NPR's Frank Langfitt begins a four-part series on Somalia today on Morning Edition. Today he visits the front lines of the seemingly endless war with African Union peacekeeping troops, who control just a small area inside the country. Frank sent along some blog posts about his trip.
We spent a full-day traveling with Ugandan troops to various positions along the front lines in Mogadishu and one of the most striking things is how beautiful this city once was and how much has been lost to nearly two decades of fighting.
At one point, we pulled up to a four story building the African Union troops have occupied. They told us it was a hotel. You would never have known it. It was a shell. So many walls were missing, the place had a constant breeze and you couldn't tell there had ever been guest rooms.
Then we heard waves crashing below, looked out over some sandbags and saw the blue green water of the Indian Ocean. There was a beach and a cove filled with small fishing boats. They were empty. If you look in the right hand corner of the photo, you can see a giant gun.
I talked to the mayor of Mogadishu a couple of days later. He assured me that one day I would be able to return to Mogadishu and it would be safe and I could go swimming.
That would be lovely, but from what I saw, that day is a long way off.