U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made his second trip to Somalia’s capital on Wednesday, walking around the seaside airport complex in a dark business suit.
Ban’s fashion choices are not typically newsworthy but are significant in Mogadishu: On his trip in 2011, he wore a U.N.-branded bullet-proof vest.
The fact that his security advisers did not insist on war-time protection on this trip — at least inside the well-protected airport complex — is seen as another indication of Mogadishu’s improving security.
The African Union military force, which forced the militant Islamic group al-Shabab out of Mogadishu in 2011, has been making gains in southern Somalia as well, though the rebels still control wide areas of territory and continue to carry out deadly suicide and gunfire attacks in the capital.
It is in the south that Somali business leaders export charcoal, an issue that Ban may bring up with Somali and African Union military leaders.
The U.N. Security Council last week authorized the inspections of boats suspected of carrying illegal shipments of charcoal from Somalia.
Somalia’s charcoal market in 2013 and 2014 was worth an estimated $250 million, about 30 percent of which flows to al-Shabab fighters. Though the exports are illegal, they are carried out at ports where the Kenyan contingent of the African Union force has control, amid allegations that Kenyan leaders may be benefiting from the trade as well.
The American ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, welcomed as a positive step the Security Council vote to beef up inspections of suspected charcoal exports.