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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Somali Culture of Weddings and How Abroad Somalis left their culture

By Abdulkarim Jimale

Engulfed by decades of civil strife, Somalia, located in the heart of Horn of African, has seen almost half of its seven million population scattered across the globe with most ending up in the western world. Somalis are Muslims and most of their culture comes from their religion. Traditional weddings are part of their lives but the trends on how they conduct the ceremonies have changed.

“Weddings are very important occasions for Somali communities where ever they are in the world” Gedi Mohamed an elder in Nairobi told The Star.

Somali wedding continuous for seven days sequence, the first day is for the wedding and the next three days called “Sadexda” (means in English the third) are for dancing and celebrating in the bride’s house and the last three days is dancing and celebrating in the grooms’ house which is called “Toddobada” (the seventh).

In the Somali culture, these nights, women and men do not mix or celebrate together; they do their celebrations separately. The celebrations start at the afternoon and carries on up to midnight.

There is a particular party called “Baraambur” (meaning in English to praise the bride and the bride groom)

Somali Women Dancing in Somali Traditional wedding in Nairobi

Traditionally bride, bride groom and their families arrange for a plentiful feast for their guests at the reception. Different traditional types of foods are usually served for the guests to enjoy as they carry on with the festivities.

Relatives from the both sides and the guests exchange gifts in the occasion.

The exchange of gifts can also include showering of praises and congratulations to the bride and groom.

Traditional Somalis have one best man party and one best lady.

Somali Women elders are tasked to get the bride ready for her new home and making sure the couple has a comfortable home at least for the first few weeks called “Bisha Malabka” (Honeymoon).

Wedding Gifts

Traditionally “Sooryo” (means in English weddings gift) is been given to the present relatives from the both side and the guests at the time of“Nikah” engagement.

The amount of money is divided amongst themselves and also other important people in the family.

Nowadays modern Somali weddings in western or America left this culture.

Price Bride

The engagement “Meher” usually takes place a few days or a month before the wedding, and sometimes on the same day. It’s a common theme for all Somali weddings to be based in an Islamic rule because almost all of them are Muslims.

Somalis old traditional weddings men used to give 100 camels as pride gift known as her Meher. But nowadays in Somalia only it’s an amount of money and gold but the old culture still is working in some parts of the country.

The importance of Meher cannot be underestimated – without it the wedding cannot take place, so the lady needs to be clear as to what she wants for her Meher and the man is obliged to pay it

Abroad Somalis in Meher Occasion, the couples exchange rings they are supposed to keep for the rest of their lives and a symbol of their unity. This is another new culture aped from Western.

Somali traditional dance in Nairobi

Another new thing is and common these days in abroad Somalis weddings organized in different countries like Kenya and USA, the pride and groom are in different countries.

The families

arrange lunch at same time in the two countries and the Meher will be done through on the mobile phone the modern technology. The love of Somalis for travel has facilitated the exchange of images of the parties.

The parents of the bride and bride groom enjoy watching the wedding ceremony in VCR or DVD until they are satisfied that the necessary social requirements were performed. This has also the effect of all young girls aspiring to the standards of former weddings.

Prayers changed to Music

On Somalis weddings while guests and hosts are celebrating for the wedding traditionally used to pray for the groom and bride Allah to make their marriage which stay forever and never let down until they die.

Clerics were attending the ceremony they pray for the new couples “Wiil iyo Caano, Gabar iyo Caano” “Boy with Milk, Girl with Milk”

As the poet, Cabdullahi Faarax Warsame (Lecture) stated in one of his poems; Waa gob iyo caadkeed, Aroos inay gangaamaan, Guri ay yagleelaan, Gelbiska iyo shallaadkiyo, Gole lagu kulmaayoo, Giringiro ciyaartii, Dadku gaaf ka boodaan, Wa gob iyo caadkeed.

In English It is of Nobles and their custom, To coordinate a splendid wedding, And construct a house, The Gelbis and the chanting, At the places of gathering, Where the dance take place, And the masses leap at the Gaaf, It is of Nobles and their custom.

Somali wedding in Kenya

But nowadays inside Somalia’s main cities and some other Somali regions in Kenya and Ethiopia, this changed to songs of Somali professionals singers. But still they retain the cultural traditional songs and poems for the weeding.

Modern Somali weddings in USA, Europe, Asia and some parts of Africa the prayers changed to music of famous American and western singers such as 50-cent, Puff Daddy, Celina Dion and others.

“There are no prayers for the groom and bride, all they do is indulging in the culture of western songs with no traditional aspect, everything has changed, and we are surprised” Ahmed Sheikh Ali a Somali elder told The Star.

He adds there is no Buraanbur which we used to praise and pray for the bride and the groom.

Culture of dance changed

Traditional Somali weddings changed the way of dancing, old culture of dancing mostly foreign music was not allowed and some of the Somali songs, women and men were separated they celebrate in to two different places.

The bride and bride groom were not used to dance in front of the guests traditionally in Somali weddings, but nowadays during the ceremony of the big night, the bride and groom dance a little with the other guests, also the best men and best ladies dance together.

Traditionally, they used to dance the culture players such as, Buraambur, Wilisiqo, Gaaf and others.

But nowadays they rent big halls where men and women dance together in one place, the western type.

Sheikh Mohamed Jamaa told THE STAR “most of the Somalis abroad returned with another culture aped from western and American people.”

Its new thing the couples kissing in front of the guests also four best ladies and four best men, who also kiss in front of the audience.

Sheikh Jamaa said “this is new culture, and it is prohibited in our religion”

Dress Style

Most Somali weddings vary depending with the economic status of the brides or the bridegroom’s family. The main dress codes for traditional Somali ladies include a Guntino or Dirac, a garbasaar covering for the head as well as a googaro that is worn under the dress. Men are supposed to dress in Somali wear or Islamic wear like Khamis but the traditions has changed and you will now find that they wear modern three piece suits.

Unlike in the old days when traditional Somali women used herbal cleansing methods to clean and beautify their body, modernized western technology, the salon has become the one stop shop that does all this for them.

Somali women are decorated with black henna that is attractive in different shapes and patterns on both hands and legs.

Somali weddings are normally videotaped so that those who were not able to attend it can get to watch what passed them on the big day.

Costly wedding

For Somalis who have moved to western countries, US, Asia and Africa countries, the situation has changed. They have adopted the western way of doing things.

A modern Somali weddings held in Europe or USA, the couple spend almost $500,000 US Dollars. Nowadays, the trend also has penetrated those residing in African countries.

A former Somali Prime minister is said to have spent half a million US dollars at his son’s weeding which was held in Kenya.

A number of other wealth businesspersons and Somalis in the Diaspora do the same.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mogadishu: Lush Ribbon of Land Winds, Like a Fuse, Through Somalia's Ravaged Capital

There is a certain spot in this war-ravaged city that is unusually quiet and profoundly lush, where the trees are older and dripping with vines and where the branches interlace over the road, creating a canopy that filters the usually harsh equatorial sun into something softer. The leaves here seem a brighter, glossier version of themselves. The grasses are long and thick, perfect to hide in.

This is Mogadishu's frontline. A no man's land perhaps 200 feet wide of blasted-out buildings and overgrown bush, it snakes a jagged path across the city, separating a small, besieged enclave controlled by the government from thousands of radical Islamist insurgents. Part of the contested territory happens to cut through the Taleex neighborhood, which used to be one of the city's grandest, "a neighborhood of haves," as one young Somali put it, a place of huge, once-beautiful Italianate villas that are now abandoned and freckled with gunfire.

But the eerie beauty here is misleading. Hundreds of men on either side of this line are hunkered down behind tree trunks and chipped plaster walls, squinting at one another through their gun sights. The hush can be instantly shattered by ear-splitting bazookas that shake the ground and send birds screeching from the trees.

"You better be careful," says Mohamed Mahamoud, a government commander. "The Shabab are just 50 meters away."

The neighborhood is deserted and unkempt because it has been a frontline area for several years now, and all the residents have fled.

And the geography tells a story: despite millions of dollars from the United States and the United Nations; despite the fact that the insurgents are poisonously divided and widely reviled; despite Somalia's president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, coming into office more than a year ago with some of the highest hopes this country has had for a leader since Somalia's central government collapsed in 1991, the frontline has barely budged.

A much-anticipated government offensive to liberate Mogadishu has yet to happen. Somalia's government is still mostly holed up in a hilltop palace and fighting for survival in the wrecked neighborhoods below, like Taleex. Were it not for the thousands of Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Mogadishu, the hilltop palace would fall, too. Probably within hours.

There is not a lot of good news coming out of the palace these days. A few weeks ago, some of the president's closest men abruptly resigned, including Hassan Moallim Mohamoud, a Western-educated, devoutly religious confidant who seemed to be a true believer in Sheik Sharif's moderate Islamist leadership. Not so long ago, Mr. Hassan held court in the presidential guest house, plying visitors with heaping plates of dates and cool glasses of mango juice as he explained how Sheik Sharif's transitional government would be different from the 14 failed transitional governments that came before it.

