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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Somalia calls for South Africa to protect vulnerable Somali refugees

He stated South African government is not needed to condone its gangs murdering innocent Somali refugees who fled from the ongoing fighting in their homeland.

The transitional federal government of Somalia on Wednesday called for South Africa to protect vulnerable Somali refugees from gangs that have reportedly killed a number of Somali merchants.

Mohamoud Abdi Ibrahim, Somalia’s minister of trade and industries, told state-run Radio Mogadishu the government is very concerned about the killings and robberies by South African gangs of Somali traders who have small businesses in many parts of that country.

“Somalia played unforgettable and key role South Africa to be independent and free from apartheid system which endured for a long time,” Ibrahim said.

He charged that the South African government's inaction against the gangs is a statement that the government condones the murder of innocent Somali refugees who have fled the ongoing fighting in their homeland.

The statement of the minister comes as armed gangs on Sunday night attacked Somali-owned shops in the South African city of Port Elizabeth, killing at least two Somali traders and wounding three others.

On June 18, several Somali-owned shops in the South African town of Rothenberg were attacked by local gangs that looted the properties and stole cash.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has estimated more than 7,118 refugees from Somalia live in South Africa.

From 2002 to 2010, more than 700 Somalis were killed by South African gangs while trying to rob them or loot their belongings.

In the last few years, South African gangs have launched brutal attacks against the Somali community, burning refugees alive or beating them to death. South African police say that xenophobia is the main motivation in the attacks.

In mid-January, a Somali shopkeeper was burnt to death when a gang of robbers attacked his shop in Samora Machel Township in the Western Cape.


Trial for man accused of helping others go to Somalia to join terror group is set for July 19

The trial for a man accused of helping other young Somalis travel from Minnesota to their war-torn homeland to allegedly fight with a terror group is on track to begin July 19.

Defense attorneys for 26-year-old Omer Abdi Mohamed say they've analyzed evidence from a 2008 suicide bombing in Somalia. The defense wanted to verify the government's claim that the bomber was Shirwa Ahmed, who is named in charges against Mohamed.

While the defense can't comment on its findings, attorney Aaron Morrison said during a Wednesday hearing that "we do not have an issue on that front anymore."

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis says Mohamed's trial date won't be changed over evidentiary issues, including the translation of video evidence from Somali to English. He told prosecutors to get those videos translated.

Source: The Associated Press

Nearly one in three Somali children malnourished: UN

A drought and high food prices have brought increased malnutrition to Somalia, where the situation is "rapidly deteriorating," a high-ranking United Nations official said Wednesday.

"We have currently the highest rate of malnutrition in the whole of Africa, more than 30 percent of the children are suffering from global acute malnutrition," said Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.

"If we are not able to respond, there will be many more lives lost as a result of malnutrition."

According to Bowden, a 270 percent increase in food prices over the past year, coupled with the effect of a 2010 drought on food production, means "large proportions" of the population are unable to meet their food needs.

Only 40 percent of appeals for international aid have been met, he added.

In the Horn of Africa, the drought has affected more than 10 million people, said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

According to UN statistics, the drought has affected 3.2 million in Ethiopia, 3.2 million people in Kenya, 2.6 million in Somalia and 117,000 in Djibouti.

Source: AFP

Australian photo-journalist tells story of Somali hostage hell

Australian photo-journalist Nigel Brennan, who was kidnapped in Somalia in 2008 along with a Canadian journalist, Amanda Lindhout, has just released his book "The Price of Life" about the experience.

At that time, the Australian Government wouldn't comment on the hostage case concerned that the public attention would ratchet up the ransom price.

Behind the scenes, Nigel Brennan's family were desperate - as they tried to find a way to negotiate - and raise money for the ransom.

It took 462 days to get both hostages released.

Presenter: Fran Kelly
Speaker: Nigel Brennan, author of "The Price of Life", which is published by Penguin

Listen: Windows Media

Britain cannot deport dangerous immigrant criminals say EU judges

Undesirable or dangerous immigrants who may face ill-treatment at home cannot be deported, no matter how bad their crimes in Britain, human rights judges have ruled.

In a test case ahead of more than 200 similar actions pending against the UK, the Strasbourg judges decreed that the UK's duty to protect people against torture or inhuman treatment is ''absolute''.

The case involved two Somalis facing enforced return to Mogadishu after receiving convictions in the UK for serious criminal offences.

The European Court of Human Rights awarded Abdisamad Adow Sufi and Abdiaziz Ibrahim Elmi, both currently in UK immigration detention centres, 14,500 euros and 7,500 euro respectively for costs and expenses in bringing the case.

Sufi, 24, claimed asylum in the UK in 2003 on the grounds that he belonged to a minority clan persecuted by Somali militia. His account was rejected as not credible and asylum refused.

Elmi, 42, arrived in the UK in 1988 and was granted leave to stay as a refugee in 1989, renewed indefinitely in 1993.

After convictions for a number of serious criminal offences - including burglary and threats to kill in Sufi's case, and robbery and supplying class A drugs cocaine and heroine in Elmi's case - they were issued with deportation orders. Their UK appeals that they risked being ill-treated or killed if returned to Mogadishu were rejected.

The European Court of Human Rights blocked their deportation pending a hearing of their appeals to the Strasbourg court.

On Tuesday the seven-judge court ruled unanimously that deporting them would breach the Human Rights Convention Article 3 which bans ''inhuman or degrading treatment''.

The ruling said: ''The court reiterated that the prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is absolute, irrespective of the victims' conduct.

''Consequently, the applicants' behaviour, however undesirable or dangerous, could not be taken into account.''

The judges said no one disputed that, towards the end of 2008, Mogadishu was not a safe place to live for the majority of its citizens. The situation had deteriorated since then.

The ruling cited the UK's own Asylum and Immigration Tribunal which acknowledged the dangers, while saying it was possible that individuals with connections to powerful people in Mogadishu might be able to live there safely. Anyone else being returned would face a real risk of persecution or serious harm, although those whose home area was in any part of southern and central Somalia might be able to go back in safety and without undue hardship.

Human Rights Watch described the situation in Mogadishu as ''one of the world's worst human rights catastrophes''.

The judges concluded that the general level of violence in Mogadishu ''was of sufficient intensity to pose a real risk of treatment in breach of Article 3 to anyone in the capital''.

The judgment described the case as the ''lead case'' against the UK, with 214 similar cases pending before the same court.

Source: The Telegraph

Opinion: Despite heavy security, Somali piracy is at all-time high

Despite $2 billion in security measures, pirate attacks are at record levels.

It has been a record year for pirate hijackings off the coast of Somalia, with nearly 100 recorded in the first quarter of 2011 and average ransom payments of more than $5 million.

Despite pouring an estimated $1.3 to $2 billion annually into an enormously complex naval counter-piracy operation, pirate attacks are at an all-time high. The Indian Ocean is plagued with piracy as far as the Seychelles Islands. That's because we apply superficial fixes without ever addressing the root causes: Somalia's chronic insecurity and state collapse.

The real solution to the piracy lies not in the waters of the Indian Ocean, but onshore in Somalia.

The answer is in re-imposing state authority in the now lawless parts of Somalia, which have become a fertile breeding ground for piracy and terrorism and a persistent threat to regional and international stability. This will require the political will of local authorities to clamp down on pirate gangs. They can be persuaded to do so with the right incentives and pressure from the international community.

It is important to remember that pirates operate from only some parts of the Somali coast, and they need the cooperation of local leaders and communities. Without their support, pirate gangs would not be able to re-equip and re-supply for their raids or take the captured ships and hostages back to Somalia for the months-long ransom negotiations.

In other areas, local authorities and communities refuse to countenance this activity. For example, the Somaliland territory suppresses pirate gangs because they want to be recognized as an independent country. In 2006, the then dominant Islamic Courts Union banned — and largely ended — piracy because it is illegal under Islamic law. Somaliland has been rewarded with a large share of Somalia’s international development assistance.

Other local leaders could also suppress piracy if it was in their interest, but they either benefit directly from ransom payments or are unwilling to pay the political price for confronting the clans who do. Normally, the international community could work with the national government to provide the right carrots and sticks to those leaders. But in Somalia, the inept Transitional Federal Government (TFG), is struggling to control the capital, Mogadishu, let alone impose its authority on the rest of the country.

Nearly two years since it was sworn in, the transitional government has become increasingly corrupt and hobbled by President Sheikh Sharif’s weak leadership. So far, every effort to make the administration modestly functional has failed. Yet, it would be unfair to lay all the blame for the continued catastrophe of the transitional government and Sharif. At the core of Somalia’s governance crisis is a deeply-flawed central state model that simply doesn’t work for the country at this time.

Many recognize this problem. But efforts to devolve power or share power with the self-governing enclaves are stymied by the transitional government's elites, who stand to lose.

Rather than wait and pray that the transitional government will reform, the international community needs to look to regional and local governmental initiatives, such as Somaliland and Puntland, and to a lesser extent Galmudug or Ximan and Xeeb, that have made considerable strides in bringing peace, stability and development to their respective regions and citizens, without the support of the international community. As Somaliland has shown, even those areas that suffer from extreme poverty, poor development and weak security services can succeed in suppressing piracy.

Instead of squandering billions of dollars on band-aids, the international community should create the right incentives for local and regional authorities to stop piracy in their territories. This could include some support for training and expanding a coast guard, but should also focus on building the capacity of these administrations to govern effectively and provide desperately needed basic services, such as rule of law, health care and education. These should be modest programs that reward local communities for establishing peace and stability and provide the right incentives to continue to do so. This would not only be much cheaper than a hugely expensive naval operation — and the added cost that shippers and insurance agents pass on — it would actually help stabilize the situation on the ground.

Once Somalis recognize that it is in their interest to stop supporting piracy, it will quickly end.

