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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Somalia May be rising from the ashes (SCARR Article)

When one hears “Somalia”, people usually think of the movie “Black Hawk Down”, pirates, countless sides of violence and strife, and Islamic fundamentalism. The country still suffers from poverty and violence in other areas, but the capital of Mogadishu, once a war-torn shell of a city plagued by hatred and arbitrary blood-spilling, is starting to rise from its painful past.  Earlier this month, a new airport and seaport started construction with help and investment from Turkey. The Somali government started their first postal service in twenty years, devising a postal code system for the East African nation-the first they've ever had. 
To an outsider, this probably sounds extremely basic, almost primitive. After twenty years of religious and clan-instigated conflict, Somalia has nowhere to go but up. The Civil War and Islamic fundamentalism ravaged the already impoverished country into anarchy and utter disarray. The economy wasn’t just hurt, it was wiped out. What was left of Mogadishu was terrorized by wild-eyed groups of thugs with Kalashnikovs slung over their backs. These are basic infrastructural needs, but they are vital to functioning society, and are the first step to developing a country that desperately needs it.

Somalis that have moved elsewhere are also returning to their homeland to help, assisting new businesses and recruiting skilled laborers for further development. The national currency, the shilling, has been regaining its value, shooting up from an exchange rate of 15,000 shillings to the dollar in May of 2013 to just over 1,000 to the dollar in March of 2014. Right now it’s dipped under 800.  This is excellent news for a people desiring to invest-it will inspire confidence, and for the first time, Somalis in Mogadishu can withdraw shillings from an ATM in their capital city. Progress is being made in resolving the territorial dispute with Puntland with international observers standing by.

Some credit is definitely due to the work of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in September 2012, and promised strong anti-corruption measures. However, security isn’t perfect; only two days ago a bomb went off near a popular cafe killing six, and the UN has condemned what they described as a possible escalating crisis. Al-Shabaab is a very real threat, and the government still lacks strong authority outside the capital. The country is severely underdeveloped, with a GDP per capita of $600, and the northern section of the country considers itself independent. Somalia’s got a very long way to go. But every journey begins with one step. 

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