Western diplomats now sound dispirited -- and totally frustrated. When one was recently asked why the government offensive had not begun, he vented: "These guys can't get their act together. It's as simple as that."

Somalia's Parliament building, which sits in an especially shot-up stretch of downtown, was recently repainted for the first time in years. But inside, it is a mess. Lawmakers have been caught up in a particularly bitter round of infighting (partly over what to do about the prime minister, whom the president recently tried to fire before backing down). Many Parliament members are now falling under the spell of Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan, a wily, illiterate livestock trader who was elected speaker last month. Considered one of the country's most powerful men, and very close to Ethiopia, he seems to have little experience -- or interest -- in building democratic institutions.

Another potential setback is the looming departure of Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the United Nations' top envoy for Somalia. For nearly the past three years, Mr. Ould-Abdallah has been one of Somalia's most passionate advocates, organizing conference after conference, constantly flying to New York to keep the Security Council's attention on this country and coordinating efforts of all the disparate players involved with Somalia: the United States, the European Union, Ethiopia, the Arab League and the African Union, to name a few. Replacing him is a little-known Tanzanian diplomat with experience in humanitarian affairs, possibly a signal of where the future focus will be.

For now, though, all eyes are on the battlefield.

And on the frontline, crouched down with the government troops, one quickly notices that there are no radios, no medics, no food, really, no transportation sergeants or supply captains, no lieutenant colonels or colonels. The troops are divided between a couple of graying men who call themselves commanders and hundreds of foot soldiers, including several children, which brings up another glaring problem (besides the child soldiers): there is no middle management.

As Ken Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina who specializes in Somalia, has put it, the Somali government is an hourglass, with "a whole bunch of ministers at the top, a whole bunch of soldiers at the bottom and nothing in between."

Somalia's friends are urgently trying to address this void. For example, the European Union is training hundreds of noncommissioned officers in Uganda right now, trying to prepare a professional backbone to stiffen Somalia's rank and file.

There are a few specks of hope, or at least normalcy. Money-changers now hang out at the airport, a sign, perhaps, that more visitors with dollars are passing through Mogadishu. For the first time in years, there is an airport duty-free shop, which sells iPods and sunglasses.

But the reality -- as shown by that stubborn frontline, which in many places is manned not by officially trained troops but by loosely commanded, government-allied militias -- is that Somalia's transitional government is still on life support.

And the conventional wisdom that the United States and others will back that transitional government to the bitter end because they are terrified of the alternative -- a Somalia ruled by the Shabab, the country's leading insurgent group, which is openly aligned with Al Qaeda -- may be changing.

Some Somali analysts are now contemplating a new approach known as "constructive disengagement," which calls for the international community to disentangle itself from Somali politics while continuing to provide humanitarian aid and conducting the occasional special forces raid against known terrorists.

"Doing less is better than doing harm," wrote Bronwyn E. Bruton in a special report for the Council on Foreign Relations, who is the driving force behind this new theory.

Ms. Bruton argues that outside efforts to shape Somalia's politics have failed miserably and that the time may soon come for Somalis to fight it out among themselves.

"Unless there is a decisive change in U.S., U.N. and regional policy," she wrote, "ineffective external meddling threatens to prolong and worsen the conflict, further radicalize the population and increase the odds that Al Qaeda and other extremist groups will eventually find a safe haven in Somalia."

Source: The New York Times.

Somaliland election free and fair: observers

Women wait in line on June 26 outside a polling station in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-proclaimed

Observers said Monday the weekend presidential poll in the breakaway Somali republic of Somaliland was largely free and fair and turnout high despite threats from Islamists.

"Overall, the election seems to have met conditions for a free and fair expression of the popular will of Somalilanders," said Progressio, the University College of London's development planning unit, and Somaliland Focus (UK).

The observer bodies praised in a statement a high voter turnout on Saturday in many areas of Somaliland "despite threats from Islamist militant groups to disrupt the process, which thankfully came to nothing".

They also raised concerns, however, citing "reported misuse of public resources, including vehicles, the time of civil servants and national public media by the incumbent party".

They also noted "sustained attempts at underage voting and systematic distribution of voter ID cards by unauthorised agents", the statement said, adding officials from the electoral commission took steps to stop those abuses.

The observer mission said it "looks forward to a speedy and clear result in the election that is accepted by all parties".

"Notwithstanding the concerns outlined above, we express our confidence that the election process to date is likely to result in a free and fair expression of the popular will."

Electoral commission chief Isse Yusuf Mohamud said meanwhile there had not so far been any official complaint from any of the political parties.

"The counting process continues and results will be announced during the week," he said.

President Dahir Riyale Kahin ran against two opposition candidates: Ahmed Mohamed Silaanyo, whose Kulmiye party is the largest parliamentary bloc, and Faisal Ali Warabe of the Justice and Welfare party.

Somaliland, which is more tribally homogenous than the rest of Somalia, has been striving for international recognition since it broke away in 1991.

Source: AFP

Name and Shame Measures Used to Combat Child Soldiers

Child soldiers in the Somali capital, Mogadishu (FILE)

A child rights expert says there have been some major breakthroughs in efforts to combat the recruitment of child soldiers. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict says U.N. Security Council resolutions, which name and shame countries that violate the rights of children caught in war are proving effective.

Last August, the UN Security Council passed a resolution requesting the Secretary-General to name and shame States and non-state actors that recruit child soldiers, commit sexual violence against children and maim children contrary to international law.

And progress has been made over the last year getting parties to enter into action plans with the UN, according to Radhika Cooumaraswamy, Special Representative to the Secretary-General.

"Once we list parties under these different grave violations, the way they can get off the list is to enter into action plans with the United Nations, especially with regard to the recruitment of the use of children, to release the children in their midst, to allow the U.N. to verify that release and to plan for their integration into society," Cooumaraswamy said.

As an example, the United Nations entered into an action plan with the Maoists in Nepal, who subsequently released 3,000 minors. Cooumaraswamy said a rebel group in the Philippines and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army also released thousands of child soldiers after entering into similar plans.

She says Burma, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Somalia are on the name and shame list. But, Uganda and Ivory Coast, who agreed to the U.N. action plan, now are de-listed.

U.N. estimates of around 250,000 child soldiers is down from 300,000.

But it cites 22 situations of concern in which grave child violations are taking place. They include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Yemen. Coomaraswamy says some of the 22 governments recruit child soldiers, but most of the persistent violators are rebel groups, such as the Taliban and FARC.

Cooumaraswamy said as conflicts change, they create dangerous new situations for children.

"We have now children used as suicide bombers. There were seven cases of suicide bombing in Afghanistan last year. And, we also count on insurgency strategies, seeing children who are victims of aerial bombardment and drone killings, children in detention," she said. "So these kinds of new issues that are coming up for us and are giving us new challenges that we would have to deal with."

Coomaraswamy noted that an important breakthrough has been made with regard to the security council's willingness to impose targeted measures against those who recruit and use children in conflict.

She said members are considering imposing sanctions against violators that would include a freeze on the assets of individuals, travel bans and arms embargoes.

Source: VOA

Monday, June 28, 2010

Garden City’s racial diversity is a look at America’s future

Your home can be your birthplace. Or where you raise a family. Or where you bury your kin.

For a growing number of immigrants, home is far west Kansas in a city of 28,000, a world away from Mogadishu, Mexico City and Myanmar.

It’s where women in burqas stroll down a Norman Rockwell Main Street festooned with early Fourth of July banners. And where a Buddhist temple sits alongside grocery stores selling Mexican soft drinks and 50-pound bags of jasmine rice.

“This is my home. I want to become American,” said Abshiro Warsame, a Somali woman who works the late shift at the nearby Tyson beef packing plant.

Warsame came to the United States seven years ago, after her husband was murdered. A U.S. flag hangs in her small, shared flat. In her spare time, she studies English and Spanish.

It’s a new look for the heartland — and perhaps a glimpse of where America is headed.

By 2050, the Census Bureau predicts, the United States will have a new minority: whites. Already, non-Hispanic whites are the minority in California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii, and about one in 10 U.S. counties.

America’s future arrived early in Garden City. New census numbers show that whites now account for just under 50 percent of Finney County’s 42,000 residents. Latinos make up 45 percent, with blacks and growing numbers of Africans and Asians rounding out the rest.

The county is the latest in Kansas where whites are the new minority.

According to projections, the 2010 U.S. Census will show that whites will be the minority in as many as four Kansas counties: Finney, Seward, Grant, and Ford. All are southwestern Kansas counties that supply labor to meat packing plants. Non-Hispanic whites for years have been a minority in Wyandotte County, with its large African-American and Hispanic populations.

Missouri has no county like that — but that’s likely to change in the next decade. Already, minorities make up more than 40 percent of those under 20 years of age in Jackson County, a sign that minority populations are gaining demographic ground and not just in rural areas.

