Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is one of the leaders expected to attend the 53rd Summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Somalia capital Mogadishu over the weekend.
War ravaged, Mogadishu, once described as the ‘most dangerous capital on earth’, will for the first time in over 30 years, host a summit of such magnitude, that will focus on among other issues progress registered in Somalia including the forthcoming 2016 general elections between September and October, and the political crisis in South Sudan.
Other leaders expected to join Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud in Mogadishu include Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan; Hailemariam Desalgne of Ethiopia; Omar Bashir of Sudan and Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti.
“It is the first time Mogadishu or Somalia in general hosts such a high-level summit for more than 30 years. We see it as a historic signal and message to the world saying, ‘Somalia is coming back,’” Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer Hadliye said, adding “this will be a historic moment for Somalia.”
However, Hadliye cited his country’s security concerns, occasioned by terror group Al Shabaab, which has carried out attacks inside Somalia and also outside in countries like Kenya and Uganda.
Just a week ago, a car bomb killed at least 25 people near Somali’s presidential palace, but Hadliye says security in Mogadishu has been heightened ahead of the weekend summit, with day and night patrols.
There is a 22,000-member African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM), mandated with assisting the federal government in its war against al-Shabaab, stabilizing the country, and providing security for the country’s major installations.
Mogadishu’s gradual return to normalcy did not begin only with the ousting of al-Shabaab in August 2011, but also with a series of visits by presidents and diplomats from around the world.
Among the top figures who visited the city was Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who first went to Mogadishu in August 2011 with his wife and daughter, his cabinet ministers and their families, just as the country was suffering from a drought and famine. He visited again this year to open the Turkish Embassy, the largest in the world.
In May 2015, US Secretary of State John Kerry paid an unannounced visit to the city.
Western diplomats and top military commanders also visit the city, although most of them do not leave the city’s heavily fortified perimeters of the airport, the adjacent African Union base and the presidential palace for official meetings.