It was a little over a year ago that Mohamoud Ahmed Nur got the phone call that would change his life. While living in London with his wife and children, the President of the transitional government of Somalia asked him to serve his country. By December 2010, Mohamoud Nur, more commonly known as “Tarzan” took on the daunting task of being the new mayor of Mogadishu.
2011 has been particularly challenging for Mogadishu. It was a year marked by several horrific terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab that killed and wounded hundreds including women and students and shook the citizens of Mogadishu to the core. There was also the famine that resulted in hundred of thousands of internally displaced Somalis flooding to the capital city. The mayor responded to these challenge with bravery and determination to restore his beloved hometown to its glory days.
The preternaturally youthful-looking mayor is a man in his mid-fifties, a father of six and grandfather of eight. Born in Mogadishu, Noor was raised in an orphanage, a difficult but ultimately instructive childhood which he credits with his scrappy perseverance and unshakable belief in himself.
After the start of Somalia’s now twenty year civil war, Mohamoud Nur relocated his family to London, England where he joined them later. But the life of refugee in London lost its appeal almost immediately. Disappointed by the dearth of good jobs and too proud to settle for a monthly welfare cheque, Mohamoud Nur went back to school and eventually received a degree in Management from University of Westminster.
No doubt his degree in management has helped the mayor in tackling the many intractable problems facing the city. When he took office a year ago, the city had only $128 dollar in its treasury and a deficit of ten billion Shillings. Making his job all the more challenging was learning that the city employs more than 1,000 people who have not been paid for months and as a result took other jobs to support their families.
Bringing a city like Mogadishu from the brink requires tremendous organizational and management skills which the mayor has shown to possess in spades. Upon coming to power, he identified three urgent tasks: improving the city’s security so that its citizens can resume normal life; cleaning and removing twenty years worth of debris from the city; and lighting major streets so that businesses can flourish again.
Although some of his goals have been realized such as improving security and brining businesses back to parts of the city, the mayor continues to face an uphill battle. It took twenty years for Mogadishu to disintegrate and it’s going to take many more years of hard work to bring it back to how it used to be.
However, one thing is clear. If anyone has the tenacity and vision to get the job done, it is Mohamoud Nur. Always busy thinking of new and creative solutions, the mayor recently went back to the drawing board and devised a new plan for the city which he calls Mogadishu City’s Business Plan for next four years. The new plan is intended to empower Mogadishu’s residents to be independent from foreign handouts and go back to the proud and self-sufficient people they once were.
Always on the road, Mohamoud Nur is tireless in sharing his vision for Mogadishu and the city’s Business Plan with the Arab states, The European Union and most especially, the Somali Diaspora whom he implores at every opportunity to do more for the capital city of their nation by returning to it with their capital, education and expertise. The mayor recently attended a conference in Italy in which he was asked to name the urgent needs Mogadishu faces. His response: ambulances and fire trucks. A city devastated by two decades of civil war experiences daily gun battles that require ambulances to transport the injured and fire trucks to put out blazes. Admittedly, these are baby steps but they are also integral part of making Mogadishu a functioning capital once again.
Despite the great challenges and dangers of being the major of Mogadishu, Mohamoud Nur has proven himself to be equal to the Herculean task he has undertaken a year ago. His inexhaustible energy, his gift for galvanizing others, and his vision for what Mogadishu can be again has been truly inspiring to watch. There is no doubt Somalia has countless heroes worthy of acknowledgement. But the writers and editors of Hiiraan Online are delighted to give the mayor of Mogadishu Mr. Mohamoud Ahmed Nur (Tarzan) Hiiraan Online’s “Person of the Year” award.