Leaving Nairobi

MGQ. A complex grouping of consonants represents Mogadishu in its airport 3-letter code. Mogadoxo to the Portuguese, Hamar to the Somalis, the city represents so much of the dashed dreams of the 1990s. Ticket in hand, I’m a little apprehensive about a place that exists more in rumour and myth than in reality.

Journalist colleagues counsel caution; few travel to Somalia themselves these days, with a few notable exceptions (David Axe, Jeffrey Gettleman, and Scott Johnson come to mind). Even on paper, though, Somalia should have enough to commend attention – a home-grown insurgency problem entwined with a proxy conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea; food and water shortages to such a level that a UN head said last week Somalia was returning to a humanitarian crisis of a similar level to that of the 1990s; a massive IDP problem (particularly in and around Mogadishu itself from which over 70,000 have fled so far this year alone); all this coupled with general and pervasive insecurity…
So it’s goodbye to Nairobi for now. Time to put myself into the care of Daallo Airlines.

I leave you with the words of Kapuscinski, a legend amongst correspondents in Africa, musing on how Herodotus was the prototype foreign correspondent:

“But how could Herodotus, a Greek, known what the faraway Persians or Phoenicians are saying, or the inhabitants of Egypt or Libya? It was because he traveled to where they were, asked, observed, and collected his information from what he himself saw and what others told him. His first act, therefore, was the journey. But is that not the case for all reporters? Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the reporter feel like himself, at home.”