Across the nation, the new immigrants are bringing with them new challenges for established communities. Schools are searching for more money to hire interpreters. Governments are struggling to integrate newcomers in a strange land. Long-time residents are adapting to neighbors who look, cook and speak differently.

Not surprisingly, some people are pushing back.

Arizona sparked a political firestorm earlier this year by passing a law to crack down on illegal immigration. Just last week, citizens in Fremont, Neb., — also a meatpacking town — approved a law prohibiting businesses and landlords from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants.

But the changes may be inexorable. The white population is aging and birthrates are falling. Hispanic birthrates are rising. So is legal immigration. Meatpacking centers such as Garden City offer an attractive destination during a down economy, with plentiful jobs that require few skills and little training.

Like their predecessors, the new immigrants bring their own cultures and controversies. Last month, Somali residents ruffled some feathers in Garden City after they requested a Muslim-only section in the city cemetery for religious reasons.

“This is our home now,” said Abdulkadir Mohamed, a Somali Muslim and translator at the Tyson plant who moved here in 2006. “But we need a place for us in the cemetery.”

Although most in town are handling the religious differences well, the request touched off a debate that exposed holes in the city’s seemingly strong ethnic tapestry.

“We’ve been too politically correct for too long,” said Leonard Hitz, a former Marine, retired banker and self-described cowboy poet. “If you want to come to this country and be an American, you’re welcome. But learn the language and assimilate.”

While other rural Kansas communities see populations dwindle and economies decline as their young people move away, Garden City is growing.

But into what, many wonder?

“This community doesn’t look like it once did in the ’50s and ’60s,” said former mayor Nancy Harness. “But you know, the communities that look the same way they did back then? They’re all dying. These people bring fresh blood. They bring children.”

The plant

Lunch break at the Tyson plant erupts into a riot of language and color.

Tall Somali women glide by in flowing red and green gowns. Groups of tired-looking men chat in Burmese — one of the 14 languages spoken in the plant.

Many carry shiny meat hooks and the thin, straight blades used to carve cattle into roasts, loins, T-bones and strip steaks.

The plant was once the largest beef processing plant in the world, butchering up to 5,700 cattle a day. Tyson employs 3,100 workers, more than the next six largest employers in Finney County combined. The plant buys $1 billion worth of cattle each year, many from nearby ranches.

Wages start at $12.30 an hour, and it’s tough, bloody work.

The plant has long relied on immigrant labor willing to do it, according to plant manager Paul Karkiainen. Tyson hires interpreters to translate for the many ethnicities. Signs in the lunch room are posted in three languages: Spanish, English and Vietnamese.

“We probably could add a few new ones,” said Jonathan Galia, a Baptist minister who works as the plant chaplain.

All Tyson plants employ chaplains such as Galia, who minister to workers and help integrate them into the community. He left his native Philippines 17 years ago. Now a citizen, Galia worked as a hospital chaplain before taking the job at the plant.

“You have to reach people where they are,” Galia said of his unusual parish.

Sometimes that means reaching across a religious divide. Islam requires adherents to pray five times daily. To accommodate new Muslim workers, Tyson set up separate prayer rooms for men and women. The company also supplied prayer rugs, each outfitted with a compass to allow Muslims to pray toward Mecca.

The rooms fill up with workers from Myanmar, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

“If we didn’t have this, we could not work here,” said Somali immigrant Farah Hanaf, 26. “It shows that they accept us.”

Galia works with members of each ethnic group to resolve conflicts. Earlier this year, he helped put together a Coalition of Ethnic Minority Leaders to work on improving assimilation.

“We try to send the message of, ‘Hey, you’re not a refugee forever. This is your home now,’ ” Galia said.

But some point out that it was somebody else’s home first.

The reception

Although the rest of the nation has been loudly debating immigration policy in recent years, Garden City has been quietly going about the business of integration for generations.

The city’s first immigrants were white settlers who displaced Native Americans. The railroad and a sugar beet plant attracted Mexican immigrants looking for work.

Over the years, they and their descendants learned English, became citizens and started businesses. Now, three or four generations later, the older immigrants watch as new immigrants from even farther away follow in their great-grandparents’ footsteps.

“You see them everywhere,” said Yuri Chavez, a lifelong resident of southwest Kansas. “But they don’t bother people. I believe if you leave other people alone they’ll leave you alone.”

The city’s long history with immigrants may make it more welcoming today, experts noted. Kansas State University anthropology professor Janet Benson researched immigration in Garden City in the ’80s and ’90s and was struck by what she calls the city’s “quiet accommodation.”

“People get used to each other,” Benson said. “Our ancestors did. One of the ways they did it was through the legal system and the political arena. As people become citizens they learn about their rights. They vote. And that’s how we change as a people.”

Omar Flores moved to Garden City eight years ago from Chihuahua, Mexico. He said he rarely encounters anti-immigrant hostility.

“This town is different,” Flores said while taking his 2-year-old daughter, Adaliz, to a local carnival. “They’re more welcoming. I think they’re used to it.”

School Superintendent Rick Atha agreed. He moved to Garden City five years ago, after spending most of his career in Missouri schools. He said he was surprised at how well the community was adjusting.

“Diversity is not new here. It’s third, fourth generation,” Atha said. “There’s more of a tendency to embrace rather than reject or deny. It’s what makes the agribusiness economy work. It’s who we are.”

Despite the recent recession, unemployment in Garden City is below state and national averages. While two-thirds of the counties in the Great Plains lost population in the last 60 years, Finney County has grown.

That immigration is in Garden City’s self-interest may explain why few in this town speak openly against it. Hitz, the cowboy poet, said he counted several Vietnamese immigrants as close friends. It’s not immigrants that bother him, he said, but those who show no interest in assimilating.

He strongly objects to talk of giving Muslim residents a special corner of the public cemetery. If it’s good enough for everyone else, he reasons, it should be good enough for them.

“I couldn’t go to another country and say ‘I’m not accustomed to your ways, so I’m going to stick with mine,’ ” Hitz said.

“They wouldn’t stand that. This country is a melting pot. What’s made this country great is that people came here for the freedoms, and in the process they assimilated.”

Debbie Jordan is a longtime resident, business owner and a leader in the local “tea party” movement.

“The people I talk to here are in the complete support of the Arizona law,” Jordan said. “The government needs to secure our borders.”

Jordan said she had no problem with her new neighbors — as long as they got here legally. Jordan owns a mobile home park and rents to many Mexican-Americans. She said she had come to respect their work ethic.

She is concerned, however, that the immigrants could take jobs from long-time residents.

“It’s nothing against the people,” Jordan said. “But the plants and the factories bring them in and meanwhile we’ve got all these people (in the country) unemployed.”

The challenges

The immigration tsunami hit Garden City’s schools hardest.

Imagine the challenge of teaching 3,000 schoolchildren who speak a language other than English. The district, which has 7,400 pupils, had to hire more English language teachers. Even the cafeteria menu was changed to offer familiar foods.

But thanks to the community’s number of low-income immigrant households, the school district receives more money than other districts. Indeed, Garden City schools get $60 million in state and federal funding, compared with the $40 million received by the similarly sized De Soto district.

“It’s a real challenge, but I consider it more of an opportunity,” Superintendent Atha said. “Because if a teacher really wants to make a difference with kids, Garden City is a great place to teach. Because we do have really needy kids that are really hungry for learning.”

Police also are coping with a rise in crime.

Several years ago, Garden City briefly became one of the more dangerous cities in Kansas because of drug-fueled gang violence. Crime rates have stabilized now, but last month police met with representatives of each ethnic group to discuss a new strategy that will place an officer in each neighborhood.

Several ethnic leaders told police that immigrants sometimes feel uncomfortable contacting the authorities.

“Some of these people have no concept even of democracy or of law enforcement,” said Galia, the Tyson chaplain. “When you see a Somali shake hands with a police officer, it’s a very special thing.”

Local leaders have pushed the federal government for years to open an immigration office so residents wouldn’t have to drive to Wichita or Kansas City. So far, it hasn’t happened.

Instead, much of the day-to-day work of integrating newcomers falls to a state-funded social service agency known as the Adult Learning Center. The center works with immigrants to find housing, jobs and health care. It also translates government forms and helps them work toward citizenship or their GED.

“Every day is a little different,” said Velia Mendoza, the center’s refugee coordinator, who has taught immigrants how to use unfamiliar appliances such as washing machines and microwave ovens.

During one stop at an apartment complex catering to Burmese immigrants, Mendoza was swarmed by women. One wanted help translating a letter. Another wanted to know how she could find out whether her application for food stamps had been approved.

“Sometimes they just need a little help,” Mendoza said. “Next time, they’ll be able to do it themselves.”

The dream

A few miles east of the Tyson plant, several Somali men sit in the shade of a tree, smoking and discussing a recent World Cup soccer match. Because Somalia can’t field a functioning government, let alone a World Cup soccer team, the men root for South Africa.

