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Friday, October 24, 2014

Somalia says reviewing oil deals U.N. says lack transparency

Somalia said it was reviewing several oil and gas deals that U.N. investigators say lack transparency and risk hindering development of the country's energy industry.
Energy firms are cautiously eyeing Somalia's long coastline, an untapped frontier on the east African seaboard that has become an exploration hot spot after big gas finds in Mozambique and Tanzania. Somalia's southern neighbour Kenya has found oil.
The Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), an eight-member panel of investigators that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions, said Mogadishu had signed a series of contracts and cooperation agreements that "highlighted transparency and accountability issues" in state petroleum institutions.
In a report, the monitors said such deals were "likely to exacerbate legal tensions and ownership disputes and stunt the transparent development of Somalia's oil and gas sectors".
Mohamed Keynan, director of communication in the president's office, said Somalia was reviewing several contracts with the help of the Financial Governance Committee (FGC), comprising three Somali members and three donors, including representatives from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
"The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) will take appropriate action, based on the advice of the FGC," Keynan said in a statement sent to Reuters. "However, it is wrong to assume that all contracts in place with the FGS are in some way flawed."
About a dozen companies, including oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, the year a conflict erupted that tore the nation apart for the next two decades, involving clans and Islamist militants.
The breakaway territory of Somaliland, semi-autonomous Puntland and other regional authorities in the fractured nation have granted their own licences for some of the same blocks.
Western diplomats have said the government's limited capacity and experience in negotiating often complex energy and other deals could mean Somalia received a poor return. Donors have also been unnerved by earlier U.N. reports that cited cases of government corruption, charges Mogadishu denies.

EFFORTS APPRECIATED
In the latest report, U.N. monitors said a deal with London-based Soma Oil and Gas had "never been made public, nor was it approved by the Federal Parliament of Somalia".
Lawmakers have in the past challenged contracts that they said parliament had not been given the chance to scrutinise.
Soma Oil said "the broad terms" of the deal were made public and said it had invested about $37 million on a programme to gather and digitalise old seismic information and collect new offshore data.
The firm, chaired by former senior British politician Michael Howard, said it was not operating in disputed regions but was focusing on deep water areas offshore. It said its work had encouraged other firms to discuss restarting activities.
"The efforts of companies such as Soma Oil and Gas are both essential and greatly appreciated," said Keynan, adding Somalia was recovering from war and could not do such work itself.
The monitors said the federal government was in talks with firms such as Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp and BP , to revive contracts which were put under force majeure in 1991 when the civil war broke out.
They said "such negotiations are premature and could spark conflict, especially since they have not been conducted in consultation with regional authorities who may be affected".
Shell said it had no comment on such political issues, and BP denied it was in talks with Mogadishu on blocks where it declared force majeure in 1991. Exxon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Petroleum Minister Daud Mohamed Omar said on Monday that Somalia wanted oil output to start in six years. (Additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Nairobi; editing by Edith Honan and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
Source: Reuters

Somalia's South-Western State Panel Completes Draft Constitution

Somalia's South-Western State Panel Completes Draft Constitution

A Somali government-chartered committee charged with forming a three-region South-western State has completed the draft of an interim constitution, committee spokesperson Mohamed Hassan Fiqi said Tuesday (October 21st).
The committee will present the draft constitution to local traditional elders for approval this week, Somalia's Goobjoog News reported.
Elders from Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle, which make up South-western State, are in Baidoa for discussions and debate on the interim constitution.
The government has appointed Minister of Youth and Sports Khalid Omar Ali and Deputy Minister for National Security Ibrahim Yarow Issaq to assist in the regional state formation process.
The state formation committee has been at work since its appointment in July.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Somali port poised for facelift with Turkish help | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Somali port poised for facelift with Turkish help | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Albayrak aims to build four new berths and repair others, bringing the number of working berths to 10.

