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first day in Moggie…

Getting on a flight at the small but respectable international airport in Nairobi for Somalia I was surprised by how orderly the whole experience seemed to be.  There was no evidence of the mayhem and anarchy that awaited at the final destination… I was even thrown a bit that the African Express plane was a 737 jet and not some dodgy old propeller plane and even had a basic steward service.  Was this the right flight?   Had I inadvertently boarded the wrong plane to some safe destination?

The veil of normality wasn’t to last for long though.  Halfway through the speciously uneventful flight I started hearing a raised voice from the back.  It got more and more frequent and when I turned around I saw a tall Somali getting increasingly vexed with an older Somali lady.  I am naturally scared of flying as I have said before… so when he started running up and down the aisle I got to say I could feel the blood draining not just from my face but from my entire body.  Even the other Somalis on the flight started getting worried and some even went back to sit by the emergency exit where the crazed 6 foot giant seemed to be spending a worrying amount of time by.  I had no idea what the argument was about and I didn’t want to know I just wanted it to land so I could get the hell off – even if by all accounts hell was where I was going.  Landing went without a hitch but again – just when confidence was returning, the pilot, for god knows what reason – braked so hard towards the end of the taxi run that everyone who had already got up and started getting luggage flew forward 2 feet and fell flat on their faces.  The airport terminal (or rather the single large tall box room with cracks and holes in the walls and ceiling from bomb damage) was a chaotic mess – even the simple visa application form – usually a mundane bureaucratic annoyance – seemed straight forward enough with questions about personal details and passport – until you got to the last question asking ‘What weapons have you brought with you?’ – replete with sub-questions about type, trademark, serial number and calibre of the weapon brought!

I have spent the first day inside the AMISOM base waiting for clearances to spend a couple of nights at one of the forward AMISOM posts near the frontline between AMISOM forces and al-shabab militia towards the northern outskirts of the city.  The base has that other-worldly feel to it – where normality reigns and with only a slight incline of what might be going on beyond the secure compound.  Sitting in the bar area you could easily think you were at a Lonely Planet favorite camping lodge…

AMISOM forces seem to be getting the upper hand in the fighting here.  I have been told that not 1 year ago you could here nearby mortar explosions and small arms fire whizzing overhead at the base – but as the forces have slowly pushed back al-shabab some semblance of normality seems to be returning to much of the city.  With Kenyan forces now entering to the south of the country and plans for further pushes by AMISOM forces outside Mogadishu – there is finally some hope that Somalia might be beginning to win the battle here – but with a weak UN-backed Somali government crippled by in-fighting and corruption and with the country in the throes of one of the worst droughts to hit the region in living memory – one should not hold ones breathe.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Bruce Kravetz #

    I wish I were there with you. Keep you head down. Find a room near the back of the hotel and make sure your a faster runner the the people you are with. Do you ever hear from Peter? The person who recommended me for a fellowship is on the board of directors. Did you realize that there were persons on the flight that were caring guns. EEEEEKKKKKKK. Have a safe journey. Bruce


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