Monday, May 07, 2012
Is the samosa
the devil’s food? Is the stuff inside it kosher? Is its triangle shape Zionist?
These are unusual questions to ask about the humble samosa, but the Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia did.
Their verdict was that there was something suspiciously infidel about the samosa, so this worldwide favourite and age-old snack was banned in the areas under their control.
In most of the Somali capital Mogadishu, there was no samosa on sale.
Now that all the 16 districts of Mogadishu are under the control of the African Union peacekeeping force Amisom, the samosa is back.
We were driving by a thriving market in Mogadishu when a Kenyan consultant with Amisom told me the story of the close call the samosa had.
Its comeback has been bold. At the corner of the market I saw a vendor sitting behind the largest piles of samosa and mandazi I have ever seen.
They basked in their glittering brown majesty under Mogadishu’s unforgiving sun.
Ingenuous power suppliers
It was another example of the fascinating tales of Mogadishu and Somalia. In the night, there are quite many places that are lit.
However, we all know that there is nothing like KenGen or Kenya Power in Somalia. Trust the Somali, they have come up with a new energy and utilities model.
Every street or neighbourhood in Mogadishu has a wealthy and shrewd businessman who has a generator and/or a massive underground water tank, who supplies anything between 20 to 50 homes and establishments near him.
That close proximity means you can literarily shout over the fence to your electricity provider if your power is off.
Because of this proximity, customer care is intimate and excellent. I gather these electricity suppliers provide a service that is several times better than the big utility companies anywhere else in East Africa.
Now that things are beginning to normalise in Mogadishu, I was told the government is holding talks with dozens of these mini water and electricity providers for a public-private partnership to provide the services.
Somalia looks set to have the world’s most unusual energy and water sectors. But will Somalia ever normalise enough for this experiment to happen?
At a minimum, the Al-Shabaab would first have to be totally defeated. One cannot be sure that all the pronouncements about the militants being on the run are not borne out of hope, rather than reality.
One man who thinks Al-Shabaab is in its dying stages is Amisom’s Col Kayanja Muhanga. Col Muhanga heads a battle group of the Uganda troops in Amisom based at the once fabulous but now bullet-riddled Mogadishu Stadium.