World Bulletin/News Desk
The Somali government's grand vision for Mogadishu port under its new Turkish managers sees modern container ships replacing wooden dhows, new cranes easing the back-breaking work of porters and a surge in state revenue as traffic rises.
Outsourcing port operations to Turkey's Albayrak Group is one more sign of Somalia's slow rehabilitation, a dramatic shift from more than two decades of war when clans battled for control of Somalia's most valuable asset and let its facilities decay.
Yet the award of the 20-year contract has highlighted other challenges facing the government, which has been struggling to build public confidence after years of chaos and has been trying to reassure donors worried about corruption.
In the wake of the deal, members of parliament have accused the government of making the award without proper oversight, while labourers, fearing they will lose their jobs, have staged frequent protests.
"If you come to the Mogadishu port at the moment, you will wonder if it is a market or a port," said Abdirahman Omar Osman, an adviser to the Somali presidency, describing how porters rush to dhows and ships as they tie-up, seeking cash to help unload.
"The Turkish company will improve the infrastructure, maximize the income of the government and bring the port to international standards," he said.
An efficient port is vital for the government, as it is the state's biggest single source of revenue, and essential to building a functioning economy in a nation that is still battling an insurgency and which the West and African neighbours fear could yet tip back into anarchy.
The deal might also help change the reputation of Somalia, which has become notorious as a jumping off point for pirates preying on sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, although hijackings have dropped sharply since 2012.
But it has not been plain sailing for Albayrak, which started work last month. On several occasions, clashes between Turkish employees and Somali labourers brought work to a halt, local officials said.
Last month, three Turks were beaten and a Somali was killed during a scuffle between the labourers and the Turkish workers, according to a port official who asked not to be named.
"The government deliberately handed over the port to the Turkish company without considering our right to work and earn an income," porter Ahmed Siicow told Reuters. "Turkey wants to use its lifts instead of the thousands of porters."
JOB SECURITY
The government faces a delicate balancing act between creating a more efficient port while preserving jobs of people with few other options in one of the world's poorest nations.
"They will not lose their jobs," Ports and Marine Transport Minister Yusuf Moallim Amin told Reuters, adding more traffic could mean work for more porters.
Amin said he wanted traffic to grow from 3,000 containers a month -- which now arrives on vessels that need to have their own cranes to unload -- to 50,000 in a few years.
"Those dhows, I think they will vanish as we have more, bigger ships coming in," the minister said by telephone.
The port's current intake of $5 million a month from duties could double in a year with more traffic, the minister said. Albayrak will also improve collection of service fees, amounting to $1.2 million, of which the state gets 55 percent, he added.
Albayrak aims to build four new berths and repair others, bringing the number of working berths to 10.
More revenues would help a government that is now dependent on donor largesse. But the benefits of the port deal have not shielded the government from criticism from its lawmakers.
"Any deal that is not approved by the parliament remains null and void," legislator Dahir Amin told Reuters.
Parliament has called several hearings to discuss the deal with Albayrak, a construction company whose website indicates has only one other port enterprise.
DP World, the Dubai-based firm with port operations across the globe, also showed interest, according to a source in the United Arab Emirates and a Somali with knowledge of the award.
A spokeswoman for the Somali president said Albayrak was the only firm to make a formal expression of interest. DP World said it would not comment.
In response to the row, Albayrak said Turkish firms were fixing Mogadishu's airport and constructing schools, hospitals and mosques. "Turkey's interest, love and contribution oriented in Somalia are continuing," it said in a statement.
Turkey has emerged a crucial donor and ally since 2011, when Somalia was in the midst of a devastating famine. That year, the then Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan became the first leader from outside Africa to visit Mogadishu in nearly 20 years as he set out to build his country's status as a regional power.
TORN LOYALTIES?
The row is another headache for Somalia's government struggling to rebuild donor confidence after allegations of corruption last year, first by a U.N. monitoring group then by a central bank governor who quit after less than two months in her post. The government denied charges of graft.
Western diplomats say the government faces an understandable lack of capacity as it negotiates deals, whether the port or airport, which is now being run by Turkey's Favori.
Yet, echoing the sentiment of others, one senior Western diplomat said more scrutiny was needed. "What are commissions being paid? What is the structure of the contract?" he said.
The port deal and other support from Middle East nations also suggests the Somali government could find itself increasingly torn between regional Muslim rivals.
"The threat is the Somalis will try to play off the different Muslim interests," the diplomat said, adding this could cause splits in Somali politics and alienate donors.
The UAE, which provides support to Somalia's security forces and other aid, has been a staunch opponent of elected governments who emerged during the Arab Spring. Turkey's government of the ruling AK Party held out a hand of friendship to Middle East elected leaders.
An official in the UAE said the Gulf state's support for Somalia was aimed at rebuilding the nation and not driven by any commercial concerns. Turkey has made similar comments.

