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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Britain eyeing share in Somalia's future energy industry

British media say the government’s move to offer humanitarian aid and security assistance to Somalia is aimed at winning a stake in country's future energy industry.

In a report published Saturday, The Guardian revealed Britain’s involvement in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia.

Somalia, a former British colony, has been suffering decades of conflict and is known as a hotbed of piracy plaguing international shipping in the Indian Ocean.

In early February, British Foreign Secretary William Hague paid an unannounced visit to Somalia to become the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Mogadishu in almost two decades.

He also appointed Matt Baugh as Britain's first ambassador to war-torn Somalia, which he described the country as "the world's most failed state."

Last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an international conference on Somalia where he pledged more aid, financial help and measures to fight terrorism in the African nation.

The Guardian report, however, described the summit as talks between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting intact oil reserves in the arid northeastern part of Somalia.

"We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximize future earnings from the oil industry," the report cited Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, the minister for international cooperation in the autonomous Puntland region, as saying.

Puntland is an region in northeastern Somalia, where the first oil is expected to be extracted next month.

Experts say London’s involvement in the future Somali oil industry could prop up the UK’s weakened economy, at a time it has resorted to austerity measures to avoid a budget deficit.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his government had almost no other choice but to persuade Western companies to invest and operate in Somalia by offering a portion of the country's plentiful resources of oil and gas and large reserves of uranium.

Britain's efforts to develop Somalia's natural resources continue while the Canadian company Africa Oil started oil exploration in Puntland in January, the first drilling in Somalia for 21 years.

Chinese and US firms have reportedly also voiced interest about the potential for oil as the country sounds safe enough to drill after two decades of unrelenting war.

Source: Press TV

Dismantling the Tribal Hegemony in Somalia

Markacadeey Editorial:

“The new Somali Constitution must guarantee that no clan in Somalia supersedes the others. It must also ensure that Somalia’s political landscape remains diverse, deeply pluralistic, and resistant to any clan hegemony”.

The prevailing mythology in Somalia with regard to tribal dynamics is: the appeasement of the “two most powerful clans” in Somalia is a sine qua non for the country’s political and economic stability. The so-called “two major clans” in Somalia have led us all to believe that they are a power to be reckoned with, and that their political and economic pre-eminence in the society is solid and well-entrenched.

The politicians and other stakeholders originating from the so-called “two most powerful clans” in Somalia claim to have played a major role in the struggle for Somalia’s independence, unlike, as they allege, Somalis from the “weak clans”. They also argue that they still enjoy a reputation for their probity, political integrity, and their effectiveness in the way they execute their national responsibilities – the reason why the leadership role in the country has almost always been entrusted to them.

They disagree on many issues. But on one thing they have so far been firm: the posts of the presidency and the premiership. These top political posts must always be conferred to them. They argue that the country has pursued this trend since independence and that any deviation from it may result in unintended consequences. They have literally owned the “presidency and the premiership” of Somalia. They would relinquish only the “presidency of the parliament” and deliver it someone from a clan they can manipulate, though this has lately openly turned against their selfishness and greed.

As the term of the current president is coming to an end, politicians, warlords, and some ambitious folks in the diaspora, genealogically classified as members of the so-called “two major clans”, have already expressed their intent to run for the presidency. Obviously, there are so far no front-runners from the other clans who are ready to take the incumbent on. It appears that the country will have to come to terms again, after August 2011, with a leadership that will represent the two hegemonic clans of Somalia.

Retrospectively, this hegemony had paradoxically enjoyed the support and the blessing of the other clans’ politicians – the politicians that are considered to be “powerless, weak and irrelevant” in the current Somali political context. They have paved the way for their rivals and helped them acquire a real foothold in Somali politics. With their unwavering help, the two hegemonic clans left everyone else out in the cold. Key ministerial portfolios that are strategically important have to be conferred to them. Because they are considered to be armed and aggressive, they must be mollified and enjoy more privileges than others

But history reminds us that nothing endures indefinitely. In fact, many Somalis now refuse to subscribe to the nonsensical and ludicrous political superiority portrayed by the two hegemonic clans. The clans that are perceived as being “irrelevant” are beginning to wake up. The defeatist mentality that has denied them the right to compete with the so-called “two most powerful clans” is rapidly waning. They resent and oppose their alleged pre-eminence, probity and political integrity. They argue that these hegemonic clans no longer have the monopoly on exerting decisive influence on Somali affairs.

Years of the anarchic rule of the politicians at the helm of Somalia’s leadership, beginning in 1960, have rendered the country more rigorously clannish in character, deeply polarized and hence more fragile and vulnerable. They have produced, among other evils: warlords, armed militias, and radical insurgents that are still engaged with impunity in the perpetuation of violence. Their hegemony has created a zero-sum Somalia: a situation that is based on the notion that there must always be one winner and one loser. The winners would be the “two big clans”, and the losers the “weak ones”.

The hegemonic leadership of the so-called “two most powerful clans’ politicians” and their supporters has given more impetus to the proliferation of rebels and radical groups – many from within their own sub-clans. The widespread poverty in their respective constituencies, coupled with the marginalization and alienation of the youth from their less privileged sub-clans have generated a sharp sense of division, frustration and despair among many. This leadership has undermined the legitimate grievances of their own youth and turned a blind eye on the challenges that were to be addressed in favour of their own political and economic interests.

