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Death reigns in Somalia as displaced struggle to rebuild lives


Mogadishu remains a city in chaos, haunted by its tortured past, and fearful of its uncertain future. Every street bears the scars of war, with whole districts still no more than rubble, and amid this rubble, sleep the multitude of homeless, hiding from the oppressive sun, cowering with nowhere to go.

The shell of the once beautiful cathedral plays home to alcoholics, despite the threat of 60 public lashes, and alongside them shanty towns fill the once magnificent Italian districts. The remnants of animal carcasses lie covered in flies around the city, and children play among the rubbish.

Around the country al-Shabaab remain a potent force, able to launch attacks at will while blending in among the population. They have shifted their tactics to become a guerrilla force, and continue to have both money and success.

Whole cities pay them extortion fees, in some cases earning them $500,000 (£300,000) a month. They are able to move freely around the countryside, and have a seemingly endless supply of weapons flowing in from Yemen.

Even though the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amison), and its 22,000 troops, claim to have liberated the capital and some towns, sporadic attacks show they are far from defeated.

Last week’s siege of the parliament building was yet another reminder that they can still strike in the heart of government. I was there, and can testify that the initial chaotic response does not bode well for the future.

Targeted killings are increasing, with anyone who has dealt with Amison or Westerners placed on a hit list. Grenade attacks are common in the busy street markets.

Graves can be seen along the sides of some roads; beside a wall or under a tree – death is a part of everyday life.

And any improvement seems far away. While there has indeed been a diaspora-driven property boom along Mogadishu’s coast, an underlying lack of governance is crippling real progress.

Many people outside the cities tell of attacks by government troops on their villages, and because of this clan conflict, little progress is materialising.

There is some hope here, but real, functioning, effective change is a long way off.