Q: Can you relate what happened on October 14, 2017 and how you reacted as the Mayor of Mogadishu?
I had just entered my office at the Mogadishu Municipality Headquarters when the blast went off and shook almost the entire city. I was horrified that I had just passed the Zoppe junction 10 minutes earlier. I rushed to the scene and what I saw was total confusion and serious devastation as the bomb destroyed all the buildings around, people were trapped under the rubble and screaming for help. The first thing that came to my mind was that this was beyond our capacity as the local government and even the Somalia Federal Government. My fist action was to go the radio stations to appeal to citizens and the private companies to be part of the rescue. The response was unprecedented, as people came out to donate blood, while neighbours such as Kenya offered plane loads of medicine and airlifted some of the injured to Nairobi. This was the biggest attack in the history of Mogadishu and we say it is only second to 9/11. Zoppe Junction has now been renamed the 14th October Junction as a reminder of the devastating attack.
Q: Mogadishu is always under the threat of bomb attacks, what is the level of disaster preparedness?
It is below the standards of what is expected of a city. The entire city has a basic emergency response equipment. Mogadishu does not have enough blood bank and requires people to donate blood whenever there is an attack. The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has been of great help whenever the capital is attack. For example, on October 14, Amisom responded to our appeal and brought the equipment they had and they were there literally with us throughout. As a mayor, we had carried out some public consultations in the 16 districts of the city and we came up with a plan to divide it into four boroughs (divisions) so that each could have its own disaster management centres. The European Union had offered to fund the centres to the tune of $1 million and the plan was to be implemented in 2018. But only one division has been formed.
Q: There have been concerns that Mogadishu is increasingly becoming more insecure compared to when it was liberated from the Al-Shabaab in 2011.
The challenge is that the security structure of Mogadishu remains the same. It has never been under the local administration but under the Federal Government. When I was the mayor, we came up with a proposal to establish the Banadir Regional Security Plan to place the city’s security under the mayor. This plan had civilian oversight component. For instance, when you look at Puntland, Jubbaland, Somaliland, they are relatively safer than Mogadishu, simply because there is the peoples’ ownership of security. The first beneficiaries of security are the locals and they tend to take more care if given the responsibility. As long as we have the current security structure, which is controlled by the Federal Government, it would be very difficult to manage.
Q: Did your attempt to create separate security arrangement for Mogadishu lead to your removal?
Changes will always be there until such a time when the Mogadishu residents will have the opportunity to elect their mayor. However, I was lobbying for the Somalia National Security forces' restructuring. It has been under the central government all those years, but now that Somalia has adopted a federal system, it has to be adjusted accordingly to bring about accountability. The belief is that all the six regions of Somalia—Banadir region that includes Mogadishu, Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West State and Jubaland, must be in charge of their own security. The Federal Government cannot observe all these regions, it has to delegate which has the advantage the work to those closer to the people.
Q: Do you think the current political stalemate between the federal government and the regional state will end soon?
I think they will ultimately find a solution because Somalia has made so many positive steps that we cannot agree to go back to where we came from. Since federal system is new to Somalia, perfecting it will take time. But it is the duty of the federal government to realise that federal states are constitutional and the centre must work with them. I have spoken to some of the leaders of the region and some of their concerns are genuine. One of them is the restructuring of security institutions. There can be no security without political stability and harmonious co-existence between the centre and the states.