Bakaaro market in the heart of Mogadishu is the economic powerhouse of Somalia. It has shown a remarkable capacity for survival and revival during two decades of protracted civil conflict. Bakaaro’s story shows the resilience of the Somali business community and the role it can play in building peace, or in fuelling war.
The private sector has contributed to peacebuilding in Somalia by paying for the disarmament, rehabilitation and employment of thousands of former gunmen. In Mogadishu, many telephone repairmen, petty traders, drivers and company or business guards are former gunmen.
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History of Bakaaro
The name Bakaaro comes from the underground kilns that are used to produce lime for construction. In 1950s there were many such kilns in the current Bakaaro area. The first makeshift shacks appeared at the northern edge of Bakaaro in the late1950s selling meat, milk, dates, salt, tobacco and other small items. Bakaaro market grew in the 1960s when the government settled people on a large tract of land to the south.
Challenges to Bakaaro
Bakaaro market and the people who work there have overcome many challenges in the last 40 years, including the oppressive political and economic system of the Barre regime and recurrent fires. Because of its wealth it has attracted the attention of warlords, bandits, militias and soldiers. It has suffered attacks, extortion and looting.
Market forces: private sector contribution to peacebuilding
People who own and manage big businesses wield enormous power in Somalia. This can be used in two ways: either to build peace for the benefit of all; or to collude with warlords and other elements who gain from instability. In the early 1990s when clan rivalry was at its peak in Mogadishu there were many examples of businesspeople who became warlords or financiers of warlords.
Box 3: Bakaaro Market protection initiative
Between December 2006 and January 2008 local security forces nominally attached to the TFG targeted businesses in the Bakaaro district and looted substantial amounts of money, causing the death of many traders, labourers, and bystanders. As the fights against the TFG and Ethiopian occupation intensified insurgents established a foothold in the market. From February 2008 attacks on the market increased with government forces raiding and looting the market on multiple occasions under the pretext of security sweeps.