Demonstrations against the Dollar
11am Somali time: Central and southern Mogadishu are currently awash with demonstrators protesting the massive inflation of the Somali national currency (Somali shilling) as well as shopkeepers who have started only accepting dollars on account of the near worthlessness of Somali bank notes.
Previously there were denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 shillings, but now there’s just the 1000 shilling notes which are accepted.
Even then, $100 is about 2.7 million shillings, so to conduct any transactions you need either to do your business in dollars, or bring along a truck for your Somali shillings.
One of the other problems is that there are old 1000 shilling notes and new 1000 shilling notes. Businessmen who exchange money wholesale have recently stopped accepting the old notes, effectively rendering a lot of people bankrupt. Here you can see the old and the new banknotes:
At any rate, demonstrators have set up burning tyres in southern and central Mogadishu at the moment and are chanting ‘take the dollar, we don’t accept it.’
Mohammad Mohamoud Isaaq, 20 years old, organised the demonstrations in the area we visited. “I used to have a shop here in Mogadishu, but I had to close it recently. I would take my money to the wholesale businessmen but they told me they had stopped accepting the old money.”
Mohammad Ali Aden, 17, was also among the demonstrators. A shoe-polisher by trade, he had similar complaints, saying that after he had polished someone’s shoes they would force him to accept the old 1000 shilling notes. “We will continue our demonstrations until the businessmen start to accept the old banknotes.”
He said that demonstrations had been organised in all the districts of Mogadishu from the south up to Bakara market. The inflation problem and the issue of old and new banknotes had hit Mohammad close to home, even.
“My father came home from work one day with only some old banknotes to show for his troubles. When he handed them to my mother, she flung them back at him and immediately he divorced her. This is the kind of problems that it is causing us,” he said.
Abdullahi Omar Sacauddin, 18, another demonstrator told how many of his friends and family had died trying to escape the country on smugglers’ boats to Yemen.
“The government is too weak to enforce this or solve our problems,” he said.
The demonstrators say they’ll continue until the businessmen start accepting the old notes. We just drove through the crowds and on back roads to reach the airport, but our plane is delayed 4 hours so we came back to the hotel. Let’s hope for safe passage on the way back.