Chronic conflict is exacting an enormous toll beyond the seas. Many Somalis live in constant insecurity and grinding poverty, with little hope of escape. Seventy-one percent of the population is under-nourished, nearly half live on less than $1 a day and more than 20 percent are displaced. Last year, the United Nations requested more than $596 million just to address the most urgent humanitarian needs.

As long as the international community applies superficial fixes, without addressing the root causes of chronic insecurity and state collapse, Somalia will remain a shattered country, a haven for hijackers and terrorists, and a constant drain on humanitarian assistance.

We can stop all this, but only by building up from the broken pieces.

EJ Hogendoorn is the Horn of Africa Project Director for the International Crisis Group.

Source: The Global Post

Aid crisis as Somalis flock refugee camp

An estimated 1,300 Somali refugees are swarming the Dadaab refugee camp daily, a humanitarian agency has said.

Save the Children has warned that Kenya’s biggest refugee camp at Dadaab was overwhelmed by refugees, some of whom had trekked for hundreds of miles to reach aid.

Around 20,000 have arrived at the Dadaab camp in the last two weeks, many having walked for more than a month across Somalia, Ethiopia and eastern and northern Kenya.

The organisation reported that every day, about 1,300 people — at least 800 of them children — arrive at the Dadaab refugee camp.

The monthly number of new arrivals has more than doubled in a year, it says. Aid workers at the camp say the children are exhausted, malnourished and severely dehydrated.

The conflict in Somalia forces many to head for the Kenyan border, but a severe drought and the unaffordable cost of food has made the situation worse.

Although made up of three settlements, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world. It is home to well over 350,000 people.

“We are seeing around 1,300 people arriving in Dadaab every day, some in incredibly dire situations,” said the director of Save the Children’s Kenya programme, Catherine Fitzgibbon.

“Children have made long journeys in terrifying conditions, often losing their families on the way and arriving at the camps in desperate need of security, health care and a normal life,” Ms Fitzgibbon said.

North Eastern PC James ole Seriani told the Nation on phone that the situation is “severe”, but added that the Kenyan authorities were assisting the refugees on humanitarian grounds.

“The drought is very harsh in Somalia, but we also have the problem of insecurity, which makes the situation severe,” Mr ole Seriani said.

He said the government was also fast-racking the registration of the Somali refugees.

Source: The Daily Nation

We just like snow and ice

By Ifrah Jimale, TC Daily Planet

Why do Somalis like to live in Minnesota?
Why not Minnesota? You live here, too.

Well, that is what how I want to answer this question most of the time, but to be fair, I will list some reasons why Somalis like to live in Minnesota.

First, there are thousands of Somalis in Minnesota and I am sure most of them have different reasons why they came to live here. For me it was to see a familiar face. My plane (not a bus or a boat) landed in Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived in Kentucky, then Atlanta, Georgia, then Columbus, Ohio. This traveling around took about a year. For that year, I was a little bit lost and was searching for a home and to be with people I knew from Somalia. There was nothing wrong with those states but the people I stayed with were people I met in America. So when I found a relative of mine who used to live with us in Kenya, I packed up and left Ohio for Minnesota.

Another reason why Somalis came to live in Minnesota is that Somali-Minnesotans are good advertisers. While I was traveling around, I used to get calls from people in Minnesota, telling me how wonderful it was. Some of them I didn't know, but they heard I was new to the country and was thinking about moving to Minnesota. They would say this was the reason they were calling. It is, I think, part of our culture to give unwanted advice.

Some of the things I was told about Minnesota and why I should move here were that jobs were plentiful, that I could go to school if I wanted, and that I would always find cheap housing. And there were many non-profit organizations and other Somalis who would help me with any other issues.

Minnesota is a great state. A lot of Somalis were brought here by Lutheran Social Service back in the 90s. And a lot of Somalis brought here to America due to the civil war of 1991 moved to Minnesota from other states for jobs. Almost every Somali in Minnesota who came here between 1991 and 1998 worked at the chicken factories in Faribault and Marshall.

If we look at it as a whole, why Somalis settled in some states and not others can be traced back to how we lived in Somalia. Most Somali people were nomads back home since the beginning of time. How nomadic society works is that people move around in groups and basically follow the weather. They move to where it rains. And instead of moving a large group of settlers, they will send a person to see how the water is (the place where it rained), and if it is worthy of moving to. They try to figure out how long can they live there, for example, until the water runs out and the other resources are depleted.

Although most Somalis in America are city people, the old ways of nomadic life, I think, still live inside of us. In my opinion, most Somalis would move to a place where they know someone, or where there are Somalis in general, whether they knew them personally or not.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Somali Fishermen Face a Sea of Troubles

The water’s within reach of Somalia have turned into the Wild West of the sea due to rampant and increasingly brazen acts of piracy. A failed state, abysmal economy, and the allure of big money are the usual reasons given why frustrated fishermen turn to terrorizing oil tankers and pleasure boaters. But disregarded in the discussion are the men in Somalia still trying to eek out an honest living from the 2,000 miles of fish-rich coastline, and the perils they face on a daily basis. The good, the bad, and the ugly—Somali fishermen suffer from them all.

On an average day, a Somali fisherman is in danger of being attacked by the bad, Somali pirates, the ugly, illegal foreign trawlers, and the good, foreign navies who ironically mistake them for the bad, Somali pirates.

Recently, armed security teams of the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) fired at Somali fishermen mistaking them for pirates since the men onboard the fishing boat carried AK47s. Given the dangers of the environment, it is has become standard practice for Somali fishermen to carry guns to protect themselves and their catch.

There are also reports of gangs of Somali pirates attacking fishermen and confiscating their ships, according to "The Economics of Piracy,” a recent report from Oceans Beyond Piracy.

"We are getting hit from all sides,” Hassan, a fisherman from Kismayo in southern Somalia, was quoted as saying by IRIN, the United Nations humanitarian news service.

"We are not only targeted by these foreign fishing vessels, but we also fall victim to the military ships, which don’t differentiate between pirates and fishermen," said Hassan.

Illegal Fishing and Waste Dumping

Somalia’s maritime ranks as one of the five richest fishing zones in the world, which was relatively unexploited in the past. It is home to many large fish species such as tuna and mackerel, as well as endangered species such as baby whales, orcas, sharks, and sea turtles.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 700 foreign-owned vessels were engaged in unlicensed fishing in Somali waters in 2005. These illegal fishing ships, moreover, are also reported to be using prohibited practices such as using drift nets and under water explosives. These methods can irreparably damage the ecosystem and kill vital fish habitats, including some endangered species.

In 2009, the Somali government said it would regulate fishing in its waters, but that has not happened. The weak Somali state has no capacity to control the area and so it largely remains unchecked. At the current rate, the present stocks are in danger of being rapidly depleted.

“The Somali people are being denied any income from this resource due to their inability to license and police the zone,” John Laurence, a fishery consultant with PanOcena Resources Ltd. told African Executive Magazine.

In the absence of Somali enforcement, there is no other body to perform the role. “The U.N. is turning a blind eye to the activities of the fishing vessels whose operators are not paying their dues; which in any other circumstances would be enforced by any international court of law,” said Laurence.

Foreign vessels are not only accused of illegal fishing, but also of dumping industrial, toxic, and nuclear waste both offshore and on the shore areas of Somalia.

The problems of illegal fishing and dumping were cited in a U.N. Security Council resolution from April, as needing to be addressed to help build the strength of the Somali state and deal with problem of piracy.

Part of the problem engendered by the illegal foreign activity is that Somali pirates believe they are protecting their fishing territory, particularly as the economics of fishing itself makes less and less sense.

The "Oceans Beyond Piracy" report predicts that if things stay as they are, the number of pirates in Somali will double by 2016.

Currently, the average annual income of a pirate is 67 to 157 times higher than that of an average Somali worker. Add to that the increasing dangers of being on the seas, plus the depletion of maritime stocks, it is likely that more fishermen will give up and turn to piracy.

Source: The Epoch Times

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reality show celebrating diversity films pilot in Lewiston

“You can celebrate anything with food,” Qamar Bashir said, watching as her husband, Hassan Adan, got a lesson on barbecue, American style, in her backyard on Saturday while a camera crew and several dozen Somali and American friends buzzed around her.

The idea — that people from all cultures and backgrounds can come together over food — is the basis for "Celebrate!," a new reality TV show dreamed up by Courtney MacIsaac, a Portland-based party planner.

Those assembled at Adan and Bashir's house on Jean Street were there to film the show's pilot episode, which follows a simple formula: two families with diverse ethnic backgrounds and traditions get together, then teach each other how to cook and how to party.

On Saturday, Bashir and Adan invited dozens of friends from the local Somali community to come to their house to enjoy a pull-out-all-the-stops American cookout, complete with lobster, clams, grilled chicken and haddock, deviled eggs and corn on the cob. The day before, Bashir had cooked a traditional Somali feast, including samosas, a rice dish, doughnut-like buur and a sweet macaroni dish, adriyad tambi, and served it to a gathering of American friends at a house in Portland.

The Somali hosts had never eaten lobster before. Asked if she thought they would like it, Haley Norman, the “American mom” said, “I don't think they'll be afraid to try it. I mean, we tried goat the other day.”

MacIsaac hopes the show, which is still looking for network support, will be educational as well as entertaining. “I've always loved to travel, exploring foods and cultures,” MacIsaac said. The TV show, which focuses on families sharing in the diversity of their communities rather than cross-cultural drama, “is everything I love to do,” MacIsaac said. “It's a good way to show people globally that just because you don't have money to travel, you can still meet new cultures in your own hometown.”

Partnered with Catholic Charities of Maine and the Maine Studios, MacIsaac hopes that the show will find a backer and eventually branch out beyond Maine. “Once we run out of nationalities, we'll move to the rest of the country,” she said.

