Flying in the face of danger

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Mogadishu, Somalia

Having entered Somali airspace, aircraft dip to sea level; disembarking at Mogadishu (Photograph: Andrew Renneisen)

The passengers waiting to board at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport include a bunch of UN staffers, a couple of British diplomats and security contractors spottable by their shaved heads and tactical backpacks. The US ambassador to Somalia is also in the line, as are aid workers from a host of charities that are busy trying to alleviate Somalia’s latest drought. They’re all waiting for the morning flight to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, operated by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). This three-times-a-week service is a lifeline to one of the world’s most dangerous cities. With 70 aircraft in 17 countries and an operating budget of €205m this year, UNHAS is the biggest airline you’ve never heard of, and its rugged fleet ferries aid workers in and out of humanitarian crises all over the world.

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Big Interview: Fadumo Dayib, Presidential candidate, Somalia

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Nairobi, Kenya

Fadumo Dayib, photographed for Monocle by Andrew Renneisen
Fadumo Dayib, photographed for Monocle by Andrew Renneisen

For a presidential candidate just weeks ahead of the vote, Fadumo Dayib is remarkably resigned to losing. Like many of her fellow aspirants Dayib is a dual passport-holding member of Somalia’s far-flung diaspora, an elite group whose privileges over those left behind frequently foster resentment. But, unlike any of her competitors, she is a woman and in a patriarchal society such as Somalia that makes her shoe-string run for the presidency both impossible and impossibly significant. Continue reading Big Interview: Fadumo Dayib, Presidential candidate, Somalia

Maximum Sun Protection

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Djiboutiohanesian_djibouti__m9u8148-3_86To get to Japan’s only foreign military base you pass a whitewashed mosque, cross a disused colonial-era railway line and turn onto an unfinished dirt road where a fine fog of choking dust is thrown up by rumbling trucks. The 12-hectare base in Djibouti is next to an airport a few kilometres from the sea, occupying a scorched chunk of desert and rock on Africa’s northeast coast that is among the most sought-after military property on Earth. Clustered around Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport’s single runway are the biggest foreign French base in the world and the largest US base in Africa, as well as Italian, German, Spanish, EU and Japanese facilities, all of varying size, ambition and function. Chinese and Russian bases are in the pipeline. Continue reading Maximum Sun Protection

Mogadishu – Take Off

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Mogadishu, Somalia

Somalis boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul (Pete Muller/Monocle)
Somalis boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul (Pete Muller/Monocle)

At Aden Abdulle International Airport the chaos starts at 06.30. The outermost steel security boom is raised and the stream of passengers makes its way through five separate security checkpoints and flows on past the blast walls and barbed wire into the concrete terminal. Midway through the morning rush, airport worker Abdul Kani takes stock of the familiar scene. The dim, low-ceilinged room is engulfed in a sea of passengers. They form in human eddies around the seven check-in counters, jostling, shouting and sweating, teeth gritted as they wave their tickets in the air.

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Home Advantage

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Somalia

In the Somali towns of Baidoa, Hudur, Ras Kamboni and the capital, Mogadishu, people are enjoying a peace and stability denied to them for years. Elders, imams, officials, teachers, traders and teenagers all tell of breathing a sigh of relief as the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab – “The Youth” – pulled out over recent months.

Such a turnaround was unthinkable even a year ago. Continue reading Home Advantage

Hunger for peace

Monocle
Mogadishu, Somalia

It was a fairly typical day in Mogadishu: from first light automatic rifle fire could be heard and it was soon joined by heav- ier machine guns and then mortars and artillery. By late afternoon there was a cacophony of booms, bangs and explo- sions yet my host insisted this was “a quiet day”. It’s been like this for the best part of 20 years, civil war rendering Mogadishu a monument to humanity’s determined capacity for destruction. Continue reading Hunger for peace