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Towns liberated from al-Shabaab slowly come back to life

Civilians who were driven out of the town of Bulo Marer by al-Shabaab, before allied troops liberated the town on August 30th, are seen returning to their homes. [AFP PHOTO / AMISOM Photo / Tobin Jones]

By Fuad Ahmed
Saturday, September 20, 2014

Traditional elders from the Hiran and Lower Shabelle towns of Bulo Marer and Jalalaqsi, which were liberated by allied forces in recent weeks, say life is slowly coming back to normal.

"Most of the residents of Jalalaqsi fled due to the mistreatment of al-Shabaab. Everyone is aware of the hardships al-Shabaab inflicted on the population, whether it is socially, culturally, religiously or economically," he said. "Now, since the city has been freed from al-Shabaab, as the traditional elders, and with the help of various sectors of the public, we decided to work on how to bring back the civilians who fled."

Ware said Jalalaqsi residents were thankful to have received eight trucks of food aid on September 10th after suffering for years due to al-Shabaab's ban on aid organisations.

"By the grace of Allah, the civilians who suffered greatly for such a long time due to al-Shabaab, which did not let them receive humanitarian aid, have received food aid from the Somali government that was donated by our sister nation Djibouti," he said.

"Since al-Shabaab was ousted, Jalalaqsi residents are experiencing immeasurable joy. Some citizens are even starting to open new stores that sell the smartphones al-Shabaab banned many years ago," he said.

Enjoying new freedoms

For his part, Mohamed Farah, a 58-year-old elder from Bulo Marer, also said life is slowly coming back to life.

"In collaboration with the Somali diaspora community that hails from Bulo Marer, the rest of the Somali public, the Somali government and international organisations, we are engaged in efforts to provide transportation as well as food aid to people who fled the town so that they may return," he said.

He said elders are coordinating transport by bus to people who fled to rural areas around Bulo Marer as well as some who have fled to government controlled areas such as Marka.

"The living conditions in Bulo Marer are improving compared to what they were like during al-Shabaab's reign," he said.

Residents truly have regained their freedom and started to hold wedding celebrations, watch televisions in their homes, and use modern phones, all of which were activities banned by al-Shabaab, he said.

"There was no freedom while al-Shabaab was holding us hostage and it is proven that only when people are free can they access whatever they need in life," he said. "Now every person is free to do whatever he pleases. No one is controlling them like al-Shabaab did and the people have no fear."

Women, who suffered the most oppression as al-Shabaab forced them to not leave their homes, have restarted managing their own businesses, said Shamsa Abdalla, a 38-year-old mother of six who owns a fast-food restaurant in Bulo Marer.

"We feel a big difference as the women of Bulo Marer," she told Sabahi. "Previously, most women were not able to run their own business because al-Shabaab used to force us to stay in our houses."

Abdalla said she stopped operating her small restaurant three years ago after receiving several threats from al-Shabaab. Some other women she knew who refused to abide by the order were killed by the group, she said.

"It is a great victory for us that the militant group has been removed from our town," she said, adding she was happy to start working again


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