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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SOMALIA: Conflict timeline from 2000

Somalia has had no functioning government since January 1991, when former President Siad Barre was ousted.

Since that time, fighting between Somali warlords, government forces and various alliances of Islamist insurgents has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Somalis and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

One of the boldest attempts to turn a new page in Somalia and end a famine was the US Restore Hope intervention in 1992, which however, ended in failure in October 1993.

In the north, the former British protectorate of Somaliland declared its independence from the rest of Somalia in May 1991, and in 1998 the northeastern region of Puntland declared itself an autonomous state. Both regions have remained largely peaceful.

Somalia timeline

2 May 2000: Djibouti initiative in Arta sets up Somali National Peace Conference, attended by at least 2,000.

26 August 2000: A 245-strong Transitional National Assembly, based on clan representation, elects Abdiqasim Salad Hasan as new president of Somalia.

27 August 2000: President Hassan sworn in at inauguration ceremony in Djibouti.

April 2001: The Somali Restoration and Reconciliation Council (SRRC), a grouping of southern factions opposed to the interim government, is formed in Ethiopia and announces its intention to form a rival national government within six months.

November-December 2001: Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi brings together the TNG and some members of the SRRC and other faction leaders who sign the Nakuru agreement to end conflict.

November 2001: USA freezes the funds of the main remittance bank - and the largest employer - al Barakaat, for suspected links with al-Qaeda.

May 2002: Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, president of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, dies in a South African hospital and is replaced by his vice-president, Dahir Riyale Kahin.

October 2002: Another reconciliation meeting, sponsored by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), opens in the Kenyan town of Eldoret.

January 2004: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, chairman of IGAD, brokers a deal, apparently resolves contentious issues.

22 August 2004: A 275-member transitional parliament is inaugurated.

15 September 2004: Shariff Hassan Sheikh Adan, a businessman, is elected Assembly speaker.

10 October 2004: Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, 71, elected interim president by the transitional parliament.

14 October 2004: Yusuf Ahmed is sworn in at a ceremony attended by several African heads of state in Nairobi.

3 November 2004: Yusuf appoints Ali Muhammad Gedi prime minister.

13 January 2005: Parliament approves Gedi's reconstituted, 90-member cabinet.

6 February 2005: Parliament speaker, leading some 60 legislators, returns to Mogadishu and is welcomed by cheering crowds.

9 February 2005: Gedi announces plans to start relocating from Nairobi to Mogadishu on 21 February.

24 February 2005: President Yusuf and Prime Minister Gedi begin a week-long tour of Somalia - the first time they have stepped on Somali soil since Yusuf's election in October 2004.

29 April 2005: Gedi flies to Mogadishu to meet MPs and ministers who insist the transitional government should be based in Mogadishu, and not Baidoa or Jowhar as proposed by the TFG.

18 February 2006 - A group of Mogadishu-based warlords, led by Mohamed Qanyare, form the Alliance for Peace and Fight Against International Terrorism and confront the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC); several days of bloody clashes ensue.

19-22 February 2006: Fighting forces thousands to flee Mogadishu, particularly the northern and southern suburbs.

February 2006: Transitional parliament meets on Somali soil for the first time - in the northwestern town of Baidoa.

March-May 2006: Hundreds killed and many more injured in Mogadishu during fierce fighting between UIC and warlords. It is the worst violence in almost a decade.

June 2006 - Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is named UIC chairman.

July 2006: UIC defeats warlords, who flee from Mogadishu; UIC quickly moves to other parts of south-central Somalia.

August 2006: Mogadishu airport re-opens for first time since 1995. UIC also re-opens Mogadishu port.

July-December 2006: A semblance of peace and stability returns to Mogadishu for the first in over 15 years.

December 2006: Ethiopian troops and TFG forces oust the UIC from Mogadishu and much of the south, capturing Mogadishu on 28 December. TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and his government enter Mogadishu for the first time since his election in 2004.

March 2007: The UIC and others opposed to the Ethiopian presence regroup and launch attacks on Ethiopian and government positions.

March 2007: First African Union peacekeeping troops (AMISOM: Ugandans and Burundians) arrive in Mogadishu.

April 2007: The fighting intensifies, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee Mogadishu - the biggest exodus the city has seen in 15 years. Hundreds are reported killed after several days of fierce clashes.

September 2007: UIC remnants and other opposition groups meet in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and form a new alliance, to fight the Ethiopians. The Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS), led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is formed.

October 2007: Prime Minster Gedi resigns, after falling out with President Yusuf.

November 2007: President Yusuf appoints Nur Hassan Hussein, also known as Nur Adde, as the new prime minister and immediately embarks on a process of reconciliation with the opposition.

November 2007: The number of Somali refugees hits one million, with nearly 200,000 fleeing Mogadishu in two weeks (UN).

June 2008: Government signs a three-month ceasefire with opposition ARS to halt fighting in Mogadishu. Part of the deal envisages Ethiopian troops leaving Somalia within 120 days, but the ceasefire is rejected by an ARS faction led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who vows to continue fighting until all foreign forces, including AMISOM leave Somalia.

December 2008 - President Abdullahi Yusuf tries to sack Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein over his attempts to draw the opposition into the government. Parliament declares the dismissal unconstitutional and passes a vote of confidence in Nur.

December 2008: Yusuf resigns and Speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe becomes acting-president.

January 2009: Ethiopian withdrawal completed. Al-Shabab militias take control of the southwestern town of Baidao, the former seat of the TFG, and capture senior government officials but later release them unharmed.

January 2009: ARS faction led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed reaches power-sharing deal with TFG in Djibouti. However, the deal is rejected by another faction led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. A new expanded parliament, including 275 MPs from the opposition ARS, is inaugurated in Djibouti.

January 2009: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is elected by parliament to replace Yusuf and the transitional period is extended for two more years.

13 February 2009: President Ahmed appoints Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, son of the former president, as the new prime minister.

February 2009: Sheikh Sharif returns to Mogadishu to a warm welcome.

May 2009 - Al-Shabab and Hisbul Islami Islamist insurgents launch a major attack on the government and quickly gain the upper hand as they attempt to overthrow the government.

June 2009: Nearly 170,000 displaced from Mogadishu by end June and, according to local human rights groups, 397 killed, and 1,738 injured since 7 May.

ah/cb

Source: IRIN

Publication finds niche among area’s immigrants and English-speaking readers

For the Somali community here, a lack of news in Somali and limited knowledge of English means many can feel cut off and isolated, said Faysal Mohamud, a quality assurance technician at Jennie-O Turkey Store.

For the Somali community here, a lack of news in Somali and limited knowledge of English means many can feel cut off and isolated, said Faysal Mohamud, a quality assurance technician at Jennie-O Turkey Store.

“There’s no radio in Somali,” he said, speaking of the stifling lack of information. “You hardly ever see a Somali pictured in the newspaper.”

Four months ago, Mohamud took the matter into his own hands. He began writing for La Gran América in his spare time, relaying information in Somali about pirates off the coast of East Africa, laws passed in Washington, or the actions of a Somali women’s organization in Willmar. The effect, he said, has been the creation of a small but essential lifeline for community members separated by thousands of miles from their home in East Africa.

“At least now, we have this paper,” he said.

Marian Sanchez started La Gran América nearly a year ago, dubbing it the “Bilingual Newspaper of Willmar.” Since the addition of Mohamud, it’s now trilingual — a bridge, she says, between Willmar’s Somali, Spanish and English speaking communities.

“It’s hard to reach them all, but it has brought a lot of positive reaction,” she said.

Covering the area for El Heraldo, the now defunct Spanish language version of the Sauk Centre Herald, Sanchez noted an absence of reliable information in Spanish for Willmar’s sizable Hispanic community.

While Spanish speakers could get national and international news from cable channels like Univision, when it came to local information, people were relying a lot on word of mouth, she said. Unsubstantiated rumors and gossip were commonplace.

After El Heraldo folded, she used money from savings and help from friends to establish La Gran América, and has put it out once a month since then. The local stories, focusing on issues ranging from a free meal program at Willmar public schools to the high school prom, are written by Sanchez and a small pool of volunteers. The writing is upheld to rigorous journalistic standards, said Sanchez.

“We highly investigate what we write,” she said.

Today, the paper can be found at businesses and public locations throughout the area.

Since its inception, the positive reaction from the community has been overwhelming, said Sanchez.

“Sometimes when we drop the paper off, people are waiting there for it,” she said.

Roberto Valdez, director of the Willmar Area Multicultural Market, has seen this interest firsthand. He has witnessed people from a wide variety of backgrounds pick up the newspaper.

He said that previous attempts to start Spanish language newspapers in the area had failed due to lack of interest. But this time, he said, due to the paper’s clear layout and stories in Spanish, English and Somali, the paper has generated interest among a wide swath of people in the area.

“I am very impressed with the quality of work,” he said.

Local advertisers are beginning to take notice as well.

Before La Gran América came along, advertising directly to the local Hispanic and Somali populations was a game of hit or miss, said Susana Martinez, marketing assistant at the Meridian Disc Institute.

Fliers were handed out, banners were posted, but there didn’t seem to be a clear way to reach the population that makes up about half of the chiropractic clinic’s clientele, she said.

Now, with a newspaper that has a large circulation among those same people, Martinez said a clear avenue for marketing is finally there.