"Celebrate!" has seen some early interest from networks like the Food Channel and the Travel Channel, MacIsaac said, but the production team has faced some challenges while filming the pilot episode. Originally, producers had cast a family from Portland to pair up with Bashir, Adan and their two children, but when the family backed out last minute, they had to cobble together an “American family” to take their place.

The family that resulted — the crew's make-up artist, Haley Norman, and actor David Rosenthal, both of Portland, as the "mother and father," and real-life neighbors Imogen Webb and Ella Sibole, both of South Portland, as the couple's "daughters" — presents a somewhat awkward arrangement for a pilot billed as “reality,” but most involved agreed that the show will get the point across regardless.

“The experience is completely real either way,” Norman said.

“It is bringing communities together. I'm honored that people would share (their culture) with me,” Rosenthal said.

All it takes is the willingness to reach out to someone else to bridge the culture gap, he said, “and you're friends forever.” He praised his Somali co-stars, saying, “You can tell from their energy how kind they are as soon as you meet them.” They've already made plans to go out for dinner in a few weeks, after shooting for the pilot wraps.

Adan said that their family was interested in participating in the show because of those opportunities. While he works with Americans at his job as a social worker for Catholic Charities in Maine and has invited a few colleagues to his home, he had never thrown a party for such a large group of native Mainers.

“It's an opportunity to meet more people. To get to know each other, instead of just seeing each other on the street,” he said.

“The good thing is people are coming together, enjoying the food, learning traditions,” Bashir said. “You form some bonds with the family.”

Those bonds are increasingly important as Somali and other immigrant communities settle into Lewiston for the long term.

“I think, in a few more years, Lewiston will be a more diverse place," said Tarlan Ahmadov, a Azerbaijani immigrant who supervises Catholic Charity's refugee settlement program in Portland. A show like "Celebrate!" could play an important role in the transformation, he said.

“I think it's important to give not a 'good' picture, but to give a real life picture,” he said.

Watching the film crew focus in on Adan and Rosenthal working the grill together, he said, “It is something that we are feeling we are American.”

“Yes,” Bashir replied. “We are together.”


SOMALIA: Fishermen driven from the sea by illegal trawlers

More than two years after Somali officials announced plans to regulate fishing in the country’s troubled waters, illegal trawlers continue to operate while local fisherman suffer attacks and depleted catches.

The fishermen are not only losing a way of life but their lives, according to Somali fishermen.

"We are not only being denied our fish but our lives are also in danger," said Mohamed Abdirahman, a member of Bosasso fishing cooperative, in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia.

"Early this year we lost five members after their boat was run over by a big ship and I can tell you it was no accident," said Abdirahman.

Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, at 3,330km, with major landing sites in Kismayo, Mogadishu, Merka and Brava in the south, and Eil, Bargal, Bolimog, Las Korey and Berbera, and Bosasso in the north. It also has large fish species, including tuna, mackerel; as well as smaller ones such as sardines.

Mohamed Moalim Hassan, Somalia's minister of fisheries, told IRIN the interim government was trying to establish the country's internationally recognized maritime boundaries and enact laws to regulate fishing in its waters.

"We are in the process of establishing the maritime zone of the republic of Somalia in accordance with the Law of the Seas," he said.

Hassan said any foreign vessel currently fishing in Somalia's territorial waters did not have a legal license from the government. "They are doing so illegally."

Boiling water

According to Abdirahman, some of the foreign trawlers spray Somali fishermen with boiling water from cannons. He said many members of his cooperative were no longer venturing far from the coastline.

"We stay close to the coast, maybe two miles from the shore, to avoid the military ships and the big foreign fishing vessels," he said, adding they were catching less and less fish.

Mohamed Farah Aden, Puntland's minister of fisheries, told IRIN Somali fishermen had become victims of pirates, foreign fishing trawlers and the international navies.

"Our information is that fishermen were killed, or had their fishing gear taken or destroyed by all three," Aden said.

Abdullahi Nur Hassan, a fisherman in the southern port city of Kismayo, told IRIN on 22 June: "Many of my friends have quit fishing because they are afraid of falling victim to these big ships [foreign trawlers], pirates or military ships."

Hassan said foreign vessels had rammed their boats and taken their fishing nets on numerous occasions. "It is daylight robbery but they are getting away with it," he said.

NATO forces, as well as those from other countries, such as Russia, India and China, continue to police Somalia's coastline.

Hassan said he wished the naval forces would also protect them from the foreign fishing vessels.

Danger of piracy

Piracy off Somalia's coast has made life doubly dangerous for fishermen, who have been kidnapped and held for days so that pirates can use their boats, said Hassan.

Gangs of pirates steal boats and engines, and are driving some fishermen out of business, according to an Oceans Beyond Piracy report.

"Armed security teams have opened fire on fisherman believing them to be pirates because they were holding AK47s," said Wing Commander Paddy O’Kennedy, outgoing spokesman for the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR). "What they didn’t know, because their training hadn’t been that good, is that everyone out there carries AK-47s or else their fish will be pinched."

According to the report, there is no documentation on Somali fishermen killed by private security companies or armed guards who mistake them for pirates.

However, Hassan, the Kismayo fisherman, said the international military response to piracy sometimes wrongly targeted fishermen.

"We are getting hit from all sides,” he said. "We are not only targeted by these foreign fishing vessels but we also fall victim to the military ships, which don’t differentiate between pirates and fishermen."

Mohamed Abshir Waldo, a consultant based in Mombasa, said: “It appears that as far as the naval forces are concerned any Somali on the sea is a pirate."

However, Cmdr Harrie Harrison, EU NAVFOR spokesman, denied this claim. “There is no policy of deliberate interaction with any Somali vessel that isn’t showing deliberate signs of piracy,” he said.

Sixteen-foot climbing ladders and boarding equipment, taken together with guns on display, make it easy to distinguish between fishermen and pirates, according to Harrison.

"It all adds up in the way that if a policeman came across someone late at night with a balaclava and a wrecking ball, he’d say this guy isn’t just walking home from the pub," he said. "I can assure you that vessels are not picked upon simply because of their size."

Harrison added there were very few Somali fishing vessels out at sea where the naval forces patrolled.

Somalia's industrial fishing fleet, which only came into existence in the early 1970s with Soviet support, has been moribund for years, its ships in Aden Harbour in Yemen. The sector currently consists of small vessels for subsistence fishing and small-scale commercial operators

Illegal fishing, dumping

But, according to Mombasa-based consultant Waldo, fishermen have no way of standing up to illegal trawlers and ships dumping toxic, nuclear or other waste without being labelled pirates by military forces.

Illegal fishing and dumping by foreign vessels was the original impetus for bands of fishermen to become pirates. According to the Oceans Beyond Piracy report, these problems have never been adequately addressed.

Waldo said Somali elders asked for NATO assistance in combating the illegal fishing and dumping, but were told there was no mandate for that. He said some rich nations turned a blind eye as hundreds of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing vessels plundered Somalia’s maritime wealth and dumped toxic and nuclear waste.

Aden said some of the foreign vessels illegally fishing in Somali waters were owned by the some of the same countries patrolling its shores. “So you can say that [foreign trawlers] have found protection." He added, “the problem is no one is protecting our people."

Aden said the Puntland authorities had raised the issue with the international forces patrolling the Somali coast but “we have no tangible response."

Despite the fact that most piracy proceeds are spent in the local economy, many Somalis suffer under the shadow economy created by piracy, according to a May report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report said Somali communities “bear a considerable brunt of the effects of piracy… There are numerous reports about the extensive inflation in the cost of basic goods following successful piracy attacks. This false economy has led to dramatic price increases.”

These distortions send prices up four-fold, and hurt regular Somalis who can no longer afford basic goods. "They even affect marriage costs since families expect higher dowries,” said UNODC.

Source: IRIN News

Minnesota USA: St. Paul soccer tournament celebrates U.S., Somali independence days

To some, it's guys kicking and chasing a ball on fake grass - just a game.

To a group of Somalian refugees from across the U.S., it's a soccer tournament in St. Paul, but also an opportunity to share stories of the ongoing strife in the east African country they fled as boys and the community celebration of upcoming independence days in their homeland and adopted home.

The more than 150 young Somali men from Owatonna, Dallas, St. Cloud, Boston, the Twin Cities and elsewhere fled the humanitarian crisis caused by tribal militias in Somalia for the freedom and safety of the U.S.

"Here it doesn't matter what tribe you are from," said player Abdi Fatah, 20, whose family fled Somalia when he was 2 and settled in Minneapolis. "It's what they say about sports; it unites people."

As goals were scored between the lines on the green synthetic turf at St. Paul Central High School, others kneeled in prayer under the red scoreboard. Meaty sambusa wraps and sugary tea were served at the concession stand, and players and fans shared what the tournament means.

Guled Dalmar, 27, of Dallas said he was in Somalia working on an exam in his fourth-grade classroom one day in 1991, and the next day, refugees had set up in the school as militias battled for control of the country.

"It went from this," said Dalmar as he pointed to St. Paul, "to 100 percent chaos."

At age 9, Dalmar fled with nine members of his family, but he didn't have to give up his boyhood game.

With tournaments like the one held in St. Paul through July 4, he and the majority of players who were born in Somalia can compete against their countrymen.
"We are not coming here to play the best players in the world or the best in the United States, we are coming here to play with people that have a common identity with us," he said. "We are Somalia, and we are American now."

That shared heritage will be marked with a July 2 celebration in Minneapolis, which splits independence days in Somalia (July 1) and the U.S. (July 4).

The interconnected cultures are also displayed on the backs of the McKnight team. The St. Paul Police Department and the Ramsey County sheriff's office supplied the team with jerseys and equipment.

Sheriff's office member Pete Baldwin,who grew up playing hockey and basketball in Roseville, was snapping photos and cheering for McKnight on Sunday afternoon.

"I'm not a soccer guy, but I understand the mentality," Baldwin said. "If you are looking to connect with kids, sports are the best way to do it."


