Somalia: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
There aren’t many monuments left standing in Mogadishu, but one that is restored and revered is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Originally, it was built as a monument for those who died fighting for the first independent Somali Republic that came to fruition in 1960. The monument even had inscription in Italian as Somalia was an Italian colony prior to that. Sadly, the Republic lasted only until 1969 when a military coup brought a Marxist dictatorship of Mohammed Barre to power and all democratic institutions were disbanded. Somalia aligned itself with USSR which in turn loaded the country with weapons and helped launch Somalia’s massive industrialization and literacy programs. For a brief while, Somalia was the fastest growing country in Africa. Eventually, Barre saw himself as a biblical-figure uniting all Somali lands, and…. invaded Ethiopia, quickly pushing the Ethiopian troops out of nearly a third of their country. The Ethiopian dictatorship (also a USSR protege) cried foul and begged the Soviet Union for help. Soon, Cuban troops loaded with Soviet weaponry intervened and pushed Somali out. General Barre quickly disavowed communism and found new friends in Washington, and USA loaded Somalia with the latest weaponry to maintain the Cold War balance. In 1991, the Barre regime imploded in a brutal civil war. Somaliland in the north quickly proclaimed independence, while the Islamic Courts in the south imposed strict Shariah Law. US tried to intervene but quickly exited after the Black Hawk Down episode. A decade later, Ethiopia saw an opportunity for revenge and sent troops into Somalia that pushed the Islamists out and established a shaky and weak provisional government. But I digress…. So this monument is in way a tribute to all the Somali who perished over the years. It’s relatively safe to visit and it is well maintained and adorned in national color of blue and blue-tiled mosaics. Interestingly, just across from the monument – stands the skeleton of the first Somali parliament, bombed out and attacked countless times into the present-day ruin.