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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who Attacked al-Shabab? The Rebel Leader Speaks

Members of al-Shabab patrol the streets of Mogadishu on Sept. 10, 2010, during the first day of 'Id al-Fitr
Feisal Omar / Reuters

Who attacked Somalia's al-Shabab on Sunday? At about 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 26, a mysterious helicopter opened fire on a meeting of top leaders of the increasingly ambitious al-Shabab rebel organization, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist group. The group's leader, Sheik Muktar Abdirahman Godane, told TIME in an interview on Monday that he was present at the meeting in the Somali town of Merca and watched as the helicopter, which he said was either gray or olive green, approached from the sea, circled and fired on the house where the meeting was taking place. None of the foreign military powers with ships off the Somali coast have taken credit for the strike. "The helicopter was there for about 20 minutes in the air of Merca, and then it left," Godane told TIME. "We are now investigating the ammunition that it fired."

Godane, who rarely speaks to Western media, said that seven al-Shabab leaders had gathered at a house belonging to one of the group's local members to try to resolve a power dispute that had arisen between Godane and Sheik Muktar Robow, another al-Shabab leader, over strategy and control of the organization. Godane refused to say whether anyone was killed or injured in the attack, which was first reported by the New York Times. (The Times stated that no one was hurt.) Godane said al-Shabab closed off the town after the attack and prevented anyone from leaving, to try to learn if someone in the area had informed on the meeting. Mobile-phone communication was also cut off.

(Is al-Shabab a local or a global threat?)

Officials from the U.S. and the European Union, which have warships patrolling off the Somali coast, denied deploying the helicopter. "I can tell you we don't have any troops in that vicinity at all," Major Bryan Purtell, spokesman for the U.S. military's Special Operations Command Africa, told the Associated Press. The African Union also said it was not involved. That is likely, because the A.U. forces in Somalia are notoriously undermanned and underfunded and have no air power at all. "You made me have the laugh of the year," Major Barigye Bahoku told the AP. "There is no way the African Union force can be involved in such a strike. We don't have helicopters — any air capacity whatsoever."

How did al-Shabab emerge from Somalia's chaos?)

The attack is not unprecedented. In September 2009, an American strike team killed al-Qaeda suspect Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in Somalia. Nabhan was allegedly involved in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. He was also suspected in the bombing of an Israeli hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 and the failed attempt to shoot down an airliner leaving Mombasa the same day. Still, it would be highly unusual for any military force to send a single helicopter to attack the al-Shabab leadership.

Al-Shabab has been increasingly active over a wider geographical range in recent months and is believed to have forged closer ties to al-Qaeda, receiving funding, training and fighters from the group. At the same time, its chief rival, the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), has become weaker and weaker, riven by internal squabbling, corruption and mismanagement. Last week, TFG Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke resigned under pressure from President Sheik Sharif Ahmed in what was largely seen as a turf battle. The TFG suffered another serious setback over the weekend when a moderate Islamic group, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, withdrew its support for the government. The group said it had lost faith in the TFG.

(Could al-Shabab topple Somalia's government?)

Sharif's government now controls only a few acres of territory in Mogadishu, while al-Shabab's influence has spread; it now controls much of Somalia's south, including the port of Kismayu, where it earns much of its revenue. The group took control of Merca, down the coast from Mogadishu, in 2008.

In the interview with TIME, Godane said al-Shabab was doing well thanks to donations and income. "We get funding from different sources," he said. "A rich Muslim may wish to fund the jihad for the sake of Allah. We have supporters throughout the world." He reserved his harshest words for the U.S., which he said was powerless to get rid of al-Shabab despite Washington's funding of the TFG and its involvement in strikes like the one that killed Nabhan last year. "Only Allah can remove us," he said. "America cannot remove anything. They are enemy of Allah, and they will taste his punishment if they don't ask for forgiveness."


SOMALIA: “Now there is nothing, no handouts, no work”

Five months after Islamist militia took over a hospital and camp hosting thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia's Afgoye corridor, living conditions have deteriorated, with malnutrition, food shortages and shelter emerging as the key concerns.

"I live in the Hawa Abdi area; in my camp alone, there are 550 families [3,300 people] with little or no food, no medical help and almost non-existent shelter," Hussein Abi, an elder, told IRIN by telephone on 29 September.

There are 6,000-8,000 IDP families (36,000 to 48,000 people) in and around the 26ha Hawa Abdi compound, established in 2007 by Hawa Abdi, a Somali doctor, who turned her small clinic into a hospital and IDP camp.

"Since Dr Abdi left [in July 2010], we have had no assistance and no one has come to see what our situation is," Abi said.

Abdi and other humanitarian workers had helped the IDPs for years until May when Hisbul Islam militia raided the compound and took over the hospital, which also hosted a Médecins sans Frontières-Switzerland clinic and nutrition centre.

Most of those arriving at the camp had fled fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, between government troops and insurgents.

Children at risk

"Both the hospital and the MSF clinic are now closed," Abukar Omar Adow, an IDP and human rights activist, told IRIN.

"We had a hospital and nutrition centre for malnourished children; now those children and their parents have been left to their own fate," he said.

He said Abdi left the compound fearing for her safety. No one has replaced her, Adow said. "The hospital is inactive. It is occupied by these people [insurgents]."

A local journalist, who visited the area, told IRIN that people in the Afgoye corridor were desperate.

"There are no aid agencies operating in the area and even local ones have difficulty accessing the displaced," he said.

New influx

"We have been getting a stream of displaced people since the current fighting in Mogadishu between the government and insurgents escalated in August," said Adow.

"In 2007 [when the bulk of the displaced arrived] there were services and agencies to help. Now there are none and new arrivals are much worse off than the earlier IDPs," he said.

"I am seeing more and more desperate parents with malnourished children and nowhere to take them."

Adow said in the past, many IDPs went to Mogadishu to find work to supplement aid handouts but "now there is nothing. No handouts and no work."

Relying on the diaspora

Hamdi Mohamed shares a small shack with her six children and a relative. "It is made of twigs, torn clothes and some plastic sheeting," she told IRIN.

Food is a hit-and-miss thing, according to Mohamed. "Some days I get lucky and get enough to feed them for two meals and some days we don't have even one meal."

Adow said the displaced were at the mercy of those with guns. "You cannot blame the agencies for leaving. How can they feel safe when we don't?"

"The only ones who get regular supplies are those whose relatives in the diaspora send money," the journalist said. "Someone must pressure the insurgents to allow access to the displaced before it is too late for many of them."

Source: IRIN.

Somali conflict a major concern to African states

The Somali conflict is a major concern not only to the horn of Africa states but the whole continent.
Of the East African states, Kenya continues to shoulder the heaviest responsibility, hosting large numbers of refugees and insecurity threat due increased cases of piracy and influx of small arms and the growing terrorism threats, President Kibaki said.

The remarks were made on the president’s behalf by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, on Thursday, in New York at a Mini-Summit on Somalia held on the sidelines of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The President said while the international community delayed action on the war-torn country, extremists extended control over a large swathe of Somalia, inflicting casualties every day.
“While the scale and magnitude of this problem is greater than any other, it suffers benign neglect from the international community, leading to many lost opportunities to resolve it,” President Kibaki said.
The Head of State noted the capacity of the militant group, Al-Shabaab, to cause harm beyond the borders of Somalia was demonstrated by the twin Kampala bomb-attacks in July this year.
Said President Kibaki, “Their capacity to inflict casualties on civilians and humanitarian actors as well as attack the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is growing by the day.”
The head of state said Somalia was at a critical period with only 11 months remaining before the end of the transition period, calling for a renewed impetus to prepare institutions as well as the ground for a new political dispensation in the war ravaged country.
During the occasion, President Kibaki commended the governments of Uganda and Burundi for their continued sacrifices and contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
AMISOM has continued to play a major role in the country by safeguarding vital installations in Mogadishu under difficult circumstates. African Union is pushing for an additional 20,000 troops and transforming the AMISOM into a UN peacekeeping mission.

