Then and Now: Despite taking big hits, these African cities rose from the ashes to glory

Kigali, Freetown, Luanda, Nairobi, Massawa...they are all like a boxer whose spirit will not be broken, however heavy the punch.

THE resolve was evident. “We shall rise and we shall survive. We are not agreeing to be put down by terrorists,”  words of a survivor of the September 2013 terror attack in Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall, where 67 people were killed when Somalia’s Al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militants stormed the building and indiscriminately gunned down shoppers and staff.

Last weekend, the country’s president was among those who visited the reopened building after extensive repair work estimated at $20 million. While the reaction was mixed, there is little doubt that the reopening - and a big turnout far beyond what had been expected - is testament to the country’s fortitude following years of terror attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives.

This ability to pick oneself up after sucker punches remains a feature of Africa’s renowned resilience. The continent has had its fair share of conflict ,some that reduced entire towns to rubble. Mail & Guardian Africa looked at some examples of such inspiring comebacks around the continent.

WESTGATE, NAIROBI

THEN: 

THE PAIN…

Relatives of victims of the Westgate Mall attack gather for a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the attack in Nairobi on September 21, 2014 (AFP)

NOW:

Hundreds of shoppers thronged to the newly opened Westgate Mall which has undergone months of renovation following the attack (Photo/AFP).

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA

Parts of the Horn of Africa country are only now acquiring a semblance of normalcy after nearly 25 years of a destructive civil war, but as the tenacity of Islamist rebels shows, it is a long path back.

THEN:

Once one of Mogadishu’s most luxurious hotels, the Al-Uruba lays in ruin after two decades of civil war. Though construction is on the rise in the Somali capital, it may still be several years before many buildings are restored. ( UN Photo/Tobin Jones)

NOW: 

 Somalia’s first cash machine opened in Mogadishu, October 7, 2014. (Photo/AFP).


A new terminal at the once-wretched Aden Abdulle International Airport in the capital Mogadishu built by Turkish company Favori - obviously.  (Photo/Amisom/FB).

MASSAWA, ERITREA

Known as the ‘Pearl of the Red Sea’, the iconic port city of Massawa is Eritrea’s third largest city and is of historical significance as one of the last stands in its battle with arch-foe Ethiopia. It is repressive, but there is something ticking nevertheless.

THEN:

Bullet-riddled buildings and broken railway tracks in April 1993 testify to the heavy fighting seen by Massawa during Eritrea’s conflict with Ethiopia.  (Photo/UN)

NOW:

   The buildings of Turko-Egyptian and Italian architectural design were battered, but recently authorities unveiled a master plan for a modernised Massawa, versions of which, such as the one above, variously circulate. 

MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE

THEN:


A Mozambican refugee with her baby on a train in Boane to the country’s south. The civil war lasted 15 years, with about one million killed, and five times that number displaced. (Photo/UN)

NOW:


The Maputo skyline rises defiantly in the background of the magnificent Maputo Cathedral (front). (Photo/F Mira/Flickr).

MASAKA, UGANDA

The south-west Uganda town of Masaka was for a long time one of country’s biggest, the heartland of a rich farming industry. But the Uganda-Tanzania war of 1979 that deposed Idi Amin and then later in the 1980s, decimated it and several others in the country.

THEN:


In its heyday, Masaka the biggest producer of indigenous banana food. (Heather Thorkelson/Flickr, Modified)

NOW:


It is now finding its footing back, as this panoramic view from the newly-opened Isaac Newton school suggests. (Andrew West/ Flickr)

MONROVIA, LIBERIA

As the ravages of Ebola continue to spread both hope and dismay, it is another chapter in Liberia’s history, where two periods of civil war left their mark on the country.

THEN:

  This picture of the decrepit  Ducor Palace Hotel in Monrovia captures both the horrors of civil war and the damage to the economy. The hotel was for many years one of the few five-star hotels on the continent for years, but closed in 1989, before being subjected to the ravages of conflict. (Photo/ Mark Fischer/Flickr).

NOW:

Downtown Morovia shows signs of the capital’s recovery. (Photo/Erik Hershman/Wikimedia Commons).

NAIROBI, KENYA

Nairobi had in 1998 taken another blow to its chin, as Al-Qaeda terrorists targeted the US embassy in the capital, leaving over 200 dead and at least 4,000 injured.

THEN:


The damage was as deeply psychological as it was physical. (AFP File Photo)

NOW:


The site of the bombing is now a memorial park, with skyscrapers gleaming in the background. (Photo/Jorge Láscar/Flickr)

LUANDA, ANGOLA

A 27-year civil war that ravaged the country after independence left hundreds of thousands dead, and more displaced. The country is looking to leave that firmly in the past.

THEN: 


A destroyed bridge in a war that spanned decades. (Paulo César Santos/Wikimedia)

NOW:

Luanda, Angola, is on a major reconstruction drive. (Photo/Getty Images).

KIGALI, RWANDA

The narrative around Rwanda has changed since that horror year two decades ago, to one of progress and fortitude.

THEN:

Belgian peacekeepers were murdered in this building in 1994. (Adam Jones/Flickr)

NOW:

Kigali stands proud, a testament to its journey back from a trying past. (Photo/AFP)

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE

THEN:


A school destroyed by RUF rebel forces in Sierra Leone. In total, 1,270 primary schools were destroyed in the War. (Photo/Laura Lartigue/USAID)

NOW:

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