taste the mood among the spice stalls of the Bakara Market
and hear it over the hum of the air-conditioning in the businessman's
office. You can feel it in the cellblock of the Islamic court
and you can smell it in the stench of the refugee camps.
voice the people of Somalia are calling for an end to war
and a return to government. They want the killing to stop
and they want the militiamen off the street. "The time is
right," Ahmed Adan, a businessman, said. "After a decade of
hate and division we are tired of war. We want to put an end
to this nightmare. "
thousands of Somali's took to the streets of Mogadishu last
week to express their support for the peace conference in
neighbouring Djibouti, it was a demonstration of collective
relief that the nightmare might soon be coming to an end.
talks appear to be on track to create a government, but public
relief may not be enough to see any agreement through. All
12 previous attempts at putting back together the pieces of
Somalia have failed, and it will take more than the optimism
of Somali people to make the 13th the lucky one. Although
the opposing power groups all want to see a government establishe
want it for different reasons. Businessmen want a laissez-faire
government that will allow business to prosper. Religious
leaders seek an Islamic government and the imposition of sharia
law. Refugees want a government that will provide water, food
and basic services. The young militiaman just wants to be
able to go to school.
Marxist dictator Siad Barre fled the country in 1991, Somalia
fell into the hands of warring clan-based militias fighting
one another to fill the political void. Somalia's cities were
reduced to rubble and millions of people were driven from
their homes. Millions more were killed or died of famine.
The UN, backed by the US, tried to intervene and restore order,
but it failed and withdrew in 1994. Sheikh Hassan Dahir, sitting
quietly behind his mahogany desk while his minions bustled
around him, said: "We support the Djibouti conference 100%.
need order and discipline in their lives. " He said that he
would support a secular government, but remained certain that
the Islamic courts which he set up would keep their power
under a new government. But according to the faction leader
Hussein Aidid this is the last thing Somalia needs. "Of course
I support a government, but it must exclude the Islamic courts,"
are financed by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden." He fancies
a government with himself at the helm, as do the other warlords
whose militias have destroyed this once beautiful city. But
nobody is paying much attention to the warlords these days.
and his supporters are clinging to a lost ideal, reluctant
to accept that the tide of Somali politics has turned against
him and the other warlords of Mogadishu. Mr Adan and his business
partners returned from exile in Canada last year. They gave
up comfortable lives and well-paid jobs and have invested
more than a million dollars in Somalia's first independent
television and radio station.
the time was right to come back and invest in the future of
Mogadishu," Mr Adan said. "Somali's are tired of war and everybody
wants peace. " But every now and then the conversation drops
off in the face of a fierce gun battle which is taking place
on the street just outside their offices - a timely reminder
that it is too soon to write off what remains of the warlords'
power and, more importantly, their arsenals of weapons.
the time that Mr Adan returned from Canada, Abdi Sabrie was
putting the finishing touches to a pasta factory he had built
in Mogadishu's old industrial area. Mr Sabrie has grown rich
from the absence of bureaucracy but is tired of having to
pay protection money for his security, tired of having to
generate his own electricity and find his own water. Even
the militiamen now say they want to see the restoration of
Farah sat slumped in the tattered armchair with a Kalashnikov
rifle, safety off, lying across his knees. Nicknamed "Five
Bullets" for the number of times he's been shot, he monotonously
chewed the tight bundle of khat stuffed inside his cheek.
"I don't want to fight anymore," he said.
rather go to school. " But for the vast majority of Somali's
there are no ifs or buts, us or them. They have nothing to
lose and any form of government would suit them. Spread right
across Mogadishu wherever the space will allow, makeshift
refugee camps have sprung up, comprising thousands of dome
shaped huts hastily erected with just a few feet separating
one from the next.
Abdukadir has lived with her eight children in one such camp
for the last eight years. "Take a look around you," she said
pointing towards the poverty of her surroundings. "We have
no food, no medicine and no hope. We don't care what kind
of government we get. We just want help."