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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ugandan soldiers serving with the AMISOM trained Al-Shabaab fighters

Ugandan soldiers serving with the AMISOM trained Al-Shabaab fighters

UPDF instructors trained ten Al-Shabaab fighters using African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) facilities on instructions from their commanders.

Lance Corporal, Jackson Byabagambi, told the General Court Martial in Makindye, a Kampala suburb, Tuesday that the ten Al-Shabaab fighters were trained at Aljazeera training ground shared by AMISOM troops and Somalia National Army (SNA) last May.

Maj. Frank Kawero, formally the training officer at Aljazeera training school and Capt. Hassan Wantimba, formally the school’s chief instructor, are facing trial for having allegedly sneaked the Al-Shabaab fighters into the military facility to attend training on firing guns.
Byabagambi told court presided over by, Brig. Moses Ssentongo, that the alshabab fighters were trained under instructions from Watimba. He added that the SNA commandant in the camp stopped them from training the group because they were not known and their training had not been scheduled.
 “Watimba and Kawero then met the SNA commandant. After their meeting, Watimba told us to continue with the training without worry, but he asked us not to use SNA facilities,” Byabagambi said.
The witness explained that the two weeks training took place at the time when the AMISOM commandant from Ethiopia was on leave and he had left Watimba and Kawero in charge.
During examination by prosecutors Capt. Gerald Bamwitirebye and Lt. Ambrose Baguma, the witness said before the group arrived in the camp for training, Watimba told them to be prepared to train “a group” from alshabab.

Kenya targeting Muslims: Somalia's Al-Shabaab

Kenya targeting Muslims: Somalia's Al-Shabaab

Somalia's Al-Shabab militant group has accused neighboring Kenya of "humiliating and violating the rights" of Muslims and Somali refugees in the name of "fighting terrorism," according to a Tuesday statement by the group.

"Al-Shabaab will not stand silent in the face of [Kenya's] violations against Muslims," read a statement by group spokesman Ali al-Teiri, broadcast on the group's online Andalus Radio.

"Detaining infants and elderly men in the name of fighting terrorism is a heinous act," it added.
The statement comes on the heels of a wide-ranging arrest campaign in which many illegal immigrants have been rounded up by the Kenyan authorities.

The security sweep was launched in response to a recent string of bombings that have targeted Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa.

The operation has seen thousands of people detained for screening, mostly thought to be Muslims from the capital's Eastleigh district, which is home to an estimated 50,000 Somali refugees.

Up until last week, at least 3600 people had been detained for screening and interrogation at Nairobi's Kasarani Stadium.

"Those are not terrorists, they have been targeted because they're Muslims," al-Teiri said.

Established in 2004, the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Kenya, including last September's West Gate Mall attack, in which at least 67 people were killed.

Al-Shabaab has stepped up its attacks in Kenya since late 2011, when Nairobi deployed troops to support the government in Mogadishu and help it hunt down militants who remain in control of large swathes of the country.
Somalia has remained in the grip of on-again, off-again violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

The country had appeared to inch closer to stability with the recent installation of a new government and the intervention of African Union troops tasked with bringing Al-Shabaab to heel.

