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Monday, August 10, 2009

Libya: Prison Guards Kill More Than 20 Somalis, Injure 50 Others

More than 20 Somali prisoners have been killed and 50 others were seriously injured after Libyan prison guards deliberately opened fire to the jailed Somalis in Banghazi town, witnesses told Shabelle radio on Monday.

Reports say that the Libyan guarding forces of the prison had opened fire to the jailed Somalis in Banghazi prison in Banghazi town in Libya after the Somalis tried to escape from the jail killing more than 20, wounding 50 others who were all in the custody.

The Libyan forces also used knifes and other materials for murdering the Somali prisoners there as Abdinasir Mowlid, one of the Somali youth and prisoner who was in the area where accident happened told Shabelle radio by the telephone.

Mr. Abdinasir also said that the Libyan troops also used electricity for the remained Somali prisoners in the jail to execute committing brutal actions that had never been seen anymore.

Mohudin Abdullahi Arig, one of the Somali prisoners in Banghazi town accused the TFG for not supporting the Somali people in Libya saying that it will take the responsibility pointing out that it had ignored more times to solve the problems of the prisoners earlier.

It is not the first time that the Libyan forces kill and threaten to the Somali people in that country.

Source: AllAfrica

Somali Language Legal Website Launched

An electronic legal help library for low-income families is now branching out to the Somali community. SomaliLawHelp.org , is a new resource of LawHelpMN.org , a website run by the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition and Hennepin County Bar Foundation.

The parent website offers services in over 13 languages, and expects the new site to continue the work of providing easy-to-understand legal help information. The website offers answers to questions regarding divorce, immigration, and eviction, among others topics.

SomaliLawHelp.org offers specific information for Somali-speakers too, with links to 75 other Somali language legal resources. The website also offers translated government and non-profit materials. All services from the site are free, or at a low-cost.

Source: MyFoxTwiincities

Athens police attack Somali protesters

Police standing by the victim.

Greek police have reportedly killed a female Somali protester during their crackdown on the country's Somali community.

The killing took place on Monday in the Greek capital, Athens, as the police attempted to suppress a protest by Somali expatriates, witnesses were quoted by a Press TV correspondent as saying.

The officers were seen "brutalizing" the protesters who, carrying the flag of the African nation, voiced outrage over the detention of hundreds of Somalis by the Greek police.

The protesters called on the United Nations and Mogadishu to send fact-finding missions to investigate the alleged abuses, which they claimed included recurrent torture of the detainees.

Seen as a gateway to Western Europe, Greece has become an immigration hub where smuggling runs rife.

The country has authorized its police to deal harshly with 'unwelcome' visitors and has provided for more detention facilities along with extended jail terms to tackle the related problems.

Source: PressTV.ir

10 Italian sailors freed by Somali pirates

Ten Italian sailors whose tug was seized by Somali pirates four months ago in the Gulf of Aden have been released after the pirates abandoned the ship, Italian authorities said Monday.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Sky-TV24 that the Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke notified him directly of the release in a phone call Sunday evening.

Italian and Somali authorities had been working together gathering intelligence and applying diplomacy to win the hostages' release, Frattini said.

"The authorities of Italy and those of Somalia made the pirates understand that the only solution was the liberation of the hostages," Frattini said on Sky-TV24.

The Foreign Ministry said no ransom was paid.

The Italian-flagged Buccaneer tug was seized April 11 in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

A ministry statement did not mention six foreign nationals who were also on board when the tug was seized. They are five Romanians and one Croat.

The hostages were expected to return to Italy in several days.

Source: The Associated Press

Somali gov't launches official website

A new website has been launched by the Somali government to promote and inform about its policies to the public and the world.

The site of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, www.tfgsomalia.com, represents the only media for the beleaguered government to propagate itself to its people and its partners around the world.

The site, slick and glossy as it is, still remains under construction with much of its links not yet operational. But Minister of information Farhan Mohamoud promises the site will soon improve.

The website "is still under constant improvement in terms of contents, context and design", said the minister in an email sent to the media.

The Somali government, which has been beset by persistent deadly insurgency since its establishment, does not have radio or television station or newspapers to compete with the dozen independent radio and televisions stations as well as newspapers in Mogadishu.

The opposition groups have their own sites where they propagate attacks on the Somali government forces and African Union peacekeepers as well as their ideology.

The official government site, available both in Somali and English, has sections about the president, the prime minister, the parliament as well as latest news.

There are also links to the various government ministries along with a section on official government documents, such as the Transitional Federal Charter of the current government.

Source: Xinhua

Roadside Bomb Kills 2 in Mogadishu

Witnesses in Somalia's capital say at least two people have been killed by a roadside bomb explosion.

The blast Sunday in Mogadishu's Waberi district targeted a vehicle carrying Somali government soldiers.

Witnesses say the explosion missed the troops but killed two civilians who were standing nearby. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

On Saturday in Mogadishu, at least 10 people were killed in an artillery battle between hardline Islamist insurgents and government forces.

The battle began when insurgents fired on Mogadishu's airport and the Somali presidential palace as President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed returned from Kenya.

Most of the casualties occurred in Mogadishu's sprawling Bakara market. At least 17 people were wounded.


In Kenya, President Sharif met Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who promised to increase U.S. assistance to his government.

The United States has expressed concern Somalia could become a haven for terrorists if Islamist militant groups, led by al-Shabab, seize control of the country.

The groups already control much of southern Somalia and parts of the capital.

U.S. officials acknowledged in June that they had supplied weapons to President Sharif's government. The president told reporters on Thursday that Secretary Clinton had pledged more help with security and humanitarian aid.

Source: AFP.

Community center helps Somalis adapt to Colorado

As meatpacking jobs attract more Somali immigrants to this northeast Colorado farm town, community leaders have found that simply learning a foreign language can be a matter of life and death.

On June 1, an immigrant who didn't understand English-language traffic signs entered the wrong side of Interstate 76 and collided with another car. The 65-year-old recent arrival, Ali Aden, and a passenger were seriously injured. Passenger Mohamed Najji Mohamed, 44, was killed. A Surprise, Ariz., resident in the other car suffered minor injuries, the Colorado State Patrol said.

The wreck provoked some local resentment toward the 650-strong African community - mostly Somali - that either lives or works in Fort Morgan, a town that otherwise has overwhelmingly welcomed the newcomers.

The crash has also spurred a new African-run community center to start teaching English and the rules of the road to the new immigrants, including people from Kenya, Congo and Ethiopia. But some readers of the local newspaper, the Fort Morgan Times, have suggested that the immigrants shouldn't be allowed to drive.

Fort Morgan's police department doesn't keep data on accidents by race, Lt. Darin Sagel said. But Mayor Jack Darnell said it appeared the immigrants are "having a disproportionate amount of accidents," most of them minor fender-benders.

"And they realize it. They are trying to adjust," Darnell said.

Sagel said the accidents may be the result of not being accustomed to a new environment.

The Morgan African Community Center has signed up 150 people for English and driving classes in September. It's also developed a driving handbook that shows traffic signs with Somali translations.

"There's a lot of people who want to register and they're all excited," said center organizer Ali Bihi, 53, who immigrated from Mogadishu in 2007.

Bihi wants Somalis to take the course before they apply for licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles. In the past, some non-English speakers would guess on the DMV test or hope that someone at the DMV could translate during it, said Abdikarim Ali, 24, a center volunteer.

The Africans chose Fort Morgan as their new home largely because of the presence of Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., a Wichita, Kan.-based firm that has hired more than 360 of them, said Ibrahim Abdi, who also runs the community center.

Cargill's wages start at $12.45 an hour for jobs from cleaning to packaging meat, Ali said. The plant employed about 20 percent of Fort Morgan's 10,800 residents in 2007.

Endemic political strife in Somalia has produced one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. Since the 1991 overthrow of longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia has experienced civil war, famine and failed U.N. and U.S. humanitarian missions.

Abdi said he had to escape violence that killed his 15-year-old son in 1991. Soldiers from the opposition United Somali Congress shot him because he wouldn't stop crying as they detained his father, whom they suspected of supporting the government.

"There wasn't a life over there," said Abdi, sitting in his office located next to a barber shop and a tire shop. Two small U.S. flags lean against a window.

Besides the U.S. government, Abdi said Somalis are grateful for Cargill.

"They gave us work, and they gave us a way to live," Abdi said.

Center volunteers drive people to doctor's appointments or help them find housing, another big issue. As many as 100 immigrants, most of them single men, stay in motels because there aren't enough apartments or because they want to get a job before signing a lease, center leaders said.

Abdi said the center also has acted as a mediator to prevent the kind of discord that arose among Somali Muslims and their employers around the country over prayer rituals.

In Greeley, about 50 miles west of Fort Morgan, the JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant fired more than 100 workers during Ramadan last year after evening-shift workers walked out, saying the firm refused to allow their breaks to coincide with sunset so they could pray. At the time, Swift said they had tried to accommodate workers' lunch schedules by more than an hour.

There have been no such problems in Fort Morgan, workers say.

Source: The Associated Press

Young Somali Muslim suicide bomber: Jihad Is Real!

Loading ammunition into the magazine of his AK-47 assault rifle, the young suicide bomber looked straight into the camera. “Jihad is real,” he said. “There’s no way you can understand the sweetness of jihad until you come to jihad.”