New Bird of Prey Hunts Somali Terrorists: Raven Drones

Both arriving Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and future CIA director David Petraeus expressed worry about the potency of Somali terror group al-Shabaab during their confirmation hearings earlier this month. They must not be the only ones. Under a proposed $45 million counterterrorism package, Uganda and Burundi, two major contributors to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia will get four small unarmed Raven drones.

But neither the U.S. military nor the CIA will be flying the four-pound, hand-launched Raven. Instead, some of the 1200 peacekeepers from both nations manning checkpoints and patrolling the streets of Mogadishu will be its operators. They’ll likely be using it in the same way U.S. soldiers and Marines flew the Raven in Afghanistan and Iraq: for aerial recon over the city, to trace al-Shabaab’s movement of fighters and weapons through the Somali capitol. (No missile strikes from the small drones, in other words.)

That’s consistent with the “outsourced” approach the U.S. has adopted to confront al-Shabaab. Although outsourcing has its limits, as when an occasional mystery airstrike slams a convoy of militants.

The whole idea behind the Ravens is to allow small units to rapidly acquire and act on their own overhead intelligence without going through the cumbersome military bureaucracy necessary to fly larger, more expensive spy aircraft. But neither nation’s forces have used small drones before. And the first Marine battalions to use Ravens in Iraq found them underwhelming.

Urban environments, with their densely packed buildings and “various electromagnetic signals,” vexed Raven operators in Iraq. Could be a prologue for Mogadishu.

But the drones are only a portion of the $45 million package. Also included, reports the Associated Press, are “body armor, night-vision gear, communications and heavy construction equipment, generators and surveillance systems.”

And a big portion of that aid will be to purchase an unspecified $17.7 million aircraft for the U.S.’ base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. Maybe the U.S. is looking to add an insurance policy to its outsourced shadow war in Somalia — or add a staging ground to the drone war in nearby Yemen.


Two Somali traders slain in South Africa

Armed gangs on Sunday night attacked Somali-owned shops in the South African city of Port Elizabeth, killing at least two Somali traders, witnesses said.

Ahmed Mohamoud, a witness who survived the shooting, told All Headline News they had come under attack from four gangs who shot the two men inside their shop.

“They started shooting us after my colleagues refused to pay all the cash they worked during the day,” Mohamoud explained.

The witness said he survived by hiding behind bags of rice inside the shop.

“When I realized the bandits left, I come out from hideout and saw my colleague dead lying on the ground with blood pouring from their heads,” he added.

Port Elizabeth is one of the largest cities in South Africa, situated in Eastern Cape Province, about 770 km (478 mi) east of Cape Town.

Another Somali refugee in Cape Town said that at least four Somali shop owners were wounded after thieves attacked and robbed a large Somali-owned shop.

On June 18, several Somali-owned shops in the South African town of Rothenberg were attacked by local gangs that looted the properties and stole cash.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has estimated more than 7,118 refugees from Somalia live in South Africa.

From 2002 to 2010, more than 700 Somalis were killed by South African gangs while trying to rob or loot their belongings.

In the last few years, South African gangs have launched brutal attacks against the Somali community, burning refugees alive or beating them to death. South African police say that xenophobia is the main motivation in the attacks.

In mid-January, a Somali shopkeeper was burnt to death when a gang of robbers attacked his shop in Samora Machel Township in the Western Cape.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Minnesota, USA: St. Paul's Neighborhood House offering crash course in cultures

More young Minnesota Hmong couples are choosing to be "married" according to cultural tradition and even in church, but don't follow through with getting a state marriage license, so in the eyes of U.S. law they are not married.

• Calling a man Hispanic or Chicano may offend, but Latino is a generally accepted, more inclusive term for Hispanics and Mexican-Americans. Still, it's best to ask.

• More than 50 percent of all Somalis in the United States live in Minnesota and some feel it's improper to shake a stranger's hand in greeting.
That's only a teasing bit of the information I picked up recently in a five-hour culture and history short course about Hmong, Latino and Somali populations in Minnesota, taught at Neighborhood House, a 114-year-old social service agency on St. Paul's racially and ethnically diverse West Side.

Why, you might ask, would anyone sign on for such a thing? To answer that, start by taking a look around you at the changing complexion of Minnesota.

Searching for recent Minnesota emigration data, I tripped against the Minneapolis Foundation's 2010 report, "A New Age of Immigrants: Making Immigration Work for Minnesota." (In the interest of full disclosure, the foundation is a sponsor of Community Sketchbook.)

• 10.3% of the Twin Cities' population in 2008 was foreign born.

• 18,020 individuals emigrated to Minnesota from other countries in 2009.

• Immigrant-owned businesses in Minnesota employ approximately 21,000 workers and generate sales and receipts of $2.2 billion.

• Concordia University economist Bruce Corrie has calculated that Asian-Americans and Latinos in Minnesota account for approximately $7 billion in purchases annually.
Voila, that helps explain why, along with the fact it makes them money they use to help fund some of their other programs, that Neighborhood House staffed 133 culture workshops last year for individuals, businesses and corporations.

So far this year it's been 96, with more classes planned and including Karen, American Indian, Ethiopian and Oromo cultures. Class prices differ with my five-hour class costing $130.

Our class was an overview of Hmong, Latino and Somali peoples and had eight students: a communications person with the city public works department, a staffer from Transit for Livable Communities new here from Chicago, a University of Minnesota Extension expert, a new teacher, a business woman, an immigrant from Peru, a new Neighborhood House staff member and me.

At day's end I talked with three of them.

Rosa MiyashiroRosa Miyashiro, Japanese by descent, came here after growing up in Peru. She'll be doing a counseling internship at Harding High School in St. Paul. "That was the motivation,'' for coming, she says, to learn more about the students she'll be working with.

"It was a lot to learn in one day, both deep and scratching the surface,'' said participant Michael Darger, extension specialist at the University of Minnesota in community economic development. He learned many things, he said, including that most Somalis don't celebrate birthdays.

Bill Neuendorf, with Transit for Livable Communities, came because, "We firmly believe it's a global village.''

Among topics for elucidation: history, culture, first-hand experiences, social organization, tradition, demographics, religion. I couldn't possibly cover it all here.

Michael DargerJust know that the power points are detailed and informative, though presentations could have benefited from other media, say music or a short video, or been enlivened with spicy Mexican food, say, or a beautiful Hmong story cloth.

We met Garat Ibrahim, a Somali, who practices the religion of Islam, praying five times a day to Allah, as do all devout Muslims beginning at age 14. He told us depression and anxiety are common to Somali refugees here, having been victims of war in Somalia.

Bill NeuendorfKalue Her outlined her Hmong people's beginnings in Laos, China, Thailand, Vietnam and elsewhere, their aid to American soldiers in Vietnam, the settlement of 60,000 or more in Minnesota, as well as traditions. Did you know that, traditionally, the mother of a newborn eats only chicken soup for a month?

Enrique "Cha-Cho" Estrada, born in St. Paul, grew up on St. Paul's West Side and still visits relatives in Mexico. As a teen he experienced racial stereotyping and discrimination. A graduate of Cretin High School and a local college, he says of his people, "Latinos are loyal customers,'' though "we're not great savers and we don't have a lot of trust in banks.'


US taps $45M in gear for terror fight in Somalia

The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military equipment, including four small drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help battle the escalating terrorist threat in Somalia.

The latest aid, laid out in documents obtained by The Associated Press, comes as attacks intensify in Somalia against the al-Qaida-linked terror group al-Shabab, including an airstrike late Thursday that hit a militant convoy, killing a number of foreign fighters, according to officials there.

No nation immediately took responsibility for the latest airstrike, though U.S. aircraft have attacked militants in Somalia before.

U.S. officials, including incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, have warned that the threat from al-Shabab is growing, and the group is developing stronger ties with the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Panetta told lawmakers earlier this month that as the core al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan undergoes leadership changes, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. needs to make sure that the group does not relocate to Somalia.

The Pentagon plan is aimed at helping to build the counterterrorism capabilities of Uganda and Burundi, two African Union nations that have sent about 9,000 peacekeeping forces to Somalia. The military aid includes four small, shoulder-launched Raven drones, body armor, night-vision gear, communications and heavy construction equipment, generators and surveillance systems. Training is also provided with the equipment.

In addition, the Pentagon will send $4.4 million in communications and engineering equipment to Uganda.

Somalia has not had a fully functioning government in two decades. The government had controlled just a small slice of the capital Mogadishu, but officials have said that the peacekeeping offensive is enabling them to wrest swaths of territory in the city and in southern Somalia from the insurgents.

The aid is part of a $145.4 million package that Pentagon officials approved and sent to Capitol Hill last week as part of a notification process before the equipment can be delivered.

Up to $350 million in military aid can be distributed this year to support counterterrorism operations in other countries. The Pentagon routinely releases the military aid in three or four installments each year, and the first package approved earlier this year was for about $43 million. So far, none of the assistance this year has gone to Yemen — which has been a top counterterrorism priority for the U.S.

Last year, the Pentagon allocated $155 million for aid to Yemen, and military leaders had proposed as much as $200 million for this year. But U.S. officials have become increasingly alarmed about the violent anti-government protests and unrest rocking the country.

Protesters are demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's powerful sons and other members of his inner circle leave the country, even as Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for injuries he suffered in an attack on his palace earlier this month.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that aid to Yemen has been interrupted by the chaos there, and once that ebbs the U.S. will consider what next steps to take. But U.S. officials consider AQAP in Yemen one of the most serious and immediate terrorist threats, fueled in part by radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has been linked to a number of terror attacks in the U.S., including the Christmas Day 2009 attempted airliner bombing.