Source: Anadolu Agency

British Petroleum signs exploration agreement with Somalia | East Africa News

British Petroleum signs exploration agreement with Somalia | East Africa News

British Petroleum has entered an agreement with the Somali government to resume its oil and gas exploration activities, which were abruptly stopped in 1991 after the central government was toppled.
Reports indicate that the Somali government has been involved in negotiations with several petroleum companies who were operating in the country prior to the outbreak of civil war.
According to Strategic Intelligence News, several other petroleum companies are interested in securing exploration licenses in Somalia in order to access the country’s reportedly vast oil and gas reserves.
Somalia’s petroleum industry was reportedly still in its infancy when exploration companies were forced to pack up in 1991. However, since some level of stability has been successfully achieved following the formation of the federal parliament in 2012, many petroleum companies have expressed interest in harnessing the country’s reserves.
Last year, the Somali Federal Government signed an exploration agreement with Soma Oil and Gas. Reports indicate that the company is currently conducting a 2D seismic study of Somalia’s offshore oil and gas reserves, after which Somali authorities have revealed that drilling licenses will be issued.
The head of the Petroleum Department of the Federal Republic, Hussein Ali Ahmed, has confirmed that a deal has been reached with BP. However, it is currently unclear how the negotiations panned out with the other petroleum companies – such as Total, ENI, Shell, Conoco, Philips Petroleum and Chevron – who also had exploration concessions in the country.
Meanwhile, the petroleum industry has been steadily growing in the semi-autonomous regions of Somalia.
Reports indicate that the governments of Galmudug, Puntland and Somaliland have granted exploration concessions to various petroleum companies – including Shell’s Pecten Somalia, Asante Oil, Africa Oil, Horn Petrol, Ophir Energy, Genel Energy, RAK Gas, Jacka Resources, DNB International, Sterling Energy and others.
Officials from the Somali government have, however, questioned the validity of these licenses, noting that federal representatives were left out of the negotiations.
Many pundits have called on the federal parliament to review the country’s allegedly outdated petroleum regulations and develop security solutions to ensure the industry is not crippled by terrorists.
Last year, the Minister of Energy and Minerals of Somaliland, Hussein Adbi Dualeh, disclosed plans of forming a separate military unit dedicated to the petroleum industry.

New York Drops Unit That Spied on Muslims - NYTimes.com

New York Drops Unit That Spied on Muslims - NYTimes.com

The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said.
The decision by the nation’s largest police force to shutter the controversial surveillance program represents the first sign that William J. Bratton, the department’s new commissioner, is backing away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor. The Police Department’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups and a senior official with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities.
To many Muslims, the squad, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion. The police mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations.
Photo
Protesting the New York Police Department's  surveillance tactics near Police Headquarters in 2013. Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press
“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”
Ms. Sarsour was one of several advocates who met last Wednesday with Mr. Bratton and some of his senior staff members at Police Headquarters. She and others in attendance said the department’s new intelligence chief, John Miller, told them that the police did not need to work covertly to find out where Muslims gather and indicated the department was shutting the unit down.
The Demographics Unit, which was renamed the Zone Assessment Unit in recent years, has been largely inactive since Mr. Bratton took over in January, the department’s chief spokesman, Stephen Davis, said. The unit’s detectives were recently reassigned, he said.
“Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing the threat information that comes into New York City virtually on a daily basis,” Mr. Davis said. “In the future, we will gather that information, if necessary, through direct contact between the police precincts and the representatives of the communities they serve.”
The department’s change in approach comes as the federal government reconsiders and re-evaluates some of its own post-9/11 policies. Although the police department’s surveillance program was far smaller in scope than, say, the bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, a similar recalibration seems to be unfolding.
