By THABIT ABDI MOHAMED
MOGADISHU (Halbeeg News) – It’s exactly one year since the horror of the single worst terrorist attack in the history of Somalia and the region in which more than 500 innocent people lost their lives in Mogadishu while many others became scarred with life-changing physical and emotional injuries or are still unaccounted for till now.
I myself would have lost my life to the ferocious twin truck bombs at the busy Zoobe (renamed October 14th) were it not for God’s grace since I had passed the scene of the attack only 10 minutes earlier as I headed to work.
Though the attack was particularly horrific, the massive and unprecedented disaster response that followed from within the country and outside will forever remain something to be proud about.
As Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Benadir Region then, I had no doubt the country’s authorities alone would never have managed, owing to the overwhelming scale of the disaster.
Ordinary people responded quickly and heroically to our desperate appeals for help and took the lead in searching for victims day and night in the extensive rubble, donating blood until the city’s main hospitals couldn’t take any more and clearing away the mountain of rubble to reopen affected roads within a matter of days.
They also donated significant amounts of their meagre resources to help the survivors.
I particularly can’t forget the six-year-old Somali pupil who donated her biscuit, which she was going to school with, to the disaster response team.
This shows our determination as a people and the collective responsibility to come to each other’s rescue during the time of need.
HELP FROM NEIGHBOURS
Neighbouring countries like Kenya and the international community were generous with empathy and direct help, including airlifting the injured for specialised treatment.
The massive street marches against terrorism led by the youth only days after the attacks showed that we had reached a decisive turning point against terrorism, in which Al-Shabaab lost even the little-remaining credibility they may have had within pockets of the population who were their sympathisers.
In honour of the victims of the attack, the following needs to be done.
First, reforms of the security architecture in the country’s capital needs to be hastened to help prevent future attacks.
The key plank of this reform should be decentralisation of the security function from the federal government to the city’s authorities to enhance local ownership and accountability.
This move will help to promote community policing in which the citizens and the security personnel on the ground work closely together to identify and deal with security threats long before they can cause havoc.
Measures are needed to improve the current dysfunctional relationship between our security personnel and the people to help promote information sharing culture to better tackle the terrorism threats.
Authorities must also work to enhance access to social services like free education and health, especially to the vulnerable sections of the population to enhance confidence and trust in the government and deny the terrorists loopholes of taking advantage of the people.
When I was still in office I had introduced a programme of free primary education in a number of public schools as well as free health especially for the internally displaced persons (IDPs). Such programmes should be revived and expanded.
Secondly, significant investments are needed to rebuild the city’s and the country’s disaster response facilities to adequately respond to disasters of the magnitude of October 14th.
Last year’s attack exposed how the country is unprepared to meet such disasters.
Mogadishu deserves more attention since it suffers frequent attacks and is densely populated.
While in office, I had begun creating four fully-equipped disaster centres spread out in various sectors of Mogadishu to help enhance disaster response.
This initiative was supported by the European Union but, unfortunately, I left office before I could complete it as envisaged in the blueprints.
I hope the initiative will be finalised and expanded to cover all the 17 districts of the capital and other parts of the country.
There is also need to have a proper national blood bank to help save lives instead of the current small hospital-based blood storage facilities which couldn’t handle the blood donations by volunteers after the attack.
EXPAND BLOOD BANKS
While in office, I had begun to engage key hospitals in Mogadishu to expand their blood banks and this initiative needs to be followed up by the authorities.
Thirdly, there is need to build a proper memorial in honour of the victims of the October 14th attacks and as part of the country’s history to be taught to future generations.
The deaths and the injuries inflicted by senseless terrorism cannot be downplayed and swept under the carpet.
The incident needs to be remembered for years to come and to offer lessons about the bankruptcy that terrorism is all about and the depths of suffering and death it has inflicted on the nation.
This vital lessons and remembrance needs to be captured in a fitting memorial that’s acceptable within the religious and cultural context of the Somali people. Failing to do so will be a terrible disservice to the victims of the attacks, their families, the nation and the future generations.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that the Somali people were scarred by the horror of terrorism on October 14th but their will to rebuild our nation, ensure law and order and provide opportunities to our people will never be broken.
The hope for a brighter future for Somalia is much stronger than the temporary setbacks wrought by terrorist attacks.
************** This article previously appeared on Daily Nation
Mr Mohamed is the immediate former Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Benadir Region of Somalia.