“It’s pretty much the only way to reach the Somali and Hispanic community here,” she said.

Despite interest from advertisers, Sanchez said that the newspaper has yet to turn a profit. As she begins to publish it more often, though — her plan is eventually to get it to every other week — more money could start to come in, she said.

“Maybe later it will be profitable,” she said, “but the focus is not so much on money, but on the community.”

Somali finance minister hopes to rebuild institutions

Somalia's finance minister hopes a deal with accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers to manage money given to the government will help the Horn of Africa nation rebuild its financial institutions.

"This is an international company. The donors and Somali government will monitor it, and I do not think there will be misuse of public funds," Finance Minister Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.

"In the long term, the Somali government will take control of its financial institutions."

After nearly 20 years of conflict, the Somali economy is almost entirely informal and the administration lacks most of the structures needed to deal with donor inflows, let alone collect taxes.

The government controls just a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu and is battling a hardline Islamist insurgency which has links to al Qaeda and is bent on toppling President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's administration.

International donors pledged some $213 million at a conference in Belgium in April, but the government complains that only a small proportion has yet been delivered.

So much donor money has gone missing over the years in Somalia, there is a deep mistrust on the part of some countries pledging support about whether it will be spent properly.

Much of the money is meant to pay the government's security forces, but diplomats say making sure wages go to the right people is proving difficult.

TRACKING THE MONEY

Under the deal struck this week, PricewaterhouseCoopers will hold and manage the pledged and allocated funds for development and capacity building -- and track how the money is spent.

Aden said parliament had approved a $3.6 million monthly budget to fund the administration and was paying staff, the security forces and other agencies via the central bank.

"The central bank governor is working and the ministry will equip the bank with proper infrastructure and personnel so that we can play our part of restoring the government agencies," Aden told Reuters during a visit to Nairobi.

Remittances from abroad, estimated at some $1 billion a year, are an important source of support for Somalis, and the country also has an influential telecoms sector. Aden hopes these, and other sectors, can be brought on board.

"Our budget is based on international aid, but we plan to collect levies and run the country relying on local money. The only source now of government income is mainly the port," said Aden, 62, who is a former parliament speaker.

"The council of the ministers will discuss the role of the remittances and telecom sectors in a broader plan for restructuring private sector, and set laws for how best these organisations can be line with the national laws."

Aden acknowledged that for now the government's chief priority was security. The insurgents stepped up attacks in the capital in early May and a series of government offensives has failed to drive them from Mogadishu.

"Though there was long civil war, the Somali economy is in good position but needs to be organised in a modern market, and we hope to do that," said Aden, who built an import/export business trading in livestock, food and building materials.

"It is worthless to wage war to run business. You can run large, multi-million businesses in your country by abiding local laws. This is a rich country, and resources we have are sufficient. There is no reason to fight," he said.

"You can get more than you have in peace."

Source: Reuters

Mogadishu: 6 Die, Dozen wounded attacks on Somali government troops

At least three Somali government soldiers have died in large explosion today in the capital city of Mogadishu. The explosion took place near 21 October school. There was a second explosion in Mogadishu, in the Wadajir area.

The first explosion is believed to be improvised roadside bomb aimed at government vehicles. The bomb is also has injured civilians who were in another car. The second explosion was hand held grenade which as also aimed at Somali government troops. Another six soldiers have parished and further 8 wounded. The wounded have been taken to Madiina hospital in Mogadishu.

The bombing and guerilla warfare tactics is favourite of the Islamist insurgents to spread attacks on the government and bring fear to wider public

Source: insidesomalia.org

Cultures collide: Somali youth harass gay man at Pride

Cultures collided Sunday when a gay man was harassed by more than a dozen Somali youths while heading home after the Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival. Shouting “I hate gay people,” “Fuck gay people,” and “Gay is not the way,” the youths followed the man for several blocks. The entire incident was caught on video.

The person who posted the video to YouTube wrote:

My friend and I were leaving the Gay Pride Festival … and came across a group of Somalian kids who asked my friend if he was gay. When he answered “yes”, they proceeded to harass him and me with verbal threats and even throwing rocks at my friend at one point.

Source: MinnesotaIndependent.com

Somalis exodus to Ethiopia

The current crisis in Somalia has led to a mass exodus, putting pressure on Ethiopia to cope with the influx.

According to a United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) report, 100 Somalis per day have been arriving at border towns of Ethiopia, prompting the Government and donors to establish a new refugee camp.

The unstable situation in Somalia has also led an increased refugee inflow to the already existing camps close to Jijiga in Somali Regional State of Ethiopia, the report said.

The harsh situation in Somalia has meant about 100 refugees per day have been screened by the Ethiopian immigration authorities before being registered by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Camp located in Dollo Ado of Somali region.

The high rate of inflow and the congestion at the existing camps forced UNHCR to construct new camps to host the new arrivals, the report reads.

The Somalia crisis has erupted again following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops that opened space for the al-Shabab militants.

They are now bearing arms on President Sharif Sheik Ahmed's government and the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu.

Suicide attacks are a common technique, targeting officials affiliated with the Government. A recent suicide attack killed Abdulkarim Farah, the former Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia, at the town of Beledweyne near the Ethiopian border.

Somalis are not the only people flooding Ethiopia; Eritrean refugee numbers are also increasing at a similar rate.

During the past two years, the number of Eritrean refugees has increased from roughly 250 per month to almost 800, which prompted the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to try and obtain additional funding to support the refugees, the UNDAF report reads.

Source: Ethiopian Review

Somali Americans to rally against terrorism/extremism



Thousands of Somali Americans in Twin cities are expected to protest Suicide radical Islam, suicide bombing, terror attacks In Somalia this Friday July 3rd 2009, from 3:00 PM- 6:00 PM. It will be held at Peavey Park (730 22nd street, Minneapolis, MN – Peavey Park is located at the intersection of ( E.Franklin Ave & Chicago Ave).

Somali community public relations organizers are requesting that the protesters bring signs. Organizers state: The Somali-American Community in Minnesota is taking a stand and we want the world, the mainstream Community and the Somalis in the Diaspora to know our stand and strong opposition to these terrorists. The Somali-American Community in Minnesota will release a press release and voice the community stand on issues related to suicide bombings and terrorism in the protest. The Somali-American Community in Minnesota is requesting you to attend and cover the protest and to join us in the condemnation of the violent extremists and their suicide bombings.

Background

Somalia has been in civil war for the past 20 years. However, in the last two years there have been a number of suicide bombings in and acts of terrorism. These acts of terrorism and suicide bombings are done by a very extreme and violent cult named Al-Shabaab. The United States Department of State designated this group as a terrorist organization


Suicide bombings, acts of terrorism and violent militant Islam are new and scary development unheard and unseen in Somalia and it´s an alien to the tolerant and moderate Islam Somalis practiced for centuries. Many believe the Al-Shabaab militants are allied with Al-Qaeda terrorist and trained by them.

Somalis all over the world and specially Somali-Americans in Minnesota strongly oppose these suicide bombings and acts of terrorism. A group of concerned Somali-Americans are organizing a protest to show the community's disgust and opposition to such un-Islamic, un-Somali acts of terrorism. Somali Americans strongly condemn the suicide bombings and terrorism of Al-Shabaab and the warmongering of Hizb-Islam, another militant group allied with Al-Shabaab. Somali-Americans in Minnesota believe the only way to solve the Somali crisis is through peace and dialogue.

Source: American Chronicle

Napolitano’s fears over Somali and other terrorists

Author: Jonathan Rugman

Perhaps the most interesting line in the US homeland security secretary’s interview with me this morning concerns her fears over Somali Americans carrying out terrorist attacks inside the United States.

She concedes that a small number of Somalis have travelled from the US to Somalia to train in jihad.

“Right now we are talking about people going over there,” she says, “but any time you have individuals who are being trained, if they want to return, would have the operational-type skills to carry out an attack.. That is an area you need to pay attention to.”



This of course mirrors concerns in the UK, after Channel 4 News reported in an exclusive investigation back in February that a Somali from Ealing had blown himself up as a suicide bomber in Somalia.

Since then, the security service M15 has held a “recruitment fair” targeted at London’s Somalis, in an attempt to improve British intelligence from the inside.

I gather it didn’t go too well; somebody who was there tells me the “spooks” were heckled over British foreign policy in the Middle East, which many in the audience blamed for radicalising young British Muslims in the first place.

Still, Janet Napolitano says she thinks America has things to learn from Britain, in terms of dissuading Muslims from taking the radical path. Lessons in “prevention and engagement”, she told the press this morning, but she doesn’t say precisely what those lessons are.

She also refused to tell me how many terrorist attacks against the United States have been foiled since the Obama administration came in.

The prison at Guantanamo Bay is, she says, a “recruitment tool” for terrorists, “part of a radicalisation toolbox”, and she seems pretty confident that Congress can be persuaded that some of the inmates will have to be transferred to the United States, so the president’s executive order to close the prison by January 2010 can go ahead.

“I am not underestimating the difficulty” she tells me later. “It may be one of the most difficult problems the president inherited from the prior adminstration.”

And there seemed to be acknowledgement that attacks from “lone wolf” terrorist operators - racists, extremists of any kind - could pose as great if not greater a danger to the homeland than al-Qaida itself. ”It is certainly true that the so called lone wolf… that is just about the most difficult thing to stop.”