The Pentagon aid package also includes funding for a number of other North African countries, including several where there is a continuing terror threat from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The plan includes:

—$22.6 million for Mauritania for a turbo prop aircraft for troop transport and surveillance, and necessary maintenance and training; and $8.1 million for airfield systems and construction and communications equipment to develop a forward operating base in the country.

—$17.7 million for an aircraft for Djibouti, where the U.S. has its only Africa military base.

—$12.1 million for helicopter upgrades and training for Kenya.

—$1 million for Mali for mine detector kits.

Also included in the aid package is $12 million for small boats and communications equipment for Maldives; $12 million for six patrol boats and trailers, body armor and communications equipment for Philippines; $8.4 million for communications equipment and weapons for Bangladesh; $900,000 for biometric data collection devices for Oman; and $850,000 for radar installation services for Malaysia.

There is also about $600,000 in the plan for human rights training in the countries.

Source: The Associated Press

Camel's milk set for boom

A feral camel searches for food near the dry Ross River 85km west of Alice Springs in Australia. AFP

For the tattered-clothed young men in this remote community, milking a camel's stubby utters at sunrise is not a novelty, but a daily chore to get milk valued by their tribe for generations.

But camel's milk, long-cherished by the Cushite people of central Kenya, is now enjoying a renaissance in the capital Nairobi and could, some say, become an internationally coveted health food product worth 10 billion dollars a year. "Camels are better than cows because they can survive when there is drought, but the cows cannot, so I can make a profit even during dry season," said Halima Hussein, 45, whose 84-strong flock makes her a local camel-mogul.

"I'm going to sell to sell some of my cows to buy more camels," added Hussein, whose family also owns 120 cows.

This arid region in central Kenya, like much of northeast Africa, has in recent years been hit with less predictable and more intense droughts, hindering cow's milk production and boosting the value of camels.

In Isiolo, some 280 kilometres (175 miles) north of Nairobi, Hussein and the 63 other women in her local cooperative currently send between 3,000 to 5,000 litres (quarts) of camel's milk a day to markets in Nairobi's Eastleigh neighbourhood.

Following this unprecedented demand, the Dutch development organisation SNV, which helps the women sell their milk in Nairobi, has suggested opening a milk bar in Isiolo, perhaps to introduce visitors to the unique flavours of camel-based diary.

The Somali, Oromo and Borana tribes -- all part of the Cushite group -- provide a reliable base of customers at Nairobi's hectic markets.

But some insist there is a chance to turn this once ignored type of milk into a high-end health food product sought after on every continent.

"There is already a high demand for camel milk in the developed countries," said Holger Marbach, a German national who founded Vital Camel Milk, which makes yoghurt, ice cream and other camel's milk products.

Marbach said Vital Camel Milk currently sells its products to supermarkets in Kenya, Latin America, South Africa and United Arab Emirates, but could sell to more lucrative markets if "administrative and political barriers" were removed.

Leading food experts also agree that camel's milk has potentially valuable properties.

"Camel milk is slightly saltier than cow's milk, three times as rich in Vitamin C and is known to be rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins," according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's website.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that with savvier packaging and more investment, camel's milk could become a 10 billion dollar annual global industry.

Even though Starbucks has not yet introduced a 'camel chai latte,' the milk remains a hugely important food source for a community regularly hit by devastating drought.

"I feed my 12 children on camel's milk," said Safia Kulow, 40, who is president of the Isiolo women's cooperative.

Daniel Muggi, the official in charge of Isiolo livestock at Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture, argues that the milk's nutritional value, and the ability of camels to produce it regardless of the whether, may enhance its popularity.

"Circumstances force people to change and non Cushite communities are considering camels because of lessons learnt from the drought and famine here," he said.

"I'm not saying people should abandon all the other types of milk, but I am saying camel milk is the saviour of the pastoralists during the dry season."

While they welcome the surge in camel interest within Kenya, locals in Isiolo sound anxious to look beyond the domestic market.

"In the future, we are thinking of getting a camel milk factory," said 56-year-old Adan Ali, the only male member of the Isiolo cooperative.

"We think camel milk will be gold, because we will start exporting to the European Union," he said.


Sometimes we drank sea water, says Suez survivor

“We are grateful to Pakistani human right activist Ansar Burney, Ahmed Chinoy and the Karachi Governor for holding successful negotiations with the Somali pirates,” said Infant Viju, a sailor from Alanji in Kumari district and one of the crew members of MV Suez cargo vessel, that was held captive by Somali pirates. Speaking to Express, Viju narrated the entire traumatic experience of over 11 months. “On August 2, 2010, at around 7 am, when we were in the Gulf of Aden, some five Somali pirates chased us in a mechanised boat,” he says.

The pirates had machine guns and rocket launchers and once they entered the vessel, they asked the vessel to be taken into the Somali waters. “We travelled for some two-and-a-half days and entered Somali waters, after which they asked us to anchor the vessel some six nautical miles from the coast,” Viju says.

After around 10 days, they brought a translator and demanded $60 lakh as ransom. “Our shipping company replied that they did not have money to pay the ransom,” Viju says. A few days later, their shipping company cut the satellite phone links and internet connections in the ship.� In the meantime, Ansar Burney, Ahmed Chinoy and the Karachi Governor started negotiattion with the pirates. Viju recalls that they had stocked food needed for two months.� Despite economical usage of drinking water, the stock was over after four months, after which the pirates used to bring drinking water from their coast. “They used to bring water in the same can that was used to get petrol and diesel for the vessel. Many times the drinking water we consumed used to contain oil spillage. Some times we drank seawater,” he recalls.

During negotiations, whenever the pirates got any negative response from the shipping company, they used to beat them up. Viju said that he could speak to his family only five times in these 11 months. Finally, Ansar Burney fixed the ransom amount at $21 lakh and the pirates accepted.

Source: The New Indian Express

Ordeal by the sea

By Nirmala Sitharaman

A brief sense of relief prevailed when the ordeal ended for the six Indian sailors of MV Suez as they reached the Indian shores.

This time all credit and thanks for their rescue must go to the activists in Pakistan. However, they had to collect and then pay the ransom to the pirates.

It is alleged that $2.1 million was paid as ransom by the Ansar Burney Trust to secure the release of the six Indians, four Pakistanis and 12 others. Also, there are probably 47 Indian seafarers who are still held captive and their future is left only to their fate. Left to fate, notwithstanding what was claimed in Parliament.

In March 2011, in a statement made in Parliament, the minister of external affairs, Mr S.M. Krishna, assured the nation that, “the (Cabinet) Committee (on Security) approved a series of measures to address the legal, administrative and operational aspects of combating piracy”. The committee also formed an Inter-Ministerial Group which was to deal with early release of captives, cargo or crew. A standard operating procedure was also to be framed to deal with exigencies arising out of piracy.

Maritime piracy may be 4,000 years old, dating back to the time of Hammurabi of Babylon. It is estimated that Somali piracy has increased seven fold during 2007-2010. Today, the pirates’ area of operation covers over 2.5 million square nautical miles.

On January 25, 2011, India’s permanent representative at the United Nation, Mr H.S. Puri, observed: “…the disturbing fact that… operating further and further off the Somali coast. The shift of attacks to the south and east of the Indian Ocean reflects the pirates’ ability to adapt in order to bypass the security corridor established by the naval forces and to extend their reach to 1,000-1,200 miles from Somalia”.

In 2010 alone, world over, pirates, Somali inclusive, had captured 1,181 people and hijacked 53 ships. By mid June this year, 154 ships were attacked and 26 vessels hijacked. Since 2005, it is estimated that 130 ransoms were paid to pirates. Ransoms have multiplied 36 times in five years, averaging $5.4 million per ship. It is reported that a Kenyan government’s study estimates that 30 per cent of all ransoms paid reach terror groups.

Speaking in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the lawmaker, Mr Ed Royce. has expressed similar concerns. The commandos of Al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group based in Somalia, are talking about “sea jihad”. Lloyds, the internationally reputed London-based insurers have refused to “…indemnify ship owners if they paid a ransom to terrorist groups”.

The human cost of the maritime piracy is shocking. Somali pirates have violently attacked over 4,000 international sailors. The case of Capt. Prem Kumar of Rak Africa is a grievous tale of the merciless treatment the captives undergo when held by the Somali pirates. Released in March 2011, the captain later died of brain haemorrhage and multiple organ failure. Seven Indian sailors of the MV Asphalt Venture released after ransom payment were held back by the pirates claiming that they planned to swap them with the arrested pirates awaiting trial in India.

It is reported that 37 Somali pirates who were arrested are awaiting trial in Maharashtra. Citing this as the reason the Somali pirate groups claim that they are at war with India. Hence, it is believed that from among the captured crew, they target the Indians even more, use them as human shields, chain and torture them.

It is reported that several Indian cargo ships are now opting for a longer route — via the Cape of Good Hope — thus resulting in increased cost of ferry. It is reported, again, that every month, over 24 Indian flagged merchant ships transit the Gulf of Aden. An estimate suggests that the value of Indian trade that passes through the affected area is about $110 billion.

A senior risk analyst observed, “Premiums may rise further if the Lloyds market makes larger losses, and this will continue to push up the price of shipping goods, potentially raising commodity prices in the affected markets...”

India has a coastline of 7,500 km. Our major and minor ports are busy centres of economic activity. The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have done exemplary service in safely escorting over 1,800 vessels, carrying Indian and foreign flags, in the two years from 2008 to 2010.

Since 2008, as a part of the anti-piracy patrol, 23 Indian Navy ships have been deployed in the area. It is to their credit that no ship under the Indian naval escort has been hijacked by pirates.

The threat looms large not just in the high seas. Recently at Nandel, in Junagadh district, Gujarat, the police arrested 17 men from a boat that was adrift. Fourteen of them were Somali pirates. The other three claimed they were Yemeni fishermen. Another vessel Wisdom, which lost its pilot, went adrift near Worli, although being towed to Alang, the ship-breaking yard. With Somalia recognised as one of the Al Qaeda bases, what these piracy groups and the ransom they receive can do is anyone’s guess.