His accomplice joined in, his face hidden by a scarf. “How dare you sit at home and look on the TV and see Muslims getting killed ... Those who are in Europe and America, get out of those countries,” he ordered.

Moments later a column of black smoke appeared as a battered Toyota truck exploded.

The slick video showing the last moments of a suicide bomber, entitled “Message to those who stay behind”, is part of the latest recruitment propaganda to emerge on English-language websites directed at young wannabe jihadis.

Its origins were not, however, in Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan, the usual bases of jihadi recruiters, but Somalia, the war-torn east African state.

The site has been traced to Al-Shabaab, a radicalised Islamist militia group led by Somalis trained in Afghanistan and aligned with Al-Qaeda. The group is fighting against Somalia’s fragile transitional government, which is backed by the West and the United Nations.

It is seeking to impose sharia (Islamic law) in Somalia with brutal tactics including public beheadings. Amnesty International has condemned it for cruel punishments including sentencing robbers, without trial, to have their right hand and left foot cut off.

What concerns western security officials is that the movement has built an international recruiting network in Somali expatriate communities in the West. It has arranged for impressionable young Somali men to go to a country they scarcely know, to fight for its cause.

Now there are signs that these fighters are returning to their home countries to spread terror there.

Last week, Australian security forces announced they had uncovered an alleged plot by immigrants, including three Somalis with Australian citizenship, to carry out a suicide attack with automatic weapons on a Sydney army base.

“The men’s intention was to actually go into the army barracks and kill as many soldiers as they could before they themselves were killed,” said Tony Negus, acting chief commissioner of Australia’s federal police force.

In America, a counterterrorism investigation is continuing after more than 20 young Americans of Somali origin left their homes in Minneapolis and went to fight with Al-Shabaab.

A first wave left in 2007 and a second in 2008 but their disappearance came to light only after news reached Minneapolis that one of them, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in an attack in Somalia last October that killed as many as 30 people.

Others have been arrested and charged on their return to the United States.

Last month Lord Malloch-Brown, then the minister for Africa, said Somalia posed a greater threat than Afghanistan to Britain. Its ungoverned space is being compared to Afghanistan under the Taliban when Osama Bin Laden used the lawless areas on the Pakistan border to plan attacks on western targets.

Experts fear that as Al-Qaeda has come under more pressure in the border region from western forces it will turn increasingly to Somalia as an attractive haven where it can set up terrorist training camps for worldwide jihadists. Echoing this appeal, Bin Laden has urged Muslims to send money or go to fight in Somalia.

So is Somalia now rivalling Afghanistan as a crucible for terror?

FOR 18 years since the fall of the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia has been a country without an effective central government. Today it is the world’s pre-eminent failed state in a perpetual fog of civil war. A tenth of its population has been killed. A million have fled abroad.

The Al-Shabaab movement — meaning “the youth” in Arabic — was formed as the youth and military wing of a group of sharia courts that controlled much of southern and central Somalia in 2006. >>>

Counter Jihad News:

Tensions in the context of Somaliland Vote

The escalation of tensions ahead of a presidential election in the self-declaredrepublic Somaliland are raising fears that a long politicalcrisis May give al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group, al-Shabab, the possibility of spread its extremist ideology.

Theassociate professor of religious studies and Arabic at the University of South Africa, Iqbal Jhazbhay, said political wrangling between the Government and opposition parties in Somaliland toderail threat greatly delayed the elections, scheduled for September 27.

Jhazbhaysays the dispute must be resolved quickly, before it inflicts irreparabledamage on the territory of the rupture of the democratic system.

"There isno doubt that this is a moment," he said. "This polarizationcould pose a threat to international peace and security in the sense that it wouldpolarize population, perhaps leading to reverse things out of control, the possibility of extreme Islamic elements such as Al-Shabab thisis see an opportunity to advance their agenda. "

In the center of the crisis brewing of Somaliland is whether the territorycan hold an election without a list of voter registration.

AU.N.-associated organization Interpeace helped TheGovernment Past President Dahir Riyale voterregistration with the process, and it intends to monitor the elections.

Butlast week, the government expelled the head of Interpeace fromSomaliland, accusing the organization, among other things, voter information illegallysharing with officials of Somaliland, the two groups mainopposition, Kulmiye and UCID.

Interpeace denied anywrongdoing. But he acknowledged that the voter registration systemwas, in his words, while being severely abused implementation. Somegovernment supporters have argued that multiple entries in favorof opposition parties were held in several districts.

Somaliland's National Electoral Commission ruled that the presidential election without couldproceed list of voter registration, and the President quicklyendorsed the decision. Kulmiye and UCID said that the decision to list abandonthe amounts to high treason. Opposition members ofparliament are now preparing a motion for dismissal PresidentRiyale.

Professor Jhazbhay feared if a compromise cannotbe reached soon, the dispute in May because of Somalilanders becomedisillusioned with democracy, and it could reinforce fears that thehand al-Shabab extremists. Al-Shabab, which is classified as an organization aterrorist by the United States, is the struggle of the United Nations tooverthrow supported by the Government in the Somali capital Mogadishu, andhas pledged to fight until all of Somalia is united under Conservative anultra Islamic caliphate.

"In the case ofSomaliland, they attempted to shape an agenda and a speech sayingthat advancing democracy is an exercise in the West, where countries likeSomaliland eventually be conducted after an order of the day", at - he said. "This is an attempt to mobilize the people and dispose of what isclearly a cultural democracy and Somali customary law Islamiclaw.

Top head of al-Shabab Ahmed Abdi Godana just the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa. Godana is suspected of ordering suicide attacks in Hargeisa thedeadly last October to a United Nations compound, theEthiopian consulate and the presidential palace.

Somaliland'scurrent president, Dahir Riyale was elected to its peaceful firstfive years in 2003, and until recently, the territory took place UPAS an example of what the rest of Somalia throughdemocratic could achieve the reforms and good governance.

But presidentialvote scheduled for August 2008 was postponedseveral times. The delay has raised concerns from key allies, such as the United States and the European Union on Somaliland commitmentto democracy.

In recent years, Somaliland has been closelycooperating with the West in the fight against terrorism and piracy, inexchange for international diplomatic recognition, he soughtsince declaring independence from Somalia in 1991.

Source: www.tiimi.net

Vote adds grades 9-12 to mostly Somali school

A charter school serving mostly Somali students from in and around City Heights received permission from a divided San Diego school board Tuesday to expand its program to include high schoolers.
Over the objections of district Superintendent Terry Grier and others, the school board voted 3-2 to grant Iftin Charter School in City Heights authority to open a high school in fall 2010.
Opponents, including one of Iftin's founders, argued that the school offers a racially isolated environment – 93 percent of its students are Somali in a community where roughly 14 percent of residents are of African descent. In addition, critics said campus leaders have no viable plans to diversify the student body so that it more accurately reflects City Heights and the San Diego Unified School District.
Educators, parents and students from Iftin pleaded with the board to grant their expansion, saying students need a chance to continue learning in a safe setting with a solid academic program.
Board President Shelia Jackson and trustees Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans voted to grant the request, saying the campus demographics were not reason enough to halt the school's growth – especially because its test scores have risen dramatically in recent years.
“If we deny this opportunity, we are denying kids a path to success that the school has proven,” Barrera said.
The school's Web site says it has 210 students.
Jackson said she wants the school, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, to increase its non-Somali population to 20 percent by the time it expands.
Trustees John de Beck and Katherine Nakamura expressed concerns over the lack of diversity at Iftin. “I don't think it's good for America to set up situations where people are isolated racially,” de Beck said.
Maureen Magee: (619) 293-1369;

Source: http://www3.signonsandiego.com

Top Somali Islamist leader lashes U.S. policy

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a radical Islamist leader in Somalia, on Saturday strongly attacked U.S. foreign policy towards the war-torn Horn of Africa country, two days after Somali President met with U.S. Secretary of State in Nairobi, Kenya.

Aweys, leader of the Hezbul Islam (Islamic Party), condemned what he termed as the U.S.'s hostile policy based on double standards on Somalia issue since the fall of the late Somali ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1990.

In a statement issued in Mogadishu, the firebrand leader said he expected there would be a change in the U.S. policy towards Somalia under the new leadership of the current President Barack Obama.

But, the statement said "as things stand now, this administration still follows its predecessor's same policy of creating internal division among Somali people, support of the foreign agents and warlords".

The statement by Aweys, wanted by the U.S. for links with international terrorism, comes two days after the meeting between Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and U.S. top diplomat Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of a U.S.-Africa economic forum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Clinton pledged U.S.'s full support for the Somali government led by President Ahmed and condemned Islamist rebels in Somalia who are trying to topple the internationally recognized government.

Clinton also warned Eritrea of arming insurgent movements in Somalia, threatening action against Asmara if it did not stop. Eritrea categorically denies the allegations.

Source: Xinhua

Friday, August 7, 2009

Somali sheik's alarm failed to wake us up

IF you really want to depress yourself, type the name Sheik Hersi Hilole into Google, says David Penberthy.

He's an Islamic scholar and Somali spiritual leader who, almost two years ago when still based in Sydney, was howled down as a rabble-rouser for issuing what his (Islamic) critics dismissed as a reckless, baseless warning about the radicalisation of young Somali refugees in Melbourne.


Hilole is now living and working in Singapore as an academic. No doubt he watched the events in Melbourne this week with a sense of weary despair. For, without wishing to prejudge the terror charges, the case the prosecution will try to prove could well resemble some of the scenario painted by the cleric in late 2007.

