The African Union forces (AMISOM) vacated the Mogadishu National Stadium Tuesday ending close to a decade stay in the facility after it flushed out the militant group Al-Shabaab September 6, 2011.
The exit of the AMISOM troops from the facility also concluded several promises by the Mission and the Federal Government to free the facility for use as a sporting facility.
There was dance and song at the stadium which has turned bushy and converted as a military base. Locals celebrated the exit of the soldiers whose presence has also been instrumental in maintaining peace and stability in the city and its outskirts.
Prior to its capture in 2011, Al-Shabaab used the facility as a base to launch its attacks in the capital Mogadishu.
Talk of vacating the stadium started as early as 2012 when then Somali Football Federation Secretary General Abdiqani Said Arab formally wrote to the African Union requesting the soldiers leave to allow resumption of sporting activities in the stadium.
In May 2016, then Interior Minister Abdirisak Mohamed renewed calls for the soldiers to vacate the facility pledging the soldiers ‘would leave soon’.
A section of AMISOM troops started leaving the stadium last November and the last batch vacated Monday to allow for rehabilitation and use as a sporting facility.
AMISOM deputy head Simon Mulongo formally handed over the facility to the Somali government in a ceremony attended by hundreds of enthusiastic Mogadishu residents.
The sports complex built through assistance of the Chinese government in the 1970s boasts of various sporting facilities which have now been largely dilapidated.
The hand-over of the stadium is a major milestone coming several months after AMISOM also vacated the National University which just like the stadium had been converted into a military base. At least 300 troops from the Burundi contingent who occupied the university’s premises were relocated to AMISOM Sector 5 headquarters in Jowhar last July.