Across the street, dozens of Burmese children ride bicycles and run barefoot. Most are Karen, a minority that for years fought for independence in Burma. Thousands still live in refugee camps along the Thai border.

Now, hundreds live here in a bare-bones apartment complex that rents two-bedroom units for $500 a month.

Inside one, Ta Poh Poh, 42, watches her two daughters, 5-month-old Paw Sher Gay and 6-year-old Paw Sher Wah. Despite her young age, Paw Sher Wah wears the makeup customary for most Burmese girls and women.

Awards from Paw Sher Wah’s elementary school hang proudly on the wall. So does a cheap clock — still in its original clear plastic and cardboard packaging. The family didn’t know the packaging was supposed to be removed before hanging the clock.

Suddenly, the door opens and their father arrives from shopping at Walmart. Ta Ma Lahtoo, 45, works the late shift at Tyson. It is a good job, he said through a translator. Hard work but worth it.

“We are going to stay here for our children,” he said.

Ta Poh Poh nods. She likes Garden City’s small-town feel and the endless horizons of the high plains. But she knows all too well that fate can take strange turns.

“What place belongs to us?” she said. “We’ll stay here as long as we can.”

Ko “Kujo” Kyaw also rents one of the apartments for his wife and three children. Until last year, the 39-year-old Burmese immigrant had one of the toughest jobs at the plant. Using a long blade, he would slit the throats of cattle to drain their blood immediately after slaughter.

But sometimes the animals aren’t quite dead. They lash out violently with their powerful hooves. Kyaw wore a protective face mask to avoid injury.

One day last year, he sliced a finger with his knife. Surgery repaired the injury, but he said he lost his job anyway. Now he works as a makeshift taxi driver, making a few bucks driving other immigrants around town.

Like many Americans today, he worries about what will happen if he can’t find regular work. He doesn’t want to leave Garden City.

“I feel like I belong here,” he said. “Muslim, not Muslim, it doesn’t matter. Here in a democratic country, it doesn’t matter. Here we are all the same.”

Kyaw and his wife, Ne Lar, lived for two years in a refugee camp before being approved for resettlement. Their youngest child — named Look Man — was born in Garden City three months ago.

They hold big dreams for him.

“He’s a citizen. He’ll have lots of opportunity,” Kyaw said, laughing and scratching his dark skin with his injured finger.

“You never know. He could be president.”

To reach David Klepper, call 785-354-1388 or send e-mail to


Sunday, June 27, 2010

50th Anniversary of Somali Independence Day (1st of July 2010)

As we all know Somalia became independant on the 1st of July 1960. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Somali independence day. For that reason, as Somalis, it's essential to have a big event wherever we live to celebrate the golden jubilee of our independence on July 1, 2010.

Somalia wake up,
wake up and lean on each other
And whoever is most in need of support
Support them forever.

Happy Somali Indepedence Day
from "SomaliCare" blog

Sida aan la wada soconno, Soomaaliya waxay xor noqotay 1da Luulyo 1960kii. Sannadkan waa konton_guuradii Maalinta Xorriyadda Soomaaliya. Sidaas darteed, waxaa lagama maarmaan ah in Soomaali ahaan meel kasta oo aan ku nool nahay inaan si weyn ugu dabbaadegno xorriyadeenna iyo xuskan dahabiga ah maalinta 1da Luulyo 2010ka.

Soomaaliyeey toosoo
Toosoo isku tiirsada ee
Hadba kiina taagdaranee
Taageera waligiinee

Waa hambalyadii malinta Xorriyadda Soomaaliya
ee blogga "SomaliCare"

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Somalia tops "Failed States Index" for 3rd

Rated the worst of the worst among failed states, Somalia tops the annual Failed States Index for the third consecutive year.

Out of 177 countries indexed by Foreign Policy Magazine and The Fund for Peace published on Monday, Somalia was given the highest score on 12 indicators including delegitimization of the state, security apparatus, and factionalized elites.

The past half-century has seen a continuous saga of disaster played out in Somalia.

The eastern horn of Africa officially became the independent Democratic Republic of Somalia, by shaking off Italian and British colonial rule, in 1960.

In 1963, Somalia signed a military aid agreement with the Soviet Union and six years later Somalia’s longest standing president and military dictator Muhammad Siad Barre came to power in a military coup after the assassination of then President Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke.

Siad Barre proclaimed Somalia a socialist state a year after gaining control. He then began nationalizing the country. He ruled based on his own version of “scientific socialism” that promoted self-reliance, modeled somewhat after China, the Soviet Union, and elements of the Quran.

In 1977, Somalia invaded the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and was defeated a year later after Soviet forces sided with Ethiopia. At this time, Somalia began drawing on support from the United States and in 1980, signed an agreement allowing American military access to several Somalia ports.

While in theory Siad Barre’s socialist ideology intended to minimize the divide among Somalia’s different ethnic clans, his regime met with strong opposition from marginalized Mijertyn and Isaq starting in 1981.

The human rights abuses from Barre’s harsh dealing with clan opposition drew criticism from the international community, and in 1989, the United States cut off military aid to the country.

By 1990, it was clear that Siad Barre was losing control of the country. He fled in 1991 leaving Somalia in chaos without centralized leadership. Several regions of the country formed their own governments, but the country has been in deep turmoil, and essentially lawless, ever since.

In 2000, neighboring countries helped Somalia form a Transitional National Government (TNG) in an effort to bring stability.

Between 2006 and 2009, ongoing conflict between the TFG backed by Ethiopian forces, and opposing armed militias had led to a severe deterioration in humanitarian conditions.

The internal displacement monitoring center estimates that 1.3 million of Somalia’s 9.1 million were displaced last year.

Many of the displaced live in camps with erratic food distribution, poor sanitation, and a lack of basic health care, according to a report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). In a 2009 report, MSF described the situation in Somalia as a "humanitarian catastrophe” and said that it is extremely difficult to provide relief, due in part to the clash of political and aid agendas, which have left certain clan leaders suspicious of foreign aid, leading to attacks on aid workers.

Piracy off the Somali coast has also become the scourge of international shipping in the region. According to the International Maritime Organization, in the first quarter of 2008, there were 11 piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia. Today, despite extensive efforts to patrol the waters, barely a day goes by without a piracy incident with ransom demands continuing to escalate into the multimillions.

Among the other top failed states are Zimbabwe (2), Sudan (3), Iraq (6), Pakistan (10) and Haiti (12).

Source: The Epoch Times

Somalia’s Shebab threaten Somaliland voters

Somalia’s Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab warned voters in the northern self-proclaimed state of Somaliland not to vote in the presidential elections, in an audio message obtained by AFP Friday.

“Those who take part in those so-called elections will face the consequences,” Ahmed Abdi Godane, the overall leader of the Shebab group, said in the message released ahead of Somaliland’s Saturday polls.

Godane, also known as “Abu Zubayr” and a native of the Somaliland capital Hargeisa, said the elections were organised by “the anti-Islamic forces in Somalia.

Somaliland’s presidential polls, which were delayed three times since 2008, are due to go ahead on Saturday, 50 years to the day after the territory obtained its independence from Britain.

The region acquired its independence on June 26 1960, then merged with the rest of Somalia, which had ben under Italian rule, but broke away again in 1991, in the aftermath of Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre’s ouster.

While central and southern Somalia descended into chaos, Somaliland succeeded in ensuring stability and developed its economy but has yet to be internationally recognised as an independent state.

Source: dalkayga

Somalia government proves NY Times wrong

Mohammed Omar Hussein narrate

The Somali transitional federal government has displayed the children which the famous paper (New York Times) has narrated that the Somali government has registered them as government soldiers while they are still under maturity stage which a person can enroll to be a total man who can defend a country and can take the rest of his time in the frontline of a battle field.

In a press conference which was jointly conducted by Banadir regional administration and the defence department of the Somali government have exhibited those children which NY times has exaggerated beyond the limit and whose images were shown on the front page of NY times.

The deputy commander of the Somali national armed forces field marshal Abdikarim Yussuf Adan best known as (Dhaga Badan was the first person to spoke in the joint press conference.

“In recent days there were exaggerated, fabricated and baseless propaganda which has appeared on the headline of the famous NY times which now seems to losing its reputation among the other international papers after having written a baseless fabricated report which it said that the Somali government is enrolling under age boys in the Somali military force and here in front of you, you can see those boys whom you have seen their mages in the headline of NY times, and from this minute we can say shame on the exaggeration which the NY times has reported against the Somali transitional federal government and as well as those who have contributed them in writing that awkward report” said Adan the deputy commander of the Somali national armed forces in the press conference.

The deputy commander of the Somali national armed forces has also added that the Somali government will not absolve those who were involved in that report and will pursue them, and has praised the different forces of the Somali government for their engagement in bringing the right children which NY times have taken them as their quotes.