The trouble began for Hilole in April 2007 when he offered a candid analysis of the challenges facing the Somali community, particularly its youth, many of whom were struggling to adjust to life in Australia after escaping the horror of life in Mogadishu. But Hilole didn't use that or their relative poverty in public housing in Australia to excuse the fact that some young Somalis were not just susceptible to but may be active with terrorist sympathisers. He warned it was dangerousand urged that something be done about it.

As the ABC's PM program reported at the time, Hilole found himself ostracised by others in the Somali community who resolved that because of the furore they should stop talking to the media and turn in on themselves. Hilole kept on.

In an interview with this newspaper in late 2007, talking to the award-winning journalist Richard Kerbaj (who broke Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali's "uncovered meat" outrage), Hilole lamented the fact that his initial warnings had been ignored.

Kerbaj wrote: "Young Somalian Muslims are secretly travelling back to their homeland to fight alongside al-Qa'ida-backed terrorists at the urging of hardline spiritual leaders inAustralia.

"Somalian spiritual leader Hersi Hilole yesterday warned that young men returning from their jihad mission against the Ethiopian-backed Somalian government were more likely to consider becoming involved in a terrorist attack on Australia.

"'Now when they come back, how are they going to join the rest of society?' Hilole said. 'There is a great danger that they could carry out any kind of terrorist activity here.'

"Sheik Hilole, chairman of the Somali Community Council of Australia, said hardline clerics in Melbourne continued to 'prey' on young Somalian men, whose welcoming attitudes to Wahabism -- a puritanical interpretation of Islam espoused by Osama bin Laden -- were a result of the ideology's prevalence in their home country."

Clearly a far-fetched scenario. Two months later, Hilole was warning again that he feared radical Islamists would use the defeat of the Howard government to capitalise on the more moderate domestic political climate.

"The extremists will try to take every advantage that they think will be possible and available for them, and they will most probably try to spread their ideas and recruit more people for their cause," he said.

Again, Hilole copped it from most Islamic quarters, even though he had also accused the Howard government of exaggerating aspects of the Islamic threat for political gain. Despite that caveat, a lot of Islamic leaders clearly thought Hilole should just shut up.

Others, such as a former member of John Howard's Islamic reference group, Indonesian Muslim spiritual leader Amin Hady, said it simply did not make sense to sideline the hardliners, as Howard had done when he excluded Melbourne-based cleric (and sceptic of Muslim involvement in the London bombings) Mohammed Omran from his group. "The government should use mainstream leaders to approach them (hardliners) and to bring them in line with the rest of the community members," Hady said.

This reflected the view of most Islamic leaders, who shied away from the tough conversation that Hilole was trying to start.

They probably didn't want to create a perception that there were members of their community who wanted to kill other people, and themselves, in the pursuit of holy war on Australian soil, even though that perception might have been based entirely in fact.

Hilole's dismissal as some kind of fringe-dwelling doomsday prophet is a source of shame for Australia's Islamic leaders.

It's also a pity that the wider community did not listen to him, as he is exactly the kind of plain-speaking, excuse-averse guy that Australian Muslim communities need, rather than the lost-in-translation stylings of a Keysar Trad, who spent several hectic years complaining on behalf of Hilaly about the quality of the subtitles.

The Hilole case also demonstrates the problems a civilised nation such as Australia faces in acting on such a warning. In a society that tries to respect human rights and values freedom of religion and freedom of association, Hilole's call could result in state action that would immediately be condemned as offensive to our values and laws.

In his own clunky way, Ibrahim Khayre has given fresh voice to Hilole's warning in his comments this week about his nephew's alleged involvement in the Holsworthy plot. He told The Herald Sun that Yacqub "fell in with a bad crowd" when he dropped out of school and left home, and blamed the police and social workers for blocking attempts by the family to make contact with Yacqub.

Clearly, it's absurd to blame this boy's subsequent actions on a couple of cops and social workers, and Khayre has been carved up on talkback and online for suggesting it.

But his point isn't a world away from Hilole's. And it prompts the question: what should have been done? Should the authorities have gone in and seized this kid, stopped him from attending this prayer centre? Should the prayer centre be shut down? Its clerics put under surveillance, jailed or deported, for preaching violent jihad?

The problem we have as a liberal democracy is that most of the people who care about "inclusiveness" would rather go to a multi-faith harmony celebration put on by the Uniting Church than confront the tough reality that, at some tiny mosque, they're watching re-runs of September 11 and have no desire to be included in mainstream society.

What you do about that, I don't know. But as the treatment of Hilole shows, pretending it doesn't exist is the worst possible answer.

penberthyd@thepunch.com.au

Source: The Australian

Neglect of Somali peace process emboldens terrorists

It is a failed state in which the United States knows al-Qaida and its allies have operated, where endemic lawlessness provides a haven for terrorists. Yet Washington isn't investing in talks aimed at addressing the failure of the state.

The failed state is Somalia, possibly the only country in the world without a government, and a perfect example of the humanitarian, economic and political consequences of state collapse. Most important from the U.S. perspective, Somalia's governance vacuum makes the Horn of Africa country a comfortable home for terrorist groups looking for refuge or a logistical staging area.

Given the stakes involved, one might expect the Bush administration to be extremely interested in the Somali peace process sponsored by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, led in this instance by Kenya and begun in October 2002. If fractured Somalia can be put back together under some kind of stable government, that would be one less place for al-Qaida and like-minded terrorist groups to hide.

But Washington seems thoroughly uninterested in the peace process, which Kenya is trying to push into its third and final phase. Occasional, vaguely supportive statements from the State Department have done little to conceal a reluctance to re-engage in Somalia since the humiliating 1993 Black Hawk Down military debacle, when 18 U.S. troops were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of the capital, Mogadishu.

Washington's current reluctance is misplaced, however. The Somali peace process doesn't need U.S. military boots on the ground; it needs American support in other ways, including considering peace and stability in Somalia to be a counterterrorism issue. Above all, the United States must bring more substantial representation to the IGAD talks on Somalia.

At the moment, the United States has only a "Somali watcher" - former Ambassador John Yates, who works out of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya - rather than a full-fledged, permanent, actively participating envoy as it has at other peace talks, including the IGAD negotiations over Sudan. Greater interest from other capitals, notably Brussels, is also needed.

Together, the Americans and Europeans should dispatch envoys to shuttle jointly throughout the region with the aim of resolving the regional differences that have troubled the IGAD talks and thus give fresh impetus to all sides to take negotiations seriously.

Cynics might reply that Somalia's collapse cannot be repaired, that the accursed country's tortuous political and military dynamics have blocked international mediation efforts for over a decade, so it is not worth getting too excited about the latest talks. Indeed, since 1991, 13 major international peace initiatives have failed to tame Somalia. While the current attempt is the longest-running, it has little clear success to distinguish itself from previous efforts.

Sadly, however, this sort of thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: The lack of U.S. interest - and of international interest generally - is a key reason the IGAD talks are floundering. If Washington gave the peace process more attention, it is likely the participants would as well.

The time to demonstrate that increased interest is now. Effectively stalemated since January, the talks in Kenya have reached a critical stage. Unless the IGAD ministers and their passive Western partners act collectively, the process will die, causing already increasing tensions in fractured Somalia to intensify and any semblance of a functioning government to be put off indefinitely.

America's diplomatic disengagement from the Somali peace process is hurting the U.S. war on terrorism. Continuation of a failed state in Somalia ensures that U.S. interests and allies in the region remain dangerously vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Radical Islamist agendas will only be fed by the continuing instability, impunity and lack of government in Somalia. Supporting peace and stability in Somalia today will help to create one less haven for terrorists in the future.

John Prendergast is special adviser to the president of the International Crisis Group and Andrew Stroehlein is its media director.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Somali Instability Poses Challenge for Anti-Terror Efforts

Secretary of State Clinton spent the second day of her African tour expressing support for the fragile transitional government in Somalia. Margaret Warner reports on the visit, and the risks posed by the Somali government's struggles to combat extremist groups linked to al-Qaida.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And still to come on the NewsHour tonight: trading in gas guzzlers; and testing for old ivory.

That follows our look at the Islamic insurgency in Africa. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew attention to that in Kenya today on the third day of her 11-day tour of the continent.

Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER: The secretary of state began her day with a solemn visit to Nairobi's Memorial Park. She placed a wreath at the site of one of the deadliest pre-9/11 al-Qaida strikes against the United States, the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

The attacks, which happened 11 years ago tomorrow, killed more than 220 people, mostly Africans, and wounded thousands more. Today, Secretary Clinton spoke of the ongoing struggle of the U.S. and its allies against the threat of terror around the globe.

HILLARY CLINTON, secretary of state: I appreciate greatly the commitment of the Kenyan government to partner with us and other nations and peoples around the world against the continuing threat of terrorism which respects no boundaries, no race, ethnicity, religion.

MARGARET WARNER: Then Secretary Clinton turned her focus to Somalia, the place the U.S. believes now poses the greatest terror threat in all of sub- Saharan Africa. She met with the country's interim president, Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in Nairobi and pledged more U.S. support and military aid for his government's battle against militants.

HILLARY CLINTON: We believe that his government is the best hope we've had in quite some time for a return to stability and the possibility of progress in Somalia.

