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The returning diaspora, he said, is proof that Somalis believe in a brighter future.
"They’re all returning because people, they want to come back and they’ve had enough of living abroad and they’re investing their money. And that gives you confidence," he said. "A year ago no one was talking about investing their hard-earned money in Somalia. Property is skyrocketing in value, and that’s good."
The patients who line up outside the African Union force’s outpatient clinic used to come with gunshot and bomb blast wounds. Today their medical problems are more in line with a regular metropolis — infections and traffic accident injuries, said Dr. Leonard Ddungu of the Ugandan military. Malnutrition rates are down from last year, when much of Somalia suffered from famine.
Justin Brady, the head of the Somalia unit of the U. N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is the first chief of any U.N. agency to be based in Mogadishu since international staff left in 1995. Last week he visited a sprawling refugee camp where more than 100,000 Somalis live in makeshift tents. One refugee told Brady: "You come here to do nothing."
Being on the ground makes a difference, Brady said.
"If you fly back to Nairobi it’s easy to forget. ... It’s much more in your face here that we have to get something done," he said, adding: "There’s a demand from Somalis to be here."
More U.N. staff will arrive in coming weeks. The challenges of carrying out their work remain huge. No area of the city is rated lower than "high risk" by the U.N., so U.N. staff will have to travel in military convoys.
Pelton, who runs the Somalia news website Somaliareport.com and who travels to Mogadishu, said he believes the city is safe enough for Americans and Europeans to walk around.
Abubakar has a different opinion. The 45-year-old father of eight was surprised to find running water and 24-hour electricity at his mother’s house, and is considering moving his family to Mogadishu. But he says living there would be safer for him — a U.S. citizen and Somali native — than most Americans and Europeans.
"I know it’s not safe for a white person to walk around on foot," he said. "Even if you don’t become a target everyone will be looking and saying, ‘Oh, what is this guy doing here?’"
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