The press has had questions with the children during the press conference and have all confirmed that they are not the ones who the reporter dubbed their images.

“There were men who came to us including none Somali photographer, whose skin complexion was not like that of a Somali person, but the photographer had a Somali interpreter with him who was interpreting all the conversations between us and the foreigner, and before anything else their made us to smile by giving us sum of money between US$10 to 50 dollars, and they provided us with an automatic machinegun and AK47 assault riffles telling to act as if we are vigilant keeping guard” said Mohammed Abdikadir who was among the children which the NY times has tipped them to imitate for them as Somali government soldiers.

On the other hand Mr. Abdisalam Daahir Abdulle an officer from the social community of Banadir region has delivered his words in the press conference.

“Instantly after we heard the report in NY times we had not wasted anytime, and organized ourselves to follow-up the case, and fortunately after we have closely observed at the narrated images of NY times and detected the area where the drama was acted, and immediately we have contacted the district administration of the place where the dream was acted, and at last we have found out the exact children who have acted for the NY times and here they are today in front of you” Mr. Abdisalam Daahir Abdulle Banadir regional officer.

Eventually the administration of Banadir region has told the famed press not to behave like the NY times and advised the NY times to repent its mistakes and not to ignite fire in the war torn country Somalia, but instead should re-building the war strife country by reporting balanced report on the ground and that is the ethics of journalism.

Mohammed Omar Hussein+25261-5519235

Somaliweyn Media Center (SMC)

Ruling burdens State Dept

Samantar held foreign officials are not immune from human rights suits, so State will have to decide whether to assert immunity and will be subject to lobbying.

John B. Bellinger III

June 28, 2010

In a decision that may result in significant diplomatic friction and stoke internal divisions within the Obama administration, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that foreign government officials are not protected from lawsuits for torture and human rights violations by a federal law that provides immunity for foreign governments. The decision, hailed by human rights groups, is likely to encourage more lawsuits in U.S. courts against visiting foreign officials, including Israelis and Chinese. These officials may still enjoy immunity from suit under other legal doctrines, but the State Department will be forced to assert immunity on their behalf. The Obama administration will now be buffeted by competing demands from foreign governments for protection for their officials and from human rights advocates for accountability for human rights abusers.

The case, Samantar v. Yousuf, involved a suit against Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former defense minister and prime minister of Somalia in the 1980s. The suit was filed by a group of Somali nationals who allege that they or their family members were tortured or killed by Somali defense forces commanded by Samantar. The plaintiffs sued under the Alien Tort Statute, a 220-year-old federal law that allows foreign nationals to bring civil suits in U.S. courts for violations of international law.

In 2007, Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the Somali suit, concluding that Samantar is immune under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which codifies the customary international law rule that sovereign governments generally may not be sued in foreign courts without their consent. The majority of circuit courts had previously held that the FSIA protects not only foreign governments but also their officials. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, however, disagreed and reversed, and the Supreme Court affirmed. In a unanimous decision by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that the FSIA protects only governments, not individual officials. The Court emphasized, however, that Samantar may still be entitled to common law (judicially recognized) immunities, which should be considered by the trial court. Disappointingly, the Court offered no guidance on the scope of these immunities.

In future proceedings in this case, as well as in future suits against foreign officials, the judge will now ask for (and probably defer to) the opinion of the State Department legal adviser whether Samantar and other foreign officials are entitled to immunity.

In practice, the State Department is likely to assert immunity on behalf of most foreign government officials sued for alleged human rights violations, such as Israeli officials for actions in Gaza, Russians for actions in Chechnya or Chinese for actions against dissident groups. In the past, both the Bush and Obama administrations have taken the position that current and former foreign government officials are entitled to immunity under customary international law from suit for their official acts (although not for purely private acts). The Bush administration argued that former Israeli intelligence chief Avi Dichter was immune from suit by Palestinians for targeted killings in Gaza, and the Obama administration made the same argument (in a controversial brief submitted by Solicitor General Elena Kagan) in connection with a suit by Sept. 11, 2001, victims against Saudi government officials.

Because it will have discretion whether to assert immunity, the State Department will be subject in the future to intensive lobbying by both plaintiffs and defendants. Human rights and victims groups (and their supporters in Congress and the press) will urge the Department to allow suits to go forward. But foreign governments (including those whose support the United States needs on other issues) will vehemently oppose litigation against their officials. The administration must also consider the reciprocal impact on current and former U.S. officials if it opens the door to lawsuits against foreign officials in the United States. These competing pressures will exacerbate existing tensions between former human rights advocates and foreign policy pragmatists inside the Obama administration.

Whether the administration ultimately will assert immunity on behalf of Samantar himself is unclear. Its brief to the Supreme Court suggested that the executive branch would take into account Samantar's permanent residence in the United States, the nature of his acts (torture and extrajudicial killings) and the absence of a recognized government in Somalia capable of requesting immunity for him. The administration's recitation of these factors suggests that it is considering acceding to pressure from human rights groups to allow the suit to go forward. The Defense Department, however, may be reluctant to create a chink in the armor of immunity for former defense ministers when the U.S. military is itself engaged in controversial counterterrorism operations around the world.

The Supreme Court's decision removes an important statutory roadblock to human rights suits against foreign government officials in federal courts. The ruling is likely to lead to an initial increase in new lawsuits, which will continue until the State Department makes clear whether it will assert immunity in almost all cases or allow some to go forward. In the future, the State Department, rather than federal judges, will be in the hot seat in deciding issues of impunity or accountability for foreign officials for international human rights abuses.

John B. Bellinger III is a partner at Arnold & Porter in Washington and an adjunct senior ­fellow in international and national security law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as the legal adviser for the Department of State from 2005 to 2009.

Source: The National Law Journal

Voting Underway in Somaliland

Presidential elections are under way in Somalia's northern breakaway republic of Somaliland.

People lined up to vote hours before polls opened Saturday.

Somaliland's current President Dahir Riyale Kahin faces two challengers, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo of the Kulmiye Party and Faisal Ali Warabe of the UCID party.

The Islamist militant group al-Shabab has warned people in Somaliland to stay away from voting or, as the group said "face the consequences."

The warning was delivered via the Internet and attributed to al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.

Saturday's elections come after Somaliland declared its independence in 1991. While the region is more stable than the rest of Somalia, it is not recognized by the international community.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Source: VOA

Friday, June 25, 2010

Somali rebel leader urges fight against democracy

By Hussein Ali Noor

Islamist al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane has urged Somalis to reject "the Devil's principles" of democracy, just several days ahead of elections in the breakaway Somaliland region.

"The reality is that democracy is something Allah made unlawful, and someone else cannot make it lawful," the reclusive leader, also known as Sheik Mukhtar Abdirahman, said.

"If people who are Muslims, who declare the name of Allah, argue that they are real Muslims but forget Allah's message, hang or arrest them, kill them by using ammunition."

Abu Zubeyr urged Muslims in an audio recording on the Internet to move away from areas that tried to build democracy.

The separatist republic of Somaliland -- which has sought international recognition as sovereign state -- is holding presidential elections on June 26.

The region has enjoyed relative peace and stability for nearly two decades -- while the rest of Somalia has had no functioning administration -- but is frustrated by the lack of international recognition as a sovereign state.

"If people fight ... till everyone is killed, that is much easier than legalising the devil's principles such as constitutions or making a ruler who governs against Allah's laws," he said.

Abu Zubeyr did not mention Somaliland specifically, but analysts said the timing of the message showed that it was intended to frighten people away from polling stations.

"This is something al Shabaab has been trying for a number of years, to disrupt Somaliland elections," said Ej Hogendoorn, the Horn of Africa director International Crisis Group.

Over a million people will take part in polls in the Horn of Africa polls, which has been delayed three times since April 2008 because of problems with voter registration.

"The people have been waiting for long to elect their president for the next five years ... and they will do it peacefully and democratically," said Ahmed Hashi, Somaliland's Assistant Minister for Planning.

Hashi said Abu Zubeyr's rhetoric showed growing extremism imported form the al Shabaab-controlled central and south Somalia needed to be confronted.

Violence between Islamist groups and Somalia's weak government in the south has killed more than 21,000 people since the start of 2007 and uprooted at least 1.5 million.

"This is only a further manifestation of the extremist policy he and his group are trying to spread in the region to cause hostility and instability," he said.

Somaliland police have arrested dozens of men linked to al Shabaab rebels in the last two weeks, Interior Minister Abdullahi Saed told Reuters.

"We arrested those people in multiple operations as they planned to disrupt security," he said.

Source: Reuters

Va. Somali smuggler case appealed

By: Freeman Klopott
Examiner Staff Writer

The Virginia man who told authorities he helped smuggle 270 Somalis into the U.S. from Kenya has appealed his three-year probation sentence, court records show.