Source: Channel4.com

Russia, NATO 'Agree' Military Cooperation

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer









The NATO head says that ties are renewed but fundamental differences remain, while Moscow says Russian recognition of Georgia's breakaway rpeublics is irreversible.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says NATO and Russia have agreed to resume military cooperation.

The announcement came as NATO foreign ministers and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met for talks on June 27 on the Greek island of Corfu.

De Hoop Scheffer said despite the renewal of ties, "fundamental differences" of opinion remain between the alliance and Moscow over Georgia.

Lavrov said Russia's recognition of Georgia's two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the war is "irreversible."

The talks are at the highest level since relations plummeted to a post-Cold War low over last year's war in Georgia.

They are being held on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's biggest security and human rights group.

Troubled ties

Moscow froze relations with NATO in August 2008, after the alliance expressed dismay about a five-day war between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Ties began improving after U.S. President Barack Obama took office in January, as NATO ambassadors met with Russia's envoy to the NATO-Russia Council, a panel set up in 2002 to improve cooperation between the former Cold War foes.

But formal military relations remained suspended. Russia cooperated with individual NATO nations such as the United States, France, and Germany by allowing them to use its rail network to resupply international forces in Afghanistan. Russia's Navy also has worked with the warships of a number of NATO members during their joint anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is recovering from a broken elbow, will not attend the Corfu meeting. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg will replace her.

The talks come two weeks ahead of Obama's visit to Moscow, during which the two sides are expected to reach an agreement to fully and formally restart military cooperation.

'New security architecture'

The NATO-Russia meeting will precede a meeting of foreign ministers from the Vienna-based OSCE.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, whose country currently holds the organization's chairmanship, said this week she anticipated a positive atmosphere for both the OSCE and NATO-Russia talks. She said Lavrov would expand on Russia's proposal to create "new security architecture" in Europe.

Reports say foreign ministers of the 56-nation OSCE will also try to reach a last-minute deal on extending the mandate of the OSCE office in Georgia. That mandate expires on June 30.

The Kremlin has blocked its renewal to press demands for a separate mission in South Ossetia, which Moscow recognizes as independent.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said the OSCE talks, which start on the night of June 27 with a dinner, will be followed on June 28 by a meeting between European Union ministers to discuss Iran.

with agency reports

By RFE/RL staff for RFE/RL

The Way Forward for Etiopia and Eritrea

I read Neamin Zeleke's recent article, The Imperative of Ethiopians Dealing with Eritrea, about his reflection and opinions on the future of Ethiopian and Eritrean relationship. I would like to compliment his very wise observation on this very important issue of our times. I believe that not relating with the Eritrean government is a misguided position. Let me explain why based on my own personal experience.

After a rigorous three-year military training in the Haile Selassie I Military Academy I spent my entire military career in Eritrea. I was there as an infantry training and operation officer in the 2nd infantry division for six years. Even after I left Eritrea to attend university, I went back to Eritrea every summer to proudly serve in the army.

I was in Eritrea during and after the federation. During the last day of the federation I was there in Asmara on security mission watching the Eritrean Assembly when they were voting. It was unanimous vote. The Eritrean elites were the first to express their joy. There was in fact a competition within the Eritrean elites to send telegrams and messages to Emperor HaileSelassie expressing their joy and congratulating him.

There were some disgruntled elements that felt excluded from the new dispensation and therefore expressed dissatisfaction for personal reasons — the loss of power and influence. I was there celebrating with the Eritreans the long awaited unity of Eritrea with the mother land. It was an unforgettable moment. There was spontaneous and almost universal rejoicing by the entire Eritrean population. Undoubtedly, the response was genuine. I have gone across the length and breadth of Eritrea and experienced the outpouring of joy over the decision to unite with Ethiopia. Throughout Eritrea, and I have been to every big and small village, there was a sense of exuberance for the few years after the union. Whatever happened after that is completely inconsistent with what the people felt at the time. It suggests that there was a serious mishandling of the federal arrangement and the union that followed. If it had been handled with caution and without haste, things might have been different today.

I was there with my troops at the door step of the police headquarters when the first dissent had its first causality, General Tedla Ekubit, the Eritrean police commander. I was there during the most critical times in the development of the Eritrean rebel forces. I was there as troop commander when the first conflict started between the government troops and the rebel forces (then they were just bandits) because they did not have any political agenda. They were just a band of people headed by Idris Awate, a notorious shifta imprisoned by the British and then escaped to continue banditry act. He was again pardoned and was living peacefully when the newly established ELF recruited him and he went back to do what he had been doing all his life. I was there when he was captured and killed.

I was also there when in September 1956 (Eth. Cal.) our troops suffered their first causality at a place called Haikota, close to Agordat. The ELF took out peaceful soldiers on leave from a public bus and executed them. Until then Eritrea was peaceful. Even after that until the coming of the Derg and its draconian military and security polices, the EPLF did not control a single village or area in Eritrea except the rugged mountains of Nakfa. The EPLF did not enjoy any meaningful support from the population. Despite the fact that the process of uniting Eritrea with Ethiopia was flawed with technical and strategic errors, the people of Eritrea believed sincerely and sometimes manifested in extreme ways that I have not seen anywhere else in Ethiopia. (Refer to my book Kihdet be Dem Meret).

As a soldier, I have been involved in military operations. We were seven young officers, the first of the kind, in those times to come to Eritrea to train the troops. We used to be called Para Commandos, airborne and special force. (After three years in the military academy, few months airborne and a year in advanced infantry school in USA. That was a lot of military training.) All my six colleagues died in the service of the country. I am the only survivor from this pioneer group. For us the sanctity of the flag, the unity of Ethiopia was paramount. It was not questioned and dying for it was a cause to be celebrated. That is how most of the people I worked with in Eritrea and most of the soldiers I knew much later in life lived and died. They were in hundreds of thousands and all died with a smile on their face: because the cause was the flag and the unity of Ethiopia.

I came to the USA for my graduate studies and after the overthrow of Emperor HaileSelassie I returned to Ethiopia. I was an active part of the revolution which I sincerely supported until a certain time. But throughout the times I worked under the Derg I was very close to Eritrea. I followed the situation very closely until I was finally appointed as its governor (the party’s representative) for three years, 1980 to 1983.

When I was governor for three years, my task was to pacify the rebellion and stop people from supporting the EPLF. And indeed, as many who were there at the time would testify, we succeeded to the extent that the EPLF leadership later admitted to me and my colleagues that it was one of the toughest times in their war against Ethiopia. Suddenly young people stopped joining the rebels and many started deserting from the EPLF and joined their families. It was not a miracle nor was it a complicated task. The wisdom is simply treating the Eritrean community as citizens with certain inalienable rights. When we stopped arresting people at random, established the rule of law and treated people on equal terms, people stayed in the country and once again Asmara became bustling metropolitan and other major cities returned to their former status. What we proved was the eternal truth that the major cause of the rebellion was the oppression of the population by successive governments in Addis Ababa. The EPLF and the ELF grew out of the atrocities committed by the Derg and to a certain extent during the Emperor’s era. It became clear to us that the reason why many joined the rebels was not because they really believed that they were not part of Ethiopia but because they were denied their right to live without fear of being persecuted, arrested and tortured and executed. At some point in the history of the Derg this happened routinely. (for more detail refer to Red Tears)

During my tenure as governor, I was convinced that the Eritrean situation could be reversed if we could do less of military and more of governance and rule of law. I also suggested that we recognize the EPLF and engage with it. This created an outrage. Even after I left my country I have been condemned by my closest colleagues of suggesting that Ethiopian government recognize the EPLF and engage it in dialogue. My proposal for dialogue put me in trouble with the military establishment. As the records would show, I had serious confrontations with the then military leadership over this. Key Kokeb was not about war. Key Kokeb was about multifaceted approach for the Eritrean issue. HULEGEB ZEMETCHA. It was hijacked by the military and it launched an all out war which ended disgracefully and my showdown with the military ended with me leaving Eritrea and being assigned as the Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.

After I left the Derg at the end of 1985, I became actively involved in the effort to overthrow the regime through the movement we had established, The Free Ethiopian Soldiers Movement. The first attempt was the failed coup of the generals. I and my colleagues did the external arrangement for the coup. During those times I went into the area controlled by the EPLF in Nakfa. We discussed the role of the EPLF and suggested to EPLF leaders to participate in a transitional government in the post Derg period. EPLF agreed that it will unilaterally implement a cease fire and participate in the transitional government to negotiate the future of Eritrea. After this attempt failed, I was again involved in another similar effort. The EPLF’s position was unchanged. The EPLF was willing to participate in a transitional government of Ethiopia. And this was only a few months before TPLF marched into Addis Ababa. We were about to try once again, but the TPLF rejected the proposal and the attempt was aborted. Throughout these activities against the Derg, my colleagues and I worked very closely with the EPLF leadership. Despite the fact that I was an ardent supporter of unity, an officer who fought them, a governor who condemned them at every available opportunity, my relationship with the EPLF leadership was cordial and constructive.

Sometimes when we talk about the heroism of our forefathers in defending the motherland, we forget that a significant number of Eritreans sacrificed their lives for the defense of our independence against colonialists. How can we talk about the heroic struggle of our ancestors without acknowledging the key role that Eritreans played? For me it is ridiculous to say, We Ethiopians, in the context of history, without including Eritreans.