These youth, ostracized and detested by their own political elite, have succumbed to an ideological twist and perversion as an expression of this social exclusion. The emergence of the Shabaab insurgency, at the height of Somalia’s political crisis, is partly due to the marginalization of the Somali youth, particularly those belonging to the clans and sub-clans that are considered as “pariahs.” The irrational behaviour of the Shabaab and their indiscriminate killing of innocent Somalis must be condemned. But it is also important to try and gain a more nuanced and informed understanding of the rationale behind their suicidal attitudes.

Markacadeey submits that it is high time that Somalis dismantle; once and for all, the clan hegemony that has crippled and weakened Somalia’s recovery efforts. Time has laid bare the powerlessness of those hegemonic clans that have led everyone in the world to believe that they a since qua non for the country’s stability and peace. Markacadeey argues for a radical rethink on the discriminatory 4.5 formula, which was created in order to appease the warlords spawned by the so-called “two major clans.”

The next president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia will be elected by the Transitional Federal Parliament before August 2011. The candidates from the so-called “two most powerful clans” might have already declared that they are well on their way to replacing the incumbent president. But that is going to be far-fetched. Markacadeey predicts that candidates from the other clans will soon emerge as front-runners. They will run and win to replace the incumbent president.

For those who believe that this is going to be a daunting task, Markacadeey’s response is: maybe; but there are many shrewd politicians out there from the other clans who have the charisma and unrivalled ability to attract voters from the different clans in the parliament and defeat the incumbent. In order to bring about change in Somalia, the mindsets and attitudes of the clan fanatics from the so-called “two major clans” must change. They have to cave in to the reality and accept the fact that no clan can supersede others in the society. Somalia’s political landscape must remain diverse, deeply pluralistic, and resistant to any clan hegemony.


Danish navy frees pirates' hostages off Somali coast; 2 hostages dead

By the CNN Wire Staff

Danish vessel Absalon leaves the Frederikshavn Harbour in northern Jutland, on September 12, 2011

Two hostages of suspected Somali pirates died after a rescue effort by the Danish navy, an operation that freed 16 other hostages, the Danish military said Tuesday.

A Danish warship, the Absalon, tasked with patrolling waters near the Somali coast to ward off piracy, fired warning shots against what the navy described as a pirate "mother ship" that failed to stop, the military said.

Military personnel then boarded the vessel and found 17 suspected pirates and 18 hostages, two of whom were critically wounded.

Despite medical treatment, navy doctors were unable save their lives, the military said. An investigation into the deaths is under way.

The hostages had been the original crew of what became the mother ship.

Source: CNN News

Syria’s Sectarian Fears Keep Region on Edge

Abu Ali fled his life as a Shiite cleric and student in Homs, the besieged Syrian city at the center of an increasingly bloody uprising, but it was not the government he feared.

It was the rebels, who he said killed three of his cousins in December and dumped a body in the family garbage bin.

“I can’t be in Homs because I will get killed there,” he said from this religious city in Iraq where he has taken refuge. “Not just me, but all Shiites.”

Like his fellow Shiites in Iraq, Abu Ali, who used his nickname to protect his family back in Syria, said he regards the Syrian rebels as terrorists, not freedom fighters, underscoring one of the complexities of a bloody civil conflict that has persisted as diplomatic efforts have failed. In spite of President Bashar al-Assad’s willingness to unleash a professional military on a civilian population, with lethal results, Mr. Assad retains some support at home and abroad from allies, including religious and ethnic minorities who for decades relied on the police state for protection from sectarian aggression.

“What the government is doing is trying to protect the people,” Abu Ali said, echoing the Assad government’s propaganda. “They are targeting terrorist groups in the area.”

The insurrection in Syria, led by the country’s Sunni majority in opposition to a government dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiism, is increasingly unpredictable and dangerous because it is aggravating sectarian tensions beyond its borders in a region already shaken by religious and ethnic divisions.

For many in the region, the fight in Syria is less about liberating a people under dictatorship than it is about power and self-interest. Syria is drawing in sectarian forces from its neighbors, and threatening to spill its conflict into a wider conflagration. There have already been sparks in neighboring Lebanon, where Sunnis and Alawites have skirmished.

And here in Iraq, where Shiites are a majority, the events across the border have put the nation on edge while hardening a sectarian schism. As Abu Ali discovered, Iraq’s Shiites are now lined up on the side of a Baathist dictatorship in Syria, less than a decade after the American invasion of Iraq toppled the rule of Saddam Hussein and his own Baath Party, which for decades had repressed and brutalized the Shiites.

“This is difficult,” said Sheik Ali Nujafi, the son of one of Najaf’s top clerics and his chief spokesman, of the Shiite support for Mr. Assad. “But what is worse is what would come next.”

The paradox, of Shiites supporting a Baathist dictator next door, has laid bare a tenet of the old power structure that for so long helped preserve the Middle East’s strongmen. Minorities often remained loyal and pliant and in exchange were given room to carve out communities, even if they were more broadly discriminated against.

As dictators have fallen in neighboring countries, religious and ethnic identities and alliances have only hardened, while notions of citizenship remain slow to take hold. The fighting in Syria has exacerbated that, as Shiites worry that a takeover of Syria by its Sunni majority would herald not only a new sectarian war but actually the apocalypse.

People here say that is not hyperbole, but a perception based in faith. Some Shiites here see the burgeoning civil war in Syria as the ominous start to the fulfillment of a Shiite prophecy that presages the end of time. According to Shiite lore, Sufyani — a devil-like, apocryphal figure in Islam — gathers an army in Syria and after conquering that land turns his wrath on Iraq’s Shiites.