In March 2011, Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, asked the government if the anti-piracy provisions of the UN Security Council are being accessed. The International Fund and the specific mechanism for this purpose should be proactively invoked.

The Government of India should immediately call all the maritime Indian states to discuss this problem. A standard operating procedure should be in place and be carefully followed to remove the perception that only when the media heat is on, the government responds to the affected families or even sends a frigate to rescue.

The Philippine government’s gesture of increasing the payments for their seafarers may be a palliative, but a necessary one. Necessary for us to consider, because over six per cent of seafarers engaged in international companies are Indian nationals.

They are productively engaged albeit facing this occupational risk. An additional financial package for them, if and when passing this dreaded area, may be a welfare state’s gesture India can afford. The Government of India may begin with one such suitable to our conditions. The Indian government should do and be seen to be doing more on the human, economic and security threat that the Somali pirates are posing us.

The author is spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The views expressed in this column are her own.


Piracy insurance costs shipowners $120M

Shipowners are paying $120 million a year to London insurers to protect vessels against the risk of attack by Somali pirates, the Lloyd’s Market Association said.

Insurers paid out “significantly” more to owners whose vessels were seized than they received in premiums, Andrew Voke, chairman of the association’s marine committee, said today at a Commons Select Committee hearing in London. Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, and other association members provide 70 percent of all war-risk insurance.

About 28,000 vessels a year transit the region affected by Somali pirates, said Mark Brownrigg, director general of the UK’s Chamber of Shipping. Rerouting to avoid pirates would cost a large container ship between $185,000 and $300,000, he estimated. Additional insurance costs for each transit are between $30,000 and $60,000, according to the association.

Naval forces deployed to counter piracy caught and released at least 1,500 Somali pirates, out of the estimated total number of 3,500 operating, over the last three years, Stephen Askins, a London-based marine lawyer at Ince & Co., said at the hearing.

No money has been recovered from ransoms paid, according to Askins. The former Royal Marine said he advises shipowners, deals with ransom negotiators and interviews crew members upon release from hijacked vessels.

Dubai, Nairobi

“I would see what more could be done to trace the money,” Askins said. Investigations should focus on Dubai and Nairobi, where some money was diverted, he said.

Insurers paid an estimated 130 ransoms in the last three years, Neil Roberts, senior executive for underwriting at the association, said in a June 17 interview.

Between five and eight warships are in the Indian Ocean and a similar number are in the Gulf of Aden, said Major General Buster Howes, operation commander European Union Naval Force Somalia. As many as 83 frigates and destroyers equipped with helicopters would be needed to provide a 30-minute response time to protect vessels from pirates operating in an area of water larger than Europe, he said. “Are we able to effectively police the entire area? No, we’re not,” Howes said.

Source: Bloomberg

Somali Bantu refugees farm for a better life

The Virginia Tech-run Catawba Sustainability Center helps Somali Bantu refugees produce food and flowers they can sell on their way to becoming self-sustaining entrepreneurs.

Cucumbers were new to them. So were the orderly rectangular beds, the mesh plant supports, the black plastic and straw mulch to keep the weeds down.

In the beginning, it all looked so ridiculous and strange, especially the flowers. They wondered: Why bother growing something you can't eat?

But the urge to cultivate was so embedded in the DNA of the Somali Bantu refugees who have come to call this patch of Virginia Tech land their second home that all the newfangled growing methods in the world couldn't keep them from muddying their shoes.

They come daily to Juba Farm, some after working the graveyard shift laundering hospital linens or restocking grocery store shelves. Such was the draw for these former subsistence farmers, who hadn't cultivated land since civil war ravaged their native Somalia in 1991 and sent them fleeing for their lives.

Maha Mudi, 72, clutches his chest when he speaks of the good that has been wrought from this pilot project, a collaboration of refugee- and local-food-minded folk based at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center.

"Before this farm, I was just an old man; I could barely bend over or squat," Mudi said through an interpreter. "But now because I am here every day my health is good.

"If I could, I would sleep here."

Gardening to forget

They landed in Roanoke in 2004, about 200 of them, part of a national effort to resettle 12,000 of the most persecuted people in the world. Their ancestors had been kidnapped by Arab slave traders in the 19th century and, later, conscripted into forced labor by Italian colonists. By the early 1900s, 35,000 former slaves had settled into Somalia's Juba River Valley, where they eked out their corn, beans, okra and the like into a meager living.

Their food stores made them targets when the civil war broke out, and rogue militaries raided their settlements, robbing, raping and killing at will. The lucky ones walked for weeks to a Kenyan refugee camp, where they spent upward of 13 years praying that their women wouldn't be raped when they ventured out for firewood and waiting for a better life to begin.

The goal of Juba Farm, housed at the Virginia Tech-run Catawba Sustainability Center, is to help the refugees produce food and flowers they can sell on their way to becoming self-sustaining entrepreneurs. About 15 of the Roanoke Bantu take turns working the land.

With a breeze riffling her headscarf and a soundtrack of birdsong and bees, 42-year-old Hajiro Wehel seems more intent on burying scars with every flower she cuts. She has carpooled a half-hour from the Lansdowne Park public housing complex, where she spends much of her time cloistered indoors.

"You look around here, and it reminds you of home," she said, clad in a colorful dress, pajama bottoms, multiple scarves and muddy Crocs.

Home before the war, she means, before the unforgettable things. Before "the bad people would come and cut you or kill you, or force a son to sleep with his mother," she said, shaking her head.

She puts in six hours most days, as does Abdikadir Ali, 40, before his second-shift job at the Carilion laundry service. He used to grow tomatoes and corn in the harsh Juba River climes, where stepping on a thorn could result in a life-threatening infection, and praying for rain was constant.

"Back home, everything was by hand. Here, it's a lot easier," Ali said. "The best part is getting to work outside again. In America, you just don't get a sense of nature like this when you're working or you're secluded in your apartment."

They learned the nitty-gritty of growing food to sell in an eight-week growers academy taught by their program mentors, Roanoke County Extension Agent Sheri Dorn and Virginia Tech's Christy Gabbard, who directs the Catawba Sustainability Center.

Wehel remained quiet and sullen throughout the course -- to the point that Gabbard was not sure how much material she comprehended. The Somali Bantu community had appointed younger refugees to translate for Wehel and other elders, and Tech's Coalition for Refugee Resettlement, the student arm of the Pilot Street Project, provides English instruction as well.

Some of the information had to be translated twice -- from English to Kizigua, from Kizigua to Mai Mai -- depending on which translators were on hand. "It was like this giant telephone game where you never knew in the end what exactly was translated or heard," Gabbard said.

But when she and Dorn passed out certificates at the end, Wehel clearly understood the significance of the course. She was so happy that she when she went to hug Gabbard she picked her up off the ground.

Watering by hand

On Wednesday, they'll learn to arrange flowers in preparation for selling them at the Catawba Farmers Market. Faduma Guhad, a Somali-born refugee who is a rising junior at Tech and an intern with the Coalition for Refugee Resettlement, is helping them develop a logo and brochures.

"This is so good for them, I wish we had done it years ago," said Guhad, who also translates in the garden. One morning last week, she ferried questions as potential donors from an area foundation surveyed Juba Farm -- and were greeted with just-cut bouquets of purple cosmos and dianthus.

In a month or so, the produce should be in, at which point Gabbard said she hopes they'll not only be selling at the Catawba market, but also via, a virtual farmer's market operated by Roanoker Kathy O'Hara, whose customers order food a la carte from local growers.

While initial funding was cobbled together through several departments at Virginia Tech, a Charlottesville foundation called Blue Moon Fund, Roanoke County and the Bantu community itself (they pooled dollars to buy seed), organizers hope to develop a network that would allow local institutions such as schools and colleges to buy locally grown food.

Some support already comes through Tech's Institute for Critical Technology, which contributes a "smart farm" research element -- a complex system that allows for virtual watering and delivery of nutrients.

The elder Bantu initially scoffed at the idea of computerized hoses, not so much because they don't understand it but because they enjoy the process of hand-watering each plant. But Wehel's teenage son, Ibrahim, was thrilled that his parents' age-old practices might finally merge with technology, his favorite subject.

Dorn said she has come to appreciate the Bantu's emphasis on group decision-making, to the point of deciding exactly which vegetables should be planted in a small leftover space. "It takes longer, but I love the fact that everybody seems to have a role in this; it doesn't matter the age or gender," she said. "Farming empowers them in a way that bypasses all the language and cultural barriers they have."

The community hasn't yet decided how it will divide the profits, but one thing is certain, the Bantu elders said. They will hold back money so Juba Farm can buy seed again next year.

Source: The Roanoke Times

Australia: If you’re Somali, don’t bother to look for a job

Somalis consistently rank as the least employed of any race in Victoria, with statistics placing between 32 per cent and 47 per cent out of work

Abdulkadir Shire and Ali-nur Duale are masters of disguise. The two Somali men, now in their 50s, have spent more than 30 years between them applying for jobs in Melbourne. Their tactics have ranged from the shrewd (omitting their nationality and native language on CVs) to the downright devious (“de-Arabising” their first names by replacing them with initials). But their real skill is one that not many people would think of bringing to the job market: making themselves look unintelligent on paper.

They call it “downskilling”: cutting from their résumés any hint of a qualification or achievement that might make them appear too smart for the jobs they’re applying for. In Duale’s case, that means a PhD in applied entomology and a distinguished career developing crop protection programs across Africa and India. In Shire’s case, it’s a Masters in petrochemical engineering and a diploma from Victoria University.

But for both men, the game is officially now up.

Last October, after 17 years and more than 300 failed job applications, Shire packed his bags and moved to Brisbane, where he is helping his wife start a family daycare business. Dr Duale is resigned to continue working as a casual interpreter for a refugee translation service.