“This is evidenced by among others the recent attempts to attack the airport that left two AMISOM soldiers dead and scores injured,” President Kibaki said, in his support for more troops.
He said there was an urgent need to extend support to the Transitional Federal Government, to bolster its presence and effectiveness countrywide.
“In July of this year, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Summit identified critical elements of engagement and took a number of decisions on the way forward.

These decisions were endorsed by the African Union Summit in Kampala in July 2010. Unfortunately, the support needed to implement these decisions by the international community has not been forthcoming,” the President said referring to the reluctance by some Western countries to engage Somalia.

Additional reporting by Jeff Otieno

Source: Rge East African

Somalia topnews:Islamists face off in deepening rifts

The Alshabaab rebel group has failed to heal a growing rift among senior leaders of their group, following a crucial meeting in Mogadishu to stem a threatening differing views based on clan and political power, Somalijournal has learnt.

During a eight-hour meeting in Mogadishu‘s Suqaholaha area, the two rebel leaders Ahmed Abdi Godane who is the current leader of the group and his second in command Sheikh Mukhtar Robow have faced off on getting solutions for dying young boys mainly from Robow’s hometown of Baidoa to fruitless fighting and Godane’s proposal to keep them onboard and at last walked out of the meeting with anger.

"The grounds for this deepening rift is just about politics, their failure of solution is indicating how bad the group is weakening time after time for the failed Ramadan war" Abdullahi Nor Ghelle, a Somali political analyst told Somalijournal.

"In terms of the contentious matter, its not easy to overcome differences and to initiate a new beginning on political and popular levels," he said yesterday.

The group has vowed all out war against the Somali government and the African Union peacekeeping forces, but inherited more death and painful shelling which disheartened many young and older fighters who instead came back with dead colleagues and deafened ones for the sharp shelling by the AU tanks.

Robow also clashed with his hometown elders who lost many young boys for him to fight alongside Alshabaab on the whereabouts of their mostly dead and badly wounded boys.

The other resentment of the group also bagun when the AlShabaab‘s leader, Ahmad Godane alias Abu-Zubayr, appointed a man hailing from his clan as a cashier to control the money they collect from the business people in southern Somalia. Reports confirm that Robow abu Mansur, a high ranking official in Al-Shabab, became furious when Abu-Zubayr appointed leaders for Bay and Bakool regions which is Robow’s hometowns a men who are not hail from those regions.

Ahmad Godane is said to have faced some difficulties from the foreigners who now support Robow Abu-Mansur. The foreigners called on Ahmad Godane to leave the country for other countries with which has close relationship in order to resolve the rift among Al-Shabab Islamists.

Meanwhile Somalia's information minister, Abdirahman Omar Osman , has said that his government was ready to welcome any defectors from Alshabaab.

"We are renewing our call to the international community to assist the transitional government and the AU peacekeepers in order to restore peace in country,"Yarisow said.

Source: Somalijournal

Somalia: Somali nurse 'kidnapped' in north Mogadishu?

A Somali nurse has been kidnapped by suspected Alshabaab rebels in a volatile militants stronghold in the north of Somalia, in the latest of waves of kidnappings of the few medical workers who bravely decided to remain in Somalia to help the war weary nation, staff said.

The nurse whose name was abridged as Sacdiya has been working at MSFrun Daynile hospital, had been on an first aid operation for wounded patients when she was ordered to board an Alshabaab vehicle two weeks ago.

No comments could be reached from MSF officials at the clinic. However, there has been no confirmation about the reason behind her abduction.

"Its true that she was kidnapped by gunmen driving a pickup truck, we have later heard that Alshabaab was behind the abduction," a staff at the hospital told Somali journal on condition of anonymity.

More than 150 people, mostly foreigners have been kidnapped in Somaliain the last 15 years. Most have been released unharmed after paying ransom as the poor Somali national are mostly killed for failing to pay ransom demands.


Somalia:Two People Killed in Hargeisa

Two people were killed last night in Hargeysa capital city of the break away Somaliland region.

The two were killed when a shop keeper fired his gun after youths who were playing run into his shop. As he shot in the air and around out of panic, bullets caught two young people, a man and a woman.

The incident that took place at Abaye estate in Hargeysa was confirmed by Ahmed Omar Hajiwho is one of the officials of Hargesya municipal council.

Mr. Haji also said that the shop keeper who is suspected to have shot the two youths has been arrested and will soon be taken to court.

By Bar Kulan Radio

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mogadishu: Misery And Affliction Touch Everybody, Everywhere

Before the sun sets in the capital of Somalia, many people can be seen rushing to buses to reach their homes because no movement can be made in most of Mogadishu's districts after the sun goes down.

Usually, fighting and confrontations between Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers and Somali Islamist insurgents happen in the afternoon, compelling residents to hurry to their neighborhoods while there is yet time.

Even so, most of the neighborhoods in Mogadishu are vacant, as its residents have already been displaced by the endless fighting.

Those areas, where tens of thousands of civilian people have been displaced, appear to be controlled by Somali political rivals who hold very different principles and views.

"The young people, especially those who are not involved in the protracted Somali conflicts, make very limited amount of movements at the night as the security is precarious and unreliable," Ahmed Ali, a young boy in the Waaberi district in Mogadishu, told All Headline News in a short interview.

He said night life used be very nice as short as four years ago.

"Young people, both girls and boys, used to go out at the night, gathering at [the] city's public places such as cinemas, Internet café, play stations, business and shopping centers where they used to stay until midnight," said Ali with glee. Now nobody can have any activities at night. There are few businesses and shopping centers open after sunset. The panorama of the city appears to be very dark and frightening after sundown. No place in Mogadishu has a monopoly on suffering!

The boy noted that only if you climbed to the top of a tower after dark could you see some lights in different areas of the city.

As fighting continues in southern Somalia, particularly in Mogadishu, many schools, businesses, Internet café, and other popular places to relax and mingle have been closed.

Thus, many students are now lacking in an education.

“I [am] fed up with to be in Mogadishu any longer. There is no education, no job, and no bright future. Therefore, I decided to leave from it as the security is getting worse and the situation is plunging into anarchy and chaos day after day,” said Sahra Osman, one of Mogadishu’s young girls.

Sahra lamented that civil war and endless fighting has had the most repercussions and consequences for Somali youth.

The overall atmosphere of the city is not peaceful, because the crackling of machine gun fire and the echoes of artillery can be heard from some districts three or four days a week.

Tens of thousands of Mogadishans have been displaced by the Islamist-led insurgency that kicked off in early 2007 after Ethiopia invaded Somalia and ousted the Union of Islamic Courts regime in charge of much of south and central Somalia at that time.


Somalis Adjust To US Life, But Integration And Jobs Still Problems

First in a three-part series

It was 2 o'clock in the morning back in 1988. Amina Farah was about to go from a middle-class mother with a house and a job at the Central Bank of Somalia to refugee. Civil war had just erupted. The dark of the morning lit up with firefights. The air choked with smoke. And Farah says she had no choice but to grab her four-year-old son and run.

"You saw the children sitting with dead bodies," Farah said. "You saw injury. You saw no food and no hospital, no light, no doctor, no hygiene, no water."

Farah traveled by foot with thousands of other Somalis to Ethiopia in scorching heat. Each day of the month-long journey she thought would be her last. Farah tried to prevent her young son from succumbing to dehydration -- at times she gave him her saliva.

"Several times I thought he was dead," she said. "I just put him down. And then I remember the guy told me Amina one time he told you he is alive."

Today, that boy is 25 years old and works at a golf course in Temecula. Farah is now 47. She has two other children, a 22-year-old son in the U.S. army and a 16-year-old daughter in high school.

"I am so happy. The peace for my children and for me that was the first thing I was looking for."

