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Irish Times: Somalia Starts to Pick Up the Pieces

Author: Mary Fitzgerald
November 2, 2013

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"For the first time in a very long time, people here have hope," says Liban Mahdi, one of scores of diaspora Somalis who have returned to Mogadishu since al-Shabaab were routed from the city by African Union and Somali forces in August 2011. Parts of the battle-scarred capital are experiencing a construction boom, with hospitals, homes, schools, shops and hotels rising from once rubbled neighbourhoods. Streets hum with cars and hawkers. "We have traffic jams in Mogadishu now," says Ismail, who works in construction. "I never imagined I would see that here."

'Welcome to Somalia" reads the sign, in Somali and English, greeting travellers as they walk out of Mogadishu's ramshackle airport. On a wall nearby is an artist's impression of what the airport will look like when a Turkish reconstruction project is completed. The planned gleaming glass and steel structure seems ambitious in a city that still experiences attacks by the al-Shabaab militants that once controlled it and much of Somalia, but it chimes with the mood of cautious optimism that has taken hold over the past year.

One of the world's most dangerous countries, Somalia became synonymous with war, piracy and famine in the chaotic decades that followed the collapse of its government in 1991. Now Somalis are daring to imagine a very different future for their homeland.

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