Somalia: Debating Mogadishu’s capital status


By Liban Ahmad

It is not only the draft Constitution that is major political bone of contention among Somalis; the question about the status of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, is now hotly debated in websites and bars. Why do Mohamed Hassan Haad, the leader of Hawiye traditional council, and Shraif Hassan, the Speaker of the Transitonal Parliament, view the status of Mogadishu as undebatable when everything in Somali politics is debatable?

Twenty years ago when Mogadishu and large parts of southern Somalia were ruled by warlords, questioning their rule and the behaviour of their militias was tantamount to putting your life at risk.Those who are for or against debating the status of the capital are selective about Mogadishu’s post-1991 history. The failed leadership of United Somali Congress, the armed opposition outfit which had a major role in toppling the military regime, did fail to rein in their militias who looted, maimed, killed and raped many innocent people from clans that supported or did not support USC. The intra-USC clashes reduced old Mogadishu ( Xamar weyne, Shingaani and parts of Abdiasiis and Shibbis districts ) once known for premium retail and office real estate to rubble.

Technically Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia but its revival depends on how committed major clans associated with Mogadishu are to making Mogadishu a capital city for all although its centuries-old architecture was destroyed, causing some Mogadishu residents to overlay the name of Abdalla Shideeya, traders’ area in Hamarweyne district, on parts of Bakara in Hawl-wadaag district.

Although the Union of Islamic Courts leaders took some steps to address the issue of houses unlawfully occupied since 1991 during the group’s six-month rule in Mogadishu in 2006, the best framework for discussing the status of Mogadishu is within reach of Somalis. The leaders of the Somali National Movement, another, now-defunct armed opposition group in the north, knew that tolerating occupation of a property unlawfully was an invitation to anarchy after SNM militias captured Hargeisa, Burco and Berbera . People’s property rights were not violated. People debating the status of Mogadishu can learn a lot from Hargeisa. It is not too late.

Liban Ahmad