“People say ‘Why can’t you get a decent job, with all your qualifications?’” says Duale, who is often described in his community as “the most qualified Somali in Australia.” “And I have to lie and tell them I just want to do something to help my own people. I’ve even told my children this untruth.”

No one has yet done a study to measure the lost potential to Australia in terms of professional achievements or international standing in allowing so many of our best and brightest residents to work as drivers, translators or cleaners. The ‘PhDs driving taxis’ headlines have come and gone, but to this day, hundreds of experienced doctors, accountants and engineers are still driving cabs and doing menial part-time jobs to sustain their families and relatives overseas on fickle hourly wages. Hundreds more have given up entirely, resigning themselves to a perpetual life in the slow lane.

Africans, the newest, most foreign group in our cultural melting pot, are invariably suffering the most. Some say it’s always been this way: that the waves of Greeks, Italians, Lebanese and Vietnamese who arrived between the 1950s and ’80s all struggled just as hard to find sustainable jobs. But the evidence strongly suggests otherwise. For Somali-Australians, being black and Muslim and with the additional stigma of coming from the world’s most corrupt country, the chances of finding full-time work – let alone a respectable white-collar job – are arguably the lowest in the Western world. In a country that lays claim to having one of the most robust and egalitarian job markets anywhere, the words “fair go” remain a mockery for hundreds of eternally unemployed Somali professionals.

A lost pro-African campaigner

When Lindsay Tanner, former Finance Minister and Federal Member for Melbourne, resigned last June, many members of Victoria’s African community felt they had lost one of their own. Not only was Tanner the most high-profile critic of the hardening of Labour’s asylum seeker policies, he was also the most visible and vocal of the country’s pro-African ‘champions’ – a regular guest at community events, and loud advocate for greater training and job opportunities among the country’s least employed migrant communities. Just a week before his resignation, Tanner launched a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that found evidence of anti-African sentiment in virtually every sphere of public life.

Of course, you don’t give up such conviction easily. Within weeks, Tanner was back to assisting two Melbourne-based projects he is particularly close to: the Corporate Leaders Network’s (CLN’s) African-Australian Project, through which 10 high-profile companies — including NAB, IBM, BHP and Telstra — have committed to develop training and placement opportunities for African-Australians; and the Horn-Afrik Employment, Training and Advocacy Project, a homespun initiative with 250 ‘Horn of Africans’ — migrants from Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia — on its books.

The next year or two could be make-or-break for both projects. The CLN has promised to “ramp up” its focus on African jobseekers, and after two job-training workshops in which black faces were notably absent, has reserved a third of the 35 places at its next workshop in May for Africans. The Horn-Afrik project, run by a Somali-Australian out of a dingy room in a tower block in Carlton, has just secured federal funding for two more years; yet this project, the only African-run initiative linking the State Government and industry to support professional jobseekers, has found jobs for only 17 people in the past three years – and 10 of these have since returned to the taxi-ranks.

As Australia grapples with increasingly polarised positions on our multiracial future, such scoresheets give the lie to what Immigration Minister Chris Bowen recently called “the genius of Australian multiculturalism.” Conservative commentators continue to portray African communities — particularly Somalis and Sudanese — as breeding grounds for gang members, dole bludgers and worse. But what few people have yet broached are the obvious links between fathers who struggle to find work and children for whom ‘job satisfaction’ is a concept from another planet.

“If we’re losing the fathers, we will lose their sons,” warns Horn-Afrik’s coordinator, Omar Farah. “They will drop out of school, live on the dole, and some will go into crime. If your husband is unemployed, your father is depressed, your parents are talking about going back to Africa — how can you expect that family to be striving to adopt Australian values?”

Spending a few days with Farah is an object lesson in conviction, and its perpetual battle with its insistent evil twin, despair. As the brains behind Horn-Afrik, and a regular advisor to the Victorian Government and the Victoria Police, this genial 51-year-old enjoys the unique perspective of being the only African-Australian formally employed to find professional jobs for his compatriots. But his raison d’être — that there are plenty of jobs out there, and colour-blind employers with them — has been tested virtually every day of the 23 years he’s called Australia home.

“When I walk down the street in Melbourne, I’m black, I’m probably involved in crime, I’m certainly un-Australian. When I’m out with my family, we’re seven refugees just arrived from Africa (even though all our kids were born in Melbourne)... Back in Somalia, any adult in the community could discipline me, which led to a feeling of being protected and looked out for. But there’s none of that expectation, that comfort, here.”

Lindsay Tanner, who has become a close personal friend of Omar’s, also sees this lack of “familiarity” as the principal challenge – the ultimate fitting-in quality that only time will provide, just as it did for his own Greek forebears.

“It won’t be long before the majority of Somalis in Australia are born here, maybe another 10 years,” says Tanner. “The real question will be, are those born here having the same opportunities and standard of living and capacity to be part of our society?”

Tanner believes – hopes, at any rate – that they will. But a growing number of Australians who work closely with the country’s African communities are not so sure. Reverend John Evans has had a front row seat for the socially divided theatre of Carlton, where his Church of All Nations backs onto a sprawling housing estate where nearly half the 3,000 residents are African. “Africans are still not welcome in Lygon Street, 15 years after they first came here,” he says, referring to the gentrified shopping precinct a stone’s throw away. “They’re just so different from other ethnic groups here. It’s part of that fear of the unknown that defines our society. It’s not orchestrated, it’s not about hate groups or anything like that. It’s just this unfamiliarity...”

Visibly different

Fear of the unknown has been a recurring theme in dozens of research reports and policy papers produced by academics, lawyers and parliamentary committees on issues of discrimination and social exclusion facing Australia’s 120,000 black Africans. Yet the one thing that nearly everyone in government, academia and the community agrees will make a migrant family feel most at home – a decent full-time job – continues to be withheld by a conspiracy of personal prejudice and professional and political apathy.

Somalis consistently rank as the least employed of any race in Victoria, with statistics placing between 32 per cent and 47 per cent out of work. While Asians and other “visibly different” migrants occupy ever more prominent positions in our hospitals, schools, courtrooms and police stations – places associated with legitimacy and trust – the almost total absence of black faces in such venues speaks volumes about our confidence in Africans’ values and abilities, and perpetuates the myth that they cannot be trusted with such critical roles; that they cannot be trusted to be good Australians.

Last June, the AHRC’s three-year study established “solid evidence” of discrimination against African-Australians in every sphere of public life in every state. Two months later, Australia was publicly rapped over the knuckles by the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which said it had largely not moved on the UN’s calls five years earlier to tackle “entrenched discrimination” towards indigenous Australians, asylum-seekers and minority communities (including “over-policing” and “pervasive employment discrimination” against African-Australians).

Negative feelings

In February, the University of Western Sydney released the results of a 12-year study on attitudes towards minority groups, which reported that 48 oer cent of Australians harbour negative feelings towards Muslims, while Africans topped the mistrusted migrants list at 27 per cen. Although 87 per cent of the 12,500 respondents said they support cultural diversity, study leader Professor Kevin Dunn says he has no doubt that skin colour remains a powerful deterrent to employers – and the divisive remarks of some politicians only fan the flames.

“Integration is a two-way street,” says Dunn. “You have to want to integrate and there has to be a feeling of welcome. In Australia, there’s been far too much debate on whether immigrants are integrating and want to integrate, and not nearly enough on the welcome we’re giving them.”

More than 20 years after Somalis started arriving here in significant numbers, that welcome is still geared towards humanitarian refugees, fresh from Kenya’s refugee camps, without the money, language or tools to begin their new life. Through a concerted program of housing, education and language support, these people have gradually found their feet in a new and unfamiliar world. It’s a program Australians truly can be proud of. But for those Somalis who came under the skilled migration program, who gained their credentials in university halls and government offices, who speak perfect English – those who arguably have the most to offer their new home – Australia has little room left in its heart.

Keeping traditions

In towns and villages across Somalia, the older men traditionally gather after prayers on a Friday to drink tea and swap stories on everything from the next harvest to their latest political leaders. It’s a far cry from the urban spill of Point Cook, where Melbourne’s fastest growing conurbation is springing up on the shores of Port Phillip Bay. But on Sunday afternoons, at one of the coffee shops in Point Cook’s Main Street, you’ll find at least one of Somalia’s traditions alive and well on the edge of Julia Gillard’s electorate.

Here, a dozen Somali men gather to discuss everything from plans for a new community centre to entertaining ways of teaching the Somali language to children. The subject of their own employment is never far from the conversation. A couple of the men are part-time lecturers or run small businesses; but the majority here have never had a full-time job in Australia.

Dr Abdirahman Kulmiye is a newcomer to the group, but his story is all too typical. A highly erudite marine scientist in his late 40s, Kulmiye arrived in Australia in early 2007 with high hopes of landing a professional job. This is a man who should get a job in any country with a coastline – let alone one surrounded by sea. His CV (undoctored, he stresses) includes long periods with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and three years as Chief Technical Adviser at Somalia’s Ministry of Fisheries.

But after dozens of applications for scientific and research postings, and not one letter of reply, a dejected Kulmiye sent a note back to his old colleagues in Africa – and was immediately offered a job by Vétérinaires sans Frontières. Despondent and running low on money, he eventually took up a consultancy with the Swiss NGO.

“The main reason I haven’t been able to get a job in Australia is that employers want to see local work experience before they’ll give you any themselves,” says Kulmiye. “I don’t really understand this endless focus on local experience, especially if you’ve managed international projects at the highest level. Why doesn’t anyone pay any attention to that?”

Dr Berhan Ahmed, a University of Melbourne lecturer who runs the refugee advocacy organisation, African Think Tank, has no doubt why. “It’s institutionalised racism, pure and simple,” he says. “Africans use Anglo Saxon names to get called for interviews, and when they see they’re black they get sent home.”