Anthony Joseph Tracy’s case remains shrouded in mystery. Earlier this year, The Washington Examiner reported how Tracy was accused of smuggling the Somalis into the U.S. using his illicit travel agency in Kenya. On June 4, a federal judge in Alexandria sentenced him to the four months of time he had already spent behind bars and three years probation — then released him. At some point since his arrest, Tracy filed a guilty plea, but it’s sealed and there’s no way to know what crimes he admitted to breaking.

What is known is that he has been some form of government informant since 2002 and failed a lie detector test when asked whether he helped smuggle members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. Federal immigration investigators have been unable to locate any of the Somalis Tracy claimed to have smuggled.

Calls to Tracy’s attorney on Thursday were not immediately returned.

U.S.-Mexican border is terrorists' moving sidewalk

By DEROY MURDOCK, Scripps Howard News Service
editorials and opinion

While Americans march against Arizona's new restrictions on unlawful immigration, hundreds of illegal aliens from countries awash in Muslim terrorists tiptoe across the U.S.-Mexican frontier.

New York, N.Y. - According to the federal Enforcement Integrated Database, 125 individuals were apprehended along the border from fiscal year 2009 through April 20, 2010. These deportable aliens included two Syrians, seven Sudanese, and 17 Iranians, all nationals from the three Islamic countries that the U.S. government officially classifies as state sponsors of terrorism.

Federal authorities also track "special interest countries" from which terrorism could be directed against America. Over the aforementioned period, 99 of those nations' citizens also were nabbed on the border. They were: two Afghans, five Algerians, 13 Iraqis, 10 Lebanese, 22 Nigerians, 28 Pakistanis, two Saudis, 14 Somalis, and three Yemenis. During FY 2007 and FY 2008, federal officials caught 319 people from these same countries traversing America's southwest border.

Some such characters were confined in Arizona, which recently adopted a controversial law that lets cops ask the citizenship status of those they suspect of other possible violations. WSB-TV recently publicized an April 15, 2010, "population breakdown" of immigrants detained at a facility in

Florence, Ariz. Of the 395 males behind bars, 198 were Mexican, 18 hailed from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Perhaps these gentlemen simply want to pursue the American dream. Worrisome signs suggest, however, that some may have arrived via blistering, cactus-adorned deserts so they could blow Americans to smithereens.

Texas Border Patrol agents discovered, along with Iranian currency and Islamic prayer rugs, an Arabic clothing patch that reads "martyr" and "way to immortality." Another shows a jet flying into a skyscraper.

"Members of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization, have already entered the United States across our southwest border," declares "A Line in the Sand," a 2006 report by the House Homeland Security Investigations Subcommittee, then-chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

Even more disturbing are the uninvited terrorists and terror suspects that were arrested after entering America through our permeable underbelly:
-- Mahmoud Youssef Kourani pleaded guilty in March 2005 to providing material support to terrorists. First, Kourani secured a visa by bribing a Mexican diplomat in Beirut. He and another Middle Easterner then hired a Mexican guide to escort them into America. Finally, Kourani settled in Dearborn, Michigan's Lebanese-immigrant community, and raised cash for Hezbollah.

-- Miguel Alfonso Salinas was caught in New Mexico near the international border in 2006. As The Washington Examiner reported, one week of FBI interrogation exposed Salinas as an Egyptian named Ayman Sulmane Kamal. Evidently, he remains in federal custody.

-- Then-National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said that in FY 2006 and FY 2007, at least 30 potentially dangerous Iraqis were found trying to penetrate America via Mexico. As McConnell told the El Paso Times: "There are numerous situations where people are alive today because we caught them."

-- The Department of Homeland Security issued an April 14 intelligence alert regarding a possible border-crossing attempt by a Somali named Mohamed Ali. He is a suspected member of Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based al-Qaida ally tied to the deadly attack on American GIs in 1993's notorious "Blackhawk Down" incident in Mogadishu.

-- Captured in Brownsville, Texas, Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane pleaded not guilty on May 14 to federal charges that he "ran a large-scale smuggling enterprise" designed to sneak East Africans through Mexico into Texas, including "several AIAI-affiliated Somalis into the United States." Al-Ittihad Al-Islami is yet another Muslim-extremist organization.

-- Daniel Joseph Maldonado also has Somali ties. He was picked up in Somalia in 2007 during terrorist training. He was returned to Houston for prosecution. As Rice University's Joan Neuhas Schaan told KHOU-TV: "They had plans for him to come back to the United States and recruit female suicide bombers."

All this involves only the bad guys who the authorities nailed. Those who have stayed undetected after crossing the border to murder Americans remain, by definition, invisible.
(Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

E-mail him at Deroy.Murdock(at)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A sordid tale of terror and graft


Shot at and raped. Arrested and beaten. Detained and deported. Extorted and robbed. Threatened and insulted. Ignored and shunned. The treatment of hardened criminals in some far-flung police state? The fate of political opponents by a repressive regime?

Not quite. For Somali refugees — 80 per cent of them women and children — this is their “welcome to Kenya”. Kenya’s welcoming committee for Somali refugees is a notoriously corrupt and abusive Police Force. For many of the newly-arrived Somali refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch in the Dadaab refugee camps, Karibuni Kenya sounds like this:

“Four [officers] beat and raped us. They kicked me in the stomach, back and head and held me in a choke position.” “For 10 minutes, the [officers] punched him in the head, kicked him and whipped him with a Nyunyo [a thin rubber whip]. He lost consciousness.”

“They pushed me into the cell full of people. I fell and people forced in behind me stepped on my back. A month later, I gave birth to a stillborn baby.” “They did not allow us to go to the toilet, so we used a corner of the cell where faeces and urine piled up right next to where people had to sit all night long. Some of us vomited due to the stench.”

“Four policemen stopped us [near the border] and said: ‘Give us money or we will send you back.’” These are fragments of a few stories, a reflection of what happens to some of the thousands of Somali asylum-seekers intercepted by Kenya police as they try to reach the Dadaab refugee camps.

As they cross the border, Somalis encounter the police, who demand money. Those who cannot pay — women with babies, children, entire families — face deportation, violent abuse, arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention in inhuman conditions and wrongful prosecution for “unlawful presence” in Kenya.

The police claim they are protecting Kenya from terrorists and enforcing immigration laws. But the fact that they extort Somalis to pay their way through checkpoints and out of police custody suggests they are more concerned with lining their pockets.

Once the refugees are in the camps — sheltering almost 300,000 refugees instead of the 90,000 for which they were built — it is virtually impossible to leave, even temporarily. Stuck in the camps, refugees face further police abuse and sexual violence by refugees and local Kenyans, which the police fail to address.

To its credit, Kenya has provided asylum to refugees fleeing war-torn Somalia for almost two decades. No one doubts the weight of the burden. So far, 320,000 Somalis have registered as refugees in the country and the total is probably well in excess of half a million, as many don’t register.

Why, then, is Kenya sinking so low in the international refugee protection ratings? The country’s three-year-old border closure and the related closure of a refugee transit centre at Liboi has forced asylum-seekers to use smugglers to cross the border.

The clandestine nature of their journey helps police to extort money, accusing refugees of entering the country illegally or of being “terrorists”. Kenya closed the border as a security measure, but, faced with the fact that hundreds of thousands of Somalis have crossed the border in the past three years, officials admit the policy has failed. So what needs to be done?

Opening a new refugee screening centre in Liboi is the most urgent to reduce instances of police preying on their victims. The authorities need to show far greater flexibility in allowing refugees to freely move in and out of the grossly overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps.

Mr Simpson is a Human Rights Watch researcher and principal author of the new report, “Welcome to Kenya: Police Abuses against Somali Refugees”.

Source: Daily Nation

Kenya. A Colonial Regime Specialized in the Criminal Mistreatment of Somali Refugees. HRW Report

June 23, 2010

Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

The unacceptable, inhumane and racist treatment of the numerous Somali refugees in Kenya is an open wound throughout East Africa, and testifies to the cruel, colonial and Freemasonic identity of the most loathed local regime.

Worse, this policy triggers reaction and spreads fanaticism and extremism from Mozambique to Egypt; it thus plays into the evil game of Western secret services-promoted Islamic Terrorism, because due to the continued existence of the colonial regimes of Abyssinia ad Kenya radical political groups manage to recruit more members and more adepts.

The subject became the topic of a comprehensive Report elaborated by the leading international NGO Human Rights Watch. I will therefore republish the entire Report that should be taken into consideration by European and North American administrations while shaping their – insofar failed – East African policies.

Similarly with Abyssinia (fake Ethiopia), Kenya must be broken to several pieces - countries so that the therein imprisoned and terrorized nations, once liberated and organized as democratic societies, serve as perfect break waves against the rise of the East African Islamic extremism tsunami.

In forthcoming articles, I will reproduce further parts of the Report, which under the title "Welcome to Kenya – Police Abuse of Somali Refugees" was published a few days ago. In the present article, I republish the related Press Release, the Table of Contents, and the Summary.

