By Hassan Abdullahi
Since the beginning of 2018, the security situation of Mogadishu has deteriorated with targeted assassinations frequently happening in different parts of the city. Most of those killed so far have been civilians, but government employees, soldiers and delegates of the last parliamentary elections were also targeted. This has caused a lot of fear and consternation among the city residents.
For the last four months, the Somali federal government has tried to carry out stabilization campaign within the city. It has deployed a great number of soldiers in all corners of Mogadishu and new checkpoints have been erected, which understandably hinder the normal movements of the residents.
The stabilization campaign led to the closure of almost all the roads within the city. However, it has not guaranteed the safety of both civilians and government officials. In fact, these road closures have created frustration among the citizens. For example, a woman had to give birth on the pavement of a street after she was declined access to hospital. Students who were going to take their final exam have recently been told, “Kala Wareeg” which literally means “Go Back”.
Mogadishu residents have begun a social media campaign against the road closures and the heavy-handed conduct of the government forces towards civilians, particularly the Bajaj drivers. Of course, the social media campaign, while a noble cause, has its own limitations as it is not an effective solution to the real problem.
In the course of three days in September alone, three tragic incidents shocked Mogadishu residents and numbed our senses of decency and deep appreciation of life.
On the18th of September, a 9-year old student from Hoyga Xamar Primary and Secondary School, was laid lifeless inside a school bus after a rampage shooting by a soldier on duty in Mogadishu. The next day, another sad incident occurred when a man was burnt to death after his nephew allegedly married a girl from a so-called bigger clan, while Mogadishu residents were still mourning the death of Deekha. And then, once again, another death shocked the people of Mogadishu when a university student was gunned down inside her classroom and in front of her classmates and lecturer. Hours after that horrible news, a young man was gunned down while driving on his way home and nearby the Banadir Junction. He had recently graduated from one of the local universities in Mogadishu.
Mogadishu residents are capable of forgetting anything that happens to them, no matter how sad and disturbing it is. Somalis grappled with the horrific reality of last year’s massacre on the 14th of October, which touched the hearts and minds of all Somalis inside and outside the country. What more is left that can unite us! This reminds me one of my friends who always jokes “We will never unite even if Jesus returns.” Another friend also said, “The day I buried my nationality is when I found out even the October terror act couldn’t unite us.”
However, this endless cycle of ‘tragedy after tragedy’ cannot all be blamed on the weak and limping federal government of ours. Not so long ago, a young entrepreneur and youth activist was gunned down in in public, near the Banadir Junction. The deceased’s older sister told me and my friends during our visit the victim’s memorial service that the deceased, Mohamed, was on his way to one of the restaurants to have breakfast. The restaurants, and all other businesses lined up on that famous street, have security guards with Ak-47 machine guns but no one defended Mohamed as he was lying down helplessly breathing his last breath.
Moreover, in every killing that takes place in this city, there are bystanders watching it like a Hollywood horror movie. How else can one can explain the killing of a university student in front of 50 people in her classroom and the presence of armed security guards at the front gate of the institution? The killers simply walked away like any other criminal incident that happens in this city. No one has been apprehended.
The sad part of this tragedy is: there are people who make money out these unfortunate crises. For instance, last year’s October terror attack, the lights of some family homes went off, but some people made money out of the black-out. A close friend, who is a car dealer of bullet-proof cars, told me that one of the clerks, who was part of a fundraising campaign to aid victims of the October attack, bought a bullet-proof car immediately after the incident.
Blaming the government alone will not take us anywhere. Focusing on the actual problem, rather than the symptoms of the problem, is what matters the most. Deekha’s death taught us a lesson on how we sometimes deviate from understanding the real cause of the problem and instead we focus on secondary issues. No one addressed the daily brutality and misconduct of security forces, such as police officers and the reckless, dangerous way government officials drive in the city.
Selective members of the society get media coverage when a tragedy befalls upon them, while many residents face daily violent crimes and experience injustice. Yet no one talks about their plight. What I have realized is that, if you get killed in some parts of the city, like Suuuqa Xoolaha (Huriwaa District), most likely no one will talk about it. It is, indeed, unconscionable to ignore some deaths and protest against others. All human lives, after all, are precious and do matter. The death of the elites is no more important than the death of an ordinary citizen.
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