x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Somalia's return from anarchy remains fragile

A bombing in Mogadishu demonstrates that Somalia, though moving in the right direction, still has a long way to go.

The suicide bombings that killed 20 people at a Mogadishu restaurant on Saturday make it easy to presume that Somalia is still mired in bloody anarchy.

But despite the weekend carnage, there are signs that the nation is slowly beginning to emerge from two benighted decades as the world's archetypal failed state.

The federal government of Somalia has recently completed its first year of rule. But its control outside the capital is tenuous or worse, and the Saturday attack by Al Shabab militants in Mogadishu shows that the city is not fully secure.

However, compared to the warlords who ruled Mogadishu for much of the last 20 years, the current state of governance represents real progress. The further development of a viable central government, and of the rule of law, are desperately needed by ordinary Somalis - but are a threat to Al Shabab and its goals.

That explains why the Village Restaurant, frequented by members of parliament and by government workers, was their target on Saturday. Al Shabab also bombed the same place a year ago, killing 14 people. The owner has vowed to reopen the restaurant.

The incident demonstrates that despite a number of recent steps towards stability, Somalia remains a very fragile state. Just last Tuesday the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, had warned of the risk of Somalia sliding back into failed-state status unless the international community does more to aid the fledgling state.

For an example of how things could be, Somalis need only look at thebreakaway region of Somaliland, which seceded as Somalia descended into civil war. Somaliland is not recognised by any country or international organisation, but for 20 years now, its people have enjoyed peace and stability - exactly what ordinary Somalis crave.

Stability and security will not only allow average Somalis to provide for their families but will also decrease the appeal of illegal activities such as the piracy with which the country has unfortunately become synonymous.

The last word ought to go to Ahmed Jama, owner of the Village restaurant. Part of the Somali diaspora, he fled in 1989; his return from the UK in 2008 is a heartening symbol of Somalia's gradual recovery.

"We have no other choice but to keep moving forward," he wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page after Saturday's bombing. "Please keep believing in Mogadishu and its people."