The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia by Andrew Harding
(Hurst Publishers (UK), St Martin's Press (US), 2016)

The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia

by Andrew Harding

It is human instinct to flee from war. So what makes a man go back, to return to a city of rubble and despair, to risk everything in the pursuit of an impossible job?

In The Mayor of Mogadishu, the award-winning foreign correspondent Andrew Harding tells the tumultuous life story of one man’s dogged fight against the odds, and through him, of a nation’s journey from the optimism of independence, to clan conflict, despair, and back towards hope.

Clichés have always clung to Somalia. The world’s “most failed state.” Pirate nation. Terrorism hothouse. A land of famine and anarchy.

But The Mayor of Mogadishu offers a richer, more nuanced portrait of an ambitious young nation’s spiral into conflict, the exodus that followed, and the enormous challenges facing those now trying to rebuild it.

In an era of collapsing states and vast movements of refugees, the book offers some timely insights from a country and a city that have already been through the very worst.

At the heart of the book is the feisty, outspoken figure of Mohamoud “Tarzan” Nur. Born into an impoverished nomadic family and abandoned in a Mogadishu orphanage, he became a street brawler, basketball star, activist, and then a reluctant exile, living in north London for twenty years until, against the pleas of his family, he returned to Somalia at the height of the country’s fight against extremism.

Andrew Harding is one of the BBC’s most experienced foreign correspondents, having spent the past 24 years living and working in Russia, the Caucasus, Asia and Africa. He won an Emmy Award in 2014 for his coverage of the war in the Central African Republic. Before that he won a share of a Peabody Award for the BBC’s coverage of Darfur, and individual awards from Britain, France, Monaco and Hong Kong, for his work in Africa and Asia.

Andrew has been visiting Somalia since 2000, and is one of only a handful of foreign journalists to have visited the pirate stronghold of Eyl, and to have met current members of the militant group Al Shabab. He has spent many weeks in Mogadishu, during wars, famine, and more recently during its uneven journey back towards stability.


Africa can be explained in dry prose, in figures, in newspaper reports; or it can be explained, as Andrew Harding does in this book, through an astonishing personal story, vivid and utterly memorable. This is a triumph of a book: surprising, informative, and humane.”
- Alexander McCall Smith
Andrew Harding, who has repeatedly visited Mogadishu as a BBC journalist since 2000, is fascinated by the city and how to make sense of it. In his new book, Mogadishu becomes legible through the biography of one man, Mohamed Nur, known as 'Tarzan'.”
- The Times Literary Supplement
The Mayor of Mogadishu is much more than the story of one ambitious Somali politician. It is the modern history of one of the world s most troubled countries, told with sensitivity, wisdom and compassion and a rollicking good read besides.”
- The National