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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Minnesota: St. Cloud's history of friction with outsiders

by Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio

Jean Haley understands why some of her neighbors feel uncomfortable about the recent wave of new immigrants to St. Cloud, among them Somalis who practice Islam.

While Muslims have the constitutional right to practice their religion, Haley, 62, said the combination of their race and different faith makes some people uneasy.

"Skin color has a lot to do with it, too," said Haley, who coordinates the dining program at the Whitney Senior Center. "But I think it's one thing to see people come in and they're one color, but then when that color is pushing on their ways, including their Muslim religion, then that makes it a double-whammy."

That unaccustomed blend of a different race and religion has been problematic for St. Cloud, a largely white city that has struggled with high-profile cases of harassment for years.

From the posting of racist graffiti at St. Cloud State University a couple of years ago to more recent incidents that appeared to target Muslim and Somali residents, the city is grappling with increased tensions.

I understand that the United States is built by people like me who came from other countries. That's what makes the United States unique.
- Mohamed AshurIn recent months, Muslim and Somalis have reported anti-Islamic cartoons and death threats. Vandals have broken windows at the city's only mosque, and spray-painted graffiti at a Somali-owned grocery store.

Observers say racial and religious tensions are embedded in the city's history. St. Cloud is rapidly becoming more diverse, but it has long been an insular community closed to outsiders.

The alienation is also felt by whites. At the senior center, Mike Raleigh, who has lived in St. Cloud for 15 years, said he has grown to love his adoptive home and feels so welcome there that he composed a song in its honor. But Raleigh, a volunteer who plays piano at the center, didn't always feel welcome.

As a newcomer, adjusting to St. Cloud was rough at first, because local people weren't friendly, he said.

"I tried to talk to them, communicate with them, visit with them," Raleigh said. "They don't like that. They don't like to be visited with. If they don't know you, they don't want to talk to you ... they're busy with each other."

Raleigh is not alone. Many people who have moved to St. Cloud say fitting in isn't easy -- regardless of one's race, ethnicity, or religion. Others will say the tendency to stick to cliques is not unique to the Midwest.

But given their different appearance, culture and faith, Somalis and Muslims have had a particularly difficult time.

Haley, whose family moved to St. Cloud from Montana when she was a teenager, said some people in St. Cloud think Somalis receive preferential treatment and government benefits, and they resent Somalis for that. The misperceptions were evident during a call-in program on a local radio station.

"I don't think they should be washing body parts in the bathroom sinks and their feet and whatever," one caller said. "That just goes over and beyond decency."

A second asked: "When the Somalians come, how are they given a car and do they have a drivers license?"

Another followed with a frequent complaint: "They don't know how to speak American language -- English!"

A representative with Lutheran Social Services, who was a guest on the call-in show, clarified that refugees do not receive free cars from the government.

Some worry that such misperceptions have fueled recent incidents targeting Muslims and Somalis.

Last month, someone spray-painted "GO HOME" in large red letters across a Somali-owned grocery store. A Muslim civil rights organization has asked the FBI to investigate the vandalism as a hate crime.

The "go home" message confused many African immigrants, including Mohamed Ashur, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia who has lived in St. Cloud for the past 10 years.

"I understand that the United States is built by people like me who came from other countries," Ashur said. "That's what makes the United States unique. It's a collection of people from all over the world. That's why America is America."

Ashur said he's grateful to call St. Cloud his home, despite the recent flurry of anti-Muslim activity.

The most high-profile incidents have taken place at the city's two public high schools. The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the St. Cloud school district over allegations that administrators ignored complaints of racial harassment toward Somali students.

The current ethnic and religious tensions in St. Cloud are embedded in the history of Stearns County, and date back to World War I, when the United States was at war with Germany, said Annette Atkins, a history professor at the College of St. Benedict in nearby St. Joseph.

During that era, German Americans became the target of persecution and resentment, Atkins said. Stearns County had been predominantly German since the 1880s, and when the Legislature established a safety commission to ensure Minnesotans were loyal to the United States, it turned its attention to Stearns County.

Atkins said the environment in Stearns County at the time was hostile. The state government wanted to eliminate German culture, and ban German in schools and churches. The Legislature required a censor to read all German-language newspapers to make sure the content didn't carry disloyal messages. Atkins said the actions pitted German-Americans against their families who were still in Germany.

"So I think one effect of that was that Germans in this area really turned inwards," she said. "They turned to each other for safety, for acceptance, and to defend themselves against those outside attacks and that question of their loyalty ... making this a more closed community."

Atkins said people in St. Cloud today still connect based on what they share in common: the same church or long-standing family ties in the county. She said that's one reason why newcomers, including Somalis, struggle for acceptance in the wider community.

"There's not an ethnic bond that people that people can draw on. There's not a family bond. There's not a religious bond," she said. "And I think those are the ways in this county that people have traditionally connected."

The experience of Somalis and Muslims in St. Cloud has perhaps been made more difficult by the lack of a large African-American community. Although blacks have been in St. Cloud for a century and a half, a backlash against African-Americans in the years before 1920 and Jim Crow laws legalizing segregation limited the community's growth.

But the most-difficult image for some longtime residents may be of the newcomers practicing their religion.

A few dozen of men of all ages walk in and out of a wash room at the Islamic Center of St. Cloud -- the city's first and only mosque. Faucets line the wall, and men sit on wooden stools as they scrub their feet and wash their hands, preparing to pray. The Qur'an requires Muslims to be clean when they pray.

An imam recites a call to prayer through speakers throughout the mosque.

The men pray in one room and the women pray in another. Among those praying is Mohammad Mahrood-Tahir, from Pakistan. Tahir, a chemistry professor at St. Cloud State University, moved to the city from Colorado in 1999. Only about a dozen Muslim families lived in St. Cloud then, said Mahrood-Tahir, who moved away for a year, and returned in 2001 to find that the number of Muslim families had grown to hundreds.

"When I left, I didn't even think of or imagine that we will have a center of our own or will have that many Muslim community members over here," he said. "After just one year, I mean, there was a huge difference, huge change in the population, in the number of Muslims over here."

Mahrood-Tahir and other Muslims say many people in the St. Cloud area were caught off guard by this rapid demographic shift. While an accurate count of the area's African population won't be available until census data are released early next year, local Muslim leaders estimate the number has grown to as many as 10,000 in the last decade.

The mosque is open to anyone who wants to visit, said Mahrood-Tahir, who serves on the board of the Islamic Center. He said the more people get to know Muslims and understand Islam, the less they'll fear them.

Experts say the current resentment of newcomers likely is connected to tough economic times -- periods when race relations often become difficult.

It's no coincidence that race relations flare up during a slumping economy, said Benjamin Friedman, a political economy professor at Harvard University. Friedman has written extensively about social and political attitudes and behavior during periods of economic prosperity, decline, and stagnation in the United States.

"It's race relations. It's religious prejudice. It's ethnic tensions," Friedman said. "It's attitudes toward immigrants. It's generosity toward the poor."

Unemployment in Stearns and Benton counties rose from 6.2 percent in May to 6.7 percent in June, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis believes that the changing face of the city has positively affected the city, which benefits from growing diversity and an economy that thrives in part on a new immigrant labor force. But he acknowledges that the recent tensions are a negative response to demographic changes.

"Race issues, whether it's cultural issues, race issues, or religion issues, there's not a city in the world that doesn't have a challenges in that respect, and there's no city that's mastered it," he said. "But we work constantly to make sure that we are a welcoming community and continue to do better in that area. And that starts with each individual."

Source: MPR

Somali Jihadis Launch 'News Channel' As Officials Warn of Growing Al Qaeda Links

First Broadcast Shows Graphic War Footage, Calls Westerners 'Crusaders'

Somalia's Al Qaeda-backed militant group Al-Shabab has launched an on-line "news" channel called Al Kataib, and its first propaganda newscast, in English, uses graphic footage to warn African countries to stop sending troops to Somalia. The launch comes as U.S. and Somali officials warn of Al Shabab's increased sophistication, and strengthening ties to Al Qaeda.

The 21-minute videotape, called "Mogadishu: The Crusaders Graveyard" shows Al Shabab fighters taking on Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers. It is narrated in English and formatted like a Western news program, complete with sophisticated graphics, an on-screen Al Kataib logo, and even a traditional stand-up with a jihadist fighter standing in front of a destroyed tank. Face covered, the jihadi signs off "Al Kataib News Channel, live from the frontlines of Mogadishu."

While most of the ire in the Al Shabab broadcast is reserved for Uganda and the African Union Mission in Somalia, also known as AMISOM, there are several references directly to the United States and its support of African Union troops. The video specifically references 1993's Black Hawk Down incident where Somali warlords killed 18 U.S. soldiers and dragged their dead bodies through the streets of Mogadishu. In this video a burnt AMISOM soldier is shown and the mission is given a warning.