MARGARET WARNER: Somalia has been wracked by violence among warring factions for more than two decades. But in recent years, the trouble's been fueled by an indigenous group of Islamic militants known as Al-Shabaab. It's believed to be loosely linked to al-Qaida.

Its fighters have been battling block to block in the capital of Mogadishu to oust the president, who took office in January. Clinton said today the threat posed by Al-Shabaab extends beyond Somalia's borders.


Threats to the United States
HILLARY CLINTON: Al-Shabaab wants to obtain control over Somalia, to use it as a base from which to influence and even infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks against countries far and near. If Al-Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia, which could then attract al-Qaida and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States.

MARGARET WARNER: In fact, the group was linked to a foiled terror plot in Australia earlier this week.

In Somalia itself, the general lawlessness has also spawned another threat against U.S. interests: piracy in the waters off the East African coast.

The secretary flew to South Africa tonight, the second stop in her seven-country African tour.

For more on the instability in Somalia and the implications for the United States, we turn to Tristan McConnell, a correspondent for the international Internet news site Global Post.

Tristan, welcome. Secretary Clinton had some very stark warnings today about the danger posed by this group, Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Now, there are a lot of militant Islamic groups in the world. What is it about Somalia that makes it of such concern?

TRISTAN MCCONNELL, Global Post: I think the thing that's so concerning about Al-Shabaab in Somalia is that Somalia is the world's pre-eminent failed state. There's been no functioning government there for 18 years now. It is the perfect example of the ungoverned space, the kind of place where al-Qaida and other groups like to develop themselves.

Al-Shabaab itself is an Islamist extremist organization that's fighting the United Nations and Western-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in Mogadishu.

But they themselves have on occasion professed allegiance to al-Qaida, and al-Qaida lieutenants have claimed Al-Shabaab for themselves. So Washington is very concerned about the links there and particularly concerned that this might become a kind of haven for worldwide jihadists.


Danger of an ungoverned nation
MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, they are really most concerned about the prospect of an Afghanistan scenario, a pre-9/11 Afghanistan scenario?

TRISTAN MCCONNELL: I think that's exactly what they're concerned about. If you look at the national defense strategy from 2008, one of the key things that they were talking about there was ungoverned spaces. And Somalia is really the perfect example of this.

There is no functioning government there. There is a transitional federal government in Mogadishu, but it controls very small pockets. The force, if you like, that has control in Somalia is these Al-Shabaab extremists.

And, you know, they have professed an ideology of jihad, of Islamism. And, you know, we've seen with these arrests in Australia this week of people allegedly trained in Somalia, planning a terrorist attack in Australia, that they're spreading this jihadist ideology from Somalia outwards.

MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying that the government has so little control over the space inside Somalia that, in fact, Al-Shabaab and other groups can already set up terrorist training camps in the country?

TRISTAN MCCONNELL: Certainly, intelligence sources I've spoken to are concerned about this. You know, we've seen in some of the Al-Shabaab propaganda material that's online and elsewhere that they have been using foreign fighters from Pakistan, from the Swat Valley, guys coming in from America, from Britain, from elsewhere to train and, indeed, to bring training capabilities with them.

So the fear is that Somalia -- as I said, an ungoverned space -- is becoming a location for these jihadi trainers.


Clinton Reaffirms Commitment
MARGARET WARNER: Now, what does the U.S. support really consist of?

TRISTAN MCCONNELL: Well, what we heard from Hillary Clinton today was a reaffirmation of U.S. commitment to support the transitional federal government of President Sharif. Now, what that means, it means -- it basically means arms and it means aid.

Now, in June, the State Department admitted that it had sent in around 40 tons of arms and ammunition to the transitional federal government, and Hillary Clinton said they will continue to provide arms and ammunition, they will also help with training, but also there will be a humanitarian aid aspect.

Around 40 percent of Somalia's 10 million people are now in need of humanitarian aid. There's a drought which is affecting food production. Plus, of course, the ongoing civil war, which is causing terrible strife for people. Thousands have died. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. This is a real humanitarian crisis.

I mean, here in Kenya, where I am, there are around 300,000 Somali refugees living in squalid conditions in refugee camps in the north of the country. So this is a big humanitarian problem. It's also a big security problem. And what Hillary Clinton was saying was that the U.S. will do its best to support the transitional federal government in both these areas.

MARGARET WARNER: And I know you're not in Somalia -- you're in Nairobi -- but from what you understand, who has the momentum in at least the military conflict part of this struggle going on in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia?


Peacekeepers become more forceful
TRISTAN MCCONNELL: Well, since early May, Al-Shabaab has looked like it's had the upper hand, although, in the last few weeks, the African Union peacekeepers have been rather more forceful in their defense of the transitional federal government.

This is 4,300-odd-strong contingent of Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers who are there to supposedly keep the peace, but to defend the transitional federal government.

Now, what we've seen in the last few weeks is -- it's like pushing back on Al-Shabaab. And now we have a real stalemate situation in Mogadishu.

But if we look at the kind of control that President Sharif's government actually has, it's very limited, indeed. At the moment, they do have control of a town called Beledweyne near the Ethiopian border, but that wasn't the case a couple of weeks ago.

And in Mogadishu, they have a presidential palace. They have control of the airport, control of the seaport, and a handful of roads in between. But everything else in Mogadishu is really a fluctuating situation from day to day. And the transitional federal government really has very little control over its own territory.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, Tristan McConnell of Global Post, thank you so much.

TRISTAN MCCONNELL: No problem at all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Again to our Web site, newshour.pbs.org, you can watch a slideshow of photographs from Somalia and read more about the country's economic and political struggles.

From Somalia to South Africa, Clinton confronts competing demands

Clinton met with Somalia's president Thursday and traveled to Tshwane (Pretoria) Friday. She must work with a continent most united by a desire to appear independent from the US.

Just three days into her Africa tour, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is probably beginning to see what longtime travellers of Africa have known for years. The differences between Africa’s 47 countries (53 if you count the island nations) often are more profound than the similarities.

In Kenya, Ms. Clinton met with a government riddled with corruption and infighting, and discussed trade ties with African nations and the Islamist threat in Somalia. Clinton also briefly met with Somali transitional President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in Nairobi, telling the embattled leader that the US government would continue to provide financial and military support to the government’s fight against Islamist militias.

In South Africa, starting today, she will see a mainly first-world economy where the main issues are getting tough with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and meeting the needs of South Africa’s 6 million citizens living with HIV. In Angola and Nigeria, she will discuss how those county’s oil wealth can create wealthy functioning democracies, but in mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo, she will see how the fight for minerals has led to an almost-endless civil war that has killed perhaps 5 million in the past decade.

What exactly do these countries have in common, and what possibly could be the underpinnings of a new United States policy toward Africa?

The answer, for many African nations, is that they share a post-colonial suspicion of Western nations such as the US, and have very little interest in appearing to do America’s bidding, even if it is in their national interest.

Liberation leaders such as President Mugabe – no matter how despotic they became after liberation – have made a career out of defying the West, says Richard Cornwell, an independent political analyst in Tshwane (as Pretoria is now called). “There’s always been this attitude for political opponents of Mugabe to be labled as ‘lackeys of the West,’” says Mr. Cornwell, and that makes it difficult for African leaders such as President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Botswana’s President Ian Khamma to criticize Mugabe publicly.

The key, for visiting Western leaders, such as Clinton, is to discuss the common interests of South Africa and the US in a stable post-Mugabe Zimbabwe behind closed doors, and let Mr. Zuma work out the details on his own. “It is difficult for Western politicians, who have public pressures at home to deal with, to be seen to be doing nothing,” Cornwell says, “but when it comes to countries like Zimbabwe, the least to be seen to be done, the better.”

Ah, now there’s a challenge. While her husband jets home with two journalists freed from a North Korean prison, Clinton must appear to do nothing. Nice work if you can get it.

After meeting with the Somali president in Kenya, Clinton echoed his concerns, warning Eritrea against its reported support for Islamist militias such as Al Shabab, which is thought to share an ideology with Al Qaeda. “We are making it very clear to the Eritrean government that their support of Al Shabab is unacceptable as it amounts to interfering with the rights of the Somali people to elect their leaders,” Clinton told reporters. “We intend to take action if they don’t cease,” she added, without elaboration.

Clinton’s trip has had moments of rich African humor. One Kenyan man offered a dowry of 40 goats and 20 cows for the hand of Clinton’s daughter Chelsea. Clinton explained that her daughter is “her own person,” but promised, “I will convey this very kind offer.”

Dollarwise, American interests in South Africa have less to do with how to get tough on Zimbabwe and more to do with how to deal with HIV. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the US government gave nearly $590 million to help South Africa fund its own programs for education, prevention, and treatment. More than 500,000 South Africans received antiretroviral treatment medicines, and 1.8 million received other AIDS-related care and support through PEPFAR last year.

This is an area where the US government can make a massive difference, say aid workers such as Nancy Kachingwe of ActionAid.

“We have to be creative, even in cases like Zimbabwe, where the tragedy of political decline has run quite a long course now, we need to sit down and see how to deal with things, what works, and what needs to be done,” says Ms. Kachingwe, who had been a country representative in Zimbabwe and now heads ActionAid’s programs in South Africa. “The priority needs to be humanitarian needs, to keep children in schools, to keep people fed.”

Unlike their predecessors, President Thabo Mbeki and President George W. Bush, neither Zuma nor President Obama are particularly ideological, and are more likely to focus on what works, Kachingwe adds. “It is a chance for a new beginning.”