When, for example, we write and talk about Ras Alula and the battles he fought and won, we must remember that the bulk of his troops were Eritreans and their sacrifice was enormous. As well documented, almost all our external wars came through the Red Sea. Eritrea had always been the frontline for almost all the wars fought against the invaders. Eritrean patriots and Tigreans were part and parcel of these wars against foreign aggressors. Eritreans have always been at the forefront of the wars fought to preserve the independence of and unity of Ethiopia. During the war of resistance against Italian invasion, thousands of Eritrean patriots fought alongside mehal ager arbegnotch. The head of the military of the Black Lion was an Eritrean Colonel Haileab. Eritrean patriots shaped the foreign and military policies and structures after liberation. The first and second foreign ministers were Eritreans. The first ambassador to the UN was an Eritrean. Eritreans played key roles in organizing and modernizing the Ethiopian Armed Forces. There were more than 20 senior Eritrean generals at some point in the Ethiopian armed forces ranging from chief of staff, ground force commanders, air force commanders and division commanders. General Aman Andom was the most prominent among these senior commanders of Eritrean origin. It must also be remembered that considerable percentages of the soldiers in the Army were Eritreans.

During the war fought between the Ethiopian troops and the EPLF/ELF, there was a special Eritrean commando force which proved to be one of the hardest and in fact most brutal of all the forces of the times. The Eritrean militia, like the most wonderful people of Kohayne, fought to the bitter end until the country was taken over by the EPLF. (Refer Khidet be Dem Meret)

It is hard to understand how this center broke from the whole. Perhaps it was because the Eritreans have been exposed to many kinds of propaganda and external interests. Unlike the rest of Ethiopia which was ruled by successive kings and kingdoms, in the Eritrean coast land and at a later phase in its history, in the highlands, the Turks, the Egyptians, the Italians and the British have played some roles in shaping the minds of people. These experiences have left some imprints which influenced the growth of different kinds of political thoughts and alliances.

Throughout my stay in Eritrea as a soldier, and later as Deputy Foreign Minister and then governor of Eritrea, I have delivered many speeches on the unity of Ethiopia, that Eritrea was part of Ethiopia and asking the question if Eritreans are not Ethiopians then who else is? Eritrea is Mehal Ager. It is the center of our civilization and faith, the source of our culture and literature, the place where Ethiopiwinet began. I believed in this and every Eritrean I spoke to at the time believed in this ultimate truth. For me, it was my passion. I grew up taking the unity of Ethiopia and the inviolability of its frontiers as sacred oath not to be broken or questioned. But this oath, this timeless sacred alliance between us and the spirits of our ancestors, hundreds of thousands who died defending this cause, has been brutally ravaged by a bunch of arrogant self-righteous ethno centric individuals who are at the helm of leadership to destroy this unique legacy.

It must also be understood that the cause of Eritrean independence was supported by the student movement for years. I remember I was in New York's Colombia University in early 1972-74 and I used to participate in student movement meetings. It was fashionable to talk about self determination up to and including secession. Anybody that did not support the cause of the Eritrean struggle was labeled as reactionary. I tried to explain in some meetings why our soldiers are fighting in Eritrea and why it is wrong to condemn them for protecting the unity of Ethiopia. As usual, I was labeled as a reactionary soldier who has been serving the interest of the feudal regime and my concern was dismissed. There is some credence to the claim that the student movement unwittingly allowed itself to be used by forces that had inimical agenda to Ethiopia’s interest.

When I was in the foreign office and later governor, and even when I was the Commissioner for Relief and Rehabilitation, I had meetings with the EPLF in some European countries organized by some NGOs, usually the Red Cross and Scandinavian human rights activists. The main purpose was to negotiate the opening of peace corridor in the conflict areas to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population trapped by the conflict. These meetings were not sanctioned by the government because it would be considered treason for anybody to have this kind of communication without the knowledge of the government. The once that were done with government’s knowledge had heavy pre-conditions. It was almost demanding the surrender of the EPLF. It therefore did not go anywhere. Ours was an effort by groups of concerned people who were trying to explore options to this endless war. When I and my colleagues met with the EPLF in very informal settings, they were and have always been very open to options besides full independence. There was no doubt in my mind then that EPLF would have accepted some sort of federation. But the Derg/WPE regime was never prepared to discuss this. I was even more certain about the position of the EPLF after my latter encounters.

After I left Ethiopia the first thing that I and my colleagues did was to establish a movement to overthrow the Derg. In this Eritrea was a key factor. I met the leadership of the EPLF and current President Isaias Afwerki several times in Europe and America and ultimately in Nakfa , through the back door into those parts of Eritrea controlled by the EPLF and meeting the leaders , the very people I have been fighting and condemning for years felt weird to me. That was the time when we were trying to coordinate the external factors with internal preparations for a coup. In an official agreement the EPLF stated that when and if the coup takes place, it will immediately cease fire and be part of the transitional government to discuss the future of Eritrea. True to their words, at the time the coup attempt was taking place, they did a unilateral cease fire and asked us if there is anything that they can do to make the coup successful. They could have taken advantage of the confusion in Eritrea when the commanders were killed and government troops were in disarray, but they did not. They were in constant touch with me and they were very disappointed by the failure of the coup.

A few years later, we tried to make another change from the inside before TPLF went too far. Again, we had discussions with EPLF and TPLF several times. We had completed preparations from the inside and what was needed was for the fighting forces to agree to implement a cease fire and be part of the transitional government. Until April 1991, two months before the TPLF entered Addis and EPLF Asmara, the EPLF supported the idea of making the change from the inside. They agreed after several meetings that they will be willing to stop fighting and participate in the transitional government and discuss the future of Eritrea. As the war continued, it became difficult to get the same kind of agreement from the TPLF. We had several meetings but eventually they sent us a long letter stating that they are heading to Addis Ababa and they asked us to be part of the EPRDF. Of course, we refused. That is when they established their own Free Ethiopian Officers Movement in order to confuse our followers in the military establishment.

The EPLF until the last days believed that the best option was to negotiate with the transitional government that would be established after a successful coup. And they know that the negotiation would not be about independence. I was aware that they were ready for some sort of federal arrangement. I was sure about that.

Besides the misguided policies of successive governments in Ethiopia, and the failure of the military to defend against the breakup of the nation, the overriding factor that eventually led to the independence of Eritrea was the policy of Woyanne. It gave away independence in a silver platter.
Now, if from early on the student movement had supported the secession and made it possible for the EPLF to be a strong internationally acknowledged liberation movement, if the Derg in the name of national unity committed atrocities that alienated a big portion of the Eritrean population, and if Woyanne regime eventually gave away the independence without consulting the Ethiopian people, why should the Eritreans be blamed for it? Why should we create animosity with the Eritrean people?

We have to remember that throughout the period of war between the government troops and EPLF and ELF, there had never been a war amongst the people. It never reached a level of civil war like in other parts of Africa. It was a war that went on for several years between the EPLF/ELF forces and government troops but never a war between the people. I am a living witness and can clearly testify that the war had never affected the relationship between the people. While the war was going on in the mountains, Amharas, Oromos, Tigres, and other ethnic groups lived together in peace, intermarried, helped each other, shared whatever they had and lived nothing less than a harmonious life. Over most Ethiopian troops in Eritrea were married to Eritreans. There are hundreds of thousands of their off springs today all over Ethiopia. Internal conflicts in Ethiopia have always been about power and not ethnicity. To my best recollection, the Tigreans in Gondar used to call themselves first Gonderes and vice versa. It is amazing that after years of war in Eritrea, the relationship between the people was never seriously damaged. It never went to a level of civil war. That is the greatness of the Ethiopian people. It demonstrates how deep our culture, our understanding and levels of tolerance have evolved over the centuries. This bonding between the people was broken by Woyanne. The Woaynne incited hate. It started sawing the seeds of ethnicity not only between the people of Eritrea and the rest of Ethiopia but amongst the Ethiopian people, too. This is indeed the saddest moment in Ethiopian history.

Eritrea is now independent. That reality cannot be reversed by force. There are two things that need to be done.

1. The national security and interest of Ethiopia have been and will continue revolving around three man issues. The Nile, the Red Sea (Eritrea) and Somalia (the Ogaden). Since they are very much interrelated, they could be considered as one. I have explained this in my book Kihdet be Dem Meret. There is no need to do that here. In all this, Eritrea plays a vital role. Ethiopia and Eritrea have a common destiny. Whatever happens in Eritrea will affect Ethiopia and vice versa. Whoever wants to hurt Ethiopia uses Eritrea as stepping stone. Arab Chauvinism (expansionism) and Islamic Fundamentalism have always been real threats to Ethiopia, and Eritrea can possibly turn out to be the main conduit. Therefore, any responsible Ethiopian government will have to develop a policy of peaceful co-existence with Eritrea and go even further and ensure that Eritrea remains a stable, peaceful and independent ally of Ethiopia. And this can only be done through diplomacy and not confrontation.

2. Whatever the policies of current governments may be, the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea are one people. We cannot and need not live apart. Our genes, our culture, language and history are identical. There are no people on earth that are closer to Ethiopians than the Eritreans and vice versa. We are destined to live together. Therefore the effort should be not to allow politics to change our historical oneness but to work towards integration. The will and conviction of people is mightier than the sword and we will beat the ethno- centricity and be once again one people. There needs to be a conscious effort by civil society groups to bring the two people together despite the politics in their respective countries.

