Coca-Cola has returned to Somalia after a 15-year absence. The company inaugurated a new bottling plant in the capital Mogadishu yesterday. The new plant is the country's largest investment in over ten years and its opening ceremony was attended by almost 300 people.

"The company is owned by United Bottling Company (UBC) made up of 399 shareholders all of whom are Somali citizens," the UBC chairman Abdirisak Isse, told reporters in the capital. It has taken six years to build up the required goodwill and raise the capital to be invested in the project, Isse added.

Production of the company's range of soft drinks has started at the new facility built at a cost of US$8.3 m. The plant can produce 36,000 bottles per hour, and is scheduled to start operations at 70% capacity producing three of the company's main brands, Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite.

Isse said he will employ a 120-strong security staff from the different communities in the capital. It is estimated that up to 60,000 heavily-armed gunmen roam in Mogadishu.

Another 130 workers will be employed at the plant, he added.