The bang came in the morning, in the middle of rush hour traffic. Of what used to be at the site – a well-congested roadblock, a tax office – there was almost nothing left. Just piles of rubbish, and a pillar of smoke rising thick over Mogadishu.
43-year-old Hirey Roble, who left the Järva area in Stockholm in 2015 and returned to the city he left as a teenager, says the December 28 terrorist attack broke a period of calm in the Somali capital.
– There has been no suicide since July. People began to think positive thoughts, but at the same time there was a suspicion. One thinks: Now nothing has happened in a while, what is their next move, he tells TT on the phone from Mogadishu.
At least 90 lost they lives. Among them were 16 students, who traveled on a bus on their way to the university.
Somalis are returning
Decades of civil war, famine and mutual power struggles between regional leaders have left many Somali civilians fleeing. Between 1990 and 2015, around two million people were born in Somalia outside the country, according to UN estimates.
Security situation has improved somewhat in recent years, especially around the capital Mogadishu. It has set a unique trend in scrolling – exile Somalis that return after decades in western countries.
Hirey Roble, who always felt a strong will to help her homeland, made the decision during a visit in 2012.
– The young people here need faith in the future, they need role models. When they see all of us who left the country many years ago, but come back, it is a kind of encouragement. Not giving up, he says.
In Mogadishu, Roble now works for the federal government. There, he is far from alone about returning after a life in the diaspora – many politicians and local leaders share his background.
Even the current president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, had US citizenship allthought Somalia’s president is giving up his United States citizenship
It would take almost two days before the terror-stamped al-Shabaab movement – which wants to establish an Islamic state in Somalia – took responsibility for the attack.
The group was expelled from the capital in 2011 by a coalition force from the African Union, Amisom. However, they have performed a number of deeds in Mogadishu since then, and are suspected to be behind more – including two car bombs that detonated in October 2017 and killed nearly 600 people.
That the attack in late December occurred at a roadblock outside the city limits may indicate a sign of weakness for al-Shabaab, says professor and Somali scientist Stig Jarle Hansen at the University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Norwegian Ås.
– It may indicate that they tried to get deeper into Mogadishu, but failed. But I have also never doubted that they have long been strong and stable, he tells TT.
al-Shabaab has what Stig Jarle Hansen calls semi-territorial control in Somalia. They control military de facto relatively small areas in the countryside, but have both the power and the money to infiltrate both business and political governance in the big cities.
Despite over ten years of presence in the country, the Amisom forces have not achieved any significant success against the group, says Stig Jarle Hansen.
– They have failed to offer security to the locals outside the big cities, but remain on their bases. al-Shabaab has consolidated its power and is allowed to rule in these areas.
“Will I stand out?”
Hirey Roble has lost close friends and colleagues in the terrorist act. What strikes him after every event is that life seems to return to normal after only a few hours, as if the war-torn population was going on autopilot.
As exile Somalis who have returned, terrorist acts raise questions about their own security.
– What will happen in a year? Will I endure this, or will I want to reunite with my family in Sweden? I do not know. I take it day by day.
At the same time, he emphasizes, there is so much he loves in Somalia. The weather, the food, the community.
– Somalia is not just a country where the terrorists live. Here also ordinary people like me live. And this is a positive development nonetheless. I want to contribute as much as I can.