Somalia

The civil war in Somalia began in 1991 with a coalition of armed fractions ousting Siad Barres’ lost-standing dictatorship. With the fall of the regime – and the whole central government – a power vacuum followed leading to different opposition group, based on clans, competing for power. The country would be shattered into different rebel groups controlling different regions, with particular clashes occurring in the the capital Mogadishu. After several interventions, cease-fires, and coalition governments, Somalia remains unstable, with a death toll over half a million, and a country in ruins.

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«Most of Mogadishu is a no man’s land where militia soldiers shoot at everything that moves — children, women, men, dogs, cats, and cars. Every 15 minutes we are stopped by crazy teenagers, armed to their teeth with machine guns and rocket launchers in four wheel jeeps, stolen from the aid organizations that used to work here before fleeing. Every night after darkness the ‘carnival’ starts with an inferno of continuing automatic fire overtaken by trace lights and heavier RPG blasts. It goes on the whole night outside Hotel Towfiq, the only hotel in the city.

After 30 days of heavy artillery and rocket fire there is not much left of the once beautiful Somali capital. The ‘fortress like’ US embassy is now a big hole in the ground, as well as most other embassies, shops and buildings. Over 25,000 people have died during the battle for Mogadishu. ‘Siad Barre [the overthrown former dictator] will not find anything if he ever returns’, says a young, trigger-happy militia soldier on what was once the Mogadishu parade street, Via Roma. The militia who controls large parts of the city made sure of this; the Red Cross blood bank was blown up one night and the explosion painted several streets red in this hysterical, crazy destruction of institutions that were established during President Siad Barres’ 21 years of power»

Peter Strandberg | Mogadishu, Somalia |1991