“Among these stories we get from the Prophet and his family is that Sufyani will come out and will start to kill the believers in Syria, and then come to Iraq, where there will be many killings and massacres,” Mr. Nujafi said.

He said events in Syria were “similar but not completely the same” as the story of Sufyani. With an easy grasp of history, he recalled the siege of Najaf and the sacking of Karbala, another holy city to the north, in the early 1800s by radically orthodox Sunni Muslims, an invasion that raised the same apocalyptic fears Shiites have now.

In Hilla, another Shiite town north of here, Mohammed Tawfiq al-Rubaie, the representative for Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most widely followed Shiite religious leader in Iraq, said, “We wish for the survival of Bashar al-Assad, but the prophecies of the Shiite books expect him to be killed.”

Mr. Rubaie explained what Shiites believe would happen if the Assad government were toppled by Sunnis: “We expect that the blood would run heavy in Iraq if they held power in Syria, because they think that Shiites are infidels and our lives, our money and our women are permissible for them to take, and that killing us is one of the requirements to enter paradise.”

As Western and Arab governments consider actions to stop the bloodshed — options that have been explored include more aggressive diplomacy, arming the rebels or military intervention — those discussions have been encumbered by a lack of cohesion among the Syrian opposition, evidence that some of the rebels may be affiliated with Al Qaeda and credible reports of sectarian killings.

At the core of the unity problem is an issue of sectarian identification. Sunni radicals with the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes the local branch of Al Qaeda, have urged fighters to go to Syria, which makes it harder for the West to embrace the opposition. Recently the group released a statement on its Web site calling for new violence against Shiites here in Iraq, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the communications of jihadist groups.

Syria’s minorities have the example of Iraq in considering their own future, should the Assad government fall: Assyrian Christians, Yazidis and others were brutally persecuted by insurgents. In Egypt, where a similar paradigm was toppled with the long-serving dictator Hosni Mubarak, Christians have experienced more sectarian violence, increasing political marginalization and a growing link between Islamic identity and citizenship.

“Christians are all saying that Syria risks becoming the new Iraq, a country divided among ethnic and religious lines where there is no place for Christians,” said the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, the editor in chief of AsiaNews, a Catholic news agency. Syria, while not a democracy, “at least protects them,” he said.

Abu Ali recalled hearing anti-Shiite slogans chanted in Homs by rebels in opposition to Syria’s alliance with Iran, which, like Iraq, is a majority-Shiite state in a region that is predominantly Sunni. He heard calls for “Christians to go to Beirut,” and “Alawites to the grave.”

In Najaf on a recent Sunday, Abu Ali sat on a couch in the office of a local religious leader who had taken him in. Outside, chickens roamed the narrow streets lined by flat-roofed concrete homes, jostling for space with women covered in black abayas and security men who guarded the office with assault rifles.

At the main checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, a billboard hailed Najaf, where millions come each year to visit the Imam Ali Shrine, as this year’s “capital of Islamic culture.”

On this day, Syria was holding a vote on a new constitution, an effort at reform by the Assad government that much of the international community regarded as a farce, but that Abu Ali believed was a step in good faith to stop the violence.

“Of course, the government needs to reform, and there needs to be more freedom and more rights,” he said. “The government is trying to make reforms, but no one is listening.”

But his fear, he said, is that Syria is heading down the same bloody path that Iraq followed after the American invasion.

“In the neighborhoods that are Sunni, they are kicking out Shiites and using their homes as bases and for the storing of weapons,” he said.

He added, “There’s real terror among the Shiites there.”

Reporting was contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome, Duraid Adnan and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Hilla, Iraq, and Najaf, and Yasir Ghazi from Baghdad.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Somali Leader Says Jobs Can Help End Piracy .

By JENNY GROSS

The key to beating piracy in Somalia is improving the standard of living in the country's coastal cities and creating jobs for their young people—not relying on intervention by international naval forces, Somalia's prime minister said.

"You don't want to cure the symptom, you have to cure the cause," Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said in an interview after a conference last week that brought together more than 50 leaders of governments and international organizations to discuss problems in the East African country.

"In the short term, you can address the problem with a naval blockade. But what we need is to invest in the coast communities, to invest in health and sanitation, so we can create a livelihood for the youth," Mr. Ali said.

In the coastal regions, 90% of Somalis between the ages of 18 and 30 are unemployed.

Somali pirates are responsible for more than half of global attacks on shipping and cost the shipping industry and governments between $6.6 billion and $6.9 billion in 2011, according to a report by Colorado-based initiative Oceans Beyond Piracy. Pirate attacks disrupt Africa's movement of crude oil and flow of goods, which heavily depend on trade by sea.

Mr. Ali, 46 years old, who became prime minister in June, said that aside from developing the coastal communities, the East African nation needs a judicial system. This would allow officials to prosecute and imprison pirates using a consistent policy, he said.

The Harvard-educated prime minister heads a United Nations-backed transitional government, though Somalia hasn't had a functioning central government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991. Pirates and terrorist organizations have flourished in the country's instability.

There has been some progress, however. In August, Islamic insurgents retreated from the capital, Mogadishu, after fighting with forces from the African Union and the transitional government. Mr. Ali said Somalia is ready to open a dialogue with members of al Shabaab, the country's al Qaeda-linked militant group, though he added that Somalia wouldn't allow al Qaeda to achieve its political ends through militant attacks.

"You cannot bring al Qaeda to the table in this kind of conference," Mr. Ali said. "But on the other hand, we're ready to talk to those who will renounce violence and want to be useful members of Somalia. We're not shutting that door."

