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After 20 Years Of Civil War, Somalia’s Capital Mogadishu Finally Has Its First Set Of Street Lights
October 29, 2012
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For years now, the capital of Somalia - Mogadishu - has been one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

20 years of civil war has left it virtually destroyed.

For the two-and-a-half million people who live there, everything from clean water to paved roads to electricity is severely lacking.

But step by step, things are starting to change. Case in point. One of the main streets in Mogadishu - Mecca Avenue - finally has street lights.

It's astonishing to think that for all these years, the street has pretty much been in darkness at night.

The new lights are being paid for by the Norwegian government. They're powered by solar panels on lamp posts.

The lights stretch for two and a half kilometres, and there are plans to build more as time goes on - not just along streets, but also in hospitals and government buildings.

In many ways, this is transforming the city. Unitl now, many people were afraid to go out at night. But now that the street is lit up, there's a new sense of life.

Here's a short video from AFP about the new lights.

And the BBC has a story about it, that you can watch here.

Mogadishu doesn't have a power company to provide electricity, so people and businesses have to rely on private companies that sell generators.

The idea of solar power could help change that. And that's not the only thing that's changing.

As more and more people move back to Mogadishu, there are more cars. More kids are being enrolled in school. Buildings are being re-painted. And the city's first grocery store and gas stations are being built.

Plus, there are 15 new radio stations. And the new government has formed a tourism department, to at least begin the process of attracting visitors one day.

But there's still a long way to go. Housing is extremely difficult to find, which has made rent very expensive. Hundreds of thousands of people live outside in old tents.

And construction is a big challenge. In one case, a builder told NPR there were no cranes in the city to get up to the 7th floor of a building they were working on.

So, he had to hire 200 men to form pass three tons of concrete - bucket by bucket - from the ground to the seventh floor.

In spite of those challenges, Mogadishu's mayor, Mohamud Ahmed Nur, has hope.

"Mogadishu used to be one of the most beautiful cities in Africa, and still we can make it like that," Nur told NPR.

Last year, soldiers from the African Union forced the Islamic militant group, al-Shabab, out of Mogadishu.

Somalia now has a new president and prime minister, who say security is their top priority. That's easier said than done, of course.

al-Shabab militants still carry out attacks around Somalia, including one last month as the President was giving his first news conference.

Suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the hotel, where he was speaking. The next week, there was a suicide bombing at a restaurant, killing 15 customers.

In Mogadishu, heavily armed militias still walk around the streets.

Deeq Mohammad Afrika is a young business consultant who moved back to Mogadishu from Amsterdam.

He told NPR, "We're all scared, you know? There's a huge fear here. Everyone's scared of the terrorism attacks and all that stuff. But in Mogadishu there's a thin line between hope and fear. The hope is greater."

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K'Naan Reflects On Returning To Somalia After 20 Years

Famine In Somalia: The World's "Most Severe" Crisis

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