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Ambassador’s Roof Deck

2 days after the election of the new president of Somalia. Is this the 15th peace process and transitional government? This time it is different apparently, the president was elected in Mogadishu and is supposedly carried by a large majority of groups and clans. In any case, the Nairobi-based international humanitarian and development community is excited, and NGOs, embassies and agencies alike have started to plan their move back to Mogadishu. Which is in fact why I am here.

We are told that Ban Ki Moon has called the now Mogadishu-based UN Special Representative yesterday to congratulate him for the successful elections. “See, I told you that it will make a difference if you move to Mogadishu”. Allegedly, the SRSG only spends 1 week per month there, hardly more than before. Fair enough, key contenders for the post of prime minister also hang out in the nice new bars of Nairobi during their evenings.

Even Kismayo seems in reach, despite the fact that 5 Ugandan helicopters supposed to support the offensive of the joint Somali Government, Ethiopian, Kenyan and AU forces are reported to have crashed into Mount Kenya on their way to Somalia. The Kenyan Navy continues to “shell” Kismayo as the Daily News writes, and Kenyan radio stations include South-Central Somalia in their weather forecasts.

Looking over Hargeisa from the roof deck of the Ambassador’s hotel, it seems that not much has changed since 2007. Except that the roof top is not accessible to the public anymore, the staff is now drying their cloths here which makes good sense. Still, the hotel manager kindly handed us the key. The latter is in fact hidden in a Chinese-produced drawer of a TV table on the second floor.

We do get the sun set on our first evening, and looking at the peaceful city and the beautiful colors the place seems very welcoming and pleasant. Well, there is an ugly new compound that was just finished. The houses with copper-green roofs are squeezed against each other and up for rent for US$ 850 per month.

The UN compound also looks quite as in 2007. It is now surrounded by a pair of thick and slightly fragile looking walls though, built after the bombing in 2008. Safia, UNDP’s operations manager for the last 14 years, tells me the story in details. She was standing on the balcony when she saw a car driving into the compound. It stopped below her for a short moment and then continued towards the court yard where the blast happened that killed 2 Somali colleagues. It seems the guards at the time had left the gates unlocked. Today, there is a monument for Mohammed Geelle and Said Hashi in the middle of the yard.

It is difficult to reconcile this event with the cozy atmosphere of the Hargeisa evenings, when groups of young men in their quite fancy jeans walk through the sandy streets chatting and holding hands, and groups of women showcase their colorful headscarfs.

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