Farah moved to San Diego with her family in 1997. She was part of a huge influx of Somali refugees in the 1990s. When she arrived, she enrolled in school, got a job as a teacher's aide She's working on a bachelor's degree in social work and she is now doing what she believes is the most rewarding work of all. She is a case worker at the International Rescue Committee in San Diego.
Each day, she wears a long skirt and a head scarf to work. She's a Muslim, but back when she lived in Somalia, it was okay to wear a mini-skirt. Nowadays, the newcomers from her homeland expect a woman to dress more modestly ever since Islamists came to dominate her war-wracked homeland.

Even though she's adjusted to life in the United States, the memories of war still keep Farah awake at night.

"It doesn't go away," she said. "It's always with me in spite of my life. I lose so many family members. In just one day, 17 people are dead day. None of them survived."

Abdi Mohamoud is the director of the Horn of Africa Community Center. He say's Farah's memories are not unusual.

"It's just really a tragic trauma that still haunts families today," Mohamoud said. "I would say that all of the refugees here have suffered first-hand torture. Because that's what led them to flee for their lives."

And for thousands, the exodus led them to San Diego through the refugee resettlement program. The city has nearly 20,000 Somalis. They have bought houses, businesses and are raising families. Many live in City Heights where women wear burkas, markets sell halal meat and men walk to prayers at neighborhood mosques.

Some Somalis such as Ali Artan say assimilation has not come easily.

"It will be hard and a long road that they can integrate with the mainstream," he said.

Many of these immigrants came from rural areas and do not speak English.

Mohamoud says unemployment within San Diego's Somali community is between 40 and 50 percent.

"Many of them are just settling for whatever jobs they could get, part-time, odd jobs, you tend to see some customer service at hotels…maybe some janitorial, housekeeping, security guards," Mohamoud said.

Even with the bad economy, Somalis keep coming to the anchor community they've established in San Diego. In the past two years, the number of Somalis immigrating to the U.S. through the political asylum process has increased. And some of them are taking a circuitous path that's raising red flags within the intelligence community.

In part two of our series, we will examine that path.


Somali government "saddened" by moderate Islamists’ walkout

Somalia’s weak government is "deeplysaddened" by the exit of the moderate Sufi group which it signed apower sharing agreement after they accused the government of failingto meet the agreed articles in Adis Ababa treaty. Abdirizaq Qeylow, the spokesman of Somalia‘s information ministry ,has expressed his concern for "unreceived decision" by Ahlu SunnaWaljamaca group that walked out of the Somali government.

The spokesman of Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh AbuYusuf has on Saturday declared that they have withdrawn theirmembership of the government and left the agreement behind for‘breaching treaty’ by the government of Somalia. Abu Yusuf said that they have decided not to take part in the nextgovernment after the resignation of the prime minister. somali government which is struggling to defeat powerful Islamistinsurgents has pleaded reconsideration by Ahlu Sunna and urgedframework for peace.

"What we need is unity, the transitional government is reconciliatoryone, every body is supposed to participate in the process of gettingout of this problem," he added. Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca is the only party which successfully defeatedAlshabaab and ousted from central where they have restored much neededpeace than the other parts of volatile southern Somalia. Copyright 2010


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Whose helicopter? Attack on Somali coast reported

U.S. military officials and the European Union Naval Force denied on Monday that one of their helicopters was involved in an exchange of fire reported by residents of a coastal town in Somalia.

Residents of the coastal town of Merca, about 50 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Mogadishu, said a military helicopter flew over the town on Sunday and that militants fired on it. Some residents said the helicopter fired back but caused no major damage.

But no one seems to know who the helicopter belongs to.

The U.S. military's Special Operations Command Africa and its conventional counterpart, U.S. Africa Command, said they had no involvement, as did a spokesman for the EU Naval Force, an anti-piracy unit that has military forces off the east coast of Somalia. African Union troops also said they weren't behind the exchange.

"I can tell you we don't have any troops in that vicinity at all. We are surprised as you to be honest," said Maj. Bryan Purtell, the spokesman for the Germany-based Special Operations Command Africa.

The EU NavFor spokesman, Lt. Col. Per Klingvall, said: "We're not operating on the Somali coast. We're just operating out on the waters."

Merca resident Dahi Aden said that a military helicopter flew over the coastal town and that militants from al-Shabab — the country's most powerful insurgent group — fired on the aircraft. Aden said it did not respond.

However, a second resident, Abdullahi Qalirow, said the helicopter fired back.

"Once the insurgents fired at the helicopters, they immediately responded with machine gun fire," said Qalirow, who said their were at least two helicopters, though others reported only one. "After the incident, al-Shabab militants sealed off the entire area and prevented civilians from moving around, creating a rumor that something hit there."

Somali Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman declined to immediately comment, and the spokesman for the 7,100 African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu said the AU force was not responsible.

"You made me have the laugh of the year," said Maj. Barigye Bahoku. "There is no way the African Union force can be involved in such a strike. We don't have helicopters — any air capacity whatsoever."

Last September U.S. commandos on helicopters strafed a convoy carrying top al-Qaida fugitive Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in rural southern Somalia, rappelled to the ground, collected his body and another corpse and took off. Nabhan was wanted for the 2002 car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner.

Somalia hasn't had a fully functioning government in almost 20 years. Al-Shabab — a militant group with ties to al-Qaida — has grown in power in recent years and now controls much of the southern part of the country, where Merca is located.

Meanwhile, the EU Naval Force said Monday that pirates abandoned a hijacked Ukrainian cargo ship late Sunday with 12 Ukrainian sailors onboard. The Panama-flagged MV Lugela was reported on Saturday as having been hijacked 900 nautical miles east of Somalia. The crew is reported to be safe.

Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso and Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Nairobi, Kenya, and Anna Melnichuk in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

Source: AP

Somalia deserves no less than support given to Iraq, Afghanistan – UN envoy

The United Nations (UN) envoy for Somalia on Monday called on international partners to help the African nation no less than the support given to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, called on agencies to assist in the advance of peace, stability and national reconciliation in the Horn of Africa nation, noting that it will take a level of support not unlike that given to other nations that were suffering from tremendous strife.

“We have all seen how the international community has rallied behind the Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somalia is no exception; it requires similar massive interventions,” Mahiga said.

Addressing a meeting in Madrid of the International Contact Group for Somalia, Mahiga stressed that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the international community must work closely together if Somalia is to emerge from the present crisis.

The country – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with al-Shabaab Islamic militants – is also facing a dire humanitarian crisis in which 3.2 million people, more than 40 per cent of the population, is in need of aid.

Mahiga noted that Monday’s meeting comes at a crucial time, with less than a year left before the end of the transitional period that ends next August. Several tasks remain to be completed such as continuing initiatives on reconciliation, building civilian and security institutions and the completion of the constitution-making process.

“Tasks leading to the completion of the transitional period can only be achieved if a secure and stable environment is established. Likewise, we will not achieve minimum stability in the country unless we make substantive progress on the political front,” Mahiga said, stating that the two pressing and interlinked challenges facing the TFG right now are political and security.

The envoy said he looked forward to a speedy appointment of a new prime minister, following the resignation last week of Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, as well as to a more united and cohesive TFG.

A mini-summit on Somalia held at UN Headquarters last week also called on the TFG to end its differences and deliver basic services. In addition, it urged the international community to do much more to support efforts to bring peace to the faction-torn country, including by providing increased financial support for the African Union Mission in Somalia and the development of the Somali security forces.

The International Contact Group for Somalia brings together more than 35 nations and organizations to consider concrete measures to support the struggling nation.

Source: Headliner Watch

Somalia to Help Advance Peace, Stability and National Reconciliation

The United Nations envoy for Somalia today called on international partners to help advance peace, stability and national reconciliation in the Horn of Africa nation, noting that it will take a level of support not unlike that given to other nations that were suffering from tremendous strife.

"We have all seen how the international community has rallied behind the Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somalia is no exception; it requires similar massive interventions," said Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia.