Kenya: Police Abuse Somali Refugees

Government, UN, Donors Should Address Widespread Violence, Degrading Detention, Extortion, and Policing Failures

Kenyan police at the Somali border and in nearby refugee camps are abusing asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war-torn Somalia, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Kenya should immediately rein in its abusive police, and the UN refugee agency should step up its monitoring of the situation and press for an end to the abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

Based on interviews with over 100 refugees, the 99-page report, "´Welcome to Kenya': Police Abuse of Somali Refugees," documents widespread police extortion of asylum seekers trying to reach three camps near the Kenyan town of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee settlement. Police use violence, arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, threats of deportation, and wrongful prosecution for "unlawful presence" to extort money from the new arrivals - men, women, and children alike. In some cases, police also rape women. In early 2010 alone, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Somalis unable to pay extortion demands were sent back to Somalia, in flagrant violation of Kenyan and international law.

"People fleeing the mayhem in Somalia, the vast majority women and children, are welcomed to Kenya with rape, whippings, beatings, detention, extortion, and summary deportation," said Gerry Simpson, refugee researcher for Human Rights Watch and principal author of the report. "Once in the camps, some refugees face more police violence and the police turn a blind eye to sexual violence by other refugees and local Kenyans."

Dozens of asylum seekers from among the estimated 40,000 Somalis who crossed Kenya's officially closed border near the camps in the first four months of 2010 told Human Rights Watch that police ignored their pleas for free passage from the border. Instead, the police demanded money and deported or detained, beat, and falsely charged them with unlawful presence if they could not pay. A Kenyan refugee aid worker described the police operation between the border and Garissa, the provincial capital, as "one big money-making machine."

"Welcome to Kenya" also documents how the threat of police interception and related abuses forces most asylum seekers to travel toward the camps on small paths away from the main road. There they are also vulnerable to attacks from common criminals, who prey upon them, raping women and stealing the little money they have.

Once in the camps, refugees continue to face police violence, according to the report. Police have failed to prevent, investigate, and prosecute sexual violence against refugee women and girls in the camps by other refugees and Kenyans, creating a culture of impunity and increasing the risk of sexual violence.

The report also examines Kenya's illegal policy of prohibiting the vast majority of refugees registered in the camps from travelling to other parts of Kenya, unless they have special permission for reasons such as medical appointments or education in Nairobi. Under international law, Kenya must justify any such prohibition as the least restrictive measure necessary to protect national security, public order, or public health, which it has failed to do. In 2009, the authorities allowed only 6,000 of Dadaab's almost 300,000 refugees to travel outside the squalid and overcrowded camps.

The report documents how police arrest refugees travelling without - and increasingly those with - government-issued "movement passes," extort money from them, and sometimes take them to court in Garissa, where they are fined or sent to prison.

"Welcome to Kenya" contends that the organized nature of the police's extortion racket and abuses - extending almost 200 kilometers from the border town of Liboi through the town of Dadaab to Garissa - is the direct result of Kenya's three-year-old decision to close the border. Human Rights Watch said that the related closing of a refugee transit center in Liboi, 15 kilometers from the border and 80 kilometers from the camps, has only made matters worse.

Before it closed, the Liboi transit center was a safe place where the vast majority of Somali asylum seekers first sought refuge in Kenya and from which the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), transported them to the camps. Without the center, an estimated 300,000 Somalis fleeing their country to Kenya since January 2007 - half of whom have gone to the camps - have had to use smugglers to cross the border. The police take advantage of the clandestine nature of their journey, falsely accusing them of unlawfully entering Kenya and threatening arrest if they don't pay money the police demand.

Under Kenya's Refugee Act, all asylum seekers have 30 days after entering Kenya to travel to the nearest refugee authorities to register as refugees, regardless of how or where they entered the country. But the police routinely ignore this right. Echoing Human Rights Watch's recommendations to the Kenyan authorities in a March 2009 report, "From Horror to Hopelessness," the new report reiterates its call on the authorities to open a new center in Liboi where newly arrived asylum seekers can be screened and from which they can be safely transported to the camps.

"For more than three years the closed border has benefitted no one except corrupt police officers and has led to untold abuses against hundreds, if not thousands, of asylum seekers," Simpson said. "Kenya needs to guarantee safe passage and protection to Somalia's vulnerable refugees."

The Kenyan government has real security concerns relating to the Somali conflict, but its anti-Somali political rhetoric has only reinforced the abusive police behavior, Human Rights Watch said. Asylum seekers say that police accuse them of belonging to the Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab or to Al Qaeda, or of being "terrorists" before - in some cases - forcing them back to Somalia. Based on eight cases involving the forced return to Somalia of 152 people that Human Rights Watch documented during its research in March 2010, Human Rights Watch believes it is likely that police have returned hundreds, if not thousands, of Somalis to their country in early 2010 alone.

International law prohibits the forcible return of refugees to persecution, torture or situations of generalized violence. Although Kenya has the right to prevent certain people from entering or remaining in Kenya - including those reasonably regarded as a threat to its national security, such as al-Shabaab members - it may not close its borders to asylum seekers. International law also forbids the authorities from deporting asylum seekers back to Somalia without first allowing them to apply for asylum.

"The police say they are protecting Kenya from terrorists and are enforcing immigration laws when they stop refugees," Simpson said. "But the fact that they extort Somalis to pay their way through checkpoints and out of police custody suggests more concern for lining their pockets than protecting their borders."

The report calls on the UN refugee agency to improve its monitoring and advocacy with the authorities and to make more frequent visits to police stations near the border, the town of Dadaab and Garissa.

With regard to sexual violence, victims told Human Rights Watch that the police either ignore their complaints, tell them to produce evidence, or abruptly drop the cases without explanation. In the rare event that police arrest alleged attackers, the suspects are usually released within hours or days, with little hope for further questioning or accountability. Many women believe their alleged attackers successfully bribe the police to drop investigations or to let the suspects go.

Human Rights Watch said that despite some improvements since the early 1990s, the government's response to sexual violence in the camps fails because there are too few police in the camps with skills to investigate these crimes and because there is inadequate supervision of police handling of these cases.

"Nearly two decades into their existence, the camps remain a place where justice for rape victims is the exception and impunity for perpetrators the rule," said Meghan Rhoad, researcher with Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division, who wrote the section of the report on sexual violence. "The refugee women and girls who bravely come forward and report sexual violence to the police deserve better."

Based on interviews with over 100 refugees, this 99-page report documents widespread police extortion of asylum seekers trying to reach three camps near the Kenyan town of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee settlement. Police use violence, arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, threats of deportation, and wrongful prosecution for "unlawful presence" to extort money from the new arrivals - men, women, and children alike. In some cases, police also rape women. In early 2010 alone, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Somalis unable to pay extortion demands were sent back to Somalia, in flagrant violation of Kenyan and international law.

Kenyan police wearing green uniforms in three cars stopped us a few kilometers before Liboi. The driver talked to them in a language I did not understand, but some of the other passengers understood and said they were the police. At one point they said to the driver, "All men here will be weighed and according to their weight they will give us money – and if they can´t pay, then give us the passengers." Then they took the men, including my husband, away in a car, leaving the rest of us, seven women with several children. The police told us to get out of the bus. They put me and two women with children to one side. I was pregnant. Then four of them took the other women into the bush. They held us in the bush for three days. On the third day, two of the policemen brought the women back. We knew something bad had happened because they were walking slowly and limping. They had scratches, their clothes were torn, some were barefoot, and one woman had blood on the bottom half of her dress. One was crying. They all looked like they were in shock. They said the police had beaten them. The driver said he thought they had been raped because otherwise they would have also taken all the women and because they could have just beaten us all where we were, next to the bus. Later that day, the police brought back the men and allowed us to leave. The men said the police had beaten them and stolen their money. Human Rights Watch interview (1), Ifo camp, March 9, 2010.

The police said, "You are all in trouble - everyone will be weighed." The driver´s assistant said the police wanted us to pay them money so we could pass. Then some of the police took us eight men to Liboi police station. Others stayed behind with the women. The police held us for three days and two nights in a cell about 3m x 4m. They gave us no food or water. We had to use the cell floor as a toilet. On the second day six policemen tied our hands behind our backs and made us lie down on the floor. They searched our pockets. Some of us struggled and they kicked and punched us. They turned me around. Three of them beat my chest with their rifle butts and two stamped on my chest. Another put his boot on the side of my face. I still have problems breathing. On the third day we heard the police on the phone, discussing with the driver we had left in the bush. That evening they drove us back to the same spot where we had left the bus. The women, children, the driver, and his assistant were all there. We heard one of the officers tell the driver to give him money. Then they let us go.

Human Rights Watch interview (2), Ifo camp, March 9, 2010. Wife (interview 1) and husband (interview 2) were interviewed by two different researchers in different locations at the same time.

"We were treated like animals in a truck."

Refugee detained at the Garissa police station, in Kenya´s North Eastern Province.

