For Kismayo, a former Al Shabab stronghold, holding public events were the unthinkable few years ago that the militant group banned all sports activities before allied forces ousted its fighters from the port city in 2012.
Despite security challenges still posed by the group, residents say life is gradually returning to normal that locals started organizing local sports leagues and entertainment activities.
On Sunday, the town has organized its first cycling race for the young as parts of a new exercise which local officials hope would help to boost the town’s image and portray it as a safe zone.
The 1.5 km short distance race has drawn thousands of cheering local residents who lined up along the town’s dusty streets to watch the young sportsmen looking to cash in on the race to win prizes.
Local security officials have enforced restrictions on all traffic movements during the sports contest in the town which has seen attacks by the Al-Qaeda linked Al Shabab group in recent years.
The symbolic event, the first of its kind the town had seen in decades is seen as a considerable uniting factor by officials after decades of war during which the port city’s control subsequently changed hands among warlords and Islamist militants.
“It’s an uplifting development – that event has raised our spirits and hopes for a better future.” Said Ahmed Mohamed, a resident in the town.