Al Shabab's message is that AU troops are Christian crusaders backed by the US and other Western powers that want to occupy Muslim Somalia, and given the format of the newscast, the target audience clearly extends beyond the Somali population.

The growing sophistication of Al Shabab, and the growing presence of foreign fighters within the group's ranks, are a concern for the United States, Somalia and Africa Union officials. They warn that the recent suicide bomb attacks in Uganda are a sign that Al Shabab is growing closer with Al Qaeda and becoming a global terrorism threat.

"The bombings in Kampala on July 11th were a wake-up call for the region and also for much of the international community," Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs told reporters from Uganda, where he attended the African Union Summit that ended earlier this week. "The threat emanating from Somalia is not only a concern about refugees and illegal arms, but now one of terrorism."

Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the blasts, which killed 76 people in a crowd gathered to watch the World Cup final, saying they were retaliation for Uganda contributing peacekeepers to the African Union's Mission in Somalia, also known as AMISOM. The attacks were the first known suicide bombing s by the terror group outside of Somalia, a fact that has troubled Western and regional officials.

"We all have to take this threat seriously, knowing full well there are also, in the Mogadishu area and in Southern Somalia, individuals who have been associated and affiliated with Al Qaeda and who have also demonstrated both the will and the capacity to strike" said Carson.

According to AU and Somali sources foreign-born Al Qaeda fighters are now filling the ranks of Al Shabab. Intelligence reports obtained by ABC News show the leadership of the organization filled with established Al Qaeda figures from outside of Somalia, even the United States. Abu Mansur Al-Amiriki, a U.S. citizen from Alabama with a Syrian father and white, Baptist mother, is in charge of financing Al Shabab according to the reports.

They also state that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is considered a key figure in Al Shabab. Mohammed, who was born in the Comoros and raised in Kenya, is on the FBI's most-wanted list for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people.

CLICK HERE to follow the ABC News Investigative Team's coverage on Twitter.

Along with a Saudi, a Pakistani, a Yemeni and few other foreigners, Mohammed and Amriki make up what is called the "Shura Council," a consultative body to the Somali Shabab leadership, according to African Union and Somali government officials. And their tactics of suicide bombings and remote-controlled ieds, are distinctively Al Qaeda - not Somali.

"This is not a war among Somalis. This is not something that is happening within Somali clans, maybe it started that way 10 or 20 years ago but the reality now is people are coming to create destruction in a country that's already destroyed," said Ahmed Abdisalam Xaji Adan, the Minister of National Security for Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. "The tactics that are employed by the insurgents… are to send a message to say 'this is our war and we'll do everything possible.'"

The government is calling for more help from the international community and wants an increase of the 6,000 AMISOM troops already operating in Mogadishu, and fighting alongside government troops. At the AU summit held in Kampala, the body agreed to increase the mission by 2,000 troops. It also is considering strengthening AMISOM's mandate, allowing troops to fire first if they are facing imminent attack.

But the additional responsibilities and expansion of the mission come at a time when AMISOM is being criticized for indiscriminate shelling in highly-populated civilian areas. Human rights groups and the United Nations have repeatedly called on the mission to better protect the Somali population. The Associated Press recently published a report highlighting an internal African Union memo about concerns over civilian casualties, and said that the mission "continues to underestimate the importance of being seen to address this critical issue."

AMISOM and Somali government officials deny the troops are careless about civilians and say the real issue is Al-Shabab attacking them from populated areas and using civilians as shields. Carson said the United States has had discussions with AMISOM and that it recognizes the need to improve the accuracy of their counter-batteries and intelligence.

Carson said that firing indiscriminately into civilian areas "not only creates casualties but turns the population against them."

That's what many Somalia experts say happened in 2007, when Ethiopia invaded the country to topple its last Islamist government. Thousands of civilians were killed, and Ethiopia was accused of committing human rights abuses against the population including torture, rape and murder.

Now, Al Shabab is trying to cast the current conflict in the same light with its news channel.

"The trigger-happy African crusaders are quite content on killing innocent Muslims just like their master," the narrator says on the video while showing bombed-out homes.

"One of the things Al- Shabab has been using for propaganda purposes is that AMISOM is a Christian, foreign presence," said Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, director of International Crisis Group Horn of Africa, an NGO. "These are crusading nations trying to occupy Somalia, and they say the TFG is a puppet government of the West."

Al Shabab is deeply unpopular in the areas it rules, using brutal force to apply its version of sharia law. Music banned from radio stations, women beaten for wearing bras, people stoned to death for being accused of adultery are just some of the tactics the group uses to keep the population in line. But, said Hogendoorn, "They are more organized than the government and have a more affective military. They have a coercive advantage."

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Source: abcnews

Save your breath: 2 studies show hands-only CPR is enough to save lives

Hands-only CPR, pushy dispatchers are lifesavers

More bystanders are willing to attempt CPR if an emergency dispatcher gives them firm and direct instructions — especially if they can just press on the chest and skip the mouth-to-mouth, according to new research.

The two new studies conclude that “hands-only” chest compression is enough to save a life. They are the largest and most rigorous yet to suggest that breathing into a victim’s mouth isn’t needed in most cases.

The American Heart Association has been promoting hands-only CPR for two years, though it’s not clear how much it’s caught on. The new studies should encourage dispatchers and bystanders to be more aggressive about using the simpler technique.

“That could translate into hundreds if not thousands of additional lives saved each year. What are we waiting for?” said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, a RAND Corporation expert on emergency medicine.

An estimated 310,000 Americans die each year of cardiac arrest outside hospitals or in emergency rooms. Only about 6 percent of those who are stricken outside a hospital survive.

When someone collapses and stops breathing, many people panic and believe that phoning 911 is the best they can do to help.

The larger of the two new studies reported survival rates of about 12 percent when bystanders did dispatcher-directed CPR, confirming earlier research that on-scene CPR can dramatically increase a victim’s odds of survival.

The studies also spotlighted the importance of having forceful dispatchers coaching bystanders, said Dr. Michael Sayre, an Ohio State University emergency medicine specialist who helped update the Heart Association guidelines on CPR.

Previous research has suggested that adults who need CPR get it only about one-quarter to one-third of the time when bystanders are around.

One of the new studies found that when dispatchers told callers to start CPR, about 80 percent attempted it when given hands-only instructions, more than the 70 percent who tried the standard version.

Sayre and others credited the increase on dispatchers who immediately told callers what to do, instead of first asking them if they’d had CPR training or if they’d be willing to try it until medical help arrives.

“This study shows that with great training and motivation, the 911 call taker can make a big difference,” Sayre said.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique that’s been in use for about 50 years. The standard version now calls for alternating 30 hard pushes on a victim’s chest with two quick breaths into their mouth.

The aim of CPR is to do some of the mechanical work of the heart by forcing at least some blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs.

Experts have come to believe that pumping is what’s most important in most adult cases, and advise doing chest pushes continually at a rate of 100 per minute and skipping the mouth-to-mouth. Some suggest using the beat of the old disco song “Stayin’ Alive” as a guide.

Cardiac patients do as well or better when they got hands-only CPR as compared to the traditional version, these and earlier studies have found.

One of the new studies, carried out in London and the Seattle area, involved more than 1,900 people who witnessed someone in cardiac arrest and called 911 or some other emergency number. Emergency dispatchers instructed callers to do either hands-only CPR or an older form of standard CPR that alternates 15 pushes with two quick breaths.

The second study was done in Sweden and included nearly 1,300 people.

In both studies, there was no significant difference in the survival rates of people who got conventional CPR and those who got the hands-only version.

The studies are being published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

While there is no good national data on how often hands-only CPR is used, Dr. Ben Bobrow, who directs the Arizona Department of Health Services’ emergency medical system, believes it is catching on.

“We’ve seen a huge trend in hands-only CPR in Arizona and I believe that trend is spreading across the country. I think these findings will further promote that,” he said.

Many people think of traditional CPR as difficult, and to some extent it is. The victim’s head has to be tilted back, the airway cleared, the nose pinched and the mouth completely covered with the rescuer’s. A lot of people have trouble with it, said Don Pederson, a dispatcher in Seattle’s King County, who participated in the U.S. study.

“A lot of the times they weren’t getting air in there correctly,” with oxygen escaping out the sides of the mouth, Pederson said.

Rea and his colleagues believe some bystanders perform mouth-to-mouth so poorly that the interruption reduces blood flow.

Worry about doing CPR correctly was the No. 2 reason many people don’t attempt it, according to a Michigan study published in 2006. The No. 1 reason? People are too panicked.

The “ick” factor of putting lips to a stranger’s mouth — and picking up the stranger’s germs — was cited by only a tiny fraction of people in the study. However, it may be a more significant issue than the study showed, at least in some communities, experts say.

Traditional CPR is still the preferred form of resuscitation for children or adults who have stopped breathing because of choking, drowning or other respiratory problems.

