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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Mogadishu seeks a makeover
By Mohammed Olad Hassan
BBC, Mogadishu

Taking down kiosks in south Mogadishu
Somalis have until the end of the week to remove their structures
Somalia's interim government is seeking to strengthen its grip on the capital, Mogadishu, less than a month after it declared victory over insurgents but ordinary people complain they are paying the price.

Some of the makeshift shacks which survived the worst violence in Somalia's 16 years of civil war are now being destroyed.

In the early mornings, before the sun is high in the sky, hundreds of police with sledgehammers and bulldozers flatten kiosks and shops in the streets of the city.

"This stall has been the only source of income for my family, but now I have lost it and I do not know where to go," says 65-year-old Abdi Dinah Aden, a father of eight, as he watches men demolish his shop.

The demolition has mainly affected people who had stalls selling tea, vegetables and other small goods by the roadside.

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Almost all of Mogadishu's residents depend on such activities to make a living.

The government says the buildings and shacks put up during the years without any central authority in the city - except for a brief six months last year during the rule of the Union of Islamic Courts - are illegal.

This is why a makeover is needed, it says.

Crumbling

Mogadishu was once a beautiful seaside city - a showcase for Islamic and Italian architecture on the coast of Africa.

Khadiija Aweys Mohamud
I have nowhere to turn
Khadiija Aweys Mohamud
After 16 years of anarchy and civil war, much of what is left standing is bullet-ridden and crumbling.

Khadiija Aweys Mohamud, a 17-year-old girl, used to run a small petrol kiosk to support her widowed mother.

But the kiosk was torn down before her eyes last week - she too has no idea how she will earn money.

"My father and my mother parted while I was seven years old," she says.

"My mother then married and had three children. But my stepfather died. I was the breadwinner of my family. This will lead my family into financial troubles, I have nowhere to turn.''

Bleak

The situation is desperate for many Somalis with a lack of good shelter, food and medicines.

Abdi Dinah Aden
This stall has been the only source of income for my family
Abdi Dinah Aden

Most Somalis who have returned are being helped by their relatives - but face the danger of landmines and unexploded ordinance in the areas worst affected by the fighting.

The Ugandan African Union peacekeepers have exploded some 2,000 devices in the past couple of weeks.

For those still in camps outside the capital, the situation is even worse.

And for aid workers trying to help, they face a security nightmare.

A bomb exploded some 200m away from visiting United Nations humanitarian envoy John Holmes at the weekend forcing him to cut short his visit.

Campaign

Some have questioned the timing of the demolitions, seeing it as punishment for the citizens who are largely believed to be Islamist supporters.

But Mogadishu's new mayor is a former warlord and he appears determined.

John Holmes arrives in Mogadishu
Mr Holmes cancelled plans for a second day in Somalia

"The campaign is aimed at ending illegal businesses built on the streets to help police perform security patrols and to revive the lost image of the capital,'' said Mohamed Dheere.

Big shop owners argue it will further affect the economy, which is trying to get back on its feet after more than 400,000 of the city's residents this year fled the worst fighting Mogadishu has ever seen.

"I think, the structures are illegal and worth demolishing because they are built in areas not set aside for kiosks or stalls," says shop owner Ali Haji Aden.

"But they were very helpful for our businesses, we were inter-dependent," he explains.

Mogadishu's main market, Bakara, which was devastated during the fighting, is once again thriving in the south of the city.

But in other ways, the city has gone backwards, compared to the days of Islamist rule last year.

The roadblocks, where clan gunmen demand small bribes from passing vehicles, have reappeared.

These had been dismantled, leading to a fall in the prices of everyday goods.

The mild narcotic, khat, widely used by the gunmen is again widely available on the streets after being banned.

But the city's once-thriving weapons market, Irtogte, has gone quiet.

The weapons have gone and arms traders have gone underground.

For now whispering brokers are now only visible in the shadows, but with so many guns in the city, peace is never assured.

The BBC World Service is holding a special day of programming on Somalia on 15 May

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