Kenya´s reputation for hospitality towards Somali refugees is turning sour. Two decades after they first started to flee the brutal conflict in their country, Kenya provides asylum to 325,000 registered Somali refugees—and probably an equal number who have not registered. No one doubts the weight of the burden. But the authorities´ increasing demonization of these refugees—80 percent of whom are women and children— as a national security threat has made them among the most vulnerable victims of Kenya´s notoriously corrupt and abusive police force.

Near Kenya´s officially closed border with Somalia, police have free rein to intercept as many as possible of the estimated 10,000 mostly Somali asylum seekers who cross the border every month with the help of people smugglers. Making no distinction between women, children, and men, police often use violence, unlawful detention in appalling overcrowded conditions, and threats of deportation to extort money from them. Some police officers rape women near the border. During the first ten weeks of 2010, hundreds, if not thousands, of Somali asylum seekers unable to pay were unlawfully sent back to Somalia.

The widespread threat of police interception and abuses forces most asylum seekers to travel on small paths away from the main road between the border and the refugee camps, where common criminals (often described by asylum seekers as "men not wearing uniform") also prey upon them, raping women and stealing the little they have.

About half of all Somalis fleeing to Kenya register in the world´s largest refugee settlement, made up of three overcrowded refugee camps near the town of Dadaab in north-east Kenya, now hosting almost 300,000 people. The other half make their way to Nairobi, Kenya´s capital, where very few are able to register as refugees due to the limited capacity of the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In the camps, police responsible for protecting refugees sometimes detain, assault, and extort money from them. Police have also failed to investigate cases of sexual violence between refugees, leading to a climate of impunity for those responsible.

Kenya currently unlawfully confines refugees to camps, denying them their freedom of movement and choice of residence, in contravention of the 1951 Refugee Convention, although thousands have also registered in Nairobi. Under this policy, police arrest refugees travelling without (and at times with) permission, extort money, and sometimes take them to court in Garissa where they are fined or sent to prison.

Only by handing over money to police—either when intercepted in the border areas, or while detained in the Liboi, Dadaab, and Garissa police stations—can refugees pay their way out of the abuse and intimidation.

The systematic and widespread nature of the extortion racket and related abuses by police officers are a direct result of Kenya´s three-year-old border closure and the related closure of a refugee transit center in the Kenyan town of Liboi, 15 kilometers from the border and 80 kilometers from the camps. The transit center previously served as a safe place where the vast majority of Somalis fleeing their country first sought refuge in Kenya and from where UNHCR transported them to the camps. Without it, police have turned the border closure to their advantage, setting up what in the words of a Kenyan who works with Somali refugees is "one big money-making machine." Kenyan authorities´ increasingly anti-Somali political rhetoric, particularly after a Somali Islamist group´s threat to attack the capital, Nairobi, has helped justify the police´s abusive behavior against Somalis.

Police arresting newly arrived Somali asylum seekers incorrectly tell them they are unlawfully in Kenya and charge them with offenses under Kenya´s Immigration Act which prohibits entry into Kenya without documents and a visa. But the Act does not apply to asylum seekers who, under Kenya´s Refugee Act, have 30 days from the moment they enter the country to register as refugees with the authorities at the nearest office of the Kenyan Refugee Commissioner. For Somalis crossing overland from Somalia, that means the Dadaab camps.

International refugee and human rights law prohibit refoulement, the forcible return of refugees to persecution, of anyone to torture and, in Africa, of civilians to situations of generalized violence. Kenya has every right to regulate the presence of non-nationals on its territory and may therefore normally prevent certain people from entering or remaining in Kenya—including those viewed as a threat to its national security such as members of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab. But Kenya may not close its borders to asylum seekers and may not deport them, or registered refugees, back to Somalia.

The fact that police in the border areas allow intercepted asylum seekers to pay their way through checkpoints to reach the camps suggests that personal gain—not national security concerns—is the real reason police arrest, threaten, and falsely charge them with unlawful presence.

Although refugees are victims of police abuses in the border areas and the camps, they nonetheless rely on the police to protect them against crimes by private individuals, including the sexual violence against women and girls that has long plagued the camps and their surroundings. But women and girls who have suffered sexual violence describe an utterly inadequate police response to sexual violence.

The government maintains that police are instructed to conduct proper and timely investigations. However, survivors say their complaints are often ignored rather than investigated, at other times are put on hold while police ask them to produce evidence against the alleged perpetrator, or are abruptly dropped without explanation. In the rare event that the police arrest alleged attackers, survivors say that in most cases the police release them hours or days later and take no further action in investigating or prosecuting the offense. Many women say that alleged attackers have successfully bribed the police to prevent investigations from taking place or to secure their release if arrested.

Kenya´s international and regional human rights commitments oblige the authorities to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish violence against all women—including refugee women—in Kenya. There has been important progress in the police´s response to sexual violence during the camps´ nearly two-decade-long existence. Sexual and gender-based violence cases can be prosecuted in a mobile court in Dadaab town every month and the Dagahaley police station has a gender desk to handle these cases. Two more gender desks are planned for Ifo and Hagadera camps. However, the government has not put in place the required police numbers, training, and supervision. Consequently, justice for sexual violence survivors in the camps remains the exception and impunity for perpetrators the rule.

Over a period of six days in the Dadaab camps in March 2010, Human Rights Watch interviewed 102 refugees about police abuses and sexual violence in and around the camps. Half of the interviewees spoke about police abuses, including excessive force leading to death and miscarriages, rape, whipping, beatings, and kicking. Fifteen said the police had arrested and detained them—together with around 220 other people—soon after they had entered Kenya. Eight said that the police had deported them, and 152 others, back to Somalia after they had failed to pay the police money. Despite the limited time Human Rights Watch had to conduct research in the camps, this number suggests that the abuses documented in this report are systematic and widespread.

UNHCR has failed to put in place an effective monitoring system to collect information on the types of abuses documented in this report. The UN refugee agency says that a number of factors have affected its ability to carry out its protection mandate: security concerns that restrict its work in the camps, a lack of human resources and financial capacity, and the absorption of its time and resources in addressing the myriad needs relating to the humanitarian situation in the chronically overcrowded and underfunded camps.

In response to a Human Rights Watch letter to the Kenyan authorities with a summary of this report´s findings, the Minister of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security informed Human Rights Watch on May 5, 2010, that "any unlawful action that may have been taken by a police officer is not a reflection of government policy." He also said he had requested an investigating team to look into Human Rights Watch´s findings. The team is to prepare a report which the government "shall review … and test [in terms of] reliability." In addition, the Minister said that "if any police officer is found guilty of having participated in such atrocities, appropriate action in accordance with the law shall be taken." The team is made up of a Muslim cleric of Somali origin, two women representatives (a woman from the Dadaab area and a woman from a National Women´s Organization), a youth representative from Dadaab and a representative of the Refugee Consortium of Kenya. Human Rights Watch welcomes the Minister´s decision to set up an investigative team; but this is only a first step.

To help put an immediate end to the widespread abuses described in this report, the Kenyan authorities, UNHCR, and donor countries should take a number of urgent steps.

The Kenyan authorities should immediately instruct the police to end their systematic interception, detention, abuse, deportation, and extortion of asylum seekers crossing the border from Somalia and instruct them to allow asylum seekers to safely travel to the Dadaab refugee camps. The authorities should expedite their plans to open a new refugee screening center in Liboi to ensure the orderly registration of all newly arrived asylum seekers and allow all registered refugees in the camps to freely move throughout Kenya. The authorities should also introduce rigorous monitoring and supervision of police handling of sexual and gender-based violence in the camps by creating a national police task force on sexual violence against refugees in coordination with the National Commission on Gender and Development. Further, the police should ensure sufficient police capacity including through the stationing of female police officers to effectively prevent and respond to sexual violence.

UNHCR should swiftly introduce a new protection monitoring system in the camps to capture further information about abuses of the kind presented in this report and use such information to advocate on behalf of the victims and to prevent further abuses. UNHCR should frequently visit the Liboi, Dadaab, and Garissa police stations to monitor whether or not the police are unlawfully detaining asylum seekers and push for their release. UNHCR should also cooperate with the police in improving the police´s response to sexual violence, including by using UNHCR´s sexual violence data to develop a police patrolling program in the camps aimed at preventing sexual violence.

Donor governments should raise the abuses set out in this report with the Kenyan authorities and call on them to put an immediate end to these practices. They should call on the Kenyan authorities to ensure that all asylum seekers can access Kenyan territory to claim asylum and to expedite their plans to re-open the refugee screening center in Liboi. Donors should also push the authorities and UNHCR to ensure that newly-deployed police in the camps are specifically tasked with improving the police´s prevention of, and response to, sexual violence in the camps. Finally, donors should encourage UNHCR to carry out frequent monitoring in the Liboi, Dadaab, and Garissa police stations and fund UNHCR to set up a new protection monitoring system.

Source: The American Chronicle