MOGADISHU, Somalia – Hundreds greeted the first ship in 11 years to dock at the main port in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, Friday, the latest sign the city's Islamic fundamentalist rulers have restored a degee of stability after more than a decade of anarchy.
The 800 metric ton vessel arrived from Kenya and was carrying tea, building materials and medical supplies for relief organizations working in the country.
"Mogadishu international seaport authority has started to unload goods from a commercial ship," declared Abdirahman Kolly, the port's long time superintendent.
"From now on, security is adequately provided to protect the traffic of commercial and humanitarian supplies to this port."
The seaport has not been operational since 1995, when United Nations forces left Somalia by sea and air amid political and clan-based violence. The country's last effective central government was toppled in 1991 by rival warlords who then turned on each other.
The port and its surrounding area were controlled by rival warlords whose militias blocked it from being used. Businessmen and aid agencies used a smaller port outside the capital, with the risk that imported goods and those for export might disappear.
Mogadishu's international airport, closed for more than 10 years, reopened a month ago. Flights have been coming in and leaving the airport daily, but it was not immediately clear how much traffic the seaport would get. Somalia still has no coast guard or navy, and pirate attacks are frequent off the country's coast.
The increasing power of the Islamic courts has caused grave concerns in the United States, which accuses the group of having ties to Al Qaeda. And the group's use of strict courts based on the Quran have sparked fears of an emerging Taliban-style regime.
Many residents, however, credit the group with bringing a semblance of order to a city that has seen little more than chaos in years. The group defeated an alliance of widely despised warlords during months of battles that killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians caught in the crossfire.