Source: New England Journal: www.nejm.org

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ethiopia signs peace deal with Ogaden rebel group

The Ethiopian government is to sign a peace deal with the United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF), a rebel group active in the Ogaden region for the last 20 years.

The UWSLF agreed to lay down their arms in April and the formal signing of the deal later today will end the group's armed struggle.

BBC Network Africa's Uduak Amimo reports from Addis Ababa.

In Ethiopia's Ogaden region, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is the more troublesome rebel group for the authorities.

The group still refuses to make any deal with the government.

BBC Network Africa's Bola Mosuro asked Mahdi Abdirahman, spokesman for the ONLF in London for his reaction to the UWSLF signing.

Source: BBC

Donkey's wild ass ancestor confirmed

Humans met and domesticated the donkey 5,000 years ago

Five thousand years ago, in North Africa, humans formed an alliance with the wild ancestors of the donkey, twice.

This was no insignificant feat; domestication of the donkey's ancestors helped these ancient cattle herders become more mobile and adapt as the Sahara Desert expanded. Donkeys also expanded over-land trade and contributed to the growth in the early Egypt state.

New research answers, and raises, questions about who these wild animals were and how humans brought them into the fold.

Donkey family tree
Modern donkeys can be divided into two, genetically distinct groups, leading scientists to believe that they have two ancestors, which were believed to be the Somali wild ass and the Nubian wild ass, both subspecies of the African wild ass.

In new research, scientists analyzed mitochondrial DNA, or that contained in the energy-producing centers of cells, taken from archeological sites, museum collections and live animals.

Their results showed that the Somali wild ass, or a close relative of this subspecies, was not one of the two ancestors. It is possible this unknown ancestor came from an extinct population of wild ass or from another region, the researchers suggest.

The more telling finding came when researchers confirmed that the Nubian wild ass was indeed the ancestor of one of the donkey groups. As part of their genetic analysis, the team found evidence that humans domesticated Nubian wild asses multiple times, and that all the while, these future donkeys continued interbreeding with their wild relatives.

The findings also suggest donkey domestication took place in Africa, far from the Fertile Crescent, where most animals were once believed to be domesticated.

"That is why our paper is so important. It shows not only did domestication happen in Africa, it wasn't a one-off thing, it happened over a period of time," said study researcher Connie J. Mulligan, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Florida. "There was local knowledge about how to do this."

Modern relatives
Small numbers of the Somali subspecies live in zoos and wildlife preserves, and about 600 still live in the wild in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

However, the Nubian wild ass was last seen in the Red Sea Hills of Sudan in the late 20th century, and may recently have become extinct. One of the study researchers, Albano Beja-Pereira, a biologist at the University of Porto, Portugal, found evidence of its continued existence in the mid-1990s.

Genetic research done as part of this study confirmed that the samples he collected did indeed come from the Nubian wild ass, according to Mulligan.
The findings were reported in the June issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Source: LiveScience.com.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Somali war on terror in disarray as AU boosts troops

African leaders are pledging new troops for Somalia to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants responsible for two bombings that killed 76 people.

But internal documents show African Union forces and Somali troops do not trust one another and that Somalia's government "lacks consistency, coherence and co-ordination", raising questions about whether more AU troops can solve the Somali impasse.

African leaders and US officials called for stepped-up efforts in Somalia as an AU summit in Uganda ended yesterday. It opened only days after the July 11 bombings in Kampala, an attack that prompted Uganda's president to call for Africa to band together against Somalia's militants.

Al-Shabaab, Somalia's most-feared militant group, claimed responsibility for bombing two sites where people were watching the World Cup final and said the blasts were in retaliation for civilian deaths caused by AU troops in Mogadishu.

At the summit, Africa's leaders voted to send 2 000 more Ugandan and Burundian troops to the AU mission in Somalia (Amisom).

But an internal report last month by military experts from Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), the bloc of East African nations, cast doubt on the efforts being made by Amisom troops.

The report said there was a lack of trust between AU and Somali forces, and that the effectiveness of Amisom troops was being hindered by the Somali government's many weaknesses.

Source: Sapa-AP

Ethiopian Government Plans to Sign Peace Deal With Ogaden Rebels

Ethiopia’s government will sign a peace deal with the United Western Somali Liberation Front, a rebel organization that has been fighting for independence in the ethnic Somali region in the east of the country.

The accord will be signed tomorrow in the capital, Addis Ababa, the Communication Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today.

The UWSLF is a rival of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which also operates in the Somali region. Both groups are considered to be successors to the Western Somali Liberation Front that fought for independence for the region and assisted the army of neighboring Somalia in its ultimately unsuccessful invasion of the Ogaden in 1977-88.

In 2006, the UWSLF kidnapped Irish Red Cross Worker Donal O’Suilleabhain and an Ethiopian colleague Hadis Ahmed Samatar. Both were later released unharmed.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

Source: Bloomberg.com

Amid Somali turmoil, pockets of hope remain

“Amid Somali turmoil, pockets of hope remain,” is part two of a series on terrorism and piracy in Somalia.

Somali instability is nothing new. In fact, if someone were asked about Somalia, they would probably want to talk about Black Hawk Down, pirates, or maybe, in light of recent events, terrorism.

Foreign Policy recently rated Somalia as the worst failed state in the world for the third year in a row. Others believe that Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, is the most dangerous place on Earth.

With the recent terrorist attacks on a Ugandan World Cup watch party, many, including the African Union (AU), are now wondering if the international community needs a stronger military presence in Somalia.

Knowing that Somalia has been a hotbed for anarchy and instability for nearly twenty years now, others may be wondering if all hope is lost.

Dr. Dan G. Cox*, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, believes that “there is always hope.” Cox, who is writing the forthcoming book, The Somalia Trap, with Major Christopher J. Heatherly**, believes that the best chance for peace in Somalia will be orchestrated by Somalia and her neighbors.

A New Peacekeeping Mandate?

But while some are advocating for the deployment of UN peacekeepers to restore peace to Somalia, the AU itself failed to modify its own peacekeeping mandate. CNN reported Thursday, that AU officials were debating an expansion of their peacekeeping mandate at their recent summit in Uganda. However, no decision was reached. AU officials, who requested helicopters and other supplies from the U.S. and U.K., said they will need definitive answers before they decide to expand their presence beyond Mogadishu.

Cox and Heatherly “are extremely concerned that there is momentum for a large-scale, nation-building effort gaining steam and that increased terrorism, especially extraterritorial terror attacks, such as the devastating recent attack in Uganda, will serve as a trigger for intervention.”

A Better Response

But the U.S. military doesn't need to be redeployed to Somalia. A better response, argues Cox, “might be to allow the three [provinces of] Somalia,” Puntland, Somaliland, and Somalia-proper, “separate nation status.”

This is inline with what Jeffery Gettleman says. Gettleman, the East Africa bureau chief for The New York Times, maintains that the provisional federal government doesn’t have enough control over the situation in Somalia—at least not beyond a few city blocks in Mogadishu. Therefore, argues Gettleman, the national government should not be receiving all of the resources needed to stabilize the Somali state.

This top-down-approach is preventing aid from flowing to other, safer areas in Somalia. Gettleman suggests that the international community should be injecting resources into certain “nodes of stability” around the country.

Adado: Pocket of Stability

One such node of stability exists in central Somalia. Last year, Gettleman reported about the birth of a Somali “state within a state,” built by Mohamed Aden. Aden, who immigrated to the United States, has returned to Somalia. He is now the leader of Adado, a once poor community that has essentially been transformed into a stable city-state north of Mogadishu.

Aden is both an “accidental warlord,” and a “shard of hope.” By channeling money from clansmen in the U.S. and Europe, Aden, who received a degree from Minnesota State, has applied his knowledge, skills, and abilities to build a successful local government in Adado.

Adado is now an “enclave of peace” with a respected police force, schools, new businesses, and most importantly, the rule of law. Encompassing about 5,000 square miles, Adado’s territory has become one of the safest places in Somalia.

Working with his clan, the local elders, and other community members, Aden has basically transformed Adado on his own. Neither the UN, nor the provisional federal government in Mogadishu has supported him.

This is unfortunate. Adado is home to a number of Somali pirates. One wealthy pirate has even started building a large, new home behind Adado’s police station. Aden cannot challenge their way of life though, because he does not have the resources. Nor does he have the ability to replace their way of life. “Besides,” Aden says,

you can’t just wipe out a whole line of work for thousands of young men. If you take something away, you must replace it with something else. Otherwise, more problems.”

Somaliland

Many Somalis, says Cox, whose previous book was Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa, don’t even want to be forced back into a single “coherent state.” If provinces like Somaliland and Puntland actually achieved independence, the international community would be able to “contain the problems of piracy in Puntland and terrorism in southern Somalia,” argues Cox. Moreover, the international community would then be more capable of applying Gentleman’s prescription of providing aid to entities other than the transitional federal government.

