Earlier this year, global security expert Robert Muggah released a report that outlined the most “fragile” cities in the world — basically, cities that were flirting with economic or physical collapse.
Muggah ranked fragility based on a scale of 0-4, with 0 being rock-solid and 4 being extremely fragile. In total, 66 cities scored a 3 or higher and 160 scored a 2.7 or higher.
But only one city scored a 4: Mogadishu, Somalia.
The story behind Mogadishu’s fragility is really the story of Somalia’s fragility as a whole. Out of the 20 most fragile cities in Muggah’s analysis, which took into account environmental risks (e.g. flooding, earthquakes, etc.), terrorism rates, and economic insecurity, the 3 most fragile cities are all in Somalia — Mogadishu, Kismaayo, and Merca. (It also contains the 14th most fragile city, Hargeysa.)
Like other fragile countries, Somalia is plagued by a near-constant threat of violence, high population growth, and rampant unemployment. When tensions escalate to such a lethal degree, Muggah’s research has found, societies’ entire systems are vulnerable to collapse. That’s what makes them fragile. Fragile cities don’t offer equality, safety, access to affordable health care, or adequate resources during environmental disasters.
When Huggah performed his analysis, Somalia’s most fragile cities all had unemployment rates of 66%. For women between 14-29 years old, the rate is 74%.
Muggah has clarified that “all cities are fragile to some degree, but Mogadishu is a special case. The Somali capital has been a hotbed of terror for the better part of a decade, as the Al-Shabaab terror group continues to carry out targeted killings and public executions.
According to a 2015 report released by Human Rights Watch, the Somali government has largely been complicit in many of these crimes, often responding to protests with sweeping violence and property destruction without any legal mandate to do so.
The HRW report states that “the Somali government continued to rely on its military court to administer justice for a broad range of crimes not within its jurisdiction in proceedings that fall short of international fair trial standards,” including the execution of 15 people in 2014, 13 of whom were not part of Somali terror groups.
If Somalia’s most fragile cities are to gain stability over the next decade, Muggah says they need help in several distinct areas, including public security, public services, and effective, well-equipped leadership. As with all vulnerable cities, Muggah says the goal is to uplift Somalis themselves.
“They are exceptionally talented business people,” he explains. “Providing opportunities for credit, enabling small business, facilitating remittances, and encouraging diaspora returnees are all essential.”