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Meet Mama Habiba; the first woman public bus driver in Mogadishu

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Habiba Beljam aka Mama Habiba waiting for passengers at Km4, a busy road junction that links the city’s international airport and downtown Mogadishu on February 20, 2013. ABDULKADIR KHALIF | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Somalia has got its first woman public bus service driver and the woman taking the Mogadishu streets by storm is Ms Habiba Beljam or Mama Habiba.

Ms Beljam started driving the public minibus recently and shuttles between Hamarweyne District in the old town and Isgoyska Banaadir (Banadir junction) in South Mogadishu.

She is one of those who fled the country as anarchy spread in the 1990s, following the fall of President Siad Barre.

Ms Beljam lived in Britain for many years.

“I am happy to be back home and sharing life with my compatriots,” she said.

“Driving, of course is a hobby for me as well as occupation.”

Ms Beljam confirmed that she drove a taxi in Britain for over nine years.

“I want to lead Somali women to new frontiers,” remarked Ms Beljam, while waiting for passengers to get on to her minibus at Km4, a busy road junction that links the city’s international airport and downtown Mogadishu, on Wednesday .

Dilapidated capital

Although driving is permitted for all, it is hard to find a woman driving a public transport vehicle in a vastly conservative Somalia,

City residents recall Ms Mariam Musal Issa, a well known singer and actress in Somalia, owning and driving a taxi in Mogadishu in the 1980s.

“Ms Mariam Mursal was very unique as Mama Habiba is today,” remarked Mr Ali Shoble Ahmed, a city resident.

As the African Union’s Amisom troops and Somali forces tackle the militants loyal to Al-Shabaab, security continues to improves in the capital.

There is reconstruction of the dilapidated capital as many diaspora Somalis continue to be attracted back.

Mr Hassan Mohamoud, a media analyst in Mogadishu, said: “We envisage diaspora Somalis coming back in hordes, injecting a lot of foreign influence into our society.”

Somali leaders and Mogadishu’s municipal officials have been encouraging those in the diaspora to comeback and contribute skills and investments.

Earlier this months, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud visited London and met, among others, representatives from the Somali community in Britain.

He advocated their return home.


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