Mr. Ali said the conference was an important milestone for Somalia. "The fact that over 50 countries and international organizations came together and discussed the stability of the long-term state of Somalia in itself was a massive achievement," he said. "Never in Somali history was Somalia addressed in this way."

At the conference, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, nations pledged new funding to help fight piracy, to combat al Shabaab and address the country's hunger problem.

In 2011, there were 439 pirate attacks globally, down slightly from the previous year. Of the 802 sailors taken hostage internationally last year, half were held off the coast of Somalia. And seven of the eight sailors killed in 2011 were killed in Somali waters, according to a report by the International Maritime Bureau.

The financial costs are also high: The shipping industry paid $160 million in ransoms last year to Somali pirates, with the average ransom $5 million, according to Oceans Beyond Piracy. Trading routes must be altered to avoid piracy hot zones, leading to higher fuel consumption. Insurance premiums for ships operating in piracy-prone regions are steep, at about $20,000 to $40,000 per ship, with the number of shipowners buying piracy-related insurance on the rise. In 2011, 42,450 ships had piracy-related insurance, compared with 20,000 to 30,000 ships in 2010, Oceans Beyond Piracy said.

The oil industry is particularly hard-hit. Attacks on tankers are on the rise, and pirates have gravitated toward the Arabian Sea, where oil shipping is concentrated, the Oceans Beyond Piracy report said. In February 2011, pirates hijacked two oil tankers within two days, one of which was released after the payment of $13.5 million, the highest ransom ever paid in connection with Somali piracy, the report said.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC, A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S and the Japanese shipping industry last week announced a joint initiative to support community and job creation in Somalia's coastal regions.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Harvard study: Pasteurized milk from industrial dairies linked to cancer

by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer

The truth has once again shaken the foundation of the 'American Tower of Babel' that is mainstream science, with a new study out of Harvard University showing that pasteurized milk product from factory farms is linked to causing hormone-dependent cancers. It turns out that the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) model of raising cows on factory farms churns out milk with dangerously high levels of estrone sulfate, an estrogen compound linked to testicular, prostate, and breast cancers.

Dr. Ganmaa Davaasambuu, Ph.D., and her colleagues specifically identified "milk from modern dairy farms" as the culprit, referring to large-scale confinement operations where cows are milked 300 days of the year, including while they are pregnant. Compared to raw milk from her native Mongolia, which is extracted only during the first six months after cows have already given birth, pasteurized factory milk was found to contain up to 33 times more estrone sulfate.

Evaluating data from all over the world, Dr. Davaasambuu and her colleagues identified a clear link between consumption of such high-hormone milk, and high rates of hormone-dependent cancers. In other words, contrary to what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the conventional milk lobby would have you believe, processed milk from factory farms is not a health product, and is directly implicated in causing cancer.

"The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking" without apparent harm for 2,000 years, Dr. Davaasambuu is quoted as saying in the Harvard University Gazette. "The milk we drink today may not be nature's perfect food."

Meanwhile, raw, grass-fed, organic milk from cows milked at the proper times is linked to improving digestion, healing autoimmune disorders, and boosting overall immunity, which can help prevent cancer. Though you will never hear any of this from the mainstream media, all milk is not the same -- the way a cow is raised, when it is milked, and how its milk is handled and processed makes all the difference in whether or not the end product promotes health or death.


American government seeks to further perpetuate the lie that all milk is the same with egregious new provisions in 2012 Farm Bill

Of particular concern are new provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill that create even more incentives for farmers to produce the lowest quality, and most health-destroying, type of milk possible. Rather than incentivize grazing cows on pastures, which allows them to feed on grass, a native food that their systems can process, the government would rather incentivize confined factory farming methods that force cows to eat genetically-modified (GM) corn and other feed, which makes them sick.

As it currently stands, the government already provides incentives for farmers to stop pasturing their animals, instead confining them in cages as part of a Total Confinement Dairy Model, aka factory farms. But the 2012 Farm Bill will take this a step further by outlawing "component pricing" for milk, which involves allowing farmers to sell milk with higher protein and butterfat at a higher price.

Allowing farmers to sell higher quality milk at a higher price provides an incentive for them to improve the living conditions on their farms, and milk better cow breeds. But the U.S. government would rather standardize all milk as being the same, and create a system where farmers continue to produce cancer-causing milk from sick cows for the millions of children to drink.

To learn more, visit:
http://www.anh-usa.org/healthy-milk-what-is-it/

Sources for this article include:

http://www.anh-usa.org/healthy-milk-what-is-it/
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/12.07/11-dairy.html
http://www.naturalnews.com/035039_raw_milk_pasteurized_CDC.html

Monday, February 27, 2012

Turkey's growing interest in Somalia

Commitment of more than $365m in cash and aid has followed prime minister's visit to the conflict-torn African nation.



Turkey has been showing unparallelled interest in Somalia, starting with a visit from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, in August last year.

Turkey has now committed more than $365m in cash and aid to the African nation.

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri takes a look at why Turkey is so interested in Somalia.

Source: Al Jazeera

Is Somalia ungovernable?

Sir David Frost talks to the man tasked with turning Somalia into a working state, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.



This week politicians and thinkers from all corners of the globe have been assembling in London for a conference to try to plot a way forward for a country beset by dangers. Famine, war, piracy and a terrorist insurgency have all combined to make Somalia and even its capital, Mogadishu, practically ungovernable.

Last year, saw a new temporary government installed under the noted economist Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who was tasked with making the state governable again. His tenure is due to end in August. He joins Sir David Frost ahead of the conference to talk about the international help he thinks Somalia needs now.