Somali officers relate to immigrant communities | mndaily.com - The Minnesota Daily

Somali officers relate to immigrant communities | mndaily.com - The Minnesota Daily


Salah Ahmed wanted to become a cop ever since he moved to the United States from Egypt.
On the other hand, Abdiwahab Ali’s interests gravitated to law enforcement after 9/11 — several years after he moved from Somalia to Minnesota in 1995. After becoming a Minneapolis Police Department officer, he went on to help establish the Somali American Police Association.
Ahmed, who is originally from Somalia, reached his goal when he graduated from the police academy last year. In addition to being an officer for the Metro Transit Police Department, he now serves as SAPA’s vice chairman.
Founded in in 2012, SAPA helps Somali-Americans, like Ahmed, find their way into police forces across the nation.
The national organization has at least 10 members — all law enforcement officers — in the Twin Cities. They are working to stop potential recruitment of Somali-Americans by terrorist groups, like al-Shabab and the Islamic State, in the city’s Cedar-Riverside and Franklin Avenue neighborhoods.
Ahmed said he has ample opportunities to talk face to face with young people in the area and recognize early warning signs of recruitment.
SAPA has been successful so far, he said, citing a recent incident in which Cedar-Riverside residents were afraid a fellow mosque-goer was trying to recruit overseas fighters, so they called police.
“The Somali community is very educated about recruitment,” Ahmed said.
Voluntary community-police communication would be impossible without a diverse police force, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said.
 “[Officers] meet probably once a month with elders from the Somali community to have an ongoing conversation about this concern we have that individuals are being recruited,” he said.
To help counteract and stop local terrorist influences, Ahmed said it’s important to have continued contact with organizations and neighborhood groups, like Mothers Against Youth Recruitment, which held an October meeting.
Harrington said multiple law enforcement agencies — including the state’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and the St. Paul Police Department — are coordinating to address the problem.
“What do you say to young people that are being told, ‘This is the right thing to do as a Muslim,’ or ‘This is the right thing to do as a Somali or as an African?’” Harrington said.
SAPA officers are role models for East African community members — especially among the youngest generations. They also have the added advantage of understanding Somali and Muslim customs, Harrington said, and are further relatable since most are near the age of those targeted by overseas organizations.
Harrington said the only way to foster trust between officers and the people they serve is to build a police department that reflects its communities.
“You don’t have to turn on the news more than a minute to see an example of what happens when there is a breakdown in that relationship between a police department and their community,” Harrington said.
With six to eight full- and part-time officers of Somali descent serving in the Metro Transit Police Department, Harrington said the department still has room for improvement — they’d like to recruit Somali women to the force.
“This is really just the beginning,” Harrington said. “I’m happy with it. I just can’t say I’m satisfied.”
According to Ali, St. Paul’s police department employs one female Somali-American, but she isn’t a sworn officer.
Minneapolis police Public Information Officer John Elder said MPD employs about a half a dozen Somali-American officers, which includes the nation’s first sergeant of Somali descent.
“Our Somali officers are really respected by the community, and … it’s a lot of fun to watch them work,” Elder said. “When they walk into a meeting, they’re like celebrities.”
He said their presence within MPD attracts esteem from both inside and outside the department.
“We’re looking for all members of the community, from all different communities, to come work for MPD,” Elder said. “We are yearning for diversity.”

