Ex-fighters learn new skills as recovery efforts continue in Somalia

Former fighters in Somalia learn new skills as part of a program aimed at rehabilitating hundreds of ex-combatants and offering them as well as other youth an education to prepare them for employment and business opportunities. (Reuters)

Students at Safwa vocational training college in Mogadishu catch up on the day’s events during a class break.

The training centre offers vocational courses for youth who want to learn new skills in carpentry, plumbing, cookery and electrical work among other courses.

Safwa was launched in 2011 and is funded by foreign donors.

Students here hope to get employment opportunities or start their own businesses in the country when they graduate.

Most courses last for one year.

Many students here have no formal education and are former fighters who had joined the ranks of al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants.

Somalia has been mired in civil strife, grinding poverty, Islamist militancy and maritime piracy since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, leaving the African nation without an effective central government.

A new government formed last year after a historic democratic election is seen to be a significant step in efforts to end close to two decades of fighting.

Mohamed Ahmed is a teacher at the college.

“We train the students in electrical work, plumbing and other forms of work. We hope these skills will help them change their lives and help them live a life of an honest day’s work,” he said.

Years of conflict have seen many youth in the country struggle to find business and employment opportunities.

The government has started various programs to help integrate hundreds of former Shabaab members who had renounced their former affiliation and has already rehabilitated over 500 former fighters.

According to the U.N., Somalia has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates.

Colleges like Safwa are trying to change this and discourage young people from joining militant groups.
Mahamed Ali previously worked as a guard in Mogadishu, but decided to quit his job and join the college last year.

”I am expecting to have a bright future and I feel happy when I sit in class. I do not want to ever go back to my former life,” he said.

300 students have so far graduated from the college; another 430 are currently taking various courses at the center.

AU troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia continue to battle al Shabaab militants on several fronts in Somalia and have forced them to abandon significant territory in southern and central areas of the country.


Last Update: Thursday, 07 March 2013 KSA 20:13 - GMT 17:13