The national interest of Ethiopia can be packed into three major issues.

1. The inviolability of state frontiers (territorial integrity)
2. The unity of the Ethiopian people
3. Freedom of its people

Our relationship with Eritrea should be based on these three fundamentals. If the Eritrean government respects the above fundamental principles and is willing to agree on polices that promote peace and development in order to create the necessary conditions for the union of the two people, then there would be no reason why Ethiopians of any group should not establish relationship with the government of Eritrea. Likewise, Ethiopians of all groups should recognize the sovereignty of Eritrea and work towards the fulfillment of our common aspirations.

After what I have done and spoken for most of my life, it has been difficult to swallow the reality that Eritrea is now an independent country. But I have to face the reality like many of us and look beyond. The reality of today and tomorrow should be on how we can advance the interests of our people in the context of this new reality. We might or might not agree with the policies of the current government in Eritrea. The relationship of the people outlasts leaders and their polices. We should therefore strengthen the foundations of our historical relationship and be careful not to be the victims of the poisonous propaganda by Woyanne. Meles Zenawi has attempted to define what Ethiopiawinet is and what Eritreayawinet is in his own terms and based on his own interests. The truth is: there is no drawing line. His own identity and that of his trusted advisers are testimonies of this reality and truth. It is only the governments that are two. The people have been one and are one. All responsible Ethiopians and Eritreans should endeavor to up hold this truth and reinforce it by focusing on what binds us together rather than what divides us.

As a neighbor with vested interest in Eritrean affairs, Ethiopians can only take hard positions when the steps being taken by the Eritrean government violates the fundamental principles of our relationship and endangers our peace and security. The current government has emphatically stated that it will not violate these principles and, in fact, it will be willing to work toward the building of a stable Ethiopia. I believed earlier that Eritrea was trying to strengthen its economy and its standing in the region at the expense of Ethiopia. It was my impression that Eritrea wanted a weak Ethiopia that is divided and not capable of posing any threat to Eritrea. This might have been true at some point in its existence. But I believe that Eritrean government realizes now that destabilizing Ethiopia will only bound to hurt it more and will not be in the best interest of the people and the government of Eritrea. Ethiopians are already angry that Eritrea seceded, and for it to go beyond that and try to destabilize Ethiopia will evoke greater anger that could justify conflict. It is wise for Eritrea to adjust to realities and work hard for peaceful co- existence which acknowledges mutual interests. Neither side should try to destabilize the other. Eritrea and Ethiopia can prosper in a peaceful co-existence with each other. Eritrea’s security can be guaranteed through a good relationship with a much stronger Ethiopia. The free movement between the two countries will further strengthen the unity of its people possibly leading to some sort of political union. Eritreans and Ethiopians can’t hide from the truth. No matter what is being written and being told, we are one people with common history, common enemies, common threats and interests.
Today, the issue is Woynne and not Eritrea. For Ethiopians as well as for Eritreans, Woyanne is a threat. Remove Woyanne and Ethiopians and Eritreans can breathe a sigh of relief and begin a new relationship based on mutual respect and working towards unifying the people. Assab is negotiable. Badme is negotiable. As President Isaias stated, “the sky is the limit.” Knowing how the Eritreans are straightforward and consistent in their words and deeds, there is no reason to suspect that his statement is one of a political gimmicks.

A friend of mine sent me the following e-mail on the issue:

I did not say that we should not engage — what I said is that our assessment of Eritrea's intention should not be based on the assumption that the current leadership would like to see "a strong, united and democratic Ethiopia.” Their own history has evolved to the extent that an apparent state of paranoia has set in, and by all indications of their regional engagement in the region, we cannot escape this conclusion. However, it does not, by any means suggest that we should not engage them.

Why do we believe them? We don’t have to. Relationship with the Government of Eritrea for a common cause needs to be built, of course, in the framework of our fundamental interests outlined above. If they cannot translate their words in to deeds, they will be the losers, too. Ethiopians sooner or later will get rid of Woyanne and will come out stronger from this tragic political impasse. I am inclined to believe Eritreans because there is simply no option at this time except peaceful coexistence. The initial problem with the Eritrean elites was recognition. It seems now that most Ethiopians have taken this bitter pill and accepted that Eritrea is an independent state.

Woyanne cooperated in the drive for the independence Eritrea. But it now wants to manipulate Eritrea and make it surrender to its will. Woyanne cannot dupe the Ethiopians by false sense of patriotism over peripheral issues like Badme. Today, the issue is the survival of Ethiopia as we have known it and as it should be. Woyanne is destroying the fabrics of the Ethiopian society by bringing back a Bantustanisation policy from the junk yards of African history, by introducing ethnic politics and dividing people along ethnic lines, slicing our land and giving it away, unleashing poverty the kind that has not been seen in our history, arresting and torturing political opponents, perpetuating a dictatorship by a few Tigrean elite people from Adwa, Axum and Shire, facilitating the spread of fundamentalism and creating hostility with the Muslim world with whom we had a carefully crafted cordial relationship for decades. Woyanne has made Ethiopia technologically the most backward country in the world. Certainly and unequivocally Ethiopia is in grave danger.

The history of Ethiopia has been about winners and leaders. It was so during the times of the monarchies, was so during the time of the Derg, and has been so now. Our genuine historians had to dig a lot to bring the truth out and popularize it. It has not been an easy task. Once again, Woyanne is rewriting history. Great weight must be given to the damage that will be caused on the younger generation if we allow this distortion to continue unabated. At some point, it might have served a purpose, but now that we are talking about the two people living and working together, we have to design a relationship between the people that will facilitate the truth to be told. The two people have been one and need to be one for more than one reason. With truth there will be no losers but winners. Our destinies are inextricably tied to each other. Those of us who have lived long enough know and understand the truth but the new generation is exposed to the history of denial. The truth will only make us stronger in pursuing our common interest. Emotions must subside and give way to pragmatism. We have to work very closely with our Eritrean brothers and sisters to get rid of Woyanne and establish a new era of peaceful co existence, common prosperity that will lead to a reunion of our people. And this must start from the streets, the restaurants, the clubs, churches and various forums in Ethiopia, Eritrea, America, USA and Africa.

At one point, I was discussing with the leader of the EPLF, the current President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki. I asked him why instead of partitioning Ethiopia, he does not become the President of Ethiopia. He gave me some reason why this would not be possible but assured me: “You can be certain, Mr. Dawit, that if and when we get our independence, our priority will be to unite the people under some sort of federal arrangement.”

East Africa: Kenya Would Do Well to Keep Off the War in Somalia

Naturally, threats to bring down glassy skyscrapers and demands that Kenya withdraw security forces patrolling the border evoke public alarm.

Sometimes an ostensibly negative and emotionally charged development can flip over into a moment of analytic clarity.

The Al Shabaab surge in Mogadishu may be such a moment, at least we hope so, for those charged with formulating Kenya's foreign policy.

Post-Barre Somalia has been a complicated crucible of ethnicity, ideology, dire material conditions, and predatorial behaviours geared to micro-to-macro political economies of war.

Add the reverberations of global jihad to this mix and the 18-year old conflict reduces to a clutch of familiar cliches: failed state, clan, warlord, Wahhabi networks, Islamist insurgents, terrorist safe haven, humanitarian crisis, battered civilians and IDPs.

This narrative begs to differ.

Nicholas Naseem Taleb traces what he labels the "narrative fallacy" to the human proclivity for reducing complex phenomena to simple patterns. The narrative fallacy is a function of "our vulnerability to over-interpretation and our predilection for compact stories over raw truths."

Narratives are powerful but their margin of fallacy increases apace with the volume of information. This dovetails with, as two scholars of Africa have noted, the role of information as more crucial in disordered societies.

In respect to this role, there is information that can be used to falsify the conventional story.

Is Somalia a disordered society, generating an overflow of turbulence roiling what was already a disorderly region; or is it a case of forces within the disorderly region sustaining the disorder following out of the collapse of the Somali state.

Both hypotheses have merit. More significant is the fact that, for the insurgents, external interference is the problem.

Never mind the obvious contradictions, this is the source of the sabre-rattling rhetoric accompanying the latest Al Shabaab surge.

Threats fill the air as another in the series of governments cobbled together outside the country's borders bites the dust.

Cheeky demands about pulling back your troops raise the pulse and resurrect bad memories. But it helps if we disagggregate the raw truths and fallacies at work.

The first falsehood is that Somalia is an 'ignored' crisis. On the contrary, hardly a month passes by without some high level discussions on Somalia in the United Nations, the Contact Group on Somalia, the IGADD meetings, the African Union, and the Arab League. Under the AU banner, foreign troops are embedded inside Somalia, supported, at arms length, by a phalanx of international organisations.

Over the last week, meetings have been held between the Foreign Minister of Egypt and Eritrea, Yemen has called upon a meeting with the Gulf Arabic states, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been making speeches, the United States has made statements, and held a meeting of the TFG and Somaliland in Washington.

The British ambassador to Ethiopia has made a trip to Hargeisa.

The Chinese, Indian, German, French, Russian, American, and British navies trawl the sea, a permanent American military mission observes from bases in Djibouti and Mombasa, NATO planes patrol along the coast, and unseen hands finance an "insurgency," while the UN organises myriad peace conferences.