"The expectations of Somalis on this conference is very high. Somalia is changing, Somalia is taking a different direction. Somalia is moving from the era of warlordism, poverty, lawlessness, chaos, violence and religious extremism. And we are moving to an era of peace, tranquility and statehood. So, therefore, we expect this conference to galvanise the international support for Somalia, to galvanise international support for the peace process."

Source: Al Jazeera

Somalia’s President: Still the ‘best hope,’ or leader of a failed state?

By Michelle Shephard
National Security Reporter

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Shiekh Ahmed

There was a time when Somalia’s future rested on the shoulders of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the trim and bespectacled Sufi scholar appointed president three years ago and the leader busy greeting visitors this weekend in suite 309 of his Park Lane hotel.

Sharif had come to London for Thursday’s conference on Somalia — a gathering of world leaders from 55 countries, hosted by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron — which catapulted the East African nation on to the world stage.

On Saturday night, the lobby of the Grosvenor House where Sharif stayed was crowded with a British delegation of Somalis from Kismayo, a hotly contested port city on Somalia’s southern coast.

They had been there most of the day and were getting impatient, having waited hours to have a word with their president.

By the time Sharif was whisked in with his team of British security agents, there was only an hour left before he had to depart for Heathrow Airport and his flight home. His stressed advisers were keen not to turn the group away without at least a handshake and a nod.

“London traffic,” one of Sharif’s team explained to the group and apologized that our interview, now 2.5 hours late, would have to be cut to five minutes (it lasted 10).

Osman Abdi, a businessman who worked with oil company Chevron in southern Somalia in the mid-1980s, was among those waiting, but unlike the others, he was not here to cheer Sharif on.

“Some people just blame Western powers for the problems of Somalia, but I blame ourselves. It’s our land and we should run it properly,” Abdi said.

“The people who run the country now are not properly qualified. I’m sorry to say that the most corrupt leaders are the ones now. . . not just them, but the people around them.”

It is not an uncommon refrain among Somalis fed up with the ineptitude of the Transitional Federal Government Sharif heads — particularly upset that Sharif was a part of the political squabbling that led to the dismissal of the country’s popular former prime minister last year.

Sharif has been described as everything from a political chameleon who acquiesces to outside pressures from the West, United Nations or neighbouring countries or, alternatively, as a well-intentioned, but hapless leader at the mercy of corrupt Somali backers.

Time will judge his popularity, since one consensus of last week’s conference was that Somalia’s TFG would come to an end in August and the country would prepare for elections.

Sharif confirmed in our brief interview Saturday that he intends to run for the presidency once the TFG’s term expires.

“Why not?” he said in Somali. “Like any other, I have the right to contest.”

But while Sharif was a much-sought figure among Somalis here, he did not figure prominently in last week’s conference, breaking with a past focus on his leadership.

In 2006, as head of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, Washington regarded him warily, while in southern and central Somalia he was feted for the security the ICU restored. “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he told me in an interview in Mogadishu just two months before Ethiopia invaded to oust the ICU, plunging Somalia into two years of war.

With Ethiopia’s withdrawal in 2009 and Sharif’s appointment to the head of the new TFG, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared him the “best hope” for Somalia in years.

But what has he accomplished? Allegations of corruption continue to plague the TFG, last year’s famine killed an estimated 29,000 children, and while the Shabab’s power is largely diminished, it is thanks mainly to the presence of an African Union force and offensive led by neighbouring Kenya.

“We came at a really bad time, a hard situation and there have been lots of obstacles,” Sharif said.

Unlike Abdi, Sharif does blame foreign powers for Somalia’s woes.

“We believe that a lot of money has been generated in the name of Somalia, but it never reaches government shores, never comes into the hands of the Somali government, or the people,” he says, to allegations of corruption within his ranks, saying the theft extends back to donor countries.

When asked what he believed what was the most important result of the conference, Sharif replied: “That the Somali process has to be supported (and) the Somali armed forces had to be built, because, ultimately, they’ll have to take over security.”

The African Union force of Ugandan and Burundi troops secured Mogadishu last year and on the eve of the conference pushed the Shabab, the Al Qaeda-linked group, from their stronghold in Baidoa. The mission, known as AMISOM, expanded last week to include Kenyan forces and an increase of troops to almost 18,000.

Sharif, who at first opposed Kenya’s incursion last year, said he supported the initiative since the Kenyans will now be operated under the AU.

“One of the objections we had was that they needed a mandate when they came into the country,” he said.

The battle with the Shabab will drive much of the ensuing peace process.

Shabab leaders were not invited to the conference and the group’s spokesperson said the meeting smacked of colonization, telling London journalist Jamal Osman that “your peace depends on us being left alone.”

Sharif has called for negotiations with some of the group’s members opposed to the recent merger with Al Qaeda, but denied rumours that government officials were involved in meetings purportedly underway in Qatar.

“If Qatar is able to find people within those elements that are going to stop their Al Qaeda ways and are ready to negotiate and be part of the Somali process, then of course, by all means (we’ll be involved),” he said.

“But that is not the case.”

