Somalis risk lives and limbs for the reconstruction of Mogadishu
In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, reconstruction proceeds at a staggering pace. But dire needs for building materials lead people to take on extreme risks in their search for alternative sources of explosives needed for the production of stone slabs. The Mine Action Unit within the Danish Refugee Council conducts Mine Risk Education and works to find alternative solutions.
The news of one person killed and two injured by an explosion in Mogadishu is not all that unusual. This time, however, it happened in a quarry and had nothing to do with clashes between Al Shabaab and government forces. The tragedy happened due to reconstruction and eagerness to rebuild the city.
The tragic incident happened in a quarry in southern Mogadishu that has turned into a crucial source of construction materials. Unfortunately, the quarry is a ticking bomb with numerous remnants of two decades of war and armed conflict.
Mines, grenades and other unexploded ordnances are scattered throughout the city and recently, workers have started bringing them to the quarry. Here, they are opened and emptied for explosives, which are then ignited to release big rocks, which can be cut into stone slabs in different sizes and shapes and sold on to the construction companies that are currently busy reconstructing Mogadishu.
‘This is the only way we can make a living,’ says a Somali man working in the quarry. He has seen many killed and injured using the explosives, still he understands those taking the risk. ‘During the Siad Barre regime [before 1991], people in the quarries had access to explosives from the armed forces and demolitions were conducted with proper equipment and safety procedures. Today, we do not have access to neither equipment nor proper explosives. For this reason, people have started searching Mogadishu for old explosives in the districts where fighting has taken place.’
The quarry functions as a little community where people live and work. As its limits have expanded, moving closer and closer to the road leading from Mogadishu to Jazeera, pipelines from the old defunct water system have been laid bare and are now used for habitation. The quarry is one of several in Mogadishu that are trying to keep up with the demand caused by the current construction boom. With money to be made, and no obvious alternative sources of explosives, the temptation from opening the mines and grenades to get on with the work often surpasses the fear of accidents.
The Mine Action Unit within the Danish Refugee Council, Danish Demining Group (DDG) is currently conducting Mine Risk Education for the people living and working in and around the quarry, as an emergency response to this new and dangerous dilemma. In cooperation with the local government and partners, DDG is also looking into alternative ways to produce building materials, while still providing the inhabitants of the quarry with employment opportunities.
‘It is understandable, but hard to accept that Somali people take such risks in order to make a living. DDG is working to reduce the level of accidents caused by explosive remnants of war in Mogadishu, and we try to support the reconstruction of the city by assisting the people and organisations working there,’ says Klaus Ljørring Pedersen, DDG Regional Director for Horn of Africa & Yemen.
‘It is a huge task to address this problem, and worrying to learn about the all too frequent incidents happening. At the same time this is a sign of people who are eager to reconstruct their lives and livelihoods, and therefore this is a crucial time to assist the Somalis in creating their future and a safer Mogadishu.’