“Life and death are cheap”

In the words of Smith Hempstone, the former US ambassador to Kenya: “If you liked Beirut, you’ll love Mogadishu…” And so it is. Arriving in a delayed Daallo Airways plane, fellow travellers flying on to the north of the country wish us well. “Life and death are cheap in this city…take care,” said one, patting me on the back as the humid sea breeze hit me when I got outside.

The flight itself was one long debate back in “First Class” (presumably where premium passengers used to sit when the plane wasn’t owned by Daallo) of the ageing Russian-made Daallo Airways plane. Somalis on their way to Somaliland – most are only on the flight to transit via Mogadishu – discuss the political situation, process, leaders and factions in the conflict that has all but enveloped their small nation.
Fluctuating as and when the interests of outside powers have dictated, the past 17 years’ violence have devastated the lives of ordinary Somalis.

Philip, the French photographer with whom I’m traveling, suggested we visit one of the IDP (‘internally displaced people’) camps that sprawl on the 30km stretch of road south from Mogadishu to Afgoyye.
Thus we found ourselves in Hawa ‘Abdi camp, containing some of the 250,000-300,000 displaced families living alongside the road. People are constantly arriving from Mogadishu – fleeing the ongoing fighting and shelling in the city – and many of those we spoke to had left in the last few weeks.

An effective 5pm curfew in some parts of the city and on some roads meant we couldn’t spend much time out and about today. Since I’m tired, therefore, since I can hear the small arms fire of some fighting going on near here, and since a picture is worth a thousand words…

P.S. In the background of the picture you can see a woman hand-making pasta, apparently a colonial culinary residue.