Lifestyle & Belief

Somalia's national theater re-opens its doors after 20 years


A woman walks past the wall of what used to be Somalia's national theater, which was destroyed by artillery bombardment by Somali National Movement rebels in 1989 who were trying to topple former dictator Muhamed Siad Barre. The Theater re-opened on Monday.


Simon Maina

Somalia's national theater re-opened its doors for the first time in 20 years on Monday, after being closed since the country descended into civil war in the 1990s, BBC News reported

The theater, in the capital of Mogadishu, commemorated it's triumphant re-opening with a showing of a local play, traditional music, and comedy performances for an audience of around 1,000 people, according to BBC. 

"Somalia has historic literary traditions that date back more 700 years... and I feel that resuming such traditions will play a role in the peace process," President Sharif Sheik Ahmed said in a speech at the open-air Chinese-built theater, Agence France Presse reported

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The re-opening of the theater comes just days after Sheikh Ahmed promised Somali artists and performers that the venue would be fully functional as part of his government’s effort to revive Somalia's public institutions, Somali news source Suna Times reported

The country's central theater closed at the start of Somalia's civil war, when Mogadishu was declared a no-go area, Ghana Mma reported

Somalia's UN-backed government is currently trying to re-establish control of the capital after al-Shabaab’s Islamists were forced out. 

Shabaab's fighters abandoned their fixed bases in Mogadishu in August in what the Islamists claimed was a tactical retreat but the African Union peacekeeping mission said represented a military defeat, AFP reported. The militant group also lost control of their base of Baidoa to Ethiopian and Somali forces last month, according to AFP.

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The Shabaab and other militia groups have been trying to take advantage of Somalia's lack of effective central authority, which began 21 years ago when president Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled, according to BBC. 

Al-Shabaab, which has been linked to al-Qaeda, banned all forms of public entertainment, including theater, BBC reported. 

"We are here and watching performances for the first time in many years today because of the stability we have in Mogadishu and this is because of the sacrifice made by the national armed forces," Prime Minister Abduweli Mohamed Ali said at the opening ceremony, according to AFP. 

"The theater was absolutely devastated daily and that really mirrored the life of Somalis," Jabril Ibrahim Abdulle, director of a Somali think tank, told BBC. "People are saying if we can rebuild the theater, we can rebuild our lives."