Somali mother Lul Kheire walks 250km for peace

A young mother has helped inspire thousands by walking 250km (155 miles) through some of Somalia’s most dangerous territory in a march for peace.

Lul Mohamed Kheire and 10 friends spent a week walking between Baidoa, in the east, and the capital Mogadishu in August.

The route brought them into areas where Islamist militants al-Shabab are known to live.

Despite the dangers, their belief in peace inspired others to join them.

“All the people think Somalia is not safe, there’s no security – we wanted to show all the world there is peace in Somalia,” Lul told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

Lul and her 10 friends set out from Baidoa in August, walking for four to five hours each day under the blazing sun, planting trees where they stopped and relying on the kindness of villagers to give them a bed for the night.

The walk was even harder for Lul – she carried her youngest child for most of the journey, while keeping an eye on her older two. But, she said, the difficulty was worth it.

“It’s heavy work but we want to show all the world there is peace – and if you want to show the world something, you have to do hard work,” Lul said.

Thousands took part on the last day of the peace march when it reached MogadishuImage copyrightLUL KHEIRE
Image captionThe marchers were joined by thousands of people

Somalia has been in an almost constant state of violent turmoil since 1991, dividing the country.

So the fact that members of the group, who ranged in age between about 23 and 35, each came from a different region was important for the activists.

“We were united,” said Lul. “We wanted to do this walk to help unite the youth of Somalia in the same way.”

More recently, the danger has come from Islamist militants al-Shabab, who have waged war against Somalia’s government.

Huge swathes of land are considered no-go areas – including those surrounding both Baidoa and Mogadishu.

As a result, the residents of those cities are particularly vulnerable to deadly attacks.

Thirty people were killed in one day last February in two separate al-Shabab attacks on Baidoa. Among the dead were football fans, who had been watching a match between Arsenal and Manchester United when the a car bomb exploded.

In August, militants targeted a Mogadishu hotel, while a general and six of his bodyguards were killed in September near the defence ministry headquarters.

Yet the marchers, who started planning the trip at the start of August, were not scared.

“When we were doing this walk, we did not see any al-Shabab,” Lul said. “Everyone was happy – we did not feel any fear.”

She added: “We were not scared any more, because we have peace.”

Map of Somalia - updated September 2015
Image captionThe marchers walked from Baidoa to Mogadishu

Their confidence was infectious – the first day, a few hundred people started to walk alongside the group.

By the time they reached Mogadishu a week later, there were thousands marching behind them.

“They ask us what we are doing, when we tell them it is a peace walk they like it and everyone join us,” Lul explained.

“All of the people join us – men, women, children, all levels of society.

“It was like 2,500 people.

“When you are walking and having a lot of people around you, I don’t know how to describe it, it is a great thing.”

However, the group is not done yet – early next month, they will set off once more, this time to the Hiran area, hoping to inspire yet more people.

This Article was originally Published in the BBC

 

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