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Life goes on in Somalia amid the chaos

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Militants of al-Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu. Photo/REUTERS

Militants of al-Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu. Photo/REUTERS 

By PATRICK GATHARA

Posted  Monday, August 16   2010 at  00:00
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The sprawling Somali diaspora sends home an estimated $1 billion every year.

The country has some of the best telecommunications in Africa — a number of companies are ready to wire home or office and provide crystal-clear service, including international long distance, for about $10 a month.

According to the BBC, it takes just three days for a landline to be installed — compared with waiting-lists of many years in neighbouring Kenya.

Prior to 1991, the national airline had only one aeroplane.

Now there are approximately 15 airlines, with 60 sixty aircraft plying six international destinations, and many more domestic routes in Somalia.

According to a 2005 World Bank report, “the private airline business in Somalia is thriving.”

The carriers offer competitively priced tickets and are crucial to Somalia’s booming trade and the delivery of humanitarian assistance by the international community.

The international airport in Mogadishu has been renovated and sports a new three-kilometre runway, an 80-foot air traffic control tower, a reorganised baggage system and even a duty free shop and restaurant.

However, the insurgency continues to pose grave problems.

Jihadist cells in Mogadishu are increasingly fragmented and answer to no one.

Some have targeted national aid workers and civil society leaders.

This has infused political violence with a high level of unpredictability and randomness in Mogadishu, eroding the ability of Somali aid workers, businesspeople, and civic figures to take calculated risks in their movement and work.

The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, published in June 2009, noted the widespread use of children in fighting forces in the country.

Extremist groups opposed to the TFG, such as the Al Shabaab, conscript and recruit children as young as eight years, including girls, to plant bombs and carry out assassinations.

“I have so many friends who were brainwashed by the Al Shabaab to join them. I don’t think we will realise peace at home as long as Al Shabaab exists,” says a Somali teenager who gave his name simply as Kadhar.

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