Cox asserts that “Somaliland is fairly stable and relatively prosperous,” and even the “recently elected president has called for a separate nation-state of Somaliland to be recognized.”

Up until now, the international community has ignored Somaliland for diplomatic reasons. The AU fears recognizing Somaliland would set a precedent for secession throughout Africa. But, Ali Mohamed, president of the Somaliland Freedom Foundation in Lewis Center, Ohio, believes that Somaliland is a “beacon of hope.” It’s also had a stable government for some time now, and it’s been able to maintain law and order within its defined borders.

Somaliland declared independence in 1991. And while Somaliland has never needed AU, UN, or US military aid, people there have established a “secular Muslim democratic state from scratch.” In fact, recent elections saw an incumbent president peacefully transfer power to a political opponent!

Recognizing Somaliland’s sovereignty would have several benefits. One major benefit comes to mind. With a several hundred mile long coastline, an independent Somaliland could be a great asset in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Whether or not Somaliland obtains international recognition, Chris Albin-Lackey argues that “it is well past time for Western governments claiming to be interested in restoring peace to Somalia to start finding ways to help build on Somaliland's many still fragile achievements.” After all, there are “many real possibilities in Somaliland.”

Puntland

Puntland, another northern province, has also been experiencing relative peace for the last few years. In 1998, in fact, the leaders of Puntland declared the province an autonomous state within Somalia. Unlike Somaliland, Puntland does not necessarily seek independence, though.

Still, Puntland is a major source of Somali piracy. It’s believed by some, that more pirates are based in Puntland than anywhere else in Somalia. And, as Cox previously argued, recognizing the province’s independence could help isolate and contain the problem, thus making it more manageable.

Although the autonomous government of Puntland itself has no desire to obtain independence, there is an independence movement brewing within the province. In fact, the Puntland Independence Movement (PIM) believes their government has wasted too many resources attempting to stabilize Somalia and support the transitional government. To the PIM, this has done nothing but harm Puntland’s local economy.

Al-Shabab

At first glance, the recent terrorist attacks in Uganda make it appear as if Al-Shabab is a new player in the global jihad.

However, says Rashid Abdi of the International Crisis Group, the recent attacks on Uganda were “probably a sign of desperation.”

After all, Al-Shabab is probably trying to draw a response that could give it momentum and public support. In recent months, Al-Shabab has been losing the support of local Somalis. Gettleman believes this is because the militants are trying to impose a harsh brand of Islam alien to the Somalis. The militants, reports Newsweek, are less popular than they have ever been.

Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College thinks this public relations problem is serious enough that the militants could be trying to attract “wider international involvement in Somalia” in an effort to drive the people back to their organization. After all, it was when Ethiopia first invaded Somalia that Al-Shabab began to grow in prominence.

Al-Shabab may even have some interest in joining Al-Qaeda, but it seems that this is nothing more than the wishful aspiration of group of militants losing its hold over the people of Somalia.

Moreover, Al-Shabab is divided. Some want to be involved in a global jihad. Others want to be involved in the local jihad. Still others, are being influenced by foreign terrorists, and others are opposed to Somali nationalism.

What’s needed now is an offensive from the federal government or AU peacekeepers. Unless someone acts soon though, Al-Shabab may find away to regain its credibility.

A Symbolic Gesture

In early 2007, Shmuel Rosner, with Slate magazine, complained that the U.S. Department of State had listed only one country on their international “Background Notes” has having no government. That country was Somalia. How demoralizing?

Rosner thought that as militants were being chased out of Somalia by the Ethiopian military the State Department could make a symbolic gesture to restore hope to some Somalis. Recognizing the presence of the transitional federal government, Rosner thought that the Somalia country profile should be updated.

Although it’s only a symbolic gesture, the State Department now recognizes Somalia as having a government—a transitional government.

Although there is still reason to hope, persistent instability in Somalia continues to breed piracy and terrorism. If these issues are not resolved, it may take generations to rebuild the war torn nation. There is good news though. Amid turmoil, pockets of hope remain.

Look for part three, coming soon.

Source: Examiner.com

For more info, read part 1: Mogadishu: The most dangerous place on Earth

Somalis angered by Toronto police action

Sharmake Abdi alleges Toronto police mistook him for another man with the same name who was wanted on suspicion of murder and assaulted him. (CBC)

Members of Toronto's Somali community say they're upset with the amount of force used by police to take a suspect into custody last week — a suspect who turned out to be the wrong man.

Sharmake Abdi, 26, alleges he was badly roughed up by about eight Toronto police officers on July 22 on Church Street in downtown Toronto.

Police were looking for another man with the same name who was wanted in connection with a July 14 homicide in Scarborough.

Abdi says he suffered cuts and bruises. He wants compensation and an apology.

Toronto police say they acted by the book and won't apologize.

"You have to understand, [police officers were] dealing with a situation where a person is wanted for a homicide investigation, where he's allegedly killed someone, and he's armed with a weapon," police spokesman Const. Tony Vella told CBC News on Tuesday.

Lawyer Russell Silverstein agrees.

"If [police] had that belief that this was the right guy, they were allowed to use as much as force as is necessary to effect the arrest," said Russell.

Abdurahman Jibril, of the Somali-Canadian National Council, is upset with how police handled the situation.

"They have to give an apology, come forward, talk to Mr. Abdi, talk to the community and we will be writing letters to them soon anyway," said Jibril.

This incident, says Jibril, could set back relations between the police and Somali community

"Sharmake Abdi — that's a common Somali name. It's like John Smith. So any time you see a John Smith you don't just grab them, you have to verify them."

Over the last few years, the Somali Community and Toronto police have worked hard to develop a better relationship, with the biggest challenge being to get Somali young people to trust the police

Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner says he hopes the two sides can heal these wounds — and he hopes Sharmake will still consider a future as a police officer.

"I would encourage him not to be deterred from policing," said Taverner. "It is a very honourable profession. Certainly there is a need for Somalian officers."

Jibril says he will still encourage young men and women in the community to join the police, "but at the same time we want to hold the police accountable."

Source: www.cbc.ca

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cape Town Police arrested for theft from Somali shop

Four police officers were arrested on Monday night for allegedly stealing R400 and R911 airtime from the Du Noon spaza belonging to Omar Hussein, Cabdi Hassan, Mohamed Abraham and Selman Cabdulqaadir (not pictured). Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

Four policemen from the Crime Combating Unit were arrested in Cape Town on Monday night after having allegedly stolen R400 and goods to the value of R911 from a Somali-owned shop in Du Noon.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Shop keeper Selman Cabdulqaadir said four men in police uniforms, driving an SAPS marked 4×4 double-cab backie, robbed his elder brother’s shop, Maphinda’s Spaza, in Ingwe Street, Du Noon, at about 6pm on Monday.

He said he and his two brothers were in the shop when the men pulled up outside the shop and, with guns on their hips, ordered them to open the security door, claiming they wanted to search for fake cigarettes.

Cabdulqaadir said when he opened the security door the four men got inside the shop, closing the doors behind them.

He says he and his brothers were then ordered to stand at the back of the room while they lit cigarettes of different brands, saying they were testing if they were fake.

He said “at some point” the men became aggressive and pushed them around and questioning them about their asylum seeker or refugee documentation.

After “tasting” the cigarettes they took R400 from the cash box and airtime worth R911, said fellow shopkeeper and Cabdulqaadir’s half-brother Cabdi Hassan.

While exiting the shop, one of the men took an avocado pear, said Hassan.

“We were scared. They are supposed to protect us yet they are acting like criminals,” said Cabdulqaadir.

“The thieves here do to us whatever they want now police are doing the same.”

He said as they left the shop one of the men turned around and told them not to open the shop on Tuesday as they would return to check the validity of their Home Affairs documents, said Hassan.

Milnerton Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Daphne Dell confirmed that four police officers from the CCU (Crime Combating Unit) were arrested on Monday night.

However, Dell was unable to say when the men would appear in court and or what charges they faced. Provincial police spokesperson Andre Traut was not in a position to answer questions at the time of going to press. —

Peter Luhanga,
Source: West Cape News.

Somali files second request for compensation

A Somali who spent a year in preventive arrest but was then found not guilty of importing Khat from London this morning filed a second request for compensation in the Constitutional Court after a judicial protest he filed last year was thrown out a few days ago.

Ten kilogrammes of khat had been found in the luggage of Aweys Maani Khayre at the airport in May 2008. He claimed he brought the khat to celebrate his birthday with family and friends and was not aware it was illegal in Malta.

The plant, which has been chewed by east Africans for hundreds of years and plays a big part in the social lives of both men and women, is banned across America, Canada and most of Europe. It is legal in Britain.

The Somali had originally been found guilty and he jailed for six months. However, he was immediately freed as he had already served more than the jail term in preventative arrest.

On appeal, he was found not guilty.