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Eritrea denies aiding Somali extremists, accuses US of exacerbating problems in Somalia

Eritrea brushed off a U.S threat of sanctions Friday and said Washington is exacerbating the conflict in neighboring Somalia by providing the country's government with tons of weapons and training.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday accused Eritrea, a tiny nation on the Red Sea, of aiding a Somali extremist group she says is trying to launch worldwide terrorist attacks from Somalia.

"That's totally untrue, baseless," Eritrea's information minister, Ali Abdu, told The Associated Press when asked if his country is arming Somalia's al-Shabab insurgent group, which has alleged ties to al-Qaida.

Eritrea has repeatedly denied it is supporting extremists in Somalia despite reports from U.N. investigators that document such arms shipments. But it has made clear its disdain for Somalia's transitional government, which is backed by the United Nations, the United States, the African Union and Eritrea's longtime enemy — Ethiopia.

Many experts believe Eritrea and Ethiopia are fighting a proxy war in Somalia, with Eritrea arming rebels who want to impose a strict version of sharia law across the country. Eritrea and Ethiopia have been feuding over their border since Eritrea gained independence in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.

Clinton warned Eritrea that it would face penalties if it continues to supply the group with arms and funding.

"It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support for al-Shabab," she said Thursday in Kenya, during a seven-nation tour of Africa this week. "We are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable. We intend to take action if they do not cease." She did not specify what kind of sanctions the administration might impose.

She also said the Obama administration would boost military supplies and other aid to the Somali government and an African peacekeeping force supporting it. Although Clinton did not discuss the new assistance, other U.S. officials have said the administration plans to double an initial 40 tons of arms sent to Somalia through other African nations.

Abdu denounced the program and said Somalis should "decide their own destiny and future."

"You can't solve the Somali issue by sending weapons, and I'm sure the 40 tons of weapons will produce only hatred," Abdu said in a telephone interview from Asmara, the Eritrean capital.

U.S. involvement in Somalia is a sensitive subject because of the 1992-94 American military intervention that began as a humanitarian mission to deliver aid supplies to Somalia.

That ended in a humiliating withdrawal months after the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in which two U.S. helicopters were downed and 18 servicemen killed.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy.

Somali insurgents control much of Somalia, with rebel fighters operating openly in the capital in their quest to implement a strict form of Islam in the country.

Government troops and African Union peacekeepers only hold a few blocks of Mogadishu, but they still control key government buildings as well as the port and airport, allowing them to receive arms shipments.

Source: The Associated Press

The owner of Amana Travel Accused of Stranding Travelers

Imagine going to the airport for an international trip, only to find your airline tickets don’t exist. Police are warning people about a Minneapolis travel agency that is accused of swindling perhaps dozens of people.
Nearly $1,800 later, Abdi Dualeh’s ailing mother in Kenya is still waiting to see him. He says he went to the airport four times, only to find no tickets existed.

Since Dualeh, more alleged victims have come forward, saying Amana Travel and Shipping in south Minneapolis never followed through.

Another victim tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS his uncle is out $4,800 and has not yet called police.

Police say seven cases have been reported, but they believe there may be more victims.

The owner of Amana Travel, Ali Mohamud, tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS over the phone that it’s all just a ‘misunderstanding’ and that reporting the story will destroy his business. He has not been arrested or charged. However, he wouldn’t meet with our reporters or police officers.

The Minneapolis Police Department is asking victims to call 311 in Minneapolis or (612) 673-2941.

In a Changing Somalia, Islamist Forces See Support Wane

Government Makes Cultural, Military Inroads as Rebel Factions Quarre

After a decade of U.S. concern that Somalia could become a base for terrorists bent on launching attacks across the region, many analysts say that al-Qaeda's Somali sympathizers are at their weakest, and perhaps also at their most dangerous, point in years.

According to Somali analysts, U.S. officials and others, the country's Islamist rebels, known as al-Shabab, are becoming more divided and unpopular across this war-weary and traditionally moderate Muslim country -- a development that makes the group more vulnerable but that is also driving some factions to embrace the most extreme leaders linked with al-Qaeda.

A recent move by the group to purge members deemed "impure" Muslims -- including the beheading of seven militiamen last month -- and other brutal actions are signs, some say, of the Shabab's growing desperation.

"What we have seen over the last few months is that many things have weakened them significantly," said a U.S. government analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "There are splits in their organization. The level of support they had among Somalis is no longer there. More and more, they are on their own."

In a meeting with Somali President Sharif Ahmed in Nairobi on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated long-standing U.S. concerns about Somalia but also called Ahmed's government "the best hope we've had in quite some time for a return to stability" in the volatile nation in the Horn of Africa. The United States recently shipped 40 tons of ammunition to boost the fragile interim government's fight against the rebels, and Clinton pledged Thursday to expand that assistance.

Rebels still hold vastly more territory than does the government led by Ahmed, a moderate Islamist now doing battle against them. The Shabab controls most of southern Somalia and half of the capital, Mogadishu, and it has made territorial gains to the north in recent months. A suicide bomber recently killed Somalia's security minister, a charismatic figure who had been crucial to the government's campaign. The rebels have also been bolstered by an influx of hundreds of fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Britain, the United States and other countries.

At the same time, the Shabab -- whose rank and file are mostly young men who grew up in a chaotic society without much hope of a future independent of the AK-47 -- is increasingly bereft of causes that once rallied many Somalis.

Though Somalis are traditionally pragmatic, moderate Muslims, the Shabab became popular when it helped defeat a group of hated warlords as the military wing of a movement that deployed Islamic law to restore some order in Mogadishu. After a U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion ousted that movement in 2006, the Shabab rallied followers against the occupiers and the secular government they installed.

But times have changed. The Ethiopians withdrew this year. Ahmed, who is popular in southern Somalia, took power, and his government has gathered international support. In addition, about 4,000 African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu are quietly taking a more active role against the rebels, the U.S. analyst said.

And in a move that robbed the Shabab of perhaps its last cause, Ahmed's government has imposed Islamic law across the country.

"They're under siege politically and militarily," said Rashid Abdi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. "They're out of ideas. Now they're just moral police roaming the villages, terrorizing people."


In the areas they control, gangs of young rebels are erratically imposing their own notions of Islamic law. They have stoned to death a young rape victim, flogged women for dancing and lately have been walking the streets with pliers, removing gold and silver teeth from passersby.

"This is really against the national psyche, against the Somali culture," Abdi said. "Somali culture is esoteric, vibrant and diverse, and this puritanical idea is really foreign."

People are trying to leave some Shabab-controlled areas, prompting the rebels to post guards.

But the extremism is causing internal rifts, with some factions arguing, for instance, that locals should choose their own leaders rather than have them imposed upon the people.

The danger now, said Omar Ali Nor, a lawmaker, is that the more desperate the rebels become, the more they are driven to the most extreme al-Qaeda-linked leaders. Rather than pursuing a purely military approach, Nor and others say, Ahmed should attempt to pick off those Shabab factions that are having doubts.

"The Shabab no longer have a good relationship with the local community, and they are not unified," Nor said. "In my view, the government can exploit that."

Source: WashingtonPost

Secretary Clinton threatens to act if Eritrean aid to Somali rebels isn’t stopped

Clinton threatens Eritrea action

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the US will "take action" against Eritrea if it does not stop supporting militants in Somalia.

She said after talks with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, that Eritrea's actions were "unacceptable".

She also said the US would expand support for Somalia's unity government.

Eritrea denies supporting Somalia's al-Shabab militants, who are trying to overthrow Somalia's government.

Al-Shabab is growing in strength and 250,000 Somalis have fled their homes in fighting between militants and government forces over the past three months.

Wreath-laying

Mrs Clinton was holding the talks with the UN-backed Somali leader, a moderate Islamist, on the second day of her African tour.


“ Certainly if al-Shabab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract al-Qaeda and other terrorist actions, it would be a threat to the United States ”
Hillary Clinton US secretary of state

At a joint news conference with him after the meeting, she said: "It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support of al-Shabab and to start being a productive rather than a destabilising neighbour.

"We are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable. We intend to take action if they do not cease."

She added: "There is also no doubt that al-Shabab wants to obtain control of Somalia to use it as a base from which to influence and even infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks against countries far and near."

Mrs Clinton said if al-Shabab obtained a haven in Somalia "it would be a threat to the United States".

The US has ruled out sending its forces to fight insurgents in Somalia.

But the AFP news agency quoted a state department official as saying on Thursday that the US supply of arms and ammunition to Somalia would be doubled from 40 tonnes to 80.

Eritrean officials have repeatedly denied supporting al-Shabab, calling the allegations a "fabrication" of US intelligence.

Several Somali Islamist groups operated from Eritrea after being ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, when Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in 2006.

Before the talks on Thursday, Mrs Clinton honoured the victims of the August 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in a wreath-laying ceremony in Nairobi.

More than 220 people were killed and 5,000 injured in the first major attack by al-Qaeda on US targets.

AP news agency quoted her as saying that the embassy site was a reminder of "the continuing threat of terrorism, which respects no boundaries, no race, ethnicity or religion, but is aimed at disrupting and denying the opportunity of people to make their own decisions and to lead their own lives".


There are reports that al-Shabab - the Somali Islamist group which favours strict Islamic law and is accused of links to al-Qaeda - is gaining support from militants around the world.