Somali security forces foil suicide bombing in Mogadishu - Africa - News - StarAfrica.com

Somali security forces foil suicide bombing in Mogadishu - Africa - News - StarAfrica.com

The Somali national security forces have on Wednesday thwarted a suicide attacker in Mogadishu, officials sources said.
Mohamed Yusuf, spokesman of the Somali national security ministry said that the security forces shot dead a man wearing a suicide vest following his confrontation with them as they attempted to stop him.
Yusuf urged the people to work with the security forces, warning against any attempt to challenge them while they are carrying out their security operations.
Similarly, the security forces have seized a garage that was accused of harbouring a car laden with explosive devices that prematurely went off by itself.
Yusuf said that cars used for explosions are mainly spotted in garages in Mogadishu, cautioning that the government will confiscate any house or garage where such vehicles carrying explosives devices are parked.

How soccer survived war in Somalia | Minnesota Public Radio News

How soccer survived war in Somalia | Minnesota Public Radio News


Listen Story audio
Filmmaker J.R. Biersmith spent a year following two friends who played for the national soccer team in Somalia. He's working on a documentary that will tell the story of their dream to one day play professionally - in the face of some steep odds.
It's a story, in part, about how and why soccer has survived in Somalia even while the country has been at war. Biersmith is just wrapping up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
Biersmith joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the Somali national team, the process of filming the documentary and what he learned along the way.

United Nations News Centre - Sustained response to Somalia piracy requires effective State governance – UN political chief

United Nations News Centre - Sustained response to Somalia piracy requires effective State governance – UN political chief

While noting the progress made to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, the United Nations political chief today said that a sustained long-term solution must include the presence of effective Government and State institutions that provide basic services and alternative ways for people to make a living.
Briefing the Security Council on piracy off the coast of the east African nation, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman today said that this multi-pronged approach may be “a daunting, but unavoidable task, for it will enable Somalia to effectively address, and ultimately defeat, piracy.” “We should not only ask what more needs to be done to ensure that the scourge does not return, but also what kind of support could be provided to Somalia so that the country is able to respond to the threat of piracy without dependence on the countries support of international navies,” he said. The decline in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia is an opportunity to review current efforts and take a long-term perspective on how best to contain Somali piracy including by addressing underlying conditions conducive to breeding piracy, such as political instability and the lack of alternative livelihoods. “State collapse in Somalia and other political challenges lie at the root of the problem,” Feltman said, adding that this was acknowledged in relevant Security Council resolutions, including the most recent resolution 2125 (2013). Mr. Feltman also introduced to the Council the Secretary-General’s report on piracy submitted pursuant to that resolution. Since the adoption of the first Security Council resolution on the matter in June 2008, some of the most urgent responses have revolved around the “twin axes of deterring pirate attacks and prosecuting and sanctioning of pirates,” he said. Coordinated efforts by Member States, organizations and the maritime industry have caused incidents of piracy reported off the coast of Somalia to drop to their lowest levels in recent years. Indeed, the last time a large commercial vessel was hijacked was more than two years ago. However, Mr. Feltman warns, that progress is in danger of reversing without continued deterrence from the international naval presence and the self-protection measures adopted by the shipping industry. “This progress is fragile and reversible. We still see pirates attempting to attack vessels and capture them for ransom,” Mr. Feltman told the Council. State-building and inclusive governance efforts in Somalia must be led and owned by Somalis themselves, he underscored. Moreover, the international community must continue to support the Somali Government in its efforts to deliver on its commitments outlined in Vision 2016 and the Somali Compact. Meanwhile, the UN must be involved in helping strengthen the capacity of Somalia and other region countries to prosecute pirates and to sanction those convicted. “It is imperative that more nations criminalise piracy on the basis of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said, emphasizing the need to deter the financing of piracy and the laundering of ransom money. It is critical that the international community support regional efforts to implement the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy), adopted by the African Union and other regional players to enable countries in the region to better address this scourge. As it stands now, Somali pirates continue to hold 37 seafarers, which remains a matter of serious international concern. It is crucial that all efforts are made to secure and promptly release all hostages.