The Demographics Unit was the brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency officer Lawrence Sanchez, who helped establish it in 2003 while working at the Police Department and while he was still on the spy agency’s payroll.
The goal was to identify the mundane locations where a would-be terrorist could blend into society. Plainclothes detectives looked for “hot spots” of radicalization that might give the police an early warning about terrorist plots. The squad, which typically consisted of about a dozen members, focused on 28 “ancestries of interest.”
Detectives were told to chat up the employees at Muslim-owned businesses and “gauge sentiment” about America and foreign policy. Through maps and photographs, the police noted where Albanian men played chess in the afternoon, where Egyptians watched soccer and where South Asians played cricket.
After years of collecting information, however, the police acknowledged that it never generated a lead. Since The Associated Press published documents describing the program in 2011, Muslims and civil rights groups have called for its closing.
Mr. Bratton has said that he intends to try to heal rifts between the Police Department and minority communities that have felt alienated as a result of policies pursued during the Bloomberg administration. The meeting last week put Mr. Bratton in the room with some of his department’s harshest critics.
“This is the first time we’ve felt that comfort sitting with them,” said Ahmad Jaber, who resigned from the Police Department’s Muslim advisory board last year to protest the surveillance tactics. “It’s a new administration, and they are willing to sit with the community and listen to their concerns.”
The Demographics Unit was one aspect of a broad intelligence-gathering effort. In addition, informants infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses and collected the names, phone numbers and addresses of those who attended. Analysts trawled college websites and email groups to keep tabs on Muslim scholars and who attended their lectures.
The police also designated entire mosques as suspected “terrorism enterprises,” a label that the police claimed allowed them to collect the license plate numbers of every car in mosque parking lots, videotape worshipers coming and going, and record sermons using informants wearing hidden microphones.
As a candidate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “deeply troubled” by the tactic of surveilling mosques. Despite investigations that stretched for years, the Police Department’s efforts never led to charges that a mosque or an Islamic organization was itself a terrorist enterprise.
The future of those programs remains unclear. The former police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, has said his efforts were lawful and helped protect the city from terrorist attacks. Last month, a federal judge in New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit over the department’s surveillance there, saying Muslims could not prove they were harmed by the tactics.
Two other federal lawsuits continue to challenge the department’s tactics. One legal claim has been brought under a civil rights case that dates back to the Police Department’s surveillance of student groups and protesters in the 1960s and 1970s. Martin Stolar, one of the lawyers who brought that claim, maintains that the post-9/11 surveillance programs violate the court order in that case. A judge has not yet ruled on that question.
Like Muslim community leaders, Mr. Stolar said he wanted to see exactly what the department had planned. Police officials have changed the name of the program before, he said.
“I want them to say that they’re getting rid of not just the unit, but the kind of policing that the unit did,” Mr. Stolar said. “Is it still going to be blanket surveillance of where Muslims hang out? Are they going to stop this massive surveillance?”
Based on Mr. Davis’s remarks, the Police Department appears to be moving its policies closer to those of the F.B.I. Both agencies are allowed to use census data, public information and government data to create detailed maps of ethnic communities.
The F.B.I. is prohibited, however, from eavesdropping on and documenting innocuous conversations that would be protected by the First Amendment. F.B.I. lawyers in New York determined years ago that agents could not receive documents from the Demographics Unit without violating federal rules.
Until Mr. Stolar’s case is decided, the police may not destroy any of the Demographic Unit files, he said. Beyond that decision, the future of the documents is unclear.
Mr. de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday that the closing of the unit was “a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A plan to revolutionize the Horn of Africa — starting with 5,000 animal skins | GlobalPost