Addressing a meeting in Madrid of the International Contact Group for Somalia, Mr. Mahiga stressed that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the international community must work closely together if Somalia is to emerge from the present crisis.

The country - which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with al-Shabaab Islamic militants - is also facing a dire humanitarian crisis in which 3.2 million people, more than 40 per cent of the population, is in need of aid.

Mr. Mahiga noted that today's meeting comes at a crucial time, with less than a year left before the end of the transitional period that ends next August. Several tasks remain to be completed such as continuing initiatives on reconciliation, building civilian and security institutions and the completion of the constitution-making process.

The two pressing and interlinked challenges facing the TFG right now, he said, are political and security.

"Tasks leading to the completion of the transitional period can only be achieved if a secure and stable environment is established. Likewise, we will not achieve minimum stability in the country unless we make substantive progress on the political front."

The envoy said he looked forward to a speedy appointment of a new prime minister, following the resignation last week of Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, as well as to a more united and cohesive TFG.

A mini-summit on Somalia held at UN Headquarters last week also called on the TFG to end its differences and deliver basic services. In addition, it urged the international community to do much more to support efforts to bring peace to the faction-torn country, including by providing increased financial support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the development of the Somali security forces.

The International Contact Group for Somalia brings together more than 35 nations and organizations to consider concrete measures to support the struggling nation.

Source: United Nations

Two Somalis jailed for trafficking cannabis

Two Somalis jailed for trafficking cannabis

Two Somalis jailed for trafficking cannabis

Two Somali men were this morning jailed after they pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic cannabis and to trafficking the drug within 100 metres of a place frequented by minors.

Abdirashid Hamud Nadif, 23 and Mahad Abdi Adam, 21, were also charged with being in possession of the drug.

A third Somali, Omar Mohammed Adam, 22, was charged with possessing the drug.

Mr Nadif was jailed for a total of three years. He was jailed one year for this crime and saw a two-year suspended jail term he had been given earlier being brought into effect.

Mr Mahad Adam was jailed for a year and Mr Omar Adam was conditionally discharged.


Ethiopia: UN chief orders preparations for Somali peacekeeping operation

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has instructed his special envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, to work jointly with the African Union (AU) and Somalia’s neighbouring countries to facilitate a UN takeover of the peacekeeping operation there, the envoy said Monday.

In a speech delivered in Madrid, Spain, where the International Contact Group on Somalia met to consider boosting the security operation in that country, the UN Special Envoy said Ban’s instructions were to improve the humanitarian situation in Somalia to pave the way for the light deployment of a UN peacekeeping force there.

The UN envoy would work jointly with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to prepare the ground for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission.

However, this would be subject to an early approval of the plan by the UN Security Council, which agreed in principle in June, 2009 to approve a force for Somalia, but failed to take a binding decision on the issue until the US and the United Kingdom diplomats on the Council completed their consultations on the matter.

“I have been instructed by the Secretary-General to work closely and strengthen the partnership with the AU and IGAD,” Mahiga told a group of 45 countries, all members of the Contact Group on Somalia, meeting in Madrid.

The two-day meeting, 27-28 Sept. is seeking ways of supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to boost its strength in Mogadishu and to better protect the interim government there, which has been weakened by internal squabbles.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is also attending the International Contact Group meeting in Madrid, which was partly dominated by speeches, demanding for the unity within his Transitional Federal Government and called for closer working relations between his regime and other armed factions in Mogadishu.

Mahiga said the UN would embark on efforts to stabilize Somalia’s fragile humanitarian situation followed by “the establishment of a light UN footprint” before moving to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation.

He said the deployment of this peacekeeping operation would come at an appropriate time and would be subject to a decision of the UN Security Council.

The UN envoy expressed sadness over the continued activities of the foreign-backed insurgents, which he said were determined to destabilize all efforts by the Somalis and the international community to ensure peace and security in Somalia and the region.

“The suicide bombings in Kampala on 11 July demonstrated their ability to carry out violent acts outside Somalia’s borders,” Mahiga noted.

The UN, he said, supported the decision taken by the AU Summit to increase the strength of AMISOM to its mandated capacity of 8,000 troops as soon as possible.

The UN also supports the decision by the IGAD Heads of State authorizing 20,000 troops to meet the growing threat of the insurgents and to stabilize the country as a whole.

“We now need to ensure that both military planning and political strategy are matched and support the plans and requirements for the remainder of the transitional process,” Mahiga stated.

The envisaged political outreach beyond Mogadishu will require a secure territorial environment which the TFG forces and AMISOM need to provide.

Meanwhile, the UN looks forward to proposals by the AU Peace and Security Council being brought forward to the UN Security Council next month.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Somali Navy Begins Anti-Piracy Operations

Admiral Farah Ahmed, who commands the Somali government’s navy, said Sunday that Somali naval forces will start anti-piracy operations off the country's coast, the second longest in Africa, where pirates have increased their attacks to seize vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes.

A lot of new Somali naval forces were trained and ready to begin operations to fight with Somali pirates,” Ahmed told a local radio station, adding that many coast guard crews would be trained. He said the navy will focus on defending resources of Somali coasts from illegal fishing vessels and on maintaining security.

Warships from the United States, Britain, Japan, France and other countries have been patrolling waters off Somali in an anti-piracy task force, but have been unable to uproot the problem of piracy. Somali pirates continue to operate.

The international community has been focused on training Somali ground forces--military and police--to defend the weak Western-backed government from the powerful Al Qaeda-linked group Al Shabaab. But Somalia’s naval forces are newly coalesced forces and it is unknown how they can prevent the surge of pirate attacks.

The statement by the head of the Somali navy comes as world sailors called for global action against Somali pirates.


Somali leader slams Al-Shabaab, piracy

The leader of Somalia's transitional government says his war-torn nation is suffering from the "twin danger of terrorism and piracy."

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed described the brutality of the Al-Shabaab militant group and other insurgents during the annual U.N. General Assembly debate, CNN informs.

He also discussed what he said was the scourge of maritime terror on the same day a Panamanian flagged ship sailing off the Somali coast was pirated early Saturday.

"Al-Shabaab terrorists are not for the establishment of a national government in Somalia, rather they seek to establish in the Horn of Africa a terrorist hub which is managed by their al-Qaeda handlers with the intention to wreak havoc in the region and beyond."

He cited several attacks attacks by Al-Shabaab, including strikes against hotels, a suicide bombing at a university, and in Uganda, a country that provided troops to the African Union to help the government.

Ahmed urged nations to continue to assist Somalia in training its forces and supporting the AU contingent.

"I call upon the U.N. Security Council to pass a strong resolution with the view to deterring the spread of Al Qaeda terrorists and their home-grown affiliates such as Al-Shabaab."

The waters around the Horn of Africa, especially off the coast of lawless Somalia, have become a hub for piracy, making the busy shipping routes among the most dangerous in the world.
Ahmed denounced the pirates who hijack freighters in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

Source: FOCUS Information Agency

Somali Government: Already Weak and Falling Apart

Moderate militia leaves Somalia’s embattled government days after prime minister quits.

A moderate Islamist militia has pulled out of the fragile Somali government less than a week after the country’s prime minister quit.

The Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca (ASWJ) militia signed a power-sharing treaty in March with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, which is besieged by a growing radical Islamist insurgency led by the Al-Qa’ida-inspired rebel groups Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

The ASWJ has been critical in the government’s effort to repel the insurgency in central Somalia, but announced over the weekend that the government had reneged on the deal by trying to incorporate ASWJ forces into the government and by failing to appoint five ASWJ members to the cabinet as agreed upon in the power-sharing treaty.

“The ASWJ represents traditional Somali Islam but they didn’t play a significant role in the government,” Bashir Goth, a Somali analyst and the former editor of the Awdal News told The Media Line. “They are probably maneuvering to have the next prime minister appointed from among them. They are saying ‘we have been supporting you, we are important to you, now it’s time to give us the second position.’”