Dr Ahmed, a former Victoria Australian of Year, says African-Australians are victims of an “anti-black” corporate culture, which stereotypes them as arrogant and unreliable, and invariably winds up costing them jobs. He points to the starkly differing experiences of white South Africans, whose “connections” have carried them to the very top of companies like BHP, Westpac and Deloitte.

Double jeopardy

Professor Farida Fozdar, who has spent much of the past decade studying discrimination at Murdoch University’s Centre for Social and Community Research, says when it comes to jobs, African Muslims face the “double jeopardy” of being both racially and religiously different. Fozdar describes meeting experienced African doctors who have literally begged hospitals to take them on as unpaid interns. “For these professional, accomplished people, there are huge issues of self-esteem and dignity among their families – and they can’t even get volunteer work! Honestly, the media keeps perpetuating this myth that refugees are here to bludge from the government, but it’s so patently untrue.”

As well as a more streamlined system for approving overseas qualifications, Fozdar advocates greater jobseeking services, mentoring and work experience for skilled migrants, and education programs for employers on the benefits of employing multicultural professional staff.

Dr Ahmed, whose clipped vowels helped defuse a fragile situation when five Somali and Lebanese men were arrested in Melbourne for alleged terrorism offences in 2009, jettisons all diplomacy when it comes to professional jobseekers. “We’ve had four years of talk talk talk, while most people have just figured they’re unemployable and gone into the taxi industry. How many years can you stay unemployed and attending meetings? People are getting training for a month, three months, and then going back to being unemployed. Do you realise what this does to a person’s confidence? The whole training and mentoring thing has become a self-serving industry that doesn’t produce any results in terms of jobs.”

There are, of course, dozens of vital training programs, internships and vocational courses run by the State-funded Adult Multicultural Education Services, charitable organisations like the Jesuit Social Services and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and numerous conscientious city councils, many of which are making a real difference to the lives – and work chances – of ‘new Australians’. But like the research and funding on which they are predicated, most of these schemes focus on younger migrants or refugee communities in regional areas.

In Melbourne, not a single Somali is employed either by the Government of Victoria – host of at least 60 per cent of the estimated 10-12,000 Somalis in Australia – or by Melbourne City Council. Although the State Government does run some basic jobseeking and mentoring programs, these are largely limited to vocational training for less skilled migrants or regional refugees. Unlike Canada and New Zealand, our Federal Government has not entered into any partnerships with industry to offer large-scale mentoring or sponsorships for skilled migrants.

“The Government should take a look at places like Canada and see what they can emulate to get Africans into professional positions,” says Omar Farah. “They spend millions of dollars on community projects and festivals – things that make people feel good for a short time, but have no impact in terms of sustainable skills and incomes. They could even consider paying companies half the salaries of new recruits. All we need is to give long-term employment to 100 Africans, and they will change Australian attitudes towards our community. They will create thousands of Australian Africans.”

Local Somali-Canadian community plan to help at-risk youth

Leaders within Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian community are vowing to help at-risk youths to stop a deadly trend involving its own members.

Ahmed Hussen, head of the Canadian Somali Congress, said community leaders at a town hall meeting Saturday hammered out a plan that will include mentoring at-risk youth to clamp down on the slaying of its own members.

Hussen also said members within Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian community will be encouraged to become foster parents for those troubled teenagers.

“Talented” teens within the community will be encouraged to pursue a career in the Edmonton Police Service, added Hussen.

“We have to create a safer community and a safer Edmonton,” said Hussen. “We want to destroy an unfair message that exists out there in the public that says the Canadian-Somali community is not working with the public, or the police.”

Mahamad Accord, president of the Alberta Somali Community Centre, told the police commission earlier this month that the police should hire more people from within the community to deal with the slayings.

He also urged the commission to force homicide Det. Bill Clark to publicly apologize for controversial remarks he made about the city’s first homicide of the year on New Year’s Eve.

Hussen said plans are also in the works by leaders within the Canadian-Somali community to create a poster campaign to urge members to report crimes to police when it happens.

“We need to be more involved in the community,” said Hussen. “We are an integral part of this city.”

A total of 13 Somali-Canadians have been slain in Alberta’s capital city since 2006.

Edmonton’s Somali-Community remains on edge as the hunt continues to find a gunman responsible for the most recent Somali slaying on June 3 of 43-year-old Abdi Ali Mohamud, who police said was shot over a case of mistaken identity. Investigators are still looking for the shooter’s intended target.

“We are not dropping the ball on this issue,” said Hussen. “We all always trying to follow up with the police and the city government. We are not stopping.”

Follow me on Twitter: @SUNJeffCummings

Source: The Edmonton Sun

After Somali president’s pardon, jailed foreigners depart from Mogadishu

the president of Somali interim federal government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, pardoned six foreign nationals who were sentenced to long prison terms for bringing millions of dollars into the country and piracy related crimes.

Benadir regional court judge, Ilmi Hashi Nur said the freed foreigners flew out of Mogadishu international airport.

The judge also stated that two planes they used carrying money to Somalia were fined 50,000 $ each which means (100,000 $).

The pardoned foreigners, who brought 3.6 million dollars into Mogadishu airport with two planes, were from United States, United Kingdom and neighboring Kenya, according to Nur. He said the 3.6 million dollars was confiscated by the government.

“They were Andrew Robert, 56, from UK, Patrick Birmingham, 41, from US, Alexander James Andrew, 22 from UK, Mathew Brown, 32, from UK, Marcos William, 25, from Kenya and Altair Macleod Davidson, 46, from Kenya” Nur added.

On June 18, Somalia’s Benadir regional court sentenced American and British Kenya nationals to prison terms between 10 to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of smuggling millions of dollars into war-torn Mogadishu by two small planes for delivery to the Somali pirates.

Last month, Somali police intercepted the foreigners at the Mogadishu airport as soon as a plane carrying the currency landed at the airport.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Communique of the 8th Meeting of the Joint Security Committee (JSC)

1. The 8th meeting of the Joint Security Committee (JSC) took place on 23 June, 2011, in Entebbe, Uganda, under the co-chairmanship of H.E. Abdihakim M. Haji Faqi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Dr. Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Somalia, and Ambassador Boubacar Diarra, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of AMISOM.
2. The meeting was attended by representatives of France, Italy, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uganda, Somalia, the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations (UN).
3. The JSC reviewed progress made in the implementation of the decisions of its last meeting held in Djibouti on 20 January, 2011. The meeting also discussed the findings and recommendations of the “Somali Security Sector Scoping Mission Report, 2011”, the “Somalia Security Sector Assessment Report, 2010 and the Report of the International Shared Lessons Learned Workshop on Defectors which took place ahead of the meeting of the JSC.
4. Following discussions, the JSC noted that some progress had been made in enhancing the security sector in Somalia. In particular, the JSC recognized the major territorial gains made by TFG security forces, with the support of AMISOM, the countries of the region and other international partners. In particular, the TFG thanked those partners (USA, Uganda, AMISOM and EU) who have delivered the EU training programme so far. The JSC further commended the support of all international partners actively engaged in the Somali Security Sector Development and encouraged others in the international community to contribute towards these efforts as well.
5. In order to consolidate the gains so far made in this regard, the JSC:
  •  strongly urged, once again, the TFG to immediately revise, in the light of the current security situation and of the recommendations the reports mentioned above, the draft 2009 National Security Stabilization Plan NSSP)
  • in order to facilitate its urgent implementation under a TFG guiding policy and institutional framework supported by the JSC and its working groups;
  • underlined the need for the TFG to improve its security partnership with regional administrations and friendly forces and urged all partners to provide the necessary support, including logistical, technical and financial, to the Security Sector Development efforts in Somalia; 
  •  took note of the findings and recommendations of the “Somali Security Sector Scoping Mission Report, 2011”, the “Training Needs Assessment Report, 2011”, “Somalia Security Sector Assessment Report, 2010, and the Report of the International Shared Lessons Learned Workshop on Defectors and called for action oriented programmes around which resources would be mobilized;
  • took note of the recommendations of the Workshop on International Shared Lessons Learned on Defectors and urged partners to urgently provide support for the management of the current caseload of defectors ”former combatants”, and also develop action oriented programmes around which resources would be mobilized for sustainable support for defector “former combatants” programme;
  •  noted that there are still a number of outstanding tasks requiring support including support for the functioning of the Ministries of Defence, Interior and National Security, Justice and Religious Affairs, Parliamentary Oversight, Civil Society organizations on security and therefore urged the concerned parties to urgently implement them accordingly;  
  •  called on the TFG to take further steps in addressing the presence of children in the armed forces; 
  •  reiterated its commitment to convene on a bi-monthly basis. In this regard, the next meeting will be convened in Mogadishu. Thereafter, the JSC will consider the viability to convene on a bi-monthly basis, preferably in Mogadishu or elsewhere. The Technical Working Groups will convene on a fortnightly basis in order to progress issues in the security sector.
6. The JSC noted with commendation, the courageous efforts of the out-going AMISOM Force Commander, Major General Nathan Mugisha, in bringing about 70 percent of Mogadishu under the control of the TFG, while taking extreme care to minimize the adverse effect on the civilian population and enhancing the operational effectiveness, command and control and sustenance of the TFG forces. The JSC offered
its appreciation to General Mugisha for his outstanding efforts and his contribution to peace and security in Somalia.
7. The JSC also noted the effective and strategic leadership provided in the development of the Somali Security Sector by the late Minister of Interior and National Security, H.E. Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan Farah. It expressed deep regrets and condemnation for his murder and offered its condolences to the TFG and his family.
8. The JSC expressed its appreciation to the Governments of Burundi and Uganda for their continuing contribution to peace and security in Somalia, and paid special tribute to the courage and determination of their soldiers, especially to the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the current security operations.
9. The JSC thanked the Government of Uganda for hosting the meeting.

Entebbe, Uganda, 23 June 2011.