Somalia's starving driven into violent Mogadishu

Sun, 2011-06-19 13:36 by admin
A million people are thought to have been killed during 20 years of war.

By Pete Greste
BBC News, Somalia

Despite reports that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia is easing after 20 years of war, it remains the ultimate failed state—a land of banditry and piracy, where crop failures and a shortage of food force people into the violent city of Mogadishu.

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The mayor of Mogadishu insists his city is not the most dangerous place in the world.

In fact, Mohamed Nur reckons it is not as bad as Kabul or even Baghdad.

"Of course it's not as safe as we'd like it to be," he tells me. "But we are making progress."

Calling it "safe" might be a stretch.

The mayor has a street lighting programme. I know because I see the lights flicker on the only three blocks he has done, as we drive past in an armoured troop carrier.

His council is also collecting rubbish and opening new markets. I will have to take his word for it, though. Our minders from a force of African Union troops earnestly shake their heads when I ask if we can see these initiatives.

What if we follow the mayor for a while? He has his own heavily-armed bodyguards after all.

"Um … no," comes the reply. Still too dangerous.

Can we walk the 100 m (109 yards) between the ministry of information and the prime minister's office then? Not without flak jackets and an armoured vehicle.

The rattle, pop and thump of gunfire is so pervasive that locals grimly call it "Mogadishu music".

I lose count of the number of times bullets zip past like angry lead hornets. …

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