State-funded British, American, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, and Russian (they're back) broadcasting services beam out high quality signals offering their take on the "Somali crisis" to the millions of nomads.

Somalia turns a whole load of assumptions on their head, and is home to the most sustained piece of double speak on the planet today.

Not ignored, but rather, wilful ignorance characterises this crisis where actors and their proxies do their best to conceal their real motives, no side wants to display its hand, while once again brute force is displacing alternative methods for resolving the unsatisfactory stalemate.

The spokesperson for the African Union forces in Mogadishu repeatedly talks about the need to support the "legitimate government" of Somalia.

The Kenyan Foreign Minister speaks about the urgent need to defend the "legitimate government" of Somalia. The so-called insurgents repeatedly say they not recognise any government in Somalia, and consider the AU forces a brutal external occupying force. What is the reality, and what is "legitimacy" in this context?

The Somalia government claims to be democratically elected, based on supervised selections held at international conventions paid for by the usual four or five Western donors, plus the occasional token input by an Arab regime in the capitals of Kenya, Ethiopia or Djibouti.

At the end of these lengthy proceedings, one is declared president and a retinue shares out ministries, others are named Commissioners for various provinces, or head nonexistent departments.

The real problem begins when the president decides or is induced to go home and rule like other presidents. Unfortunately, the new president ends up becoming irrelevant to the realities unfolding on the ground zero of Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Baidoa. This class of political actors tends to be out of touch with the reality back home -- and as we are now witnessing, quick to desert.

The Ministers are content to earn 'salaries' for governing from a distance, while demanding an army, police, and now navy paid for by others.

Sixteen governments later, the wonder is that the "international community" and the African Union are so eager to fall into this trap. Now Kenya is being put on the spot, voices in government and the press advocating intervention in circumstances where battle-hardened Ethiopia failed.

Somalia's Al Shabaab insurgents control entire provinces, all the way from Lamu on the Kenyan border to Mandera. The insurgents have been our neighbours for over a year, controlling every town, and imposing government on the people. None except their salaried and uniformed personnel are allowed to carry arms. The beleaguered "government," in contrast, has never extended its authority beyond the battered blocks around the heavily fortified Villa Somalia where the internationally recognised president depends on 4,000 AU troops to ensure his physical survival.

It seemed that the IGAD-Western alliance had finally got it right.

But the former Islamic Courts Union chair, Ahmed Sheikh Sharif, has let everyone down. Somali's are now saying it's the Abdullahi Yusuf government without Abdullahi Yusuf.

Brute force is once again displacing other methods for resolving the unsatisfactory stalemate. Unfortunately, the MoU conceding to Kenya rights to part of the Somalia's offshore zone enraged even TFG supporters--implicating the Kibaki part in the larger conspiracy.

Another more positive fact deserves emphasis: through a long and costly process of trial and error Kenya actually solved its Somali problem. The scrawny alley cat is proving to be more formidable than the lion that was once the Somali state and of course each party has to do what it has to do.

Moreover, each player in this game has taken on voluntary a role in the region's conflicts, and military intervention is not in Kenya's docket.

Relevant Links
East Africa
Somalia
Kenya
Arms and Armies
Conflict
Conflict
At different times, the Ugandan middle classes, the rich Tanzanians, the royalist Ethiopians, the fleeing Rwandese, the elite of Southern Sudan have all left their legacy and capital in Nairobi.

It has benefited further by being a cool place next to all the fighting in Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, revolutionary Ethiopia, an oasis for the aid fraternity where business could be carried out, where money could be banked, where logistics could be organised.

By keeping out of the fray, Kenya was able to play host to aid organisations working in venues as far as Congo.

By keeping out of the fray, by talking to all sides in combat all the time, Kenya could host the northern and Southern Sudanese in their talks.

By being neutral and keeping out of the fray Kenyan could attract all the warlords and sundry and host them in their inconclusive talks without itself becoming a factor in the talks.

True, the Harakat al Shabaab extremists are scary and the situation is pregnant with unknown unknowns. The military option, in this instance, is lose-lose, and the prospects of war is generating considerable angst within Kenya's Somali community.

For a number of weeks now, a creeping campaign demonising Somalis living in Kenya, caring little for facts, threatens to negate several decades of progress.

After four decades of being treated as a fifth column, Kenyan Somalis have a right to be afraid--very afraid, and have tried to keep under the radar as they prayed that the ill wind would blow itself out.

Curiously, like the TFG president, the alley cat has got the tongues of North Eastern Province MPs and civil society, despite their obvious interest in these affairs. It took Yusuf Haji, the Kenyan Defence Minister, to set the narrative straight.

In his interview with Harun Maruf of the VoA on June 24, he said Kenya had its own large Muslim population and did not feel threatened by the rise or non-rise of a Muslim state on its borders; for while it would defend its own territory, it had no interest in deciding regimes for its neighbours, but was willing to live and let live.

Hassan Aweis Dahir responded in a similar tone.

It is Kenya's interest to continue the demilitarisation of its northern region and refuse to be drawn into fighting for one group or another. Kenya's strength is soft power: the Foreign Minister should mobilise the country's Muslim ulama to sort out the problem with Quranic Aya and Hadith.

Reported by Paul Goldsmith and Abdi Umar. Paul Goldsmith is a researcher based in Meru, while Abdi Umar is a consultant on pastoralist issues in the Horn of Africa

Source: AllAfrica.com

Drums Of War: Terrible Stuff Most Kenyans Don’t Know About

The Somali situation is very much in the news but many Kenyans have no idea that we have been at war with the Somalis before—and it was for a long time. There was heavy loss of life in that war (the numbers are still a closely guarded state secret) and in my book the Somalis won that war… easily. Indeed even Kenyans who were old enough to understand stuff in the 50s and 60s are hardly aware of how serious the Shifta war was. It lasted from 1964 to around 1968. Some people say significant skirmishes continued well into the 70s.

This is the war that the Kenyan government never wanted to acknowledge. At best it was always downplayed when the government did grudgingly agree that something was going on in Northern and North Eastern Kenya. Those Kenyans who knew that there was indeed a war going on were those who were touched by it like in the story I am about to tell.

But before I tell you my fascinating story about the “war that never was,” let me say that those who have been reading this blog for a long time are well aware of the fact that I have been shouting myself hoarse here warning about the time bomb that are the Somalis and that explosive part of Nairobi called Eastleigh which for all intents and purposes is really part of Mogadishu. If you doubt this then I also need to tell you that proven intelligence sources have indicated that dreaded Somali pirates come to Eastleigh to relax and enjoy their money from piracy activities while preparing to launch their next “mission.” You can find anything, and I mean anything in Eastleigh. From a US passport that will get you into America without any problem to some for the latest assault weapons. To be honest I don’t mind those quality suits that would ordinarily cost about Kshs 15,000 in parts of Nairobi but go for a paltry Kshs 1,500 in Eastleigh.

But let me get on with my story.

Mutunga (his real name) was a police constable and driver to a senior high ranking policeman in Isiolo. The year was 1967 and the Shifta war (which was mostly a guerilla war) was ongoing. Mutunga was driving his superior one lovely sunny afternoon when suddenly without any warning the police Landrover they were in was lifted high in the sky. They had hit a landmine. When the vehicle landed on the ground again with a thud Mutunga’s boss was badly injured with a suspected punctured lung. Mutunga himself was much worse off. Being at the front of the Landrover he had taken the full brunt of the mine. All the bones in his leg had been shattered and were almost powder. He was obviously in great pain.

Frantic efforts were made to radio Nairobi for an aircraft to airlift him for urgent medical attention in the city. The police officer running the operation got Mutunga’s boss to a hospital in Meru where the doctors grimly said that had he arrived moments later he would have almost certainly died because his lungs had stuck together after the explosion meaning that as he breathed there was no movement in his lungs. The police officer breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that one officer had been saved even as he battled to save Mutunga’s life. He finally convinced a “mzungu” pilot to land his small aircraft in the Isiolo airstrip after running police lorries across it several times up to the moment the aircraft started it’s final approach to ensure that there were no mines.

My source says that he will not forget that moment in the aircraft when he bid Mutunga goodbye giving him a bottle of water to sip (thirst is a sign of enormous internal bleeding). The brave policeman was still answering “Yes sir” as loudly as he could even as he lay there dying with his badly broken body. Radio contact was maintained as the aircraft flew back to Nairobi with its’ sole passenger. A humble police officer who had never been on an aircraft before. In those days aircrafts could not land at Wilson Airport at night because there was no electricity there yet. So as the aircraft approached Embakassi Airport the pilot heard some strange noise at the back of his aircraft. He did not need to look back to know that Mutunga had died minutes away from medical attention. The information was radioed back to Isiolo and the sad news was passed on to his colleagues. The Shifta war had claimed the precious life of yet another Kenyan.

Opinion is divided as to how that war finally petered off. Some say that President Kenyatta got the help of Tanzania president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who acted as a go-between and talked to the then Somali president Siad Barre of Somalia to “cool off.” Others say that the war just run out of steam as other priorities emerged for Somalis. Whatever happened the fact is that to this day the Somali flag has 5 stars on it and yet there are only 4 provinces in the country (at least there were at that time). The fifth province is 6 districts in Kenya namely Isiolo, Garissa, Moyale, Wajir, Marsabit (I forget the sixth). What I am saying is that the Somalis already have what appears to be a good enough reason to be at war with Kenya.

