byHeikal I. Kenneded
September 7, 2012
I arrived in Muqdisho few days after the new Somali parliament elected its highly competent Speaker, Prof. M. O. Jawaari and I'm fascinated to have witnessed the excitement on the faces of the people, as a new dawn of peace and reconciliation sets in the country. The city itself is fast changing and seems to be making up for lost time. Securitywise, the streets of Muqdisho are very impressive and freedom of movement in all of its districts is unhampered while redevelopment of the city's business centers is painstakingly taking shape. One of the telltale signs of the changes taking place in Muqdisho is the scale of building in the city, which feels like living in a big construction site. An old friend of mine noted on the other day that he had never seen a redevelopment of this scale in the city for the past two decades. In addition, Muqdisho is witnessing a wave of its most educated and enlightened - Diaspora community coming back to their native homeland in order to reclaim their important role to rebuild their country.
As soon as the small charter plane that I was traveling from Nairobi to Muqdisho made its careful descent, I became captivated by the immensity and beauty of the city's shoreline of the Indian Ocean. The aircraft was packed with many Somali Diasporas from all over the world, eager to revisit the homeland probably like myself for the first time since the beginning of the civil strife in Somalia so that they could participate in the rebirth of the nation. A sense of renaissance was palpable on their faces that this time is different. if the great momentum of renewed peace and redevelopment in the country is kept at this level, Somalia in general will restore its national pride while Muqdisho will reclaim its old nickname "the Pearl of the Indian Ocean." indeed, it would be fascinating to witness in our lifetime such reversal of Muqdisho's fortunes. One certainly hopes Somalia's new leadership have learned from the colossal failures of past transitional governments who myopically focused on playing clan politics while allegedly enriching themselves with the country's meager income budget.
What Somalia needs now more than ever is not aid from the international community, but Somali investment of all kinds, including capital investment, social investment, education and expertise investment. Somalia badly needs its educated young people wherever they might be to bring their skills and ingenuity to solve Somalia's problems. Though the rewards might not immediately be there, still the growth opportunities are there to invest, while making a positive impact in the lives of many poor people who could greatly benefit from such opportunities. In other words, social entrepreneurialism is the ultimate key of unlocking the country's various social ills.
Not surprisingly, getting into grips with the city's vast devastation of its historical landmarks and ancient neighborhoods is quite a perplexing experience but also a disorienting process to be reckoned with. Fortunately, the old city's irresistible charm is all around that you cannot escape but conjure up what the city might have looked like if the curse of the long-tailed civil war had not engulfed it. For instance, long distorted but not vanished are the city's famous labyrinthine bazaars in Xamarweyne and Shangani districts that sprout with all sorts of foot peddlers. A visit to the city's beaches on Friday is no less than a surreal experience that reminds me of the good old days in Muqdisho when the city's residents nonchalantly strolled on the sandy beaches of Lido and Jazira or took a dip in its warm azure waters.
Despite the improvement of the city's security situation and the political awakening is beyond believe, there is a cynicism of some and their early predictions that the new government will be "same old same" made up of incompetent and corrupt officials who will only continue to further the country's nosedive into the abyss. However, the impressive dedication of the Technical Selection Committee (TSC) who made sure to go beyond the pale in their efforts of screening the background and qualifications of all new MPs into the new Somali parliament and the recent election of the parliament's great Speaker, Honorable Prof. Jawaari is their answer.
Strikingly, one of the great benefits this new government will have is the unprecedented interest of the international community in Somalia. This renewed interest to put Somalia's collapsed house in order will open up a lot of opportunities for many Somalis in the Diaspora with professional skills and an unmatched entrepreneurial acumen. Because educated Somalis in the Diaspora now realize gone are the days when one's professional skills are only useful in the developed world of their adopted countries, since the potential to freely exercise local understanding and influence is most attainable in one's native homeland. Despite the tremendous excitement expressed to me by several friends from the Somali Diaspora, there are still several intractable issues that cause a great frustration and sense of concern stemming from a deep mistrust and misunderstanding between the locals and the new wave of the Diaspora community returning in the country. For instance, i know the case of an acquaintance of mine who ran into many obstacles to participate in the country's new political movement or redevelopment projects and felt being marginalized as though an alien. In fact, his frustration was echoed by many others that i ran into one of my daily get-togethers in the city's streets and cafes. Nevertheless, this is quite understandable due to the huge cultural gap that developed between these Somali diasporas and their local counterpart communities over the last two decades.
All in all, Muqdisho is calling to all her capable sons and daughters in its hour of most need but also out of duty to come back and restore its shattered aura and dignity cause we all owe it to her, at least. I for one could no longer resist but heed this urgent call while leaving behind my dear family and a privileged career.
Are you going to answer the call?
Heikal I. Kenneded