Source: timesofmalta.com

22 more arrested over Kampala bomb blasts

TWENTY-two more suspects, mostly Somalis, have been arrested in Soroti over the July 11 bomb blasts which killed 76 people in Kampala city.

The arrests took place last Thursday. The suspects were whisked to Kampala for interrogation amid tight security.

Two bombs ripped through Kyadondo Rugby Club in Lugogo and another one tore through an Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, a Kampala suburb.

The fourth bomb and a suicide vest were recovered from Ice Link Discotheque in Makindye, also a city suburb.

Sources said the Somalis were picked up in connection with the unexploded bomb and the cell telephone which was also seized with it. It is not clear whether the Somalis had called or received calls on the phone.

A worker at the bar said at the time the phone rang the following day, but the staff declined to pick the call.
The fresh suspects were expected to be quizzed yesterday by the Joint Anti-Terrorism Unit.

The Somali-based al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the explosions, saying it was avenging the presence of Ugandan peace-keepers in the war-torn Horn of African country.

Also in custody is a Congolese said to have been dispatched to Uganda by the al-Shabaab leadership to spy on key American installations in the country. His actions drew the interest of the America’s FBI agents in the country.

Meanwhile, two pairs of feet recovered from the bomb blast scenes, suspected to belong to the suicide bombers, have not been claimed from the city mortuary.
The feet were delivered to the mortuary together with bodies of other victims, which were claimed. The feet have been preserved.

Two heads believed to belong to two suicide bombers were recovered from the scenes of the blast that left more than 50 revellers watching the World Cup soccer final injured.

One of the faces was dark, while the other bore “Somali-like characteristics”, according to the Police.

In another development, security sources said al-Shabaab militant Moktar Ali sneaked into the country prior to the attacks and toured the country, then quietly slipped out undetected.

The revelation was made by Abdi Ali, a Somali suspect in custody. Both Moktar and Abdi hail from Somalia. Moktar is said to have sneaked into the country a month before the blast and met Abdi, who travelled with him to Mbale town.

While some sources said Moktar left the country four days to the attacks, others say it was on Sunday, just before the blasts.

Sources further said the attackers were helped by two Kenyans and a Tanzanian, who are said to have sneaked the explosives into the country.

Meanwhile, the Police are receiving positive feedback on the identities of the suicide bombers since publishing their reconstructed photographs across the globe.

“We are getting information that will help us identify the suspects,” Francis Rwego, the director of Interpol, said.

Source: New Vision Online

Saudi Arabia Urged To Stop Deporting Somali Immigrants

The United Nations, Somalia government officials and some top Somali rights groups called on the authorities of Saudi Arabia to halt the deportation of illegal Somali immigrants from its territory, reports MISNA.

Based on estimates of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in the month of July almost 300 Somalis, who entered Saudi Arabia illegally, were deported back to Mogadishu, while as many as 4,000 Somalis had been deported from the country over the previous year.

“Nobody should deport people to Mogadishu because it is sending them back to a deadly situation”, UNCHR Information Officer Roberta Russo told the UN IRIN news network.

A similar call arrived also from Somalia’s minister for Reconstruction and Social Affairs, Mohammed Omar Daha, who formally called on Saudi authorities to help the Somalis fleeing from the conflict as other countries have done.

A call came also from Somali rights groups to change policies adopted in the last months against illegal Somali migrants, stressing that once these migrants are returned to Mogadishu they are often alone, since their families fled the city from the persisting insecurity and daily fighting between government forces and insurgents.

MISNA

MISNA (Missionary International Service News Agency) provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the 'world’s Souths', not just in the geographical sense. Journalistically, the news agency – which is often described as ‘alternative’ or as providing ‘counter-information’ – has the primary aim of integrating and sometimes also ‘correcting’ the ‘genetically modified information’ put into circulation by large global news systems that have a different perception of the world.

Europe offers Somali people 35m euros in aid

Europe offered 35 million euros (45 million dollars) on Tuesday to help millions of Somali people trapped in a desperate cycle of war, starvation and illness.

The money, agreed by the European Union's executive commission, is aimed at some 3.2 million Somalis estimated to need emergency assistance and will be channeled into a wide range of humanitarian aid projects.

"Somalia people are the first victims of the deadly combination of continuous fighting and adverse climatic conditions," said Kristalina Georgieva, humanitarian aid commissioner.

"Many Somali die in silence for lack of food, medical and sanitary care. We cannot let them down."

Somalia was also one of six drought-prone countries in the Horn of Africa awarded a total of 20 million euros by the commission last month.

African Union leaders agreed on Tuesday to send thousands of extra troops to reinforce its military contingent battling insurgents in Somalia.

The hardline Shebab militia, whose leadership has pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, controls the vast majority of the country, with President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's Western-backed government confined to a few blocks in Mogadishu.

Source: AFP.

US says Kampala Bombings a 'Wake-Up Call' on Somali Extremists

The Obama administration's chief Africa diplomat says the suicide bombings by the Somali militant group al-Shabab earlier this month in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, were a "wake-up call" for the world community about the Islamic radicals. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson is in Kampala for the African Union summit.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says the July 11 bombings at two Kampala viewing sites for the World Cup finals show al-Shabab's ability to use terror tactics far beyond Somalia, and should yield greater African and world support for the AU's AMISOM peacekeeping force in the troubled Horn-of-Africa country.

The assistant secretary spoke to reporters in a telephone hook-up from Kampala, where he led a high-level U.S. delegation to the AU summit. He said the bombings, which killed nearly 80 people, established al-Shabab as a force to be reckoned with throughout much of Africa.

"If al-Shabab can strike Kampala, it also is a threat to all of Somalia's regional neighbors, from Djibouti and Ethiopia and Kenya all the way down to Tanzania," Carson said. "This is the first time that we have seen Shahab use suicide tactics outside of the south-central area of the country. This constitutes a threat and I think the regional states are genuinely concerned about the capacity of Shabab to do this."

The AU summit endorsed plans by the East African regional economic bloc IGAD to send another 2,000 peacekeeping troops to Somalia, to bolster the contingent of more than 5,000 Burundian and Ugandan soldiers.

The United States has provided logistical support for the AMISOM force and Carson said he hopes al-Shabab's newly-demonstrated terror potential will prompt countries in Africa and beyond to make good on existing pledges of help for AMISOM and the struggling Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.

Carson said there was a heavy focus at the AU summit on the need to reduce civilian casualties attributed to AMISOM in Somalia.

He said helping AMISOM improve its battlefield intelligence capabilities, and providing it with more accurate artillery and other weapons will ease the problem. He also said some civilian deaths can be attributed to the way al-Shahab operates.

"I think that some of the tactics employed by al-Shabab are responsible for some of the civilian casualties that have been reported in the press," added Carson. "Al-Shabab moves in and out of market areas, in and out of civilian residential areas, with the clear intent of using those markets and those residential units where civilians reside, as a place where they can launch their mortars and fire their weapons."

AMISOM has been accused of indiscriminately shelling civilian areas. Carson said he believes there have been no deliberate attacks on civilians, but acknowledged the problem has the potential of turning the Somali population against the AU force.

Source: VOA

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Somali Islamic group cracks down on TV sets

Somali Islamist rebels have ordered residents in areas they control to hand over televisions and satellite dishes, warning that anyone who did not would be considered a spy, residents said on Monday.
The affected region is largely controlled by the al Shabaab group, a rebel militia linked to al Qaeda which enforces a harsh version of sharia law that includes banning school bells, ringtones on cell phones and music on radios.

Members of the militia group, which has also banned watching football and films, have warned residents through loud speakers mounted on vehicles in towns across southern and central Somalia to give up their TV sets before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan starts in mid-August.

"Families were told to surrender their television sets and satellite dishes. They are afraid some of us may use them as private channels for communication," Abshir, a resident of Buula-barde, told Reuters.

"In the past, we could not watch games or films as we wanted. Now, we cannot have TV sets at all," he said, declining to give his second name for safety reasons.

Another resident in Bardale, a town 60 km north of Baidoa, said they were informed of the decision at a public gathering late on Friday. "We are not happy to handover our belongings to someone else," said the resident who did not want to be named.

The warning scared residents who are familiar with the group that previously carried out death sentences on dozens of people accused of espionage for the government or foreign troops.

One legislator from Buula-barde said the radical group, which claimed responsibility for bombings in the Ugandan capital of Kampala that killed 76 people this month, were watching developments an African Union summit in the city for any possible offensive.

"They are monitoring closely the discussion at the summit and cautious that African troops may leave the defensive positions after the Kampala bombing," legislator Osman Mohamed said.

"They are oppressing our people using a poor excuse that residents may be spies, but that is not the case. This is the beginning of series attempts to control information, and create the fear among the people."

The United States added its voice on Monday to growing calls at the AU summit for more troops to tackle Somalia's Islamist rebels. Delegates are debating the mandate of 6,300 AU peacekeepers in Somalia, which are barely managing to keep the country's besieged government in power.

Source: Reuters.