A plan to revolutionize the Horn of Africa — starting with 5,000 animal skins | GlobalPost

Len Tiahlo vividly recalls a flight he took more than a decade ago that had to make an emergency landing on a dirt strip serving as a runway outside the tiny enclave of Jijiga in eastern Ethiopia.
A lone shack sat next to the runway amid the scrub; there was nowhere else to go. Tiahlo and his fellow passengers spent the night drinking Coca Cola, coffee and smoking cigarettes until the plane was able to depart.
Nowadays Tiahlo is a regular and more willing visitor to a very different and buzzing present-day Jijiga as director of London-based Horn Investment Development (HID), a British company which recently completed a trial run of the first inland trade of animal hides to Jijiga from neighbouring Somaliland.
“Animal hide startup” may not say instant wealth to Westerners raised on tales of Silicon Valley. Here, however, a simple cross-border trade of hides could mark the start of a boost to development and security in one of the poorest and most unstable regions of the world.
Ethiopia and Somalia, along with the self-declared state of Somaliland internationally recognized as an autonomous region within Somalia, lie on the infamous Horn of Africa. During the 1990s the Horn of Africa became synonymous with nightmarish uprisings and mass killings. The early and mid-2000s were dominated by piracy and hostage-taking in the waters off Somalia.
But increasingly, news is emerging of economic progress and tentative stability in the likes of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, and across previously perilous border regions with other countries, such as Ethiopia. HID is one of many groups now looking to invest in the region while kick-starting development efforts.
Jijiga’s infrastructure  has improved since Tiahlo’s first visit, but its economy is still underpinned by traditional livestock rearing and is primarily subsistence-based, as is the case across the majority of the Horn region.
As a community interest company — a category set up by the British government in 2005 — HID is a private, for-profit enterprise but with a built-in focus on a social objective. HID says it wants to attract international investment to transform pastoral livestock raising into modern industrial farming. Trading skins is the first phase. Next would come a factory that can produce frozen meat products both for Ethiopia’s domestic market and to export around the world. Meat consumption—especially of the frozen variety—is expected to increase due to Ethiopia’s growing middle class with more disposable income and increasing ownership of refrigerators.
It’s an idea that has already received praise, as well as $160,000 from UK government’s Department for International Development due to potential strategic benefits for this oft-times troubled region. British leather manufacturer Pittards is consulting with HID on the leather aspect of the plan, and received the first trial run of 5,000 at its Ethiopian factory, while London Business School is partnering HID and developing a business prospectus that it’s hoped will attract investors.
The presence of a hide and meat factory in Jijiga could end years of erratic income for farmers in the Ogaden region surrounding the town, as well as in Somaliland. These farmers have depended on fluctuating meat demand in the Middle East for religious festivals that only total a few months each year. HID’s factory would provide demand all year round.
It could also give farmers better prices for their livestock than they are currently getting from middle men in the Somaliland cities of Hargeisa and Burao, or from Arab traders in Berbera’s port, Tiahlo said.
“This would be a revolution for the agricultural industry of the region which 10 years ago didn't even have electricity,” Tiahlo said.
Ethiopia’s government is interested in HID’s project, too, for several reasons.
Ethiopia is home to Africa’s largest livestock population, and is Africa’s top livestock exporter. Livestock exports constitute more than 5 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP — a figure that could be increased significantly if illegal trade were eliminated. The black market currently accounts for around 75% of the country’s overall foreign livestock trade, costing legitimate traders between $180m to $360m a year, according to Ethiopia’s agriculture ministry.
Tiahlo thinks the Jijiga factory would reduce illegal trade by providing an example of the benefits of legitimate business.
There could be a security payoff, as well.
Ethiopia’s eastern Ogaden region shares a border with Somalia and Somaliland, the autonomous region that declares itself a state. The ethnically Somali Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has been fighting a long-running insurgency against the Ethiopian government, seeking more autonomy for the underdeveloped region. Improving economic situation on the ground has clear advantages.
“Regional integration is very important,” said Mebrahtu Meles, state minister for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Industry, at a mid-February meeting with HID to discuss the project.
Challenges
The question is: Will these efforts be successful?
Many commentators also say there is patchy evidence of private sector development actually helping the indigent, even though, according to a leather consultant who has travelled extensively in Africa during his four decades in the industry, development and the private sector should be well matched.
“In theory it should be ideal,” said the consultant, who wished to remain anonymous due to current work commitments with an intergovernmental organization. “But it rarely works as advertised—if a project produces the anticipated results then the owners want to cash in on the project and that means the workers get peanuts.”
Furthermore, transforming pastoral farming traditions to modern industrial farming methods while being able to make money is a very tall order and an inherently fraught enterprise in a part of the world where pastoralism is the predominant mode of production, deeply entwined with ancient cultures.
Getting down to specifics, the leather consultant wishing to remain anonymous cautioned that managing to produce meat that corresponds to the international market standards can take years to achieve. Currently South Africa, Botswana and Namibia are the only African countries currently licensed to sell meat to any European country, he said, and face huge competition from Brazil, the world’s number one exporter of frozen meats.
Tiahlo counters such concerns by pointing to the expected growth in Ethiopia’s domestic meat market, which could help the factory maintain demand until the international standards are met. HID’s leaders also emphasize, in response to concerns about getting profits back to farmers, that their business model mandates that between 3% to 7% of net income—after recovery of investments, operating costs and repayment of HID costs—is distributed to the local community hosting the business. About 200 people would be employed at the planned Jijiga factory, they say.
A move towards Western investment in Africa
UK Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham arrives in Jijiga in the Somali region of Ethiopia in July, 2011. (Foreign & Commonwealth Office/Flickr Commons)
HID’s venture is a small one compared to others of its kind initiated in the past few years. Along with its grant to HID, the UK’s Department for International Development has promised up to $14.8 million to Novastar, an East Africa-based venture capital fund, to allow it to support more entrepreneurs and businesses in the region which provide low-cost schooling, healthcare, energy, housing and safe water.
Previously Western companies, unlike their Chinese counterparts, have remained nervous about participating in major projects in sub-Saharan Africa, said Manaye Ewunetu, managing director of London-based ME Consulting Engineers, which specialises in Africa and the Middle East.
They’ve been deterred by insufficient profits in the short term, along with high political risk due to rapidly changing governmental policies or even entire governments. Now, that appears to be changing.
Some big companies are coming and taking a bet on regions that previously would have been unimaginable for boards and directors.
Coca-Cola’s opening of a $17 million bottling plant outside the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, represents the biggest private investment in the country to date.
Larger projects such as this and the size of capital they bring clearly have advantages, but smaller companies appear coveted by regional authorities, also, as evidenced by the Ethiopian government’s enthusiastic response to HID’s livestock plan.
Western governments are increasingly eager to encourage such initiatives, and to tie aid to business opportunities. The US-Africa Leaders Summit this August is intended to “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa,” according to the White House. In January of 2014, British International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced that the UK would be devoting £1.8 billion to growth-boosting investments in 2015-2016.  “Economic development is, without question,” Greening said, “the only way countries can leave behind enduring and chronic poverty for good.”