Earlier this week, police in Australia arrested several men, charging them with planning suicide attacks on a base in Sydney and saying they were linked to al-Shabab.

The BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says President Ahmed needs all the support he can get. Pro-government forces are only in control of a small section of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Our correspondent points out it is far too dangerous for the American secretary of state to venture into Somalia, as the fighting continues.

Kenya violence

Somalia's foreign minister told the BBC's Network Africa programme that Washington's support for his government was a "golden opportunity".

"It is absolutely clear that the people of Somalia are tired... sick and tired of war, sick and tired of chaos," he said.


The US admits it has supplied pro-government forces in Somalia with over 40 tonnes of weapons and ammunition this year, and another delivery of weapons is predicted, says our correspondent.

But there are growing fears that the Horn of Africa country - which has been without an effective central government since 1991 - risks becoming a haven for terrorists.

On Wednesday, Mrs Clinton held talks in Nairobi with Kenya's president and prime minister.

America's top diplomat described as "disappointing" Kenya's failure to investigate a bout of violence that left at least 1,300 people dead after the disputed December 2007 presidential election.

Addressing African leaders at Wednesday's economic summit, Mrs Clinton said the continent had "enormous potential for progress".

But she stressed that harnessing that potential would require democracy and good governance.

During her 11-day trip Mrs Clinton will also visit South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cape Verde.

Story from BBC NEWS:

A Somali Surprise?

U.S. officials are worried about the chaos radiating from the Horn of Africa. But how concerned should we be?

In a speech closely watched in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, John O. Brennan, said Thursday that al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups around the world are "under tremendous pressure" from "years of U.S. counterterrorism operations" in cooperation with other countries.

"[Al Qaeda] is being forced to work harder and harder to raise money, to move its operatives around the world, and to plan attacks," he said, though it remains intent on attacking the United States and its allies.

Brennan's talk came just after Hillary Clinton concluded a meeting with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in Kenya, where the secretary of state pointedly warned Eritrea to stop supporting militant groups in neighboring Somalia, an increasingly lawless country that foreign-policy experts are viewing with growing concern.

Brennan, a gruff, flint-eyed former senior CIA official with 25 years of government service, spoke with the clipped diction of a U.S. official. He pronounced the names of "al Qaeda" and "Hezbollah" with a noticeable Arabic lilt, underscoring his years of experience in dealing with the Middle East as a State Department political officer in Saudi Arabia, a top regional analyst, and later a CIA station chief.

Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton administration, said the likely motive of the speech was to "establish the president's identity on this issue" and rebut criticism from Republicans that Obama is "soft on terror."

U.S. terrorism experts agree that al Qaeda has suffered setbacks, at least in some parts of the world. Peter Bergen, a CNN analyst and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, said the "net effect of the drone attacks" along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, for instance, "has been devastating to their planning and training." Polling data also show a loss of public support for al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, Bergen said. "But even if a small percentage of people think that Osama's a great guy, that's still a lot of people" in a country of 170 million. He also pointed to recent al Qaeda activity in Yemen.

Then there's Somalia, a country that has only become more chaotic since FP contributor Jeffrey Gettleman dubbed it "the most dangerous place in the world" back in March. Several analysts mentioned the recent involvement of Somali expatriates from Minneapolis in fighting in Somalia and, allegedly, in Australia -- where five men stand accused of plotting a suicide attack on an army barracks -- as a worrisome trend. Some 200,000 ethnic Somalis live in the United States today, many of them relatively recent migrants.

According to Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, al Qaeda is strengthening its hold on Somalia, as well as Yemen and Algeria, where affiliated militant groups have deep local roots. Al Qaeda operatives are "shifting to Somalia because of the newfound opportunities there," he said, and because al-Shabab, the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group that controls much of the country, is consolidating its power.

American officials are also worried. Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in April that the U.S. government was "very concerned about the threats that they pose to U.S. facilities in the region, in the Horn of Africa, and potentially to the U.S. homeland," referring to al Qaeda and al-Shabab. "We have seen a very, very small percentage ... of individuals of Somali descent and some who are not of Somali descent who will have come to identify with extremists in Somalia," he said.

Brennan, outlining today what he described as "the contours of a new strategic approach -- a new way of seeing this challenge and a new way of confronting it in a more comprehensive manner," sought to contrast Obama's approach to terrorism with that of his predecessor. "Like the world itself, his views are nuanced, not simplistic; practical, not ideological," he said of the president.

Brennan's remarks, delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a centrist think tank in Washington, were the fullest articulation of the Obama administration's counterterrorism strategy to date. In an interview with the Washington Post prior to the speech, Brennan said the United States was not engaged in a "war on terror," and in today's address, he explained his reasoning further.

"Portraying this as a 'global' war risks reinforcing the very image that al Qaeda seeks to project of itself -- that it is a highly organized, global entity capable of replacing sovereign nations with a global caliphate," he said. "And nothing could be further from the truth."

Hoffman agreed that "the ‘war on terrorism' has outlived its usefulness, even if it was appropriate in the immediate aftermath of 9/11," and become "more of a liability than an asset."

Terrorism analysts said there was nonetheless a great deal of continuity between the Obama administration's policies and that of the Bush administration. "It took the Bush administration 7 years out of 8 to put together a coherent strategy," Simon said, "but having waited 7 years to do this, the Bush administration essentially forfeited any of its ability to carry any of it out."

"For people like al Qaeda, it doesn't matter if Obama or Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush is in office," Bergen said. "Their laundry list is so long that no American president could satisfy them."

Brennan's remarks were also noteworthy for what they didn't say: much on Somalia. In the question-and-answer session after his prepared talk, Brennan said that "Somalia's a good case in point in terms of not looking at an issue only through the counterterrorism prism" and that the United States needed a "more comprehensive approach" toward the Horn of Africa. "Sometimes in these places young Somalis or others will join up with terrorist groups because it gives them an opportunity to have three square meals a day," he said, and the United States needs to get better at providing alternative livelihoods. But he indicated that U.S. policy on the region was still in a formative stage.

"It's a little unfair to suggest that we were only looking at Somalia through a counterterrorism lens," said Juan Zarate, who was deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2005 to 2009 in the Bush administration, pointing to efforts made, especially from 2005 or so onward, to take a more comprehensive approach to fighting terrorism. "He's right, it needs to be looked at more broadly," Zarate said of Brennan's comments. "The problem is there are no easy answers" to a country like Somalia.

Zarate also said there was less new than was advertised in the new administration's approach to terrorism. For instance, Obama has continued to use the word "war" to describe his strategy toward al Qaeda -- if not toward "terrorism" in general. "We are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates," the president said in his speech at the National Archives in May.

Ken Menkhaus, a political scientist at Davidson College in North Carolina and an expert on the Horn of Africa, said that the Obama administration was "trying to take a more diplomatic approach" to Somalia. Menkhaus sees Clinton's meeting with the Somali president as a "huge boost" to his embattled government and "a sign that the U.S. intends to fully back it." But he said he was looking for signs that the Obama administration would go beyond arms shipments and allow Sheikh Sharif's government to reach out to "Islamic rejectionists."

As for the dangers of Somali radicalization in the United States, Simon thinks they are manageable. "And I think there are people trying to manage it," in the U.S. government. "It's not something that's going to sneak up on people."

The Australia case may be different. "If there is evidence Shabab leadership sent them back to conduct a suicide attack, then that is truly a game changer, and the Shabab automatically qualifies for membership in the 'incredibly stupid Somali political movements since 1990'" group, Menkhaus said. "But we have to wait for the details of the case to come out."

Might al-Shabab decide to take over Mogadishu in the wake of Clinton's comments, to embarrass the United States? "They'll do it when they feel they're strong enough," Simon said.

Source: FP

Somalia: Islamists Denounce TFG for Planning to Take Over Part of the Region

The Islamic Council of Amal has held a pres conference in the Somali capital Mogadishu and denounced the transitional government for planning to take over the parts of the regions in the country, official said on Thursday.

Sheik Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal, the chairman of the Islamic Council of Amal said in the press conference that the transitional government is struggling to take over parts of the regions in Somalia as Bay and Mogadishu by using Ethiopian and AMISOM troops.

He said that there are talks between the TFG officials for working how they would handle the control of most of southern Somalia by using other ability.

The chairman said that Ethiopian government wants to form regional administrations in Somalia to use its interests pointing out that it had appointed that post for to General Gabra who was one of the officials of the Ethiopian troops who invaded in Somalia in 2006.

On other hand Sheik Bilal talked on the meeting between the transitional president Sharif Sheik Ahmed and US secretary state Hilary Clinton which is supposed told be held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi saying that it is not so different from the other previous meeting which the Americans had with the government officials.

Lastly Sheik Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal said that they had prepared committees to contact with the Somali community in abroad to help the displaced Somalis in out of the capital for sake of the Holy Ramadan month which is ahead and also very respectful month for the Muslims in the world.

Source: AllAfrica

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Clinton Offers Assurances to Somali Government

Sarah Elliott/European Pressphoto Agency

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with the president of Somalia's transitional government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, during a news conference on Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with the new president of Somalia’s transitional government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, for more than an hour on Thursday, expressing support for his fragile administration and warning Eritrea against supporting militants in the country.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Sheikh Sharif, Mrs. Clinton said that his government “is the best hope we’ve had for some time,” and she reiterated the United States’ commitment to helping arm and train the government’s fledgling security services.Sheikh Sharif can use the help. His moderate Islamist government controls no more than a few city blocks in a country the size of California, with extremist Islamist groups, like the Shabab, which Washington calls a proxy for Al Qaeda, in charge of much of the rest.