Source: The Star

Somalia: A Grand Compromise

By Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar

OPINION

Bye way of introduction

Those who read my writings are fully aware that I am committed to the concept of Somaliland independence. I remain more so today than ever before. I am fully convinced that the people of Somaliland could only survive as people if they hold on to the Somaliland state. The concepts of Khaatumo, Awdal, Zeila, Maakhir , SSC and SNM is nothing but the invasion of tribal chaos from Somalia. Such an invasion and deliberate destabilization happens with every Somali Reconciliation Conference. Somaliland has survived 14 invasions of a similar nature and it will survive this one as well. Somaliland needs to free its people from the deadly epidemic of the ideology of tribal disintegration by offering more peace, more democracy, more transparency and a full measure of dignity for every citizen in place of the death, war, famine and displacement peddled by tribal hatemongers and merchants of death who love the comfort of their heated homes in the diaspora and who spend their vacations inciting Somali nomads to massacre each other just as they are about to die of starvation. Disgusting Diasopra!

And I have a full understanding of this: The social organization of Somali society has degenerated to its pre-colonial state of wild tribes in frenzy of social self-immolation. Somalia is a nation of brilliant individuals living in a society developmentally arrested at 1000 BC. A sick society; sick in an ancient way; sick in a terminal manner. The best of Somali poetry is now driven by the lust of the Somali tribe for blood. Music has become an instrument of tribal debauchery. This ritual will not end as long as there is one Somali left standing. Somaliland should help free the Somali people at large from being strangulated and murdered by the tribal nature of their society. Somaliland should do this for its own self-preservation for whatsoever kills Somalia will not spare it either.

London Conference in a Nutshell

It is a conference on Somalia not for Somalia. It is a conference that will be limited by Somali intransigence and divisiveness and by the ambitions of its neighbors. It is conference rich in good will and poor in imagination and reach. Here is the outcome. It is not my prediction only my summary of what is already written and said by its authors.

• For Somalia: The Road Map a bit enhanced and made more representative: Security will be provided by invigorated, funded and mandated AMISOM in the center of the country and by Kenya and Ethiopia in the periphery together with whatever Somali tribes they arm with the blessing of the international community
• For Somaliland: The Status Quo
• For Ethiopia and Kenya: Opportunity to shape a political dispensation in Somalia that is consistent with their national interest after they tame the wild tribes of Somalia.
• For the international community a mechanism just good enough and cheap enough to curb piracy and contain Al Shabaab.

On should know that Somalis have no proposals about their future on the table. Yes there are some thoughts on the matter from the TFG, from the Group of Signatories (this is by the way the new political force in Somalia) and from Somaliland. But these are thoughts that will be listened to in the conference, and these are thoughts that will most likely be disregarded.

The Grand Somali Compromise

It is not too late as yet to bring a native Somali Solution to the table. My proposal is based on the premise that the Somali is capable of acting as a rational and free citizen who is willing to determine his destiny and not merely a tribal wild card stuck in a prehistoric mental cave. And so nomad, give this proposal some thought and give it a public feedback for this may be the very last time you will have a chance of this magnitude of influencing the developments in Somalia.

Somalia Political Transition

A) Somalia and Somaliland will form the Somali Confederation composed of the two units that made up the nation in July 1, 1960

a. Somaliland :

i. Somaliland will be recognized within its colonial borders as one of two units of a Somali Confederation (Somaliland and Somalia)
ii. Somaliland will continue to be governed by its current system of Democratic Governance
iii. Somaliland will be offered a UN supervised and approved referendum in 5 years. The results of that referendum will be binding for all sides.

b. Somalia:

i. Somalia Will follow the Road Map and Garowe process as defined by the Signatories
ii. 4.5 will be allowed to die NOW. Tribalism will cease to be the basis of power sharing and of legitimacy
iii. The basis of governance and legitimacy will now become the free Somali citizen with the right of democratically electing his leaders on the basis of one man one vote.
iv. The creation of a small number of Somali Political Parties that could show support among multiple tribes and regions in Somalia.
v. The role of the Garowe signatories will be to prepare the nation for elections (including the approval of political parties) in all of the stabilized and liberated areas of Somalia within 2 years. The Signatories will come up with a rational and legitimate approach of representing those parts of the country that are still under the control of Alshabaab
vi. The constituent assembly will be delayed to accommodate the Somali Grand Comprise.

B) Security: Somalis should be disabused of the notion that others will come, die for them, and save their nation for them without a price. And the price will be re-colonization. This dear nomad is the nature of things.

a. The Somali National Army should be reconstituted.

i. Its training facility and HQ will be temporarily placed in Somaliland
ii. It will draw volunteers from established regional armies and it will create for itself a new identity free of tribes. Support for training will be sought primarily from Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Other members of the international community who have forces in the region may be solicited for this purpose.
iii. A Somali National Army should be financed by Somaliland and Puntland Governments until the Somali Confederation has sufficient revenues to meet its obligation.
iv. The Somali National Army will have the immediate responsibility of taking over the responsibility for security all newly liberated parts of Somalia.

b. AMISOM will not be expanded. AMISOM will continue to hold Mogadishu and must relinquish it to a reconstituted Somali army in one to two years
c. Ethiopia and Kenya will continue their support for the birth of the Somali state by turning over any armed Somali troops they have created to be absorbed into the Somali army and thus prevent the appearance of multiple armed groups and the inevitable permanent tribal wars that such a scenario generates.
d. Alshbaab: Should be engaged in a serious attempt at negotiating a non-violent resolution of the Somali crisis and this will include their right to form nonviolent political parties that can seek the acceptance of the Somali people of their agenda. Al Shabaab should be heartened by the experiences in Egypt and Tunis and Libya and must trust democracy not as an enemy but as a friend that can legitimately bring them to power. Of course they will have to become Somali and not international jihadists to achieve this goal. The alternative will be war with all other Somalis and the rest of the region.

