Somalia's image problem: Somalis are beginning to challenge the idea that their country is Africa's most failed state.

Author:Rivers, Martin
 
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News that Somalia's presidential and legislative elections had been postponed until November came as no surprise to critics of the country's fledgling government.

Twenty-five years after the outbreak of civil war, Somalia remains one of the most lawless and unregulated places on the planet. Holding elections in the fractured country was always going to be a messy affair, even with clan elders casting votes on behalf of their communities.

The shaky progress so far made towards normalisation of the political and economic landscape was underscored in a recent article by The Economist, entitled "Most-failed state", which painted a depressing picture of a nation unable to find its feet and succumbing to an ever-deteriorating security climate.

Yet while the shadow cast by A1 Shabaab, the A1 Qaeda-linked terrorist group, looms large over daily life in the country, Somalis at home and abroad are beginning to challenge the nihilistic narrative that dominates media coverage of their struggle.

Angered by what they saw as one-sided, sensationalist reporting in The Economist, Twitter users jumped on the hashtag #CorrectingTheEconomist to highlight Somalia's slow but steady progress in recent years. Speaking in Mogadishu in the week the article was published, Justus Kisaulu, general manager of the city-centre Jazeera Palace Hotel, says the capital is a victim of "negative publicity".

"If you stay here, you soon find that it's not the truth," he insists. "Most of the guests we host here are international: business people, NGO workers, government delegations, ambassadors. They always come with a very negative perception, which everybody has about Mogadishu. By the time they have stayed ... they tell me, 'This looks different [to what I expected]. What I used to hear is not true.'"

Jazeera opened its doors in 2012 and quickly earned a reputation as one of the most secure places to stay in the capital, boasting a strategic location just 300 metres from Aden Adde International Airport. As well as being a favoured meeting place for politicians and diplomats, the hotel regularly hosts conferences for the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the United Nations. Unfortunately, its facilitating role for Somalia's reconstruction has not gone unnoticed by Al Shabaab. Suicide bombers have struck outside the hotel several times during its short history, most recently killing 15 with a truck bomb in July 2015.

While acknowledging that security is an...

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