Incidentally the Tanzanians are very serious about their security. A few years ago some factions in Somalia invaded a remote part of that vast country. The response from Dar was immediate and decisive. The army was sent in and the problem was solved albeit with major loss to human life.

I personally witnessed a Somali man being refused entry into Tanzania at the Namanga border about 2 years ago. His papers were in order but immigration officials exercised their prerogative to deny entry.

Contrast that to Nairobi’s response. When a Kenyan immigration officer sees a Somali, they see money and a fat bribe. Tanzanian immigration officers are also corrupt but they know the sharp distinction between corruption that endangers national security and corruption that does not. Again former President Moi’s reason for allowing the influx of Somalis into the country was because the foreign exchange they brought in kept the country going at a difficult time. President Kibaki had a chance to tackle the problem but his response like in everything else has been inconsistent, disjointed, indecisive and devoid of any long term strategy. During Kibaki’s tenure, flights out of Wilson Airport to Somalia have been grounded at least twice for short periods of time. The border with Somalia has also been closed once only to be reopened. Army patrols on the same stretch of our porous borders started way too late.

Yet even a primary school child would have seen a long time ago that Somalis are a serious threat to our national security. For instance all the guns used in crime and murder in the country (save the ones belonging to policemen) come in from Somalia. You can be sure that political assassins are bound to use the same the hardware. The taxman also gets deprived of billions of shillings in taxes by the Somalis in Eastleigh. I am told that these days people import stuff from Dubai and receive it at Eastleigh. Yep Eastleigh is becoming an increasingly large inland port in Kenya.

The bottom line is that now it is way too late to do much about the Somalia issue except wait for what is inevitably coming to us.

People are talking about Kenyan soldiers launching offensives to protect the border. It’s fun talking about war and how tough the Kenya army is, but the truth is that this is laughable because if full scale war ever broke out, Somalis have a base to comfortably operate from and launch their attacks from that is right at the heart of Nairobi. I am talking about Eastleigh of course. How do you even begin to divide the Kenyan Somalis from the Somalia Somalis? And we should all know by now that the Somalis are masters of guerilla warfare (ask American Marines) so they will quickly neutralize Kenyans’ alleged massive military hardware and personnel to nought—just like they did in the 60s when they did not have an Eastleigh to operate from.

Will the last person leaving Kenya please remember to kill the lights.

*** This is an interesting post by Chris from Kumekucha.blogspot.com

Somali Surviver Recounts the Terror of Amputation

Sharia is based on the Islamic Holy Book, the Koran







Last week in Somalia, Islamic militants linked to the group al-Shabaab, amputated the arms and legs of four young men accused of theft. The punishment is based on a strict interpretation of sharia, Muslim law that guides personal behavior and morals.

The punishments brought back vivid memories for a 31-year-old resident of Mogadishu calling himself Abdi. He preferred not to give his real or complete name out of fear of repercussion. Ten years ago, a local Islamic court found him guilty of theft, and ordered his arm and leg removed as punishment.
Sharia is based on the Islamic Holy Book, the Koran

"It's a very bad and a very sad feeling," he said in an exclusive interview with the VOA Somali Service. "If you lose your hand and foot judiciously, it’s understandable. But if you lose them injudiciously...that haunts me [even today]."

In a graphic account of his story, Abdi said that a man he worked for as a driver accused him of looting, stealing and injuring another man, an allegation he adamantly denied. A clan court in northern Mogadishu then condemned him to double amputation, “without sufficient evidence, due process, or nothing,” he said.

It was a hot September day in 1999, said Abdi, when he was summoned to an open field, chained in the hands and the legs. A few hours into a “hasty hearing,” Abdi said four men held him to the ground while a masked man cut off his right hand and left leg with a machete.

Asked if he was anesthetized to relief the pain, Abdi lamented: “No, not at all. They cut my beloved hand and feet forcefully, and in an excruciating pain.”

With no medical attention on hand, Abdi said he almost bled to death before being rushed to a nearby hospital. He was discharged after only one day of treatment. The untreated injuries he still pain him, he said.
Somalia

When Abdi learned about this week’s amputations in Mogadishu, he said he realized that the four young men will “enter a dark chapter of their young life, undeservedly.”

The clan court that sentenced Abdi and potentially dozens of others to amputations no longer exists, a fact not lost to Abdi.

“It pains me so much that I lost my hand and my foot to selective justice. It saddens me immeasurably.”

Punishment and Islamic law

Some Muslim scholars say al-Shabaab’s swift application of the harshest codes in Sharia law is categorically un-Islamic. Sharif Abdirahman, the imam of Darul-Hijra Islamic Center in Minneapolis, said such precipitous sentencing ignores jurisprudence that stipulates that every possible excuse must be exhausted before one is condemned to amputation.

The high bar set for evidence in such harsh cases, said the imam, renders it almost impossible to implement amputation as a punishment.

“The harsh penal codes are essentially designed as a preventative measure,” he added, “that’s why it was historically implemented only in exceptionally rare circumstances.”

In addition, the imam said the implementing party must be the legal authority of the land, and must control the jurisdiction permanently---none of which applies to al-Shabaab.

Meanwhile, Abdi, who like the recently amputated young men was never given access to an attorney, said life without his hand and foot has been unusually onerous. Asked what advice he would give al-Shabaab, he said people must be taught the Islamic faith so that they know what they are signing up for, before their body parts are cut off.

“Justice must not be applied expeditiously. People have the right to know the rules of the game,” he said, grudgingly.


Source: VOA

Somalia: Prospects for Lasting Peace and a Unified Response to Extremism and Terrorism

Opening remarks of Chairman Donald M. Payne at the Thursday, June 25, 2009 hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health on Somalia: Prospects for Lasting Peace and a Unified Response to Extremism and Terrorism, as prepared for delivery:

Let me first welcome you all to this important and timely hearing on Somalia. Let me also express my deep appreciation to the witnesses, many of whom came a long distance to be part of this hearing.

The title of today’s hearing, Somalia: Prospects for Lasting Peace and a Unified Response to Extremism and Terrorism, says a great deal about the challenges and the difficulties the people of Somalia face today. The primary objective of this hearing is to hear from Somalis themselves about the fate of their country.

We also have witnesses who, though not Somali, have been engaged full time in efforts to bring a just peace in Somalia. Again, we thank all the distinguished witnesses for their participation today and for their dedication on these issues. We invited representatives from all three regions of Somalia -- the Transitional Federal Government, the Puntland Government, and the Somaliland Government.

Prior to the hearing, I spoke to the president and foreign minster of the TFG, the Puntland president, and the foreign minister of Somaliland. They all accepted and, in fact, the president of Puntland has been in Washington for the past five days. The foreign minister of the TFG was supposed to come but he had to go back to Mogadishu to deal with the ongoing crisis. Today the TFG is represented by the deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

The Somaliland foreign minister accepted our invitation but last week the government requested if the Subcommittee could have a separate panel for the Foreign Minster.
The reason: the Somaliland representative did not want to be part of the panel with the President of Puntland and the TFG representative. We informed the Somaliland government that their request was unacceptable and defeats the main purpose of this hearing. If Somalilanders cannot sit with fellow Somalis to explore ways to bring peace to Somalia at this critical juncture, I wonder what this says about their commitment to all Somalis.

As is now widely known, in April I traveled to Mogadishu to get a firsthand account of conditions in the country. What I saw in Mogadishu then was very encouraging, despite the enormous difficulties many Somalis face everyday. Somali women are still active in trying to help the vulnerable. Human rights advocates, journalists, and humanitarian workers are doing their best in the face of the impossible.

Some concerned friends said why take such a risk and go to places like Mogadishu. I respond with another question: Is my life more important than the children in the streets of Mogadishu? My trip, though marked by the press for the mortar attack, helped bring attention to the conditions on the ground. This so-called attack was an attempt to mar my otherwise very positive and encouraging trip.

It must be clear to all that the crisis we face in Somalia today has devastating implications for the rest of the region. The last defense against this cancer is the TFG and the African Union forces. What we are witnessing is not a liberation struggle or resistance against a brutal regime. The terrorists waging this war have one objective in mind -- to make Somalia the Swat Valley of Africa. With the foreign jihadists next to them, often leading them, these terrorists are brutalizing innocent civilians.

This is why we have called this hearing. Somalis from all three regions must come together to counter this challenge. The international community must also help. The Obama Administration has done a great deal to assist the TFG and also to contain the threat and I am encouraged by this.

The Government of Puntland has sent an estimated 1,000 troops to assist in the fight against the terrorists in south-central Somalia. This is commendable. I hope this hearing leads to greater cooperation between the three regions.

As we gather here today, many Somalis continue to be displaced, maimed, and killed. The dreams and aspiration of millions of Somalis are on hold or crushed. Over a year ago, I visited the Somali refugee camp in Kenya called Dadaab. I met thousands of refugees, some of whom were born in the camps.

When I asked a number of young Somalis what they want badly that they currently don’t have, they responded: education. This is the same response I’ve received to the question when posed in Darfur refugee camps in Chad. Somalis, like people everywhere, want and deserve the opportunity to educate their children and have hope for a better life. We can do more to help towards this. I encourage President Obama and Secretary Clinton to engage further in a positive way in Somalia as we have seen so far.