Somali pirates sentenced by Spanish Supreme Court for hijacking Naval ship | NEWS.GNOM.ES

Somali pirates sentenced by Spanish Supreme Court for hijacking Naval ship | NEWS.GNOM.ES

SOMALI pirates who hijacked a Spanish Naval vessel after mistaking it for a private civilian boat are facing tougher sentences following a Supreme Court ruling.
The six men, who invaded the Patiño in the Indian Ocean in 2012, were said to be ‘sufficiently armed’ and to ‘have the intention to take over control of the ship’ and ‘demand a ransom’.
Initially, they were facing between eight and 12 years in jail for an attempted hijack, but a Supreme Court judge in Spain considers that the hijack was in fact achieved even though the fact the ship turned out to belong to the Armed Forces meant the intruders did not get as far as kidnapping the occupants and calling for ransom money.
A First Officer who was on night duty warned officials at around 03.00hrs local time on January 12, 2012 that a passenger boat was trailing the Patiño along its side, and that the occupants were armed and trying to board the ship.
When the Naval officers reacted, the pirates fired a volley of shots at the vessel, making contact with the hull in six places.
Eventually, after what was described as an exchange of gunshots between the two boats’ occupants lasting about two minutes at most, the pirates fled.
The Naval officers pursued them and managed to detain them about an hour after they were first seen.
Those on board the Patiño say the pirates had ‘hand grenades, bags, ladders and an indeterminate number of rifles’.
The Supreme Court considered that the shots which damaged the ship were enough to consider that the hijack had been ‘achieved’ rather than being ‘attempted’, meaning the six pirates’ sentences have been increased by five years to between 13 and 17 years each.

YemenOnline - Voice of Yemen : YEMEN: Two Somali girls die after committing suicide in Yemen

YemenOnline - Voice of Yemen : YEMEN: Two Somali girls die after committing suicide in Yemen

Gulf News has published that two girls of Somali origin have committed suicide in Yemen.
Sources from Yemen Police confirmed to the Gulf News paper that one of the two girls died after she put herself on fire while the other girl shot herself with a bullet for reasons that are not yet clearly established by local police authorities.
These suicide killings were said to have happened four days ago in Al-Jawf province, Yemen.
The exact motive of this suicide committed by two Somali girls is yet unclear but as family member of the two girls informed the police that the two girls were suffering from their family problems.
Thousands of Somali refugees live in refugee camps in Yemen whereas this is not becoming the first kind of this incident committed by the Somali refugees in the refugee kinds.
However, this incident has left so many Somali people in sorrow.