C) Ethiopia and Kenya: The fate of these two neighboring states is intricately intertwined with that of Somalia. The solution of the Somali problem must entail a mechanism that can guarantee these two countries that there will be a mutual recognition of all colonial borders and that there will be permanent peace in the Horn of Africa. One must keep in mind that the aggressive these two countries becomes the stronger Alshabaab and and the more inevitable a backlash against these two countries of one type or the other will become.

End of the Grand Somali Compromise

Note: I have drafted this compromise independently. I have not spoken to Somali or Somaliland officials on this issue. The document arises from my reading of what Somalis and others are doing, writing and saying about the London Conference of Feb 23, 2012.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

U.S. drone kills Moroccan militant

Somali militants say that a Moroccan was killed in a strike that a U.S. official said was carried out by an American drone.

The statement Saturday on an al-Shabab website named the dead Moroccan as Sheik Abu Ibrahim. The statement said two others — including a second foreigner — were killed in the overnight Friday attack.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press the attack was carried out by a drone. Somali officials identified another of the militants killed in the attack as a Kenyan citizen.

Somalia's al-Shabab counts hundreds of foreign fighters among its ranks. It formally merged with al-Qaeda this month.

Al-Shabab has been forced out of Mogadishu and faces military attacks on three sides.

Source: The Associated Press

Hope, sceptism, cynicism at another Somali peace drive .

Somalis on Friday welcomed the latest international plan to end 20 years of war, anarchy, rape and starvation, but analysts said the efforts offered no new solutions for the protracted crisis.

“If so many international leaders sat down to discuss Somalia, then the world must be interested in us, and we hope it will pave the way for a better Somalia,” said Osman Deynile, a grocer in the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu.

However, others were more cynical at what impact a communique issued by a London meeting Thursday -- attended by top figures including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN chief Ban Ki-moon -- would really have.

Translating conference rhetoric to reality faces near insurmountable obstacles in a nation emerging from famine and reeling from an Al-Qaeda allied Shebab insurgency, pirate gangs, rival warlords and rampant corruption.

“A one-day conference was never going to meet Somalia's expectations,” said Muhidin Abdulahi, a resident in Mogadishu.

“But it is the implementation of the agreement that is important, it is always easy to have well-placed remarks in a communique.” French academic Gerard Prunier said the “only concrete measure” taken was the creation of a financial system to allow donors to block the transitional federal government (TFG) from “embezzling funds. This conference was not intended to resolve Somalia's problem, it was simply meant to set up a vague financial management mechanism hoped to spare the TFG the shame of apparent corruption,” Prunier said.

The government is now akin to a “protectorate of sorts of the old colonial model... with the French, Americans and notably the British monitoring the funds of an even more weakened TFG,” he added.

Hardline Shebab rebels -- on the back foot as regional armies push forward against their bases in southern Somalia -- vowed to “wage war” against the international peace drive even before the meeting had ended.

“Efforts have been made before, so I don't think that it's really going to work... but let's wait and see,” said Fartun Mohamed, one of over 460,000 Somalis in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, the world's largest.

The conference dealt with the “nonentities and ne'er-do-wells” in Somalia's embattled government, which controls only the capital with the support of 10,000 African Union troops, said J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council think tank.

However progress for Somalia must include dealing with “people who actually control real levers of power in Somalia -- the businessmen, warlords, pirate kingpins, and others,” he added.

That includes engaging with clan elders and militia leaders currently allied to the Shebab but who are “less than thrilled by the new formal affiliation with Al-Qaeda,” Pham said.

“Peace for Somalia by Somalis -- that is what the international community should drive into the brains of the buffoon butchers that are Somali leaders,” said Bashir Omar, a refugee in the 20-year old Kenyan Dadaab camp.

But there was also respect for warnings by Clinton of sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on those “standing in the way” of progress.
“I was impressed by Clinton's warnings... we want strong action against war criminals in Somalia, such as taking them to the international criminal court,” said Shamso Jama, a mother of three in Mogadishu.

The conference was a “critical moment” in Somalia's 20-year crisis, said Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College in North Carolina, coming as regional forces and government troops advance on extremist Shebab strongholds.

But whether the conference's legacy will be beneficial is open to question, with Menkaus noting the successor of the “weak and corrupt” government when its mandate ends in August will likely perform little better.

“What is certain is that the next few months will produce a messy, contentious scramble to accelerate the end of the transition in Somalia,” Menkhaus wrote in a paper released after the conference.

Yet that will likely work against conference ambitions for a “more inclusive and transparent transition process,” he said.

“Somalia has a long history of rushed reconciliation and power-sharing agreements, and the results have generally not been good,” Menkhaus added.

Source: AFP

Britain leads dash to explore for oil in war-torn Somalia

By Mark Townsend and Tariq Abdinasir

Engineers and visitors tour an exploratory well in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region. Photograph: Reuters

Government offers humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in country's future energy industry.

Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country's future energy industry.

Riven by two decades of conflict that have seen the emergence of a dangerous Islamic insurgency, Somalia is routinely described as the world's most comprehensively "failed" state, as well as one of its poorest. Its coastline has become a haven for pirates preying on international shipping in the Indian Ocean.

David Cameron last week hosted an international conference on Somalia, pledging more aid, financial help and measures to tackle terrorism. The summit followed a surprise visit by the foreign secretary, William Hague, to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where he talked about "the beginnings of an opportunity'' to rebuild the country.

The Observer can reveal that, away from the public focus of last week's summit, talks are going on between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored in the arid north-eastern region of the country. Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, minister for international cooperation in Puntland, north-east Somalia – where the first oil is expected to be extracted next month – said: "We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximise future earnings from the oil industry."

