July 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Somalia's National Library to be Rebuilt

For over twenty years, the National Library of Somalia has been a bombed-out ruin.  Located in Somalia's destroyed capital city, Mogadishu, the remnants of the library now shelter a few families trying to scratch out a living. But a cautiously optimistic think-tank in Somalia (the country's first) has partnered with a Congressman from Minnesota to begin the process of restoring the library.

The plan, issued by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies under the directorship of Zainab Hassan, calls for the reconstruction of a four-story library in Mogadishu. The new library will carry books in Somali, Arabic, and English.  The project caught the attention of Congressman Keith Ellison who represents a Minneapolis congressional district with a significant population of Somali refugees. Ellison visited Somalia in February and, upon his return, launched an initiative to ship a large quantity of English books to Somalia to help supply the new library.

Several months later Ellison's project received enough donations to pack 22,000 books into a 40 ft shipping container that left for Somalia in late June.

Somalia's coalition government managed to re-take the entirety of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants in 2011.  The city has since seen a rapid resurgence in construction and building efforts spearheaded by money coming into the country from the Somalia diaspora. 

The reconstruction of the National Library would be a significant cultural victory for the Somalians and a unifying symbol for the entire country. The books sent by Congressman Ellison and his supporters will be a welcome contribution to the process.

View of Mogadishu's ruins from 2007 is from Wikipedia.