The moderate militia’s move comes less than a week after Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke resigned amid growing frustration over the government’s failure to curb the Islamic insurgency.

Somali analysts differ as to whether or not President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's administration is on the verge of collapse.

“This group was more moderate so it’s an interesting development and does weaken the president himself,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, Director for Research and Development at the Institute for Near East Gulf Military Analysis told The Media Line. “So we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.”

Goth argued that despite the impression the ASWJ’s departure may give, the government’s position has improved recently.

“The situation is not as bad as it looked a few weeks ago,” he told The Media Line. “Although the withdrawal of the ASWJ is a setback to the Transitional Federal Government, Al-Shabaab seems to be weakening when compared to a few weeks ago.”

“The government is also getting a lot more support from the people, especially the Hawiye clan, which is waking up to the disaster of Al Shabaab taking over the country,” Goth said. “There are also new Somali troops recently trained in Kenya and Ethiopia.”

Last month, gun battles and heavy artillery fire between forces loyal to the Transitional Federal Government, backed by African Union troops, and combatants from Al-Shabaab exploded in the Somali capital Mogadishu for almost a week. Eighty people were killed in the first three days of clashes alone.

Hundreds of African Union troops, most of them from Uganda, were flown into the city to protect the port, airport and presidential palace: the three areas in the capital which the government still controls.

“There’s a big difference between what you wish for and what you get, and Somalia is constantly wracked by problems -- it’s the nature of the state,” said Dr. Karasik. “There are attempts to have some kind of normalcy, but that’s few and far between.”

“I think what we’re seeing now is a shift of the internal situation in an attempt to bring about some more rational behavior,” he added. “We have reports about the U.S. and U.N. wanting to work closer with some of the regions (Somaliland and Puntland) and try to work with the clans that are working to shut down the Al-Qa’ida-type cells and the piracy that’s going on.”

Somalia has not had a functioning government since the 1991 ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre. The ensuing years have seen a chaotic system of rival clans controlling various parts of the capital.

The Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was set up in 2004 but Mogadishu remained under the control of a coalition of sharia courts known as the Islamic Courts Union.

Originally, the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union, Al-Shabaab, began an insurgency in late 2006 with assassinations and suicide bombings targeting aid workers and transitional government officials. The group has since made significant gains and now controls some 80 percent of southern Somalia and much of the northern and western districts of the capital Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab members have cited links with Al-Qa’ida, although the affiliation is believed to be minimal. The group has several thousand fighters divided into regional units which are thought to operate somewhat independently of one another.

The Western-backed Ethiopian military invaded Somalia in 2007, but many analysts believe this, too, augmented Al-Shabaab's military campaign against the transitional government.

The Ethiopians withdrew in January of last year after more than 16 months of Al-Shabaab attacks on its forces.

A former schoolteacher, the new President of Somalia Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is a moderate who is supportive of Sharia law and who seeks to integrate Al-Shabaab fighters into the transitional government's forces. His overtures have to date been rejected and the government has largely failed to contain Al-Shabaab's expansion. The transitional government's new military chief was until just over a year ago the assistant manager at a McDonald’s in Germany.

The United Nations estimates that the Somali National Security Force has less than 3,000 soldiers on the government payroll, with another 5,000 to 10,000 fighters from government-aligned militias operating in Mogadishu.

The government is backed by African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi. Al-Shabaab recently orchestrated a twin bombing attack in Uganda which killed more than 70 people watching the World Cup in the capital Kampala.

Source: The Media Line.

Helicopter Attacks Militant Meeting in Somalia

An unidentified military helicopter blasted rockets at a house where Somali militants were meeting on Sunday, according to residents and insurgent leaders, in an apparent strike against the Shabab insurgent group.

Residents in Merca, a seaside town firmly in Shabab hands, said that a foreign military helicopter was flying in low circles overhead on Sunday morning before the attack. The residents said they saw the helicopter coming from the ocean, but they did not see any ships or know what country it belonged to.

According to one Shabab official, the helicopter’s rockets narrowly missed killing several leaders of the group.

Immediately after the attack, the group started blocking the roads in and outside the town and started investigations. They also seized cellphones from local reporters in an effort to ensure that the information did not go beyond Merca, according to residents.

The rockets hit “between two houses, and for God’s sake no one has been killed or injured in the attack,” said the Shabab official, who spoke from Merca on the condition of anonymity. “It was in fact a house where Shabab officials were meeting.”

A senior Pentagon official and a senior military official, both in Washington, said late Sunday that there were no American aircraft in the area and no American involvement in the attack. In fact, it would be highly unlikely for a single American helicopter gunship to carry out such an attack without one or more other aircraft nearby.

Last year, American commandos killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a wanted agent of Al Qaeda, in a helicopter raid not far from Merca. That swath of southern Somalia is widely believed to be a sanctuary for several wanted terrorists and insurgent leaders, including Omar Hammami, an American militant originally from Alabama who has steadily risen up the Shabab ranks and become one of the organization’s top field commanders.

The Shabab, who have gained a reputation of ruthlessness for stoning adulterers and chopping off hands, control much of Somalia and have drawn increasingly close to Al Qaeda in recent months. At the same time, Somalia’s internationally recognized transitional federal government, which has received tens of millions of dollars of American aid, is struggling to control a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu.

Over the weekend, the government was hit by another potentially damaging blow. Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a powerful group of moderate Islamists, abruptly quit the government after having signed a power-sharing pact earlier this year.

On Saturday, Sheik Abdullahi Abdirahman Abu Yusuf, a spokesman for Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, announced, “We will not be part of the upcoming government, and we will not have any representatives as well.”

He said that “the government of Somalia is not committed to the defense of the people” and that Ahlu Sunna forces had been the only ones to repel the Shabab. Ahlu Sunna forces have driven the Shabab out of some areas of central Somalia while the transitional government forces have steadily lost territory to the Shabab, and, on many occasions, fled from the front lines instead of fighting.

The United States is now indicating that it may be shifting its strategy on Somalia.

On Friday, Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said that the United States, in addition to supporting the transitional federal government, will now be “pursuing a second track, which we think is also increasingly important, and that is we will work to engage more actively with the governments of Puntland and Somaliland.” (Puntland and Somaliland are two northern regions that are relatively peaceful.)

Mr. Carson added that the United States was also going to “reach out to groups in south central Somalia, groups in local governments, clans and subclans that are opposed to Al Shabab.”

Mohamed Ibrahim reported from Mogadishu, and Jeffrey Gettleman from Nairobi, Kenya. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 27, 2010, on page A9 of the New York edition.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

US asks Japan, other countries to aid Somalia

The United States on Friday urged Japan and other countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East to contribute funds to Somalia’s beleaguered government and the Africa Union peacekeeping force there.

Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s pointman for Africa, also asked these countries to help neighbors like Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius and the Seychelles to cover the cost of prosecuting and jailing Somali pirates.

Carson, speaking to reporters in a New York hotel, said he personally asked Japanese diplomats he met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to make such contributions.

“I certainly encouraged the Japanese government to think about financial contributions to help (defray) the cost of the countries in the region to handling pirates,” Carson said.

He said “I also encouraged them to think about making monetary contributions that can be used and directed toward AMISOM and directed toward supporting the TFG,” the Transitional Federal Government.

AMISOM is the African Union mission in Somalia, a 7,000-strong force made up mostly of Ugandan troops.

The United Nations sponsored a mini-summit late Thursday in which participants sought to mobilize both greater and more coherent support for Somalia’s government and for AMISOM.

The meeting took place as Somalia’s Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab militants launched a fresh offensive in Mogadishu, sparking clashes that medics said killed at least 19 civilians.

Carson, who is the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, asked the Japanese to consider providing military equipment for the African peacekeeping force.

“This is something that we are encouraging a number of states in Europe, the Middle East and Asia to look at,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia had a stake in helping the countries in the region tackle the problem of Somali pirates who have targeted Saudi supertankers.

