September 23, 2010 by staff
Mogadishu, (AP) – The new mayor of Mogadishu has paid its employees, got some of the waste collected and turned on the lights. In this city of rubble and bombed-out buildings, where gunfire erupts every few minutes, that counts as progress.
Mayor Mohamed Nur is making an effort to provide basic services for one of the saddest cities on earth, a place where the authorities are much better known to fill their own pockets. Somali battered by two decades of war have lost faith in the weak central government, which is harassed by the militias, corruption and infighting. The prime minister resigned Tuesday after a power struggle with the president.
Against this tide of chaos and despair, Nur has a budget of 50,000 and a month, two computers and three typewriters Olivetti. A former expatriate who ran a cafe and did not race for city council in England, Nur said he has established an unprecedented level of transparency with the announcement only when you receive money, and then announce how it is spent.
Nur, 55, said he used his first and 50,000 checks to make token payment to some of its 800 employees, most of which had not been paid for years. He also hired women to clear piles of garbage in their neighborhood, one of the few in the hands of government forces, and convinced the business community to provide trucks and pay for fuel and labor. The second month the money was used to light some streets.
Islamic insurgents “would have us believe that we are in the dark,” Nur said Sunday on the patio with battle scars from the seat of government. “So I lit a downtown.”
The remaining work for the mayor, one appointed by the president, it is obvious from every corner of Mogadishu, the only part of Somalia controlled directly by the government. Piles of garbage on the roads in ruin and snags on barbed wire. Near the airport, a blackened area indicates the most recent suicide bombing.
The UN-backed government says it cannot protect its citizens and providing services, which only got to 11.2 million in aid and income from last time. But officials acknowledge that most of the money that should have picked up – that the revenue of the port, for example – has disappeared.
The only visible government presence in the streets are groups of men dressed in uniform or in civilian living in the back of trucks or in the shade nearby, ammunition belts hanging loose over her shoulders.
Departure of Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said his resignation to facilitate political unrest amid a standoff with the president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. Sharmarke said his battle with the president has been away from the fight against Islamic insurgents.
The resignation will have little impact on the lives of the Somalis or the government, with the help of African Union troops is just the prevention of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia connected to Al Qaeda, to take over the entire capital. Sharmarke and Ahmed had fought for a draft constitution and its own power and seniority. The dispute alienated many Somalis, who are convinced that the government is not focusing on their problems.
“What can the government give us? Nothing,” spat Mohamed Abdi Farah, 23. “The schools, nothing. Hospitals, nothing. All they do is eat money.”
A stray bullet recently injured Abdi’s brother. Abdi two children not attending school like 90 percent of Somali children.
Founded centuries ago, Mogadishu was once an important commercial city on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Some residents still speak the Arab traders brought Islam to Somalia, and Italian colonial country’s electricity. In the 1930′s, the city is wide avenues, a Catholic cathedral – a symbol of peaceful coexistence of religions – a mosque with a minaret bright white to a block.
A city that developed over centuries collapsed quickly. The rebels ousted President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991. The factions turned their weapons against them.
Elegantly dressed women used to walk along the promenade. Currently, women wear long dresses, Islamic monotonous. In areas controlled by al-Shabab, which often must leave their jobs if the job involves contact with the men, leaving several families homeless.
Today the cathedral, like most of Mogadishu is in ruins. In 2005, insurgents Italian corpses unearthed from the cemetery and threw into the sea. The mosque is still standing and was recently painted and repaired with money from the Somali diaspora, block after block, but it is more than buildings collapsed, the windows boarded up and walls marked by bullets.
Ugandan and Burundian soldiers, members of an African force of 7,100 troops keeping the peace of the Union who has been in Somalia for three years, rolled down the dusty streets in long convoys of white armored vehicles past and vegetable sellers overloaded taxis, vans old. Sweating gunners scanning snipers or bombs buried in the road.
The peacekeepers have been expanding their scope in what was once luxury with sea views, reinforcing their positions, filling sandbags in bright bougainvillea where children once played.
Have been drilled through the walls of houses, many with-loan at the ceiling, so it can pass between them without being exposed to enemy fire. All valuables were lost long ago the looters, but the elements that remain – crumbling certificates, pieces of clothing – point to a vanished life.
Peacekeepers to help fill the void left by the government to treat more than 12,000 sick and wounded Somalis each month and distribution of food and water. Sometimes, they feed and supply the combatants they demoralized government, whose wages, if received, is mostly paid by Italy and the U.S.
A total of 213 million pledged at a donors’ conference in April 2009. The UN says most of it was for security and most of it was the force of peacekeepers. More than two thirds has been paid, but exactly where is not made public. Many pledged donations arrive late, if at all.
Aid organizations say the government does not meet the basic requirements of transparency, but also recognize that they not publish the pool and centralized information themselves, so they do not know how the money flows to Somalia. Some money comes in briefcases carried by diplomatic or delivered to the coffee shops in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya.
Most of the funds raised by government officials in the books, said Abdirizak Jama, head of the unit of public finance management.
In this nexus of corruption and lawlessness, the mayor of Nur goals to achieve primary education, health care and sanitation seem daunting if not impossibly ambitious. He plans to open a center to disseminate vaccines, road reconstruction and re-establish a central office to issue identity cards and registration of births, deaths and certificates of ownership.
As outlined plans for a group of journalists this week, guns crackled in the distance.
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