Muslim workers will be able to break their fast, Electrolux says

But human rights group says workers haven't had time to review
new policy intended to accommodate Ramadan.











An appliance manufacturer said Friday that it has changed policies at its freezer plant in St. Cloud that will make it possible for its Muslim
employees to observe Ramadan, but a Muslim civil liberties group is questioning whether the changes go far enough.

The North American division of the Sweden-based Electrolux Group announced that it had adjusted its meal schedule so that its Muslim employees will be able to break their fast at sundown during the annual observance.

It's unclear whether the changes resolve the issues raised by Muslim employees, according to the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). Those employees have not yet had a chance to review the company's proposal, the group said Friday.

Earlier this week, CAIR-MN asked that the Muslim workers be allowed to bring a snack onto the plant's production floor so they can break their fast at sundown. During Ramadan, which begins the second week of
August, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Electrolux earlier this year adopted a new policy that bars all food from the plant's production floor.

Most of the 300 employees who work the evening shift are Muslims, CAIR-MN said.

Some employees filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying the company's policy violates federal and state civil rights laws.

According to the company, the new policy will allow "employees to break their fast in a safe environment away from the production area and without affecting manufacturing operations."

In a statement issued Friday, CAIR-MN said it's unclear whether the policy would allow all employees to break their fast right after sunset during Ramadan.

Under the proposal, on most days employees could use only the last 10 minutes of a new break time to eat and pray, because the sun sets only at the end of the break, the group added.

Group representatives plan to meet with Muslim employees next week to discuss the company's plan.

Star Tribune reporter Sarah Lemagie contributed to this report.

Source: StarTribune

Kenya Security Forces Harassing Somali Refugees

Written by Hussein Moulid Bosh

Kenyan forces at the Somali border and in nearby refugee camps are abusing asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war-torn Somalia.

Kenya tightened security along its border with Somalia in February in anticipation of a government offensive against Al-Shabbab and other anti-government groups, which has yet to occur. There were fears that Somali fighters might enter Kenya if attacked at home.

With the widespread threat of interception of refugees by abusive forces, most asylum seekers 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.

"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, a refugee researcher for Human Rights Watch.

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 owing to the limited capacity of the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The New American interviewed three Somalis who fled the terror in their homeland:

“Nairobi-Eastleight is just like Mogadishu (Somali Capital); but the only difference is that there is no security. Rather than settle in overflowing refugee’s camp along the Kenya-Somali boarder and depend on food agencies and handouts, I choose to live independently like other Kenyan people,” said Abdullahi Warsame. A 19-year-old who lost his brother and mother in the war back in his previous land.

Another immigrant is Rahma Mohamed who says “life here is normal compared to previous days. Obviously I can’t be like other Kenyans who have freedom but the only things I require is peace and stability at the moment.”

Rahma underwent many challenges through her journey from Somalia to Kenya, a journey that she never wishes to remember. Kenyan security forces detained her for at least two weeks. “All my family are in Mogadishu, I know right now they are full of doubt, I am here with my elder brother who has a wife and 6 kids, I don’t have a stable job to do right now but am in search for better job so that I can help my family who are struggling away back in Somalia,” she added.

This year began with some of the worst and deadliest fighting in Somalia since early 2009. Somalia has been without a functioning government since the civil war in 1991 after Mogadishu warlords toppled Siad Bare’s regime, leading to millions of deaths and the highest number of both internally and externally displaced persons anywhere on the globe.

In June, nine Somali migrants drowned off the north-eastern coast of Mozambique while fleeing violence and poverty in their homeland.

The nine people were part of a larger group of 77 Somalis trying to reach Mozambique by boat, 41 of whom were forced into the water by the smugglers. “Some people were rescued by fishermen while 36 others who refused to leave the boat were eventually taken to [the town of] Palma,” said Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "They used to be taking a very cumbersome route by road through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and then into South Africa. And, it seems now, perhaps because of crackdowns in Malawi, that they have decided or that the smugglers have chosen this (sea) route," Fleming added.

Also in end of May, five unconscious Somalis were found on Minicoy Island in Lakshadweep, India, after swimming ashore from their boat. All five have been arrested.

People from Somalia are trying to flee the violence, using the increasingly popular, but dangerous, sea route despite the risk.

Kenya currently confines refugees to camps, barring them from movement, in contravention of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Nairobi however registered thousands as urban refugee.

Security forces in the border areas allow intercepted asylum seekers to pay their way through checkpoints to reach the camps.

Women and girls describe an utterly inadequate police response to sexual violence. Many women say that alleged attackers have successfully bribed the police to prevent investigations from taking place or to secure their release if arrested.

“In March, that was the worst month in my life, I fled with my two kids from the war so that I have peace, but through my journey, I can’t explain what happen to me in front of my kids,” 34 year old Aisha Ahmed told The New American. “But whatever happened it happen for a reasons, now the only things I want is peace and stability. I always pray to my fellow brothers and sisters to stop fighting and to see white flag waving in my country [Somalia].”

Somalia already has 1.4 million internally displaced people, and about 575,000 have fled to neighboring countries. In 2009, Somalis were the third-largest group seeking asylum in industrialized countries, with more than 22,000 claims, after Iraq and Pakistan, according to figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Hussein Moulid Bosh is a Kenyan-born Somali freelance journalist, covering stories around East Africa and also the Horn of Africa countries, especially Somalia.

Source: thenewamerican.com

Somali lessons for Afghanistan

By Gideon Rachman

Whenever western leaders ask themselves the question, why are we in Afghanistan, they come up with essentially the same reply – “To prevent Afghanistan becoming a failed state and a haven for terrorists.” Until Afghanistan is stable, so the argument goes, we cannot risk withdrawal.

Yet there is very little evidence that Afghanistan is becoming more stable. On the contrary, the fighting is intensifying, casualties are mounting and the Taliban is becoming more confident.

So perhaps it is time to rephrase the question. Rather than asking, “Why are we in Afghanistan?”, we should ask, “If we are in Afghanistan, why are we not also in Somalia, Yemen or Pakistan?” All three countries are now plausible bases for potential terrorists.

Somalia, in particular, looks increasingly like Afghanistan before 2001. It is an almost completely failed state and western nationals are known to be undergoing terrorist training there. Somalia’s central government controls little more than a few blocks around the presidential palace in Mogadishu and the airport. The rest of the country is home to a radical Islamist insurgency, as well as to pirate fleets that prey on international shipping. Somalia is also exporting terrorism to its neighbours, as a recent deadly bombing in Uganda has illustrated.

Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia and lies across the sea from Somalia, is also attracting increasing concern from western intelligence agencies. And it has long been known that the remnants of al-Qaeda’s leadership are now based in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. The west is fighting a war on terrorism in Afghanistan. But the terrorists are somewhere else. Meanwhile, our ability to combat threats around the world is sapped by the huge drain on resources caused by the Afghan war.

This observation leads in two possible directions. The first is to apply the Afghan model to Somalia – and to intervene massively on the ground to combat terrorism and to help build a functioning state. The second option is to apply the Somali model to Afghanistan. That would mean accepting that outside military intervention is often counter-productive, that its human costs are too high, that state-building is unlikely to work and that the west should concentrate on bottling terrorism up, rather than trying to defeat it on the battlefield.

Western policymakers recoil at the thought of getting bogged down in another bloody counter-insurgency operation in Somalia. The history of the country over the past 20 years has been one of successive failed foreign interventions, each leaving it in a worse state than before. Instead, the west is settling for an imperfect alternative option: monitor potential terrorist activity in Somalia from a distance, using a mixture of satellite and human intelligence. And, where possible and necessary, intervene with targeted military strikes.

The same model has been applied with some success in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Americans claim that missile attacks from pilot-less drones have inflicted heavy losses on the leadership of al-Qaeda and made it all but impossible for the organisation to use electronic communications, or to train. It is true that some innocent people are killed by the missiles. But innocents are killed on a regular basis by the war in Afghanistan.

The lesson of Somalia and Pakistan is that counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency are different things. It is possible to combat terrorist groups without getting sucked into a major war and state-building exercise of the sort that the west has committed itself to in Afghanistan. That, in turn, suggests that Nato should look to withdraw troops from Afghanistan much faster than currently envisaged – and to refocus the mission much more tightly on counter-terrorism.

There are good and bad arguments that will be deployed against this course of action. The best argument is that, having committed to building a decent state in Afghanistan, the west has a moral obligation to keep going. It is true that there are many brave and decent Afghans who have put a lot of faith in the Nato-led war. But it is surely now apparent that the protection of human rights in Afghanistan cannot ultimately be secured at the point of a foreign gun. Only the internal evolution of Afghan society can provide any long-term guarantees of good government.

The other main argument against pulling back from Afghanistan is that western credibility is at stake. If we fail in Afghanistan, Nato might fall apart and America’s enemies across the world will be emboldened. Picture the fall of Saigon in 1975 – now replay that event, with the Taliban entering Kabul.