“It is a close neighbor to Somalia and is impacted by what happens in Somalia. They too could make substantial financial and material contributions to this,” he said.

Resource: AFP



Catholic fathers reaching The Somali Prostitutes in Kenya

Before you read the article, Please Watch this Video


"I read in the paper that the Kenyan prostitutes are getting very angry with the Somali prostitutes, because they are gaining the market. So with Undugu social workers, I went to the nightclubs in Nairobi, and to my astonishment these Somali girls, from 18-22 look so beautiful, that there must be somebody behind them, because they dress so well. I wouldn't say expensive, because often expensive clothes don't look well. But they are so refined in their taste for Europeans that we started looking after them.

Now my way to get at people who are unreachable is through medicine. When they say to me in the nightclub that they want to go to the hospital, I ask what illness? If they tell me it is malaria, I know what side of the body the 'malaria' is. It is generally the rather low parts-- it is just a name for another illness.

Now there is so much Aids, I know that 80% of the girls are sero-positive, have Aids in one form or another. So I take them to the hospital, and that is going to the heart.

I reach the unreachable by taking them to the hospitals. We have a holistic approach. We are teaching the Somali prostitutes English and Swahili, and at the same time teach them about Aids, about health care, looking after yourself. Especially once we have taught them enough English, we say now learn hairdressing, we will pay for you."

Posted by Editor of Kenya Somalis Blog at Saturday, September 25, 2010

The making of a Somali capital base at the heart of Nairobi

A general view of Eastleigh shopping centre in Nairobi. There are booming retail and wholesale businesses in the area.

In Summary
Eastleigh residents, many of whom are Somalis, are trying to organise the area they have called home for years

The actual number of people of Somali origin in Kenya – both Kenyan Somalis and those from Somalia – has become a bone of contention since the release of the 2009 census results last month.

The results finally released on August 31 that put the number of ethnic Somali Kenyans at 2.4 million have been discredited as being too large because of enumeration errors in parts of North Eastern Province, and a new count has been ordered.

The disputed numbers rank Somalis sixth by size, of the country’s 42 tribes.

Some analysts see a relation between the violence and instability in neighbouring Somalia and the growing number of Somalis in Kenya.

Earlier this year, some analysts suggested that Sh164 billion in unclaimed foreign exchange discovered at the Central Bank of Kenya was ransom received by Somali pirates.

The Somali issue, especially regarding non-Kenyan Somalis, just won’t go away.

Nairobi’s Eastleigh and environs with 348,778 inhabitants has become an extension of what was the Republic of Somalia before it crumbled into anarchy in 1991. The population figure covers Eastleigh North, Air Base, Eastleigh South, California and Kiambiu.

Undetermined number

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are about 400,000 Somali refugees registered in Kenya, most of them in camps in the northeastern part of the country. But an undetermined number have not registered, and many of them are believed to be in Eastleigh.

Daily prayers from numerous mosques pierce the air in Eastleigh, a neighbourhood that never sleeps on the eastern side of Nairobi’s central business district.

In the past decade, there has been serious construction of settlements, booming retail businesses and telecommunications operations in the area.

Eastleigh is well networked to the rest of the world via satellite, and informal services called hawala facilitate the rapid dispatch of cash to the Somali diaspora throughout the world.

Eastleigh originally was open savannah where wild animals roamed before Somalis and other Africans were pushed east by the European settlers. The gradual entry of Somalia into Nairobi happened earlier on under the patronage of the British.

The first batch of Somalis came to Nairobi as escorts and guards for British Empire builders like Lord Delamere and Lord Lugard. A few others came to work on the Kenya-Uganda railway.

Those with Lord Delamere ensured that the hunter was well guarded, and when he faced danger, the Somalis saved his life. This cemented their relationship, and years later in Nairobi, Delamere and other settlers fought to secure the interest of Somalis in Nairobi whenever they were threatened.

Somalis went about their businesses in Nairobi with their heads held high. Because of their service to the British, many considered themselves in a higher class than other Africans.

Somalis lived in Kileleshwa very close to the Europeans, near what today is Museum Hill. But when trouble broke out in Nairobi when the city was still forming, many of the Somalis were pushed to Eastleigh.

Plague broke out in the Indian Bazaar, following which the famous 1914 Simpson report recommended drastic measures that would segregate the races that had congregated in Nairobi on different missions.

Asians were held in higher racial regard than Africans. In their quest for status in Nairobi, Somalis wanted to remain with the Asians, arguing that they were aliens in Kenya and had lived in Asia before moving to Kenya.

The Somali villages within the projected European leasehold area consisted of 126 houses – 64 owned by 57 people.

Source: Daily Nation

Somali group quits government

The government was hoping the ASWJ would help to push back al-Shabab, which controls much of the country [Reuters]

Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca's withdrawal days after PM resigns is likely to weaken the government's push against armed groups.

An armed group that signed a power-sharing deal with Somalia's government has withdrawn from the UN-backed transitional administration, just days after the prime minister quit over a dispute with the president.

Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca (ASWJ), which joined the battle against al-Shabab and other armed groups seeking to topple the government in March this year, announced on Saturday that it would no longer be part of under fire administration.

Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, the spokesman for ASWJ, told the Reuters news agency that the government had failed to meet certain agreements reached as part of the power-sharing deal.

"From now on, we as Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca declare that the treaty we have signed with the government in Addis Ababa has ended," Yusuf said.

"The government itself has caused that. We were not in [Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid] Sharmarke's government or any other next government. We shall continue fighting against the al-Shabab and Hizb ul-Islam to keep our controlled areas peaceful."

ASWJ had no cabinet members in the government of the departed prime minister despite being promised five when they joined earlier this year.

Internal divisions

Before signing a deal with the government, ASWJ had pushed back al-Shabab and Hizb ul-Islam in central Somalia, and its entry into government was meant to help defeat those fighters.

Their exit is likely to further weaken the government's push against the groups, and herald more of the
internal divisions that have beset the Transitional Federal Government and slowed government business.

ASJW, which is made up of Sufi Muslims,has warned that the departure of Sharmarke last week will only worsen Somalia's insecurity.

"We urge holding a reconciliation conference to bring Somalis together to get an effective authority that can rid the country of terrorists and foreign fighters," Yusuf said.

Armed groups have been fighting the government since the start of 2007 and the Western-backed administration has been hemmed into a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu since a rebel offensive last May.

Al-Shabab fighters have stepped up their offensive to topple the government in the last six weeks. A
suicide bomber blew himself up outside the presidential palace compound on Monday night, wounding two peacekeepers.

Using suicide bombers, the group has killed five government ministers and dozens of AU peacekeeping troops over the two last years. Al-Shabab was also behind attacks in Uganda in July that killed at least 79 people.

Source: Reuters

Somali President Urges International Help to Fight Terrorism

Somalia's president has urged the international community to address threats posed by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaida.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly Saturday that any delay in addressing this "clear and present danger" would prolong regional instability and international terrorism. He called on the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution aimed at deterring the spread of al-Qaida terrorists and their "homegrown" affiliates such as al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab launched a bloody offensive about one month ago in hopes of toppling Somalia's transitional government and setting up a strict Islamic state. Al-Shabab and another insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, control much of southern Somalia and most of the capital, Mogadishu.

The government has held on to a few key areas of Mogadishu with the help of soldiers in an African Union force.

On Thursday, new clashes between pro-government troops and Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu killed 20 people and wounded 68 others.

In his speech before the U.N. General Assembly, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed also noted what he described as terrorism by pirates attacking ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. He said such piracy is threatening maritime and international trade.

Somalia has not had a stable central government since 1991.

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

Source: VOA

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Somalia: President Obama's Remarks to the UN General Assembly

Press Release: For publication/background use

U.S Embassy Nairobi Sept 24, 2010


Office of the Press Secretary


        For Immediate Release                                            September 23, 2010



    United Nations Building                           New York, New York

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, my fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honor to address this Assembly for the second time, nearly two years after my election as President of the United States.