I will now turn to our Ranking Member, Congressman Smith for his opening statement and will read the bios of the distinguished panelists following Members’ opening remarks.

Source: AllAfrica.com

USA going to war with Somalia – US ‘has spent $10m on arms aid to Somalia

WASHINGTON/MOGADISHU

The US government has provided about 40 tonnes of weapons and ammunition to Somalia’s embattled government in the past six weeks to help it fight Islamist insurgents, a senior US official said on Saturday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States spent less than $10 million on what he described as small arms and ammunition as well as on payments to other nations to train Somali government forces.

While the State Department confirmed on Thursday that it was providing weaponry to the government, it had not previously provided details on the type, cost or amount.

The senior State Department official told reporters the United States began providing the arms soon after Somalia’s al-Shabaab insurgents began a major offensive against the fragile transitional federal government (TFG) in early May.

Al Shabaab, which is seen as a proxy for al Qaeda, controls most of south Somalia and all but a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu. The official said Washington feared that it could destabilise the region and turn Somalia into a safe haven for foreign Islamists and “global terrorists.”

“We’ve shipped probably in the neighbourhood of 40 tonnes worth of arms and munitions into Somalia,” the official said. “We remain concerned about the prospects of an al Shabaab victory, and we want to do as much as we can to help the TFG.”

The United States funded the purchase of arms for the Somali government and also asked the Ugandan and Burundian troops in the country to give the government weapons and then reimbursed them, the official said.

He said the United States also set aside money to pay the Ugandan and Burundian units to train government forces rather than having US troops conduct the training.

When a moderate Islamist was elected president in January, there was hope he could end nearly two decades of bloodshed in Somalia by reconciling with hardliners who want to impose a strict version of Islamic law across the country.

But al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden declared Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed an enemy in an audiotape released in March, calling on the insurgents to topple the government and for Muslims around the world to join their fight.

The US official said he had heard estimates of between 200 and 400 foreign fighters in Somalia but that his personal view was that the figure probably was less than 200.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Musse Abdi Arale, a Member of the Shura (Council) of Hizbu Islam, the Islamist group opposing the TFG, told the local media that the US is responsible for the mayhem in Somalia. He justified his remarks, insisting that the US has always intervened in the internal affairs of Somalia.

“For half a century, the US has been following plans to harm the Somali people,” said Sheikh Musse. He added that the American governments exploited Somalia’s natural resources by employing local stooges.

Sheikh Musse was reacting to news that the US had delivered arms and ammunition to the TFG. “This delivery of arms and ammunition to Somalia is an indication that the US is not interested in the stability of Somalia,” said Sheikh Musse.

Separately, an Al-Shabaab’s top official in Mogadishu, Sheikh Ali Hussein Mohamed, condemned the US action to send weapons to the TFG. He said that a delivery of arms and other assistance only shows that the TFG’s claim to have an Islamic agenda is phoney.

The US has recently announced that it delivered arms, ammunition and other military supplies to Somalia to the tune of 40 tons.

source.nation.ke

US official stresses support for embattled Somali govt

A top US diplomat on Monday stressed his country's support for Somalia's transitional government, whose control has been hanging by a thread in the face of a fierce Islamist insurgency.

"The US government has always been clear that it is important to support the TFG (transitional federal government)," US Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew said during a visit to neighbouring Ethiopia.

"We are engaged in activities consistent with what the countries of the region are involved in."

Last week, a US official said the United States was giving Somalia's embattled government urgent supplies of weapons and ammunition to fight off the insurgents.

Islamists launched a nationwide offensive against the administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on May 7.

The internationally-backed Sharif has been holed up in his presidential quarters, protected by African Union peacekeepers as his forces were unable to reassert their authority on the capital.

In 2006, Ethiopia, a key US ally in the region, invaded Somalia to remove an Islamist rebellion that had taken control of large swathes of the country.

When it pulled out earlier this year, having failed to stabilise the country, Ethiopia warned it could return at any time should hardliners threaten to take control.

Lew had earlier met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and said he raised US concerns over Ethiopia's 2005 elections.

"We noted that the 2005 elections were good but expressed that we were troubled at the reduction in space for open public debate ...," he said.

The European Union and other observers said the 2005 elections fell short of international standards, and around 200 people died in violence that erupted after the opposition accused Meles' party of rigging the ballot.

Several members of the Ethiopian opposition are now in exile or in prison, including Birtukan Mideksa, the head of an opposition coalition.

"We have expressed very strong views that the election next year should be free and fair," Lew said. "I raised concerns about Birtukan and said the case should be resolved quickly and finally."

Lew also said the United States was concerned over restrictions Ethiopia has placed on aid groups.

Ethiopia adopted a law early this year stating any local group drawing more than 10 percent of its funding from abroad would be classified as foreign and subjected to tight government control.

Source: AFP

Somalia Moves to Forefront on AU Summit Agenda

Somali government's recent declaration of a state of emergency has moved the country's security crisis to the top rank of items for consideration at this week's African Union summit. From AU headquarters in Addis Ababa our correspondent reports that summit leaders will consider issuing a call for direct military intervention.

Fast-moving events in Somalia are propelling the Horn of Africa to urgent status on the summit agenda. After his government declared an emergency last week, Deputy Prime Minister Sharif Hasan Sheikh Adan flew to Addis Ababa to plead with Ethiopian and AU leaders for enhanced military support.

Ethiopia pulled troops out of the besieged Somali capital, Mogadishu, earlier this year and is reluctant to return without a strong mandate from the international community.

The 5,000 strong African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM is overstretched. It also lacks the mandate that would allow peacekeepers to defend against an expected offensive by the radical rebel group al-Shabab, which is trying to impose strict Islamic law, or Sharia, in a country that practices a moderate brand of Islam.

Adan estimates that 2,000 foreign fighters are in Somalia to bolster al-Shabab.

The deputy prime minister said that Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed will plead at the summit for urgent reinforcements and a more robust mandate for AMISOM, so it can confront the rebels head on.

"To change the mandate from peacekeeping to peacemaking, it has to be armed like a government, so they can defend themselves," said Adan.

Adan said that a summit vote of confidence would provide a desperately needed boost for Somalis who are concerned that their under equipped military is about to be overrun by a foreign force of hardline Islamic militants.

"They will also have moral support; the people will have a positive view on how the government is alive and is able to protect itself," he said. "We have people to protect us, but we need help from the international community to build."

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra was quoted from the summit site as saying the continental body fully supports the Somali request for assistance. He told the PANA news agency that the heads of state will consider all possibilities, including a call for direct military intervention from friendly states in the region.

Both Kenya and Ethiopia are considering military intervention. Kenya's foreign minister has been quoted as saying his country's army is on the "highest alert ever" because of the tensions in Somalia.

In an acknowledgment of the severity of the crisis, the United States last week confirmed that it is sending arms to the Mogadishu government, and is stepping up the level of humanitarian aid. A State Department spokesman said the money would help "repel the onslaught of extremist forces intent on spoiling efforts to bring peace and stability to Somalia".

Source: VOA

Somali rebels threaten violent response to US arms

A radical Islamic group in Somalia has threatened to seize weapons and ammunition the U.S. has supplied to the nation's embattled government.

But Uganda, a key U.S. ally in the region, praised the arms shipment.

Both were responding to an announcement by U.S. officials last week that the Obama administration had supplied arms and provided military training worth just under $10 million to the east African country's shaky official government.

The Obama's administration's goal is to provide the faltering Somali government with weapons and to help armies in several neighboring African nations train Somali forces. But experts have expressed concern that the arms may end up diverted to insurgent groups.

Sheik Hassan Ya'qub, a spokesman for the militant group al-Shabab in the port town of Kismayo, said late Sunday: "The weapons sent to the so-called government will only escalate violence in Somalia and we, the holy warriors, believe that we will eventually seize them."

Washington considers al-Shabab a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida, which al-Shabab denies. The group, which controls much of southern Somalia, is trying to drive out the government and install a strict form of Islam.

"I welcome (the) U.S.A.'s sending of weapons to Somalia," said Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, a major contributor of troops to the African Union force in the Somali capital.

The African Union and the U.N. "support Somalia's government, and if the U.S. comes out to support it, it is a good gesture," Museveni told reporters in the Ugandan port town of Entebbe on Monday.

Over the past two months, Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed's government has come under heavy attacks from Islamic insurgents pounding government positions with mortars and targeting senior officials in suicide attacks. During an intense two-week period of fighting in the capital in May about 200 civilians were killed.

It is unclear how al-Shabab, an extremist Islamic group fighting to overthrow the government, will follow through on its threat to seize the arms. U.S. officials said last week that the arms were supplied through the African Union force in the Somali capital, which has firm control of Mogadishu's main air and sea port even though Al-Shabab controls other parts of Mogadishu.

In May, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development — a group of seven countries in the Horn of Africa region that has led past peace talks on Somalia — imposed a sea and air blockade to stop military supplies reaching the Islamic insurgents in Somalia. It is not clear whether the blockade has been effective.

There has been a U.N. arms embargo on Somalia since 1992, but it is regularly violated. The U.N. amended the embargo in 2006 to allow the deployment of an African Union force in Somalia without violating international law.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when the overthrow of a dictatorship plunged the country into chaos. That also has allowed pirates to operate freely in the Gulf of Aden and around Somalia's 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) coastline.


Source: The Associated Press