Ten Years in Mogadishu: A Reflection

It was exactly ten years ago today, 14 August 2009, when I came to Mogadishu with a mission to study at university. It was the second time I had left my home town, Buulaburte, for study. Three years earlier, in 2006, I went to Beledweyne to pursue a secondary education because there was no high school in Buulaburte. When I finished secondary school in Beledweyne in June 2009, the city had no university. The nearest possible place I could access higher education was Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.

I came to Mogadishu to study at a time when many of its inhabitants were either being killed in or running away from conflict in the city. Mortar attacks were constant. I resided in Juungal village in Yaqshid district with relatives. The next day, mortars with strange and frightening sounds (people used to call it fooriye) from around the Presidency killed a female teenager in the village. Around 2 pm the following day, similar mortar shells killed and wounded siblings that were having lunch together in their house near to where I was staying. The father of that family was a teacher I knew in person. Events used to follow the same pattern: insurgents would come to the neighborhood, target the Villa Somalia and other government populated areas with mortars and then run away from the scene. AMISOM would then respond with heavier counter mortar fire targeting the neighbourhood that the fire had come from.

I could not stay in Juungal; it was both insecure and distant from the campus of the university I was about to start at. I managed to relocate to Dharkenley district when I started Mogadishu University in September 2009. There was no fear of mortars in Dharkenley since it was among the few government-controlled districts in Mogadishu. However, Madina – Wadajir and Dharkenley districts – had many checkpoints with armed militias that collected money from the public transport vehicles. These checkpoints were later cleared few months after Hassan Sheikh was elected as President in September 2012.

Notwithstanding these life-threatening and difficult circumstances, I was a young, energetic man with a mission and a determination to study hard. Coming to Mogadishu especially for study at that time was not easy. But it was one of my best decisions.

Over the ten years I have lived in Mogadishu, I have developed a career and discovered my inner qualities. I had access to educational opportunities and other facilities that I could not have had access to if I were not in Mogadishu. The concentration of resources and basic public services in Mogadishu is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the city is overpopulated and insecure.

In the first four years, I completed a Bachelor of Public Administration from Mogadishu University and gained two diplomas in Law and English. I became the first of my family to attend and complete university. When I finished the English Language diploma in November 2011, it gave me the opportunity to be recruited as an English teacher at SYL Primary and Secondary School.

Between 2013 and 2015 I had the opportunity to work with several organizations. I become a lecturer at the same university I graduated from, Mogadishu University, in February 2014, and have taught five semesters at the University since then.

I also figured out my talents and careers that I should pursue as a profession. Studying public administration at the university and teaching the English language at the school prepared me to become a researcher. I had the opportunity to work with the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies for over four years as a researcher. HIPS is a leading policy think tank in Somalia, and I am a proud ‘HIPSTER’.

Another important milestone I reached during the ten years in Mogadishu is studying for a Masters of Public Administration at the London’s University of Roehampton online. It was a challenging but rewarding 29 months commitment.

Achievement and success are relative. However, my accomplishments over the past ten years in Mogadishu have not been smooth and easy. The security has been and remains the major menace. I was at the Ministry of Planning (near to Zoobe junction) on the morning of 14 October 2017 for interviews and observation of my MPA thesis. I went through the busy Zoobe junction by noon, just a few hours before the truck bomb that killed over 500 people. I also had an appointment at Safari Hotel, located at the same junction, at 4:30 PM that day. It was a painful memory that I will never forget. In several other areas, I was close to explosions and suicide attacks. For instance, the Maka-al Mukarrama car bombing on 28 February this year was very close to where I was staying.

I have lost friends and relatives throughout the ten years I have been in Mogadishu. I believe in my close relationship with Allah, and know that I will not live longer than it has been written for me, helped me go about my daily business in the city with less worry and stress.

After ten years, I feel that I have achieved many of my goals. However, the journey is far from over. I will keep working hard to contribute to the betterment of society. Having lived and grown up in Somalia at a time when there was no functioning government to provide basic public services, I founded Somali Public Agenda in 2018 to contribute to the understanding and improvement of governance and service provision in Somalia. Through research, analysis and capacity development, my focus in the coming years is to contribute to the provision of better public services including access to affordable education, healthcare, housing, and justice delivered via transparent and accountable authorities.

Peace and security is the most important public good I would like to see in Mogadishu. I have spent a decade of my life here, and the love I have for this city has gotten stronger every year. The city has shaped my life. My wife and two kids were born here in Mogadishu, the pearl of the Indian Ocean. It is a beautiful city that I have had the privilege to live in.