The Current

Why Mogadishu's former mayor wants to be Somalia's president

To some, he's a leader. To others, he's a thug. But it's hard to deny that Mohamud "Tarzan" Nur cares deeply about his homeland, Somalia. Find out why the former mayor of Mogadishu is running to be the country's president.
He was the mayor of Mogadishu. Before that a teenaged basketball star. And before that, a young nomad in Somalia. Now, Mohamud Nur's ambitions are set on being Somalia's president. (Tobin Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

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His full name is Mohamud Ahmed Nur, but most people in his home country of Somalia call him "Tarzan,"  a nickname that has stayed with him since childhood. 

For four years, Nur was the mayor of Mogadishu, trying to bring his beloved city back to its once comfortable grandeur. In 2014, he was ousted from the mayor's office but he hasn't given up on setting his country on the right path.  He's now running to become Somalia's president. 

Nur's own history reflects the complicated history of his country. Born into a poor, nomadic family, he became a teenaged basketball star living in an orphanage, then a member of the diaspora, and now a returnee.

As mayor in 2011, Mohamud "Tarzan" Nur pictured here clearing garbage in Mogadishu. (Courtesy of Mohamud Nur)

The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti speaks with Mohamud Nur from Mogadishu about his past successes as a politician and a basketball player, and the changes he hopes he can bring to Somalia if he is elected president later this year.

"Imagine a city in the coastline of the Indian Ocean and Italian architecture, how beautiful that city," Nur tells Tremonti looking back at life in the 70s.

"When we grew up we grew up in a city that was peaceful, zero criminality, zero tension. We used to go to the ocean and swim and then walk around ... Peacefully."

"So that's why I was looking to bring Mogadishu back to the 'hey' time of Somalia and they 'hey' time of the capital city of Somalia. That was my dream."

Mohamud "Tarzan" Nur with his basketball team, 1970. Tarzan rear left, with his arm around the coach. (Courtesy of Mohamud Nur)

Listen to a documentary about the-then mayor of Mogadishu from 2011, below.

Tremonti also spoke with Nur's brother Yusuf Ahmed Nur, professor of business management at Indiana University and by journalist Andrew Harding, author of The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia.

"In a sense, Somalia is a glimpse into the future because it's been through everything, the worst that can happen to a country," Harding says. "And it's happened over 25 years."

Harding says Somalia's experience is a lesson the world needs to learn.

"When you look at Syria today the first thing is: don't give up on the country because the world gave up on Somalia in the early 1990s."

"And once a country collapses it takes a generation, or maybe two or three generations, to put it back together again."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley and Ines Colabrese.