We know this is no ordinary time for our people. Each of us comes here with our own problems and priorities. But there are also challenges that we share in common as leaders and as nations.

We meet within an institution built from the rubble of war, designed to unite the world in pursuit of peace. And we meet within a city that for centuries has welcomed people from across the globe, demonstrating that individuals of every color, faith and station can come together to pursue opportunity, build a community, and live with the blessing of human liberty.

Outside the doors of this hall, the blocks and neighborhoods of this great city tell the story of a difficult decade. Nine years ago, the destruction of the World Trade Center signaled a threat that respected no boundary of dignity or decency. Two years ago this month, a financial crisis on Wall Street devastated American families on Main Street. These separate challenges have affected people around the globe. Men and women and children have been murdered by extremists from Casablanca to London; from Jalalabad to Jakarta. The global economy suffered an enormous blow during the financial crisis, crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent. Underneath these challenges to our security and prosperity lie deeper fears: that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.

These are some of the challenges that my administration has confronted since we came into office. And today, I’d like to talk to you about what we’ve done over the last 20 months to meet these challenges; what our responsibility is to pursue peace in the Middle East; and what kind of world we are trying to build in this 21st century.

Let me begin with what we have done. I have had no greater focus as President than rescuing our economy from potential catastrophe. And in an age when prosperity is shared, we could not do this alone. So America has joined with nations around the world to spur growth, and the renewed demand that could restart job creation.

We are reforming our system of global finance, beginning with Wall Street reform here at home, so that a crisis like this never happens again. And we made the G20 the focal point for international coordination, because in a world where prosperity is more diffuse, we must broaden our circle of cooperation to include emerging economies -- economies from every corner of the globe.

There is much to show for our efforts, even as there is much work to be done. The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression, and is growing once more. We have resisted protectionism, and are exploring ways to expand trade and commerce among nations. But we cannot -- and will not -- rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.

As for our common security, America is waging a more effective fight against al Qaeda, while winding down the war in Iraq. Since I took office, the United States has removed nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq. We have done so responsibly, as Iraqis have transitioned to lead responsibility for the security of their country.

We are now focused on building a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while keeping our commitment to remove the rest of our troops by the end of next year.

While drawing down in Iraq, we have refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven. In Afghanistan, the United States and our allies are pursuing a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces, so that a transition to Afghan responsibility can begin next July. And from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach -- one that strengthens our partners and dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies.

As we pursue the world’s most dangerous extremists, we’re also denying them the world’s most dangerous weapons, and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, 47 nations embraced a work-plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. We have joined with Russia to sign the most comprehensive arms control treaty in decades. We have reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy. And here, at the United Nations, we came together to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said -- in this hall -- that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities. And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

As we combat the spread of deadly weapons, we’re also confronting the specter of climate change. After making historic investments in clean energy and efficiency at home, we helped forge an accord in Copenhagen that -- for the first time -- commits all major economies to reduce their emissions. We are keenly aware this is just a first step. And going forward, we will support a process in which all major economies meet our responsibilities to protect the planet while unleashing the power of clean energy to serve as an engine of growth and development.

America has also embraced unique responsibilities with come -- that come with our power. Since the rains came and the floodwaters rose in Pakistan, we have pledged our assistance, and we should all support the Pakistani people as they recover and rebuild. And when the earth shook and Haiti was devastated by loss, we joined a coalition of nations in response. Today, we honor those from the U.N. family who lost their lives in the earthquake, and commit ourselves to stand with the people of Haiti until they can stand on their own two feet.

Amidst this upheaval, we have also been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Last year, I pledged my best efforts to support the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, as part of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors. We have travelled a winding road over the last 12 months, with few peaks and many valleys. But this month, I am pleased that we have pursued direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, Sharm el Sheikh and Jerusalem.

Now I recognize many are pessimistic about this process. The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace. Rejectionists on both sides will try to disrupt the process, with bitter words and with bombs and with gunfire. Some say that the gaps between the parties are too big; the potential for talks to break down is too great; and that after decades of failure, peace is simply not possible.

I hear those voices of skepticism. But I ask you to consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.

I refuse to accept that future. And we all have a choice to make. Each of us must choose the path of peace. Of course, that responsibility begins with the parties themselves, who must answer the call of history. Earlier this month at the White House, I was struck by the words of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I came here today to find a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity.” And President Abbas said, “We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause.”

These words must now be followed by action and I believe that both leaders have the courage to do so. But the road that they have to travel is exceedingly difficult, which is why I call upon Israelis and Palestinians -- and the world -- to rally behind the goal that these leaders now share. We know that there will be tests along the way and that one test is fast approaching. Israel’s settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground and improved the atmosphere for talks.

And our position on this issue is well known. We believe that the moratorium should be extended. We also believe that talks should press on until completed. Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle. Now is the time to build the trust -- and provide the time -- for substantial progress to be made. Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it does not slip away.

Now, peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well. Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine -- one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means -- including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.

I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds. Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps towards the normalization that it promises Israel.

And those who speak on behalf of Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority politically and financially, and in doing so help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state.

Those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel. After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land. After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.

Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States. And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance -- it’s injustice. And make no mistake: The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution. And we can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that.

Or, we can say that this time will be different -- that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.

This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations -- an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel. (Applause.)

It is our destiny to bear the burdens of the challenges that I’ve addressed -- recession and war and conflict. And there is always a sense of urgency -- even emergency -- that drives most of our foreign policies. Indeed, after millennia marked by wars, this very institution reflects the desire of human beings to create a forum to deal with emergencies that will inevitably come.

But even as we confront immediate challenges, we must also summon the foresight to look beyond them, and consider what we are trying to build over the long term? What is the world that awaits us when today’s battles are brought to an end? And that is what I would like to talk about with the remainder of my time today.

One of the first actions of this General Assembly was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration begins by stating that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

The idea is a simple one -- that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings. And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity. As Robert Kennedy said, “the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit.” So we stand up for universal values because it’s the right thing to do. But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights -- whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments -- have chosen to be our adversaries.

Human rights have never gone unchallenged -- not in any of our nations, and not in our world. Tyranny is still with us -- whether it manifests itself in the Taliban killing girls who try to go to school, a North Korean regime that enslaves its own people, or an armed group in Congo-Kinshasa that use rape as a weapon of war.

In times of economic unease, there can also be an anxiety about human rights. Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short term stability or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom. We see leaders abolishing term limits. We see crackdowns on civil society. We see corruption smothering entrepreneurship and good governance. We see democratic reforms deferred indefinitely.

As I said last year, each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people. Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty; that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments. To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens. And I believe that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred.

America is working to shape a world that fosters this openness, for the rot of a closed or corrupt economy must never eclipse the energy and innovation of human beings. All of us want the right to educate our children, to make a decent wage, to care for the sick, and to be carried as far as our dreams and our deeds will take us. But that depends upon economies that tap the power of our people, including the potential of women and girls. That means letting entrepreneurs start a business without paying a bribe and governments that support opportunity instead of stealing from their people. And that means rewarding hard work, instead of reckless risk-taking.

Yesterday, I put forward a new development policy that will pursue these goals, recognizing that dignity is a human right and global development is in our common interest. America will partner with nations that offer their people a path out of poverty. And together, we must unleash growth that powers by individuals and emerging markets in all parts of the globe.

There is no reason why Africa should not be an exporter of agriculture, which is why our food security initiative is empowering farmers. There is no reason why entrepreneurs shouldn’t be able to build new markets in every society, which is why I hosted a summit on entrepreneurship earlier this spring, because the obligation of government is to empower individuals, not to impede them.

The same holds true for civil society. The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble and by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change and by free media that held the powerful accountable. We have seen that from the South Africans who stood up to apartheid, to the Poles of Solidarity, to the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War, to Americans who marched for the rights of all races, including my own.