But this argument is also over-stated. A seriously reduced foreign force could help the Afghan government maintain control of Kabul – much as the African Union force has, so far, kept the Islamists from seizing Mogadishu. Even the fall of Saigon was not the catastrophic blow to the US that it felt like, at the time. Just 16 years later, the Soviet Union collapsed – helped on its way by a draining war in Afghanistan.

When western politicians talk about “credibility” in Afghanistan, it is often their own credibility they are worrying about most. America’s military timetable in Afghanistan already seems tailored to ensure that the US does not “lose” before the next presidential election. But to keep asking troops to fight and die in Afghanistan to avoid electoral inconvenience is immoral.

gideon.rachman@ft.com

Source: www.ft.com.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pregnant Somali gave birth two days after arriving in Malta

One of the pregnant women who arrived in Malta on a boat a few days ago gave birth only two days after landing here, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said this morning.

Fifty-five Somalis were rescued from a sinking dinghy a week ago today. They were divided into two groups on the high seas with 28 being brought to Malta and the rest taken to Libya. The army said those who boarded the Libyan boat did so voluntarily but the claim was disputed by migrants.

The Prime Minister has ruled out an independent inquiry into the army's behaviour.

Speaking during a question and answer programme on Radio 101, Dr Gonzi said the immigrants were victims of particular circumstances, they were human beings and they deserved all the support they could get to be saved.

“This is our duty,” he said adding that he could never accept messages and e-mails, such as the terrifying ones he received urging him to “let these people drown”.

Dr Gonzi said he believed the majority of Maltese people did not want this. A person’s primary duty was to save these people from danger, whatever the reason.

Thanking the army for their work saying soldiers put their lives in danger to save others, the Prime Minister said that he asked the army for an explanation and he was assured that the Maltese had honoured their moral duty, removed the dangers and the operation was carried out according to regulations.

This clearly showed that while the immigration problem had been mitigated, it was still there

Two weeks ago, he recalled, he discussed the problem with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and they agreed to unite with other countries to press for the issue to be given priority importance by the EU.

They would also press for a common policy and an EU agreement with Libyan government on special arrangements to be reached.

Source: timesofmalta.com

Journey through Djibouti

Emily will be writing to Somalilandpress.com about her experience in Djibouti and will be offering tips to anyone who may want to visit the East African nation. Discover Djibouti from Non-Djibouti perspective.

It is a pleasure to be able to greet the readers from SomalilandPress once again. After looking forward to returning to Hargeisa since my August departure, I wasn’t sure what to make of it when my plans rerouted me to Djibouti instead. When I was in Hargeisa last summer I met several Djiboutians who had come to Somaliland to escape the scorching heat that overtakes Djibouti for about four months, so I had plenty of warning about the weather. On the other hand, I knew that Djibouti was nestled between the Gulf of Tadjoura and Gulf of Aden, that safety would not of concern, and one of my friends from Hargeisa even described it as “the Paris of Africa.” I don’t think she’s ever been to Paris.

On the Ethiopian Airlines flight, which was delayed but had excellent service and a nice aircraft and movie selection, I got to know some of my fellow passengers and when I started conversing with them in Somali, they quickly took me under their wing. The language skills of the Djiboutians still impress me. Many people speak conversational Somali, French, Arabic, Afar, and sometimes English as well. But on the other hand, I find that when they speak they tend to mix all these languages together and it is rare to find someone using just one pure unadulterated language. If I try to limit the conversation to only one language, often my counterpart will still insist on mixing languages as he struggles to find every word within the confines of one sole language.

When the plane landed in Djbiouti, I was curious to experience this strong heat that I heard about from literally every person who has ever been to or heard about Djibouti. In a way I was dreading the impending heat, and in a way I just wanted to get it over with. I stepped off the aircraft to a hot breeze much like a high-power hair dryer, similar to the weather I experienced in Berbera last year. My visa sent me seamlessly through the immigration line, and my companions from the flight stayed with me until my luggage arrived and made sure that I wouldn’t be abandoned at the airport. I was relieved to see my gracious hosts waiting patiently in front of the sliding glass doors when they opened (this reminds me of the Somali story where a mother tells her son before departing to the US that she hopes Allah will open many doors for him in his future, and when he arrives in America a pair of automatic doors open and the boy praises Allah in awe of his mother’s wisdom). As I exchanged phone numbers with my friends from the flight and stepped into the car, I looked with anticipation through the car windows as I saw Djibouti for the first time. The roads were so clean, and the streets seemed so empty. We drove to a Yemeni restaurant and as the server walked over; I was kind of giddy and nervous about placing my order using my rusty and imperfect Somali. My hosts spoke first, inquiring in Somali about some of the choices on the menu. And to my surprise, the Djiboutian server answered in a mix of some Somali words, but mostly French, and she looked peevishly towards me. The family was less surprised than I was that she didn’t speak much Somali and somehow I began sort of translating between the server and the family as we placed our order. I was discombobulated and had never been in the position where I had to think in both French and Somali and even English, so my translation from French to Somali/English also came out in a cocktail of broken languages. In a way, I fit right in.

I had the chance to go to the beach on my first Friday in Djibouti. We prepared some food and drinks, and drove out of the city center to a less crowded beach off the main road. I was so excited to have the chance to swim and cool off a bit. But when my feet met the Gulf, I was dumfounded that the water temperature was at best a few degrees cooler than the hot air. Still it was nice to swim, and to sit by the coast and enjoy fresh watermelon juice and sambusas.

My second week here coincided with Somaliland’s elections and I had to force myself not to cross over the border to take in the excitement first hand. But even Djibouti was paying close attention, with BBC Somali Service and local news stations keeping an attentive eye on the events down the road. From Djibouti, I got to learn about the impressive campaigns led by UDUB, Kulmiye and UCID. A friend of mine in Djibouti who is originally from Somaliland called in sick from work and from downtown Djibouti, she boarded a free bus sponsored by Kulmiye all the way to her polling station across the border where she exercised her right to vote and revealed inky fingers as proof. Kulmiye even put up the busload of voters in accommodations overnight free of charge, allowed the voters to choose whichever party they wanted to support, and drove them safely back to Djibouti on Sunday morning. I believe all three parties did the same and am still impressed by the organization and commitment of both the parties and the voters.

Back in Djibouti, the lively central market has become my favorite hangout especially in the late afternoon, when its hustle and bustle is a welcome contrast to the listlessness imposed by the mass consumption of khat around the same hours. At one particular corner of the market I have managed to get to know a friendly group of women who inform me of prices, show me around, and fill me in on the latest gossip. I have yet to explore Djibouti outside of the city, and look forward to visiting different regions of the country to get a better taste of its diversity in landscape and people, from Tadjoura to Lake Abbe and Ali Sabieh.

Thank you for reading.

Source: Somaliland Press

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The optimistic face of Somalia

Mohamed Ali Nur, Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya, probably has the least attractive job in the country. He represents a nation that is overwhelmingly viewed as a burden and possible menace to his hosts.

He has to deal with the latent hostility of the citizens of the host country, while balancing that against the demands of the hundreds of thousands of his countrymen who are in Kenya legally or, in the case of a substantial percentage, illegally.

Yet the diplomat struck an upbeat and businesslike tone in a Sunday Nation interview in which he sought to play up the shared links between Kenya and Somalia and predicted a resolution to the crisis was around the corner.

Mr Nur’s life story has taken in many of the tragedies of his home nation. The American-trained economist was leading a comfortable existence in Mogadishu as an employee of the Central Bank of Somalia before the civil war intensified in 1991.

“We saw the negative effects of war at that time. My own family fled to Kenya before we moved on to America and then to Canada. That is why we do not underestimate the value of our neighbours as we maintain the search for peace in our homeland. Kenyans took us into their homes and welcomed us and we have not forgotten,” said Mr Nur.

The ambassador returned to Nairobi from exile in 2004 as the peace talks between various Somali parties neared conclusion. He took a job with the administration of Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Ghedi before joining a team charged with the task of re-establishing Somalia’s diplomatic mission in Kenya.

But Mr Nur would not have predicted the chaos that would follow the installation of the Transitional Federal Government. His face furrowed and eyes narrowed when asked about the actions of al-Shabaab, which shocked the region and provoked an outpouring of public anger following its July 12 attack on revellers watching the World Cup final in Kampala.

“We are really very sorry for that attack,” he said. “We send our deepest condolences. This is something we suspected might happen but we prayed and hoped it wouldn’t,” he said.

Mr Nur characterised the al-Shabaab militant group as a fringe outfit that was holding the Somali people hostage despite enjoying little public support.

“We are Muslims. Before these people turned up we did not have these types of actions. These suicide bombings and other such are not part of our culture. We are a peace-loving people,” he said.

