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”
The author is the current mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Banadir Regional Administration