Civil society is the conscience of our communities and America will always extend our engagement abroad with citizens beyond the halls of government. And we will call out those who suppress ideas and serve as a voice for those who are voiceless. We will promote new tools of communication so people are empowered to connect with one another and, in repressive societies, to do so with security. We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds. And it is time to embrace and effectively monitor norms that advance the rights of civil society and guarantee its expansion within and across borders.

Open society supports open government, but it cannot substitute for it. There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders and determine your destiny. Now, make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed.

There is no soil where this notion cannot take root, just as every democracy reflects the uniqueness of a nation. Later this fall, I will travel to Asia. And I will visit India, which peacefully threw off colonialism and established a thriving democracy of over a billion people.

I’ll continue to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, which binds together thousands of islands through the glue of representative government and civil society. I’ll join the G20 meeting on the Korean Peninsula, which provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is dynamic and open and free, and one that is imprisoned and closed. And I will conclude my trip in Japan, an ancient culture that found peace and extraordinary development through democracy.

Each of these countries gives life to democratic principles in their own way. And even as some governments roll back reform, we also celebrate the courage of a President in Colombia who willingly stepped aside, or the promise of a new constitution in Kenya.

The common thread of progress is the principle that government is accountable to its citizens. And the diversity in this room makes clear -- no one country has all the answers, but all of us must answer to our own people.

In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.

This institution can still play an indispensable role in the advance of human rights. It’s time to welcome the efforts of U.N. Women to protect the rights of women around the globe. (Applause.)

It’s time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors and increase the U.N. Democracy Fund. It’s time to reinvigorate U.N. peacekeeping, so that missions have the resources necessary to succeed, and so atrocities like sexual violence are prevented and justice is enforced -- because neither dignity nor democracy can thrive without basic security.

And it’s time to make this institution more accountable as well, because the challenges of a new century demand new ways of serving our common interests.

The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own. For human rights to reach those who suffer the boot of oppression, we need your voices to speak out. In particular, I appeal to those nations who emerged from tyranny and inspired the world in the second half of the last century -- from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to South America. Don’t stand idly by, don’t be silent, when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten. Recall your own history. Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.

That belief will guide America’s leadership in this 21st century. It is a belief that has seen us through more than two centuries of trial, and it will see us through the challenges we face today -- be it war or recession; conflict or division.

So even as we have come through a difficult decade, I stand here before you confident in the future -- a future where Iraq is governed by neither tyrant nor a foreign power, and Afghanistan is freed from the turmoil of war; a future where the children of Israel and Palestine can build the peace that was not possible for their parents; a world where the promise of development reaches into the prisons of poverty and disease; a future where the cloud of recession gives way to the light of renewal and the dream of opportunity is available to all.

This future will not be easy to reach. It will not come without setbacks, nor will it be quickly claimed. But the founding of the United Nations itself is a testament to human progress. Remember, in times that were far more trying than our own, our predecessors chose the hope of unity over the ease of division and made a promise to future generations that the dignity and equality of human beings would be our common cause.
It falls to us to fulfill that promise. And though we will be met by dark forces that will test our resolve, Americans have always had cause to believe that we can choose a better history; that we need only to look outside the walls around us. For through the citizens of every conceivable ancestry who make this city their own, we see living proof that opportunity can be accessed by all, that what unites us as human beings is far greater than what divides us, and that people from every part of this world can live together in peace.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Africa: Behind the race for Education for all by 2015

Struggling countries include: Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Liberia

 African countries have the unhealthiest environment for school-age children a new report has claimed. Children in Somalia, Eritrea, Comoros, Ethiopia, Chad, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Liberia are not getting an education.
Africa still accounts for almost half of the total of number of unenrolled children. In 1999, 58 percent of African children were enrolled in primary school. By 2008 the figure was 76 percent, the report revealed.

The report produced by Education International, Plan International, Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO, based its reports on access to basic education, teacher-student ratio and educational provisions for girls.

"Education is now on the brink. Sixty-nine million children — more than all the primary school-going children in the United States and Europe — will not be going to school this morning,” Kailash Satyarthi, president of the Global Campaign for Education which issued the report, told a high-level event in New York on the sidelines of a U.N. summit to promote achievement of the goal.

The report comes amidst efforts to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of ensuring a primary school education for every child in the world by 2015.

Co-founder of the Global Campaign, Queen Rania of Jordan said summit after summit has failed to persuade leaders to put resources into education.

"Education doesn’t just beat poverty, it beats disease, it beats inequality- and for girls education, it is nothing less than a lifesaver, from stigmatism, insecurity and violence," Rania was quoted as saying.

The global recession forced poor countries to cut their education budgets by $4.6 billion. But the Global Campaign for Education believes that “Just $16 billion per year could pay for every child to go to school."

World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced that its arm that gives grants and soft credits to the world’s 79 poorest countries is pledging an additional $750 million over the next five years, a 40 percent increase in the bank’s basic education spending over the last five years directed at the poorest countries.

The funds are especially for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to help them meet the education goal by 2015.

According to the United Nations, the number of children not in school has dropped from 106 million in 1999 to 69 million in 2008.

However, the report’s "Donor Report Card" gives two countries "A," the Netherlands and Norway, and four "B," Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, and Britain. The United States, in 16th place, received a "D" along with France, Germany, New Zealand and others while Greece was at the bottom of the list in 22nd place with an "F."


UN seeks to mobilize support for Somalia

A soldier working with the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia holds an rocket-propelled grenade

The international community sought to mobilize both greater and more coherent support for Somalia's beleaguered government and for the African Union peacekeeping force there.

The meeting by the UN General Assembly in New York took place as Somalia's Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab militants launched a fresh offensive in Mogadishu, sparking clashes that medics said killed at least 19 civilians.

UN special envoy for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said the meeting on Somalia was an opportunity to hear Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed report on both progress and challenges carrying out the Djibouti Peace Agreement.

In a final statement, participants said divisions within the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) needed to be overcome with less than one year left in the transitional period.

Transitional Federal Institutions also need to agree on post-transition arrangements in coordination with the international community and "reach out to more opposition groups that renounce violence," the statement said.

The idea is to expand the government's political base, it said.

Mahiga said the high-level talks offered "an opportunity to galvanize international support" for the government and to "mobilize resources" for the TFG and the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

In their statement, "participants called for increased financial support to AMISOM and stressed the importance of predictable, reliable and timely provision of resources to AMISOM," it said.

"They also called for more support for the development of the Somali security forces," it said.

"Participants noted that gains in the political and security areas needed to be supported by reconstruction activities to ensure long-term stability," it added.

African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping said the problem is not so much finding enough troops for 7,000-strong AMISOM but to raise enough funds to properly equip them and pay them decent wages.

Ping conceded that African peacekeepers had caused civilian casualties when Shebab fighters used markets or mosques to fire rockets at the force in a bid to draw fire on civilians.

"It is a strategy of the Al-Shebab," Ping said.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told AFP while attending the meeting that progress was being made.

"There is a political consensus for well-coordinated aid for Somalia," Frattini said.

"Members of the international community are convinced it is necessary to aid the Sharif government," he added.

"A coherent strategy is needed to help the African Union pay for the efforts of the countries that have provided soldiers and also to multiply financial efforts," Frattini said.

He said Italy pays the salaries of Somali police officers but added that the "European Union must do much more," adding he proposed European coordination centered around the United Nations.

"The UN secretary general's envoy (Mahiga) must coordinate all the efforts of the actors," Frattini said.

"I'm persuaded that we would be ready to place the Italian efforts under UN coordination," he said.

"We can't have training of troops by French troops in Djibouti, training of troops by the Italians in Kenya and training of troops by the European Union in Uganda," he added.

The participants included top officials from more than two dozen countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

They also represented organizations like the African Union, European Union, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Conference, and the United Nations.

Source: AFP