Mrs. Clinton said that the battle for Somalia, which has been the lawless home to Islamist extremists, terrorists, gun runners, drug smugglers, teenage gunmen and even pirates for the past 18 years, is deeply connected to American interests.

“No doubt that Al Shabab wants to obtain control over Somalia and use it as a base to influence and infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks against countries far and near,” she said. “If Al Shabab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract Al Qaeda and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States.”

She warned of unspecified consequences for Eritrea if it continued what she said was its support for Al Shabab and its efforts to destabilize Somalia. “It’s long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support for Al Shabab,” she said. “We intend to take action if they do not cease.”

This is not the first time the United States has issued either the accusations or the warnings. In recent years, the Bush administration singled out Eritrea as a state sponsor of terrorism, and last week the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, threatened sanctions against the country if it did not cease its support of the militants.

Eritrea has long denied any involvement in Somalia.

Before leaving Kenya, the first stop on a seven-nation tour that will take her to South Africa, Angola, Congo and Nigeria, Mrs. Clinton visited the site where the American Embassy to Kenya was destroyed by Al Qaeda in 1998. The attack leveled several buildings in downtown Nairobi, killing more than 200 people and wounding thousands, mostly impoverished Kenyans. Many people were blinded by flying glass.

Mrs. Clinton quietly laid a wreath at the foot of a plaque commemorating the people killed that day, and she told a group of Kenyan survivors, including an old blind man leaning on a cane, “We will continue to work with you.” Many victims have complained that the United States abandoned them after the attack and have been pleading for the American government to give them compensation money.

One little boy stood next to Mrs. Clinton for most of her visit to the bomb site. His name was Michael Macharia, and both his parents were working in the same building that day and were killed together when the bomb exploded. Mrs. Clinton said that Michael, who is being raised by his grandparents and is now 14, was doing excellently in school and that she would tell President Obama about “his incredible character.”

Michael bowed his head bashfully, and later, when asked how it felt to be recognized by the American secretary of state, said, “It’s good.”

Mrs. Clinton, seeming to grow increasingly frustrated with Kenya’s leaders, toughened her message on Thursday, saying that if the Kenyan government refused to set up a tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators of last year’s election-driven bloodshed, the International Criminal Court at the Hague would get involved.

“I have urged that the Kenyan government find the way forward themselves,” she said. “But if not, then the names turned over to the I.C.C. will be opened, and an investigation will begin.”

In July the former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, handed a sealed envelope with a list of prime suspects to the International Criminal Court. The court has also recently threatened to intervene if Kenyan leaders decide to continue the country’s stubborn history of impunity.

The American government and Kenyan human rights groups have been pressing Kenya’s leaders to establish a local tribunal, but several of the top suspects are widely believed to be high-ranking ministers who have blocked any effort that might lead to their own prosecution.

Mrs. Clinton, who said she was carrying a message directly from President Obama — “the son of Kenya,” in her words — added, “If there’s not going to be a special local tribunal that has the confidence of the people, then the people deserve to know that there is some process to hold people accountable.”

More than 1,000 people were killed around the country when the disputed December 2007 presidential election set off a wave of ethnic and political fighting. Initially, much of the violence seemed like spontaneous outrage vented along ethnic lines, though later it became evident that it had been at least partly organized by local leaders and village elders, and possibly by higher authorities.

The United States is not a signatory to the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, the first permanent institution authorized to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. While former President Bill Clinton supported joining the court, former President George W. Bush opposed it, out of concern that Americans could face politically motivated prosecutions.

But Mrs. Clinton suggested that could change in the future.

It is, she told a public forum at the University of Nairobi, “a great regret, but it is a fact that we are not yet a signatory. But we have supported the court and continue to do so.”

Source: nytimes

Clinton vows U.S. help in war on al Qaeda in Somalia

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Thursday with Somalia's new president, whose government is waging a bloody battle against an Islamic insurgency -- with some help from the United States.

Top diplomat Hillary Clinton speaks at the African Growth and Opportunity conference in Nairobi Thursday.

She vowed to continue U.S. support for the government of Somalia's transitional president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

"The United States and the international community must serve as an active partner in helping the TFG [transitional federal government] and the people of Somalia confront and ultimately move beyond the conflict and poverty that have gripped their country," Clinton said at a joint news conference with Ahmed at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

The United States announced in June that it is providing weapons and ammunition to Ahmed's government as it fights al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants, including Al-Shabaab, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States.

The weapons shipments are in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, which ban some arms shipments to Somalia, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

The United States is concerned that Somalia's weak government could fall to the Islamist insurgency, as it did in 2006 before Ethiopian forces ousted the militants from power later that year.

"I think terrorists anywhere are threats to people everywhere," Clinton said Thursday. "Certainly if Al-Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract al Qaeda and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States."

Clinton's Trip
Nations that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit in Africa:

Kenya
South Africa
Angola
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nigeria
Liberia
Cape Verde
The FBI is investigating what appears to be a massive recruiting effort by Al-Shabaab in immigrant communities in the United States.

More than a dozen young men of Somali descent have disappeared from the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area in recent months. At least three of them have been killed in Somalia -- including a suicide bomber.

Also, Australia recently announced the arrests of four men with ties to Al-Shabaab who were suspected of planning a suicide attack on a military base in the southern state of Victoria.

President Ahmed is a former member of the Islamic Courts Union, which took part in the 2006 coup. His decision to renounce the bloody insurgency and try to establish peace in Somalia has put him at odds with Islamist hard-liners who are still battling for control of Somalia.

It also paved the way for his election to the president of Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government in January.

Concerns are growing that Somalia could be the next base for al Qaeda as U.S. forces pound their positions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CIA Director Leon Panetta recently said that the intelligence agency is keeping tabs on the region as a possible destination for fleeing al Qaeda operatives.

"Our concern right now is that likely safe havens are areas in the Horn of Africa, like Somalia and Yemen, that are countries that because of their political status, can be attractive to al Qaeda in order to operate there," Panetta said in June.

"We are focusing on those countries as well in order to ensure that there is no safe haven for al Qaeda as we continue to pressure them, continue to push them, and hopefully continue to make the effort to destroy them, not only in Pakistan but throughout the rest of the world."

Somalia is not new territory for al Qaeda, according to CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

"Al Qaeda was running training camps in Somalia in the early and mid-1990s," he said. "If this is now coming back, this is something that al Qaeda has already done and it's worrisome for the future. ...

"The fact that we're seeing evidence of this already happening in both Yemen and Somalia suggests that -- A -- the drone program in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been effective, but -- B -- you know it's pushing al Qaeda into areas where they'll build up larger operations."

Residents and journalists in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, have reported seeing foreign fighters among Al-Shabaab. Those foreign fighters have recently distributed recorded messages from al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden calling for the overthrow of the government.

Al-Shabaab, also known as the Mujahideen Youth Movement, is waging a war against Somalia's government to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia.

Somalia recently called on its neighbors to send military forces to help government troops stop hardline Islamist militants from taking over. The call for help came after a third top politician was killed in the ongoing fighting.

The deaths include Mogadishu's police chief and Somalia's internal security minister, who was killed in a suicide car bombing in the central city of Beledweyne.

A Pakistani militant who is a high-ranking official in al Qaeda is leading the fight against Somalia's government, said Sheikh Adan Madowe, Somalia's parliament speaker.

He and other Somali officials have warned that militants will spread fighting into the rest of the region if they topple the government in Somalia.

"Al-Shabaab is a threat to the whole world," Somali Information Minister Farahan Ali Mohamoud told CNN. "First to Somalia, to the neighborhood, and to everywhere they have disagreed with."

Source: CNN

Somalis fearing arrests backlash

Police are working with Melbourne's Somali leaders as anger and frustration grow in the wake of the arrest of five men alleged to have been plotting a suicide attack on a Sydney Army base.

Three of the five men are of Somali extraction, and the remaining two Lebanese. All are Australian citizens.

Nayef El Sayed, 25, Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 33, Abdirahman Ahmed, 25, Yacqub Khayre, 21, and Saney Edow Aweys, 26, have been remanded in custody until October 26 on charges of conspiring to plan an attack on Holsworthy Barracks. Ahmed has also been charged with breaching the Foreign Incursions and Recruitment Act, and engaging in a hostile act in a foreign country.

The Somali community has condemned terrorism and supported the police investigations, but told federal and Victorian police at a meeting with community and religious leaders that they were concerned at the way early-morning raids on Tuesday had been carried out and reported.

They also said they feared a backlash as intensive coverage of the alleged plan to attack Holsworthy with automatic weapons continued to focus on the discovery of violent Islamic extremism at the fringes of the 11,000-member community.


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The Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam, issued a statement attacking any form of terrorist activity on Australian soil, "vehemently" discouraging violence, and fully supporting the police.

Mohamed Baaruud, of Sydney's Somali Advocacy and Action Group, told ABC radio that the community had been unaware of any extremists in its midst or of any local links to the al-Shabaab terror organisation.

Police claim that members of the alleged Melbourne cell had trained with al-Shabaab in Somalia, including one who had acted as a "facilitator" for young Australian men wanting to fight in the war the group is waging for control of the African nation.

