Mogadishu — Bulo Burde residents who several years ago fled al-Shabaab's oppressive rule are now returning to renovate their homes and businesses and rebuild their lives.
Their return was made possible after the Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) liberated the town from al-Shabaab on March 13th, local elders and returning residents told Sabahi.
"For two years, I lived in Beledweyne with my family of nine to be safe from the problems al-Shabaab was inflicting on the people," said Hassan Ali, a 52-year-old traditional elder from Bulo Burde, while shopping for home construction materials in the city of Beledweyne.
"I did not experience any problems during the period when I lived in Beledweyne, but I lived in a rented house for $100 [per month]," he told Sabahi. "Now my plan is to renovate my home that I was away from for two years. I have started replacing the roof and all of the doors, which were aging."
Ali said he decided return to Bulo Burde after two years due in part to the idea that the return of other citizens would help improve security.
"If everyone says Bulo Burde is not safe, I do not think there will be security," he said. "However, the return of the people that were away from the city for many years, such as myself, can be a sign of good hope and encourage those who are anxious about the security of Bulo Burde."
Shamso Hassan, a 37-year-old widowed mother of six, said she returned to Bulo Burde after living in Beledweyne for four years to start renovating her building, which has small stores on the ground floor and residences above.
"During the period I was away from my home, al-Shabaab destroyed the doors of three shops that are part of my house after my tenants fled," she told Sabahi. "I was told that in 2012 they destroyed the doors of all abandoned businesses that had locked doors."
"Thanks to God, I am now renovating them, and I welcome the ousting of al-Shabaab from the town," she said.
Ali Mumin, 51, another traditional elder from Bulo Burde, called on all the people who fled from al-Shabaab's oppression many years ago to come home and take part in the re-building of the town.
"For many years, people were fleeing the town and it was rare to see anyone moving in," he told Sabahi. "However, it is now obvious that every family that lost hope in living in this town is sending one individual to renovate the homes they fled."
"It is difficult to describe what al-Shabaab was doing to people in Bulo Burde, the worst of which included recruiting children as fighters, forcefully marrying girls as well as looting the property of the people," he said. "Therefore, everyone can understand that this was a place where life was difficult for many years."
For his part, Hiran region police chief Colonel Ali Isaq Abdulle said security forces in the town were working to ensure public safety because many of the people returning to Bulo Burde were living in other regions under government rule.
"The people's hopes have improved tremendously after we removed al-Shabaab from the town. Each person is occupied with re-building his or her home or place of business," he told Sabahi.
Abdulle said the SNA and AMISOM forces would continue with their operations throughout Hiran region until al-Shabaab is eliminated, and he asked the pubic to work with them.
"The terrorists crippled the town's progress in the seven years they controlled Bulo Burde," he said. "We are calling on diaspora residents who are from Hiran region to invest in the town of Bulo Burde."