are bombed out shells than those that are intact, a construction boom is under way.



Donkey carts driven by merrily chaotic teenagers lug mabati, cement and concrete blocks to the construction sites that are seeing action for the first time in years.



Traffic police in dark glasses, white shirts and blue trousers struggle to control the traffic with their whistles; although it is hard to see how they can catch up with offenders because more cars have no number plates than those that do.



Mogadishu today is completely unrecognisable from the besieged war zone it was just a year ago. The airport is undergoing a $150 million make over financed by the Turkish Government, which was one of the first to spot the sea of change in the security environment in the city since the Shabaab were pushed out under pressure from an African Union troops.



The airport is now receiving a surge of traffic, hitting a high of 380 passengers in the month of December as more and more Somalis return home to the city.



International airlines are making a comeback. On Tuesday, the first Turkish Airlines flight will touch down at the Aden Abdulle International Airport becoming the first major international airline to run a passenger service to Mogadishu since the late 1980s.



They will seek to offer competition to Kenyan operators Africa Express, Fly 540 and East African Airways, which have already stepped into the market with twice daily, albeit rather irregularly scheduled, flights.



Opening bell



The diplomats have also surged back to the Horn of Africa country. On August 19, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s jet touched down at the Aden Abdulle Airport and signalled the opening bell of a surge of diplomatic activity as various countries seek to “win the peace” in the country.



Mr Erdogan was accompanied by his wife and several ministers also with their wives and children and that early visit seemed to have made a major psychological impression, indicating that Mogadishu was slowly beginning the journey to reclaim its place among the community of nations.


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