"The Somali people are very peace-loving people," Baaruud said. "The last thing they want to see is any problem happening here in Australia. Somali people ran away from conflict and fighting ."

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland of the Victorian police said it was important to keep the arrests in perspective and not overreact, as the best way to counter the attraction of radical Islam was to ensure young migrant men were welcomed into the broader community. "We must not get to a point where we blame the Somali community or we blame the broader Islamic community, because that actually works against what we're trying to achieve here."

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland told ABC radio that in the past few weeks he, the Victorian police and other agencies had discussed in detail plans to counter radicalisation of Somali youths.

"The evidence was ... that a number of Somali youths come out here, literally without any family [with] no support networks around them, no role models. The police have a very sophisticated programme to look at what they can do to build some support structures around those young men."

But McClelland, who will release a new white paper on counter-terrorism by the end of the year, is uncertain if the Government will move to place al-Shabaab on its list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

He also said he wanted to develop a new protocol for the coverage of operations such as Tuesday's raids across Melbourne after news reports in the Australian that police allege appeared before the raids had started.

The Australian claims it adhered to an agreement struck earlier with the federal police and that editions with the story were held back until the operation was under way. But Overland said the reports had risked the success of the operation and the safety of his officers, and McClelland described his dealings with the newspaper - including the possibility of an injunction - as a "nightmare".


The Australian's News Ltd stablemate, Sydney's tabloid Daily Telegraph has further angered the Government after a reporter and a photographer were arrested and charged for entering Holsworthy and taking photographs. Security at the base has been criticised because of the use of unarmed civilian guards, and a review is now under way. The newspaper's team only had to show driving licences to gain entry.

Source: www.nzherald.co.nz

UNHCR chief urges world to help Somali refugees

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres has put a spotlight on the "dramatic" Somali refugee crisis and called on the international community for more help.

Guterres, who visited a sprawling, overcrowded camp complex in northeast Kenya, also described the refugee camp as "the most difficult camp situation in the world."

"Together with the Kenyan people and the Kenyan authorities, weare facing one of the most dramatic refuge crises of the recent past in Dadaab, in a semi-arid area far from everything. We have nearly 300,000 refugees and thousands more coming in each month," he said according to a UNHCR news release received here Thursday.

Located some 90 kilometres from the border with Somalia, the three camps at Dadaab were built to house some 90,000 people. Today, they are home to more than three times that number, mostly Somalis.

The long-term refugee population urgently needs improved infrastructure in one of the world's oldest refugee camps, including water distribution networks, and expanded services such as health and education. It also needs more room for expansion.

Guterres, who is on an official three-day visit to Kenya announced that UNHCR would provide an additional 20 million U.S. dollars this year to meet the needs of refugees and the host community.

He also called for a massive injection of funds from the donor community to help the refugees and the local people.

"We count on the cooperation of the Kenyan government and the solidarity of the international community to make this possible and to mitigate the high price paid by the host community whose resources are being rapidly depleted."

As the violence continues in Somalia, some 6,500 new arrivals flood to the camps each month, putting a further strain on the overstretched resources.

Only a third of the new arrivals have been provided with land to erect a shelter, the rest have been forced to stay with friends and family.

During his visit on Tuesday, the High Commissioner watched UNHCR and Kenyan government officials conduct a joint verification exercise for long-term refugees aimed at updating the number of people in the camp.

He visited the hospital in Hagadera camp and spoke to teachers and parents at a secondary school run by the local community. He also met with representatives of the refugee and host communities.

During his day-long visit, Guterres highlighted UNHCR's priority areas. He called for urgent improvements in conditions in the camps by putting more resources into water, sanitation, health, nutrition and shelter.

He also said UNHCR would relocate some of the refugees to Kakuma, a camp near Kenya's north-west border with Sudan. At the same time, he stated that extra land was needed to develop a new camp south of Dadaab.

The High Commissioner stressed the need to do more to support the local community, which has been adversely affected by hosting large numbers of refugees for extended periods.

UNHCR will spend 10 million dollars on community projects to improve the environment, such as reforestation, and on providing water, health and education services for local people.

Other UN agencies will also be involved in working to improve conditions of the local community. "I feel it is a moral obligation to both the refugees and the host community to implement these priorities," Guterres said.

The latest arrivals included 19-year-old Adnan Amir Haji, who fled from his home in Hawl Wadaag, north-west Mogadishu, after a shell hit his home while he was out, killing his entire family.

"I came home and saw the bodies of my family in the rubble. I will never get that image out of my head. I took a bus and then walked for two days to get here but I don't feel safe anywhere, not even here," he said.

The High Commissioner spoke to several refugees including Zainab Mohamed Hassan, a mother of four, who fled from central Somalia in 1992.

"Unless there is peace in Somalia, we will lose hope of ever returning back home," she told the UNHCR chief.

Source: Xinhua

War is Boring: Somaliland Advocate Vies for World Focus


There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s when Somali clans across East Africa imagined a "pan-Somalia" encompassing former British, Italian and French colonies, in addition to portions of eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The former British and Italian colonies -- Somaliland in the north, and the southern U.N. Trust Territory of Somalia, respectively -- had taken a tentative first step towards realizing this greater Somali state, when they merged in 1960 to form the Republic of Somalia.

But the greater union was not to be. The former French colony declared independence, as Djibouti, and Ethiopia and Kenya each held onto their Somali regions. The Republic of Somalia began to fracture in the late 1980s, following decades of clan favoritism and repression under dictator Siad Barre. In 1991, the Somali National Movement (SNM), founded in 1981 to resist Barre's regime, ejected the last of Barre's troops from northern Somalia, and Somaliland declared its independence.

Nearly two decades later, Somaliland, population 3.5 million, is a rare bright spot on the Horn of Africa's political landscape. The country is at peace and growing economically, in stark contrast to the south, where Islamic extremists and clan factions continue to wage brutal civil warfare. Despite its successes, Somaliland has never been officially recognized by other nations or by world bodies such as the African Union and U.N. "Many Western countries are blindly parroting the A.U. dictum that Africa's post-colonial borders are sacrosanct," explained Ahmed Egal, a founding member of the SNM.

Egal says it's time for the world to embrace Somaliland, and consider the country a base for addressing instability in the south. Egal, who now lives in Saudi Arabia, detailed his proposals by e-mail to World Politics Review. "It is necessary to embrace the only peaceful, functioning, Muslim, representative government in the Horn of Africa, namely Somaliland," Egal wrote.

Egal's proposal comes as the latest "Transitional Federal Government" in Mogadishu faces heightened pressure from an alliance of extremist Islamic groups. The TFG is recognized by the U.S., the U.N. and the A.U. as the legitimate government of Somalia, Somaliland and the autonomous region of Puntland. But in reality, the TFG controls only a few neighborhoods in Mogadishu and depends heavily on foreign military assistance for its survival. The TFG "is being relentlessly attacked by a coalition of Islamist transnational extremists and Islamist nationalists determined to topple the government," an anonymous East Africa correspondent wrote in the July issue of Sentinel (.pdf), a counterterrorism journal based at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

To prevent the takeover of Somalia by Islamic extremists, the world should start by shifting its backing from the TFG to Somaliland, Egal recommended. "The newly recognized country of Somaliland should be tasked by the international community with training and re-establishing the Somali national army. In addition, a new A.U. military mission for Somalia comprised principally of Somaliland forces with logistical support, special forces training and equipment provision by the U.S., Russia and the EU should be established and dispatched urgently to Somalia with offensive mission approval and the explicit aim to secure the country and defeat the terrorists."

Subsequently, "Somalia should be placed under U.N. trusteeship until a freely and democratically elected government is chosen by its people," Egal advised.

Egal's recommendations are controversial, especially in light of Washington's sustained commitment to the TFG and to the peace process -- anchored by talks in Djibouti -- that underpins the TFG's legitimacy. But Egal's proposal for a new process, based in Somaliland, does have some historical precedent. Egal explained that Somaliland's success is rooted in its commitment to truly democratic, grass-roots governance. "The traditional cultural, political and social structures remained paramount and were able to trump the political and military leadership of the liberation movement."

In the wake of the SNM's battlefield victories in 1991, "the elders of the various clans stepped in and convened a grand conference in Borama to establish a constitutional structure and effective civilian administration that was accepted by all the communities, and to which they freely and voluntarily granted their fealty."

"The Borama conference is an amazing example of indigenous, grass-roots, African nation building and democratic constitutionalism that merits further academic study and research," Egal wrote. He said its example could guide a renewed effort at establishing popular government throughout Somalia.

"Since the late 1990s, Somaliland has advised time and again that the 'top-down' approach chosen by the international community -- establishing successive so-called governments for Somalia drawn from warlords, self-appointed 'civil society leaders' and their cohorts -- was an exercise in futility."

Many would agree about the futility of the world's current approach to resolving Somalia's 18-year conflict. But fewer would agree to Egal's proposal to build a new approach around Somaliland. The TFG's process is "as good as we're going to get at this time," a State Department source said.

David Axe is an independent correspondent, a World Politics Review contributing editor, and the author of "War Bots." He blogs at War is Boring. His WPR column, War is Boring, appears every Wednesday.

Photo: Girls wearing the colors of the Somaliland flag before elections, December 2005 (photo by flickr user F. Omer, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License).

Source: Worldpoliticsreview