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Can a new government end the violence in Somalia?

Friday, August 17, 2012
by Bettina Rühl


Somalia is due to have a new government as the mandate of the transitional regime runs out. Many Somalis are not convinced that peace and stability will now return to their civil war-torn country.

It's late afternoon in Nairobi's Eastleigh district. Traders are selling fruit and vegetables, clothes, shoes and leatherware. There are many stalls piled high with suitcases and bags. There is a big demand for these as Eastleigh is populated almost entirely by Somalis.

Many fled to Kenya years ago to escape the war in their homeland and have built a new life for themelves. Many travel regularly between Kenya and Somalia.

Now Somalia is to have a new president and a "proper" government for the first time in over two decades, but the Somalis in Eastleigh are not rushing to pack their bags, says Abukar Sheikh Ali, manager of the "Bin Ali" Hotel. The hotel only opened on July 1, 2012.

"We have another, bigger hotel in Mogadishu that's not functioning because Ethiopian troops destroyed it " says Sheikh Ali. He's sitting in his office, outside snatches of conversation in the Somali language can be heard. A TV set is on, showing a Somali program. "We've reconstructed the hotel," Sheik Ali says "but we haven't reopened it because the area is not as secure as we would like."

Need for jobs

Sheikh Ali has an extended family of about 100 relatives. They not only own property in Nairobi and Mogadishu, but have business interests in Djibouti, Dubai, Somaliland, South Sudan and Uganda.

In many places they are doing well but they have lost a great deal of money in Mogadishu - 16 million dollars (13 million euros), says Abukar Sheikh Ali. Not only was the hotel badly damaged, but offices were looted. The hotel stood in west Mogadishu, but Sheikh Ali says the situation is only relatively safe around the airport. "That's where the president lives, where the ministers live." In other areas, members of the Islamist militia al-Shabab are active.

The Somali hotel manager doesn't believe the situation will change dramatically with the election of a new president and the end of the transitional government, originally scheduled for August 20, 2012. "There can only be real security in Mogadishu when people have work that replaces the use of the gun," he says. But that can only happen if many companies from abroad come to Somalia, build factories and create new jobs, he adds.
New government, same old faces

Most of the residents of Eastleigh think the same way as Abukar Sheikh Ali and view developments in Somalia with considerable scepticism.

Emmanuel Kisangani is also not overly optimistic regarding the end of the transitional government. He is a political analyst in the Nairobi office of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

"If you look at those people in power, they're still trying to repackage themselves to retain power. The likely scenario is us seeing the same people who are in the transitional government and who have been accused of, among other things, insurmountable corruption, and so we are likely to witness a case where these people remain in office," Kisangani said.

These politicians have lost the trust of the majority of the population. One reason why they will probably remain in power is their wealth. Under the transitional government, money played a large role, with influential posts going to those who could pay the most. Abukar Sheikh Ali believes that things can only get better. And while he says most people don't expect the new government to live up to their expectations, "a bad government is better than no government at all."


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