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The Lighthouse Incident: Preserving Mogadishu's Heritage Buildings

Tuesday May 9, 2023
Yusuf Shegow,

Four lives were tragically lost in Mogadishu after the Lighthouse partially collapsed, raising questions not only about its maintenance and preservation but also about displacement in the city. The protection and preservation of Mogadishu’s architectural heritage is crucial given the challenges it faces in rebuilding its infrastructure and communities.

Built during the Italian colonial period, the lighthouse exemplifies the city’s rich and diverse history. Mogadishu’s heritage structures, like a number of others, suffered years of neglect and decay, resulting in their partial collapse. Besides being a tragedy for the families of the victims, the loss of this Lighthouse is also a reminder that our architectural heritage must be protected and the importance of maintenance of these architectural landmarks.

The city’s population has been significantly impacted by displacement caused by conflict, natural disasters, and urban development. A growing number of displaced people are seeking shelter in available spaces, leading to some unoccupied buildings, such as the lighthouse, becoming temporary homes. In addition to further deteriorating these structures, the additional stress has increased their risks of partial or complete collapse.

The population of Mogadishu continues to grow rapidly as more people move into the city in search of better employment opportunities. The influx of residents is causing rent prices to rise due to the increase in demand for housing. As a result, less advantaged individuals and families are struggling to afford living in cities like Mogadishu, where the cost of living is becoming increasingly prohibitive.

Mogadishu Lighthouse’s partial collapse is a stark reminder of the consequences of neglecting our heritage and the challenges of displacement. It is possible to not only prevent further loss of architectural treasures, but also enhance Mogadishu’s cultural legacy, and improve the quality of life for its citizens, by addressing these issues collectively and implementing comprehensive measures.

It is important to recognise that the only reason we are aware of the four deaths in the lighthouse disaster is because the structure was well-known. This raises questions about the likelihood of further catastrophic occurrences in vacant or lesser-known buildings, which might go unreported or overlooked. This emphasizes how crucial it is to thoroughly monitor and examine every building in the city and countrywide, regardless of its present use or visibility.

The recent ratification of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention by Somalia is a step in the right direction towards recognising and safeguarding its rich cultural and architectural heritage. Now that this commitment has been made, it is time for federal agencies, local governments, and specialists to collaborate in order to locate and nominate heritage sites around the Somali for protection and recognition. This procedure will not only protect these invaluable assets but also advance sustainable development and raise pride in Somalia’s illustrious past.

As we continue to work on digital preservation, all relevant stakeholders must do their part to safeguard Mogadishu’s historical buildings and monuments. Taking action on displacement and preserving architectural gems requires a collaborative effort among city officials, local communities, and experts.

Yusuf Shegow
[email protected]


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