“Hello Mr President, I’ve lost my AK-47. Can you help?”

The President of Puntland, the semi-autonomous region in Somalia’s northeast, has just been in Nairobi. Abdirahman Mohamed Farole was in town to talk about pirates and ask for a bit of cash to deal with the problem ($20m was the price tag, he said).

Any visit by a Somali leader seems to follow the same pattern. They book a suite in the Panari hotel, a gaudy, soulless block of metal and glass near the airport, and then wait for the endless stream of visitors. As well as ambassadors and the odd journalist, it seems like half of Eastleigh – the Nairobi suburb known as Little Mogadishu – turns up to see them.

In the few hours I spent at the hotel there was a woman who came to ask forgiveness for her pirate nephew, a man who wanted a bit of cash to return to Mogadishu and a host of elders from various clans who all wanted to stop by and say hello.

My personal favourite was the guy who turned up to tell Farole he’d lost his AK-47 and could the president buy him a new one.


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