The old parliamentary building which once hosted the OAU summit has only several high walls filled with bullet holes left.
Pictured by Ni Tao
The airplane left a trace above the blue ocean, kept lowering until almost touching the sea, and suddenly touched down on the airstrip, landing at the international airport of Mogadishu, capital of Somalia.
Our journalist recently travelled to Somalia for coverage. Since Wei Hongtian, Charge d'Affaires of the Chinese embassy to Somalia, was also on the airplane, our journalist enjoyed a diplomatic privilege, being invited into a 10-square-meter VIP lounge set at the airport by the Protocol Department of the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hong Lei, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently announced that the Chinese government has decided to resume the embassy in Somalia in order to further promote friendly cooperation between the two countries.
Somalia was the first Eastern African country to establish diplomatic relations with China. In 1991, due to the civil war, the Chinese embassy was withdrawn. Wei Hongtian told our journalist that since the Chinese team on resuming the embassy in Somalia came to Mogadishu in early July, he has already called upon President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and met with people of various sectors, warmly received by Somali government and people.
"The world can not do without China and Somalia also needs China".
The protocol official named Habibo (transliteration) from the Protocol Department of the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was very passionate, seemed to have a lot to say to us, but did not know where to start. Seeing the computer on his office desk, which was made in China, we started to talk on China. Habibo said, "Everything is made in China. The world can not do without China and Somalia also needs China."
When receiving an interview, Abudi Disher (transliteration), permanent secretary of the Somali Department of Planning and International Cooperation, said that the Somali government and people warmly welcome China's resumption of the embassy in Somalia. China and Somalia enjoy time-honored friendship. Before the outbreak of the civil war, China helped Somalia build a large number of infrastructure projects such as the national opera house, hospital and roads which promoted local economic development and benefited the people. The Somali people have good feelings towards the Chinese people. Somali now is eager to develop cooperation with China like other African countries.
Dr. Isa (transliteration), a 25-year-old guy who can speak fluent Chinese, was born in Canada. After getting his undergraduate degree in the Medical School of Wuhan University, he could have gone back to Canada for a stable life, but chose without hesitation to go back to his motherland. He said that due to long-term wars, a lot of people in Somali suffered from gunshots or wounds, and are in urgent needs of doctors.
Ali Gaber (transliteration), a Somali businessman who owns maritime transport companies in many cities in the world, told our journalist that China's strong infrastructure construction capability and manufacturing industry can help Somalia which are in urgent need of reconstruction after devastation. Somalia needs China.
"The Chinese companies have more confidence over helping Somalia's reconstruction."
Devastated streets and walls, flocks of sheep that wander around, small donkeys pulling the big carriages, fully-armed soldiers, people walking around idly, the Freedom Square standing in Mogadishu, and several high walls filled with bullet holes, all of which seem to be telling you what has happened here over the past 20 years. You cannot believe that the OAU summit was held here 40 years ago.
The government of Mogadishu stands close to the sea, and one needs to go through four passes to enter the government. In a small meeting room, our journalist joined Zhao Yangbin, who is from China Railway No.5 Engineering Group and responsible for the development of Somali market, in meeting with Hassan Mohamed Hussein Mungab, mayor of Mogadishu. The mayor, 42 years old, once studying in Sudan, served as a middle school teacher after graduation, and later joined the military. He felt the heavy tasks on his shoulder managing a city needed to be built from scratch.
Zhao Yangbin brought here a feasibility report on building 10,000 low-cost housing units, and a plan on light-rail construction for the city by 2030, which made the mayor very exited. China Railway No.5 Engineering Group sent his task force to Somalia in late 2011, and has entered into 13 MOUs and 5 business contracts with the city of Mogadishu, covering hospitals, schools, roads, airport and water supply, projects related to the wellbeing of the people. Mr. Zhao said, "the resumption of the Chinese embassy makes Chinese companies more confident about the reconstruction of Somalia".
"China and Somalia are friends forever". We met with one local employee of Huawei, named Mohammad, who said that Somalia should be grateful to the Chinese for the smooth operation of telecommunication and internet.
Ma Yongxiang, representative of the ZTE in Somalia, was sent here in 2008. He said that the explosion in a UN office in June last year was only 200 meters away from his residence, and the latest attack last January was only 100 meters away. "But I am not afraid at all. Living here for a long time, I feel that local people are kind and honest, very friendly to me. Somalia is just like my home".
"China has never stopped its help to Somalia".
Since 2012, there has been some improvement in the political process and reconstruction of Somalia. Diersher (transliteration) said that safety was of overriding importance. The recent years have seen gradual improvement in the security situation in the country. In 2012 and 2013, the government troops only controlled part of Mogadishu, but now almost have control of the entire city. Although attacks form Al-Shabaab happened from time to time, people still go out for shopping and to eat.
In the recent period, however, the security situation of Mogadishu became tense again. One Chinese diplomat told the journalist, "we can hear gunshots every day, and every day there is news of terrorist attack".
When receiving the interview from our journalist, Wei Hongtian stressed again and again, "when Chinese citizens come to Somalia, security is most important". He said that although the Chinese embassy was not in working over the past 20 years in Somalia, China's help to Somalia has never stopped. The Chinese government has been supporting Somalia peace process. "At present, Somalia has entered a new stage of post-war reconstruction. The Chinese government decides to resume the embassy, which fully shows the importance it attaches to relations with Somalia and the recognition of the achievements made by the federal government of Somalia. China is willing to work together with Somalia to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields to benefit our two peoples."