The envoy supported moves to increase the number of African Union troops in Somalia. He said the mission was initially supposed to have 8,000 troops but currently has between 5,000 and 6,000. Adding to that number would only be in line with the earlier troop levels agreed.

Mr Nur lapsed into diplomatic evasions when asked if he felt neighbouring countries are doing enough to help stabilise his country.

“We appreciate the support we are receiving, but we need more assistance to get to the level the country needs to avoid civil strife,” he said.

The embassy in the Kilimani suburb of Nairobi abounds with dozens of Somali nationals, making it a busy and crowded affair in contrast to the tranquillity you will encounter at most other embassies.

This is a reflection of the fact that its staff’s workload includes dealing with complaints of police harassment of Somali nationals.

“I have told the people that Kenya is a sovereign country which enforces its immigration laws. We all agree that everyone in Kenya should be here legally, but what we object to is the appearance of ethnic profiling targeting one [section of] people,” said Mr Nur.

The Somalia embassy was caught up in controversy in March after a UN report accused officials there of smuggling its nationals to Europe.

They were said to list them in delegations of officials travelling abroad, only for the nationals to melt away when the “government” delegation landed abroad.

Mr Nur dismissed those charges. “The embassy does not issue visas. We are merely facilitators. We are given a list of those travelling and all we do is lodge their applications with other embassies. Those visas are then issued independently.”

So what are the prospects of peace in Somalia? Mr Nur painted an optimistic picture, saying the vast majority of Somalis want stability. He said the al-Shabaab had created a major humanitarian crisis in Mogadishu and elsewhere and robbed entrepreneurs of the chance to take advantage of Somalis’ famed flair for business.

Source: Sunday Nation.

The failed Somali State and terrorism (Part2)

By Evarist Kagaruki

Previously, I pointed out in this column that one of the reasons for the failure of past attempts by the so-called international community to resolve the Somali conflict was the agreed policy by the West that a radical, Islamist Somalia was unacceptable. I said that the fragile transitional government was formed on the basis of that invidious policy whose thrust was to exclude all “extremist” Islamic elements.

This, I argued, was a wrong approach because any clan composition of government that did not take on board Islamists (and, of course, all other social, political, ideological groups and clans as well as regions like Puntland, for example) would not function; it would be a government built on quicksand. And this is exactly what we have witnessed since 2004, when the current dysfunctional transitional government was established in Nairobi.
The other wrong approach to the Somali crisis, which has precipitated the situation, was the tendency on the part of the Western powers to see the problem through the prism of “al Qaeda-connected terrorism” and the threat this posed to the whole region. This perspective has distorted the dynamics of the conflict and led to the application of wrong “solutions” to the problems of the Horn of African country. Forexample, the Western, and essentially American, strategy on Somalia since the Clinton administration has been militaristic. The whole concept of “peacekeeping” in Somalia has been twisted and redefined to mean sending troops there to fight terror. It all began with the failed American humanitarian/military intervention in Somalia in October 1993 (ahead of a UN peacekeeping force), code-named “Operation Restore Hope”.
The UN-backed peace mission hit a snag when 18 American marines were killed by Somali gun men and one of the bodies was dragged (naked) in the streets of Mogadishu by angry mobs. About 300 Somalis were also killed in the operation. This incident occurred as a result of a military confrontation between the Somali militias and American soldiers; it was triggered by the US military raid (with helicopter gun ships) on a meeting of clan elders in Mogadishu three months earlier, in which more than 60 Somalis died and several others were seriously injured.

The attack, which had the approval of the UN, was part of the manhunt for only one warlord, Gen Mohamed Farah Aidid, whose Somali Congress forces (which he led) had seized Mogadishu and other cities after the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre in January, 1991. After chasing out Barre, Aidid became the key military, if not political figure in Somalia; something which made the West uncomfortable. The singling out of one warlord (Aidid), when the objective ought to have been disabling all warlords, was one of the biggest mistakes of the US in its mission in Somalia. The mishap in the get-Aidid agenda marked the end of the US/UN operation which, instead of restoring hope, escalated the situation.

The failed disastrous operation evoked a sense of cynicism and indifference in Washington and other Western capitals (and at the UN) over the Somali problem. It completely changed Western perceptions about African conflicts and engendered the UN and its member-nations in the West to lose the strand of peacekeeping in the continent. US policy makers have since become paranoid and swore never to risk sending troops anywhere not vital to America’s so-called national security interests; and her Western allies have, as would be expected, followed suit. Thus today, no Western country is prepared or willing to send its troops on a peacekeeping mission to any conflict area in Africa.

Then, as the West was getting more unconcerned about Africa’s conflicts, came the terrorist bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998 by al-Qaeda who were said to have found sanctuary in lawless Somalia, followed by the horrific events of September 11, 2001 - also the devilish work of al-Qaeda. These tragic experiences reinforced the argument (in the West) that “terrorism” (read: Islamic extremism) was the basic and immediate problem of Somalia, which needed to be tackled by the international community - not directly, but through proxies like Ethiopia. The suspected links between the country’s Islamists and al-Qaeda were often cited as evidence of how serious the problem was.

But the reality is that “Somali terrorism” was a manifestation of the fundamental problem: a failed state. Granted, that the Islamists (particularly al-Shabaab - the military wing of the Islamic Courts) may have links with al-Qaeda which has made no secret of its approval of them. But al-Qaeda operatives would have found no safe haven in Somalia if the state there had not collapsed, as the international community looked the other way. If the UN had lived up to its responsibilities in Somalia, today we wouldn’t be talking of the al-Shabaab (real) threat, as the recent terrorist bombing of Kampala would harshly remind us.

Source: www.thecitizen.co.tz

The failed State and terrorism (1)

By Evarist Kagaruki

The bomb blasts in Kampala last Sunday, which killed more than 70 people and seriously injured many others, has been widely condemned around the world.

This is as it should be since terrorism, in all its manifestations, is a scourge that threatens humanity; it takes away the lives of innocent people (like those that were bombed while watching the World Cup finals), including children. It is something that no sane person can condone.

The Kampala horrible incident for which the Somali Islamist insurgent group, Al-Shabaab, has claimed responsibility (they say it was in retaliation for the presence of Ugandan troops in Somalia), evokes very sad memories of the simultaneous Al-Qaeda-directed US Embassy explosions in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998.
It is also a shrewd reminder that our borders are still permeable by terrorists; and that our region is still a target for terrorist attacks. For this reason, East Africans need to be on the alert, always conscious that the region remains insecure as long as Somalia continues to be under the rule of the gun with no prospects for peace and stability in sight.

There is a need for the people of this region to be vigilant to ensure the security of not only their borders but also their homelands.

The Al-Shabaab terrorist attack could not have been more ill-timed. It occurred at a time when Africans were in a frenzy, celebrating the historic success of the World Cup which was held for the first time on the African soil.

It was also during the finals of the world’s most prestigious and popular event which, this time round, had been the African pride, especially because of the incredible way in which it was organised by the South Africans.

Second, the attack came as Uganda was putting final touches on the preparations for the AU summit and a continental youth conference on the sidelines of the main event.

Certainly, the aim of the terrorists was to disrupt these preparations by intimidating the hosts as well as the guests. Besides, the bombings happened just about two weeks after the meeting of East African defence chiefs on the Somali issue: they discussed the question of deploying an additional 2,000 troops to bring the AMISOM force level for Mogadishu to 8,100 peacekeepers (read: peace-enforcers, as there is no peace to keep in Somalia); it was also about a week after leaders of the regional grouping Igad had met in Addis Ababa to deliberate on the continuing political instability in the war-torn country.

So, the Islamists must have been under intense psychological pressure when they decided to descend on Kampala with bombs.

But while the world has expressed shock and sadness at, as well as condemnation of, the terrorist attack on innocent Ugandan civilians, it should be pointed out that the international community, and more specifically the UN, bears responsibility for the Ugandan tragedy because it has neglected Somalia.

The country has, since the overthrow of dictator Mohammed Siyad Barre in January 1991, been without a functioning government; it is beleaguered by civil war that has persisted for two decades without any serious efforts on the part of the world body to bring it to an end. Yet, Somalia, though stateless, is a member of the organisation.

Of course a few attempts have been made towards addressing the Somali question, but without success. The failure surprises no one because the initiatives were rather erratic, and were based on a wrong political approach; wrong in several ways but the most prominent one being the seemingly agreed policy in the West, shared by some of Somalia’s neighbours (particularly Ethiopia), that a radical Islamist Somalia was not acceptable.

The Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) cobbled in Nairobi in 2004 (with the help of Igad and US support) was conceived on the basis of that “principle”; its set up was designed to bring together warlords who had, since the ouster of Barre, been competing for the control of Mogadishu to share power, to the exclusion of “extremist” Islamic elements who also want a slice of the “political cake” in Somalia.

The consequence of this kind of power configuration has been the upsurge in Islamist insurgency, terrorism and piracy.

Source: www.thecitizen.co.tz