British involvement in the future Somali oil industry would be a boon for the UK economy and comes at a time when the world is increasingly concerned about the actions of Iran, the second-biggest oil producer in Opec.

Hashi, in charge of brokering deals for the region's oil reserves, also said Somalia was looking to BP as the partner they wanted to "help us explore and build our oil capacity". He added: "We need those with the necessary technical knowhow, we plan to talk to BP at the right time."

Somali prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his government had little choice but to entice western companies to Somalia by offering a slice of the country's natural resources, which include oil, gas and large reserves of uranium. "The only way we can pay [western companies] is to pay them in kind, we can pay with natural resources at the fair market value."

Britain is not the only country looking to develop Somalia's vast natural resources. Last month oil exploration began in Puntland by the Canadian company Africa Oil, the first drilling in Somalia for 21 years. Hashi, who sealed the Africa Oil deal, said the first oil was expected to be extracted within the next "20 to 30 days".

The company estimates there could be up to 4bn barrels (about $500bn worth at today's prices) in its two drilling plots. Other surveys indicate that Puntland province alone has the potential to yield 10bn barrels, placing it among the top 20 countries holding oil. Chinese and US firms are among those understood to have also voiced interest about the potential for oil now that, for the first time in 20 years, the country is safe enough to drill.

Yet it is the extent of oil deposits beneath the Indian Ocean that is most exciting Somali officials. One said the potential was comparable to that of Kuwait, which has more than 100bn barrels of proven oil reserves. If true, the deposits would eclipse Nigeria's reserves – 37.2bn barrels – and make Somalia the seventh largest oil-rich nation.

The state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation has tried to acquire an interest in Somalia's reserves. Senior officials from the Somali transitional government are adamant that the imminent extraction of oil in Puntland next month would kickstart a scramble from the multinationals.

On Thursday, the last day of the London conference, BP and Shell unveiled an initiative to support job-creation projects in the coastal regions of Somalia. A subsidiary of Shell was thought to have acquired exploration concessions in Puntland before the descent into lawlessness in 1991.

A BP spokesman said there were "no plans" to work in Somalia and no official had recently visited the country.

Source: The Observer

Saturday, February 25, 2012

UN bans trade in charcoal from Somalia

The UN Security Council last week moved to cripple anti-government fighters financially by ordering an international ban on trade in charcoal from Somalia.

Exports of charcoal from the port of Kismayu in southern Somalia generate at least $15 million a year in revenues for Al Shabaab militants, according to a report by a UN monitoring group.

Noting the military losses that African Union forces have inflicted on Shabaab, the monitoring group declared that “Al Shabaab’s greatest asset today is its economic strength.”

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government urged the Security Council in December to prohibit the export and import of charcoal produced in Somalia. But the UN monitoring group, which describes charcoal as “Somalia’s black gold,” charged in its report last July that the transitional government is “complicit” in the charcoal trade that serves as one of Al Shabaab’s largest sources of income.

“Most commercial motor vessels transporting goods to the port of Mogadishu discharge only part of their cargo in order to deliver the remainder to [Shabaab-controlled] Kismayu and collect charcoal destined to [Arab Gulf] countries — with the full knowledge of the Mogadishu port authority,” the monitoring group said.

The manager of Mogadishu Port, Sayid Ali, had previously represented the Kenya business interests of Abukar Omar Adaani, a businessman with “historical linkages to militant Islamist groups in Somalia,” the report stated.

Many Somali traders prefer to discharge their cargo at Kismayu rather than at Mogadishu because of “the corrupt and predatory practices of the Transitional Federal Government,” the monitors added. Their report notes as an example that Mogadishu port authorities charge an import duty of $1,300 on a mid-size vessel, while the Shabaab overseers at Kismayu charge only $200.

Charcoal exports are part of a trading cycle that includes Al Shabaab imports of sugar, much of which is smuggled across the border into Kenya, the report added.

About 10,000 bags of smuggled sugar may be entering Kenya from Somalia on a daily basis, the monitors said in July.

Sugar imported as contraband from Somalia is sold in Kenya at lower prices than sugar produced in Kenya, the report found.
As of last April, a 50-kilogramme sack of Kenyan sugar was selling at Ksh4,800 to Ksh4,900 ($58-$60), while sugar smuggled from Kismayu was being sold in Garissa for Ksh4,350 to Ksh4,450 ($53-$55).

More than sugar is sometimes transported in those sacks of contraband. “The Kenyan authorities have also discovered light weapons and ammunition concealed in some sugar consignments,” the monitoring report noted.

It is not known whether Kenya’s military operation in Somalia, which commenced after the monitoring report was issued, has significantly disrupted sugar-smuggling rings.

Al Shabaab’s charcoal-sugar trade cycle “is dominated by networks of prominent Somali businessmen operating mainly between Somalia and the Gulf Co-operation Council countries, notably Dubai,” the monitors said. “Bank accounts in the Gulf States where the profits of this trade are deposited can be used to launder voluntary contributions to Al Shabaab through fraudulent invoicing, overvaluing of import proceeds and undervaluing of exports.”

Charcoal produced in southern Somalia comes mainly from acacia forests in riverine zones between the Juba and Shabelle rivers, the report said. Massive deforestation has occurred in those areas as a result. And that in turn has contributed to the food insecurity that rose to famine levels in parts of Somalia last year, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council.

Source: The East African

Al-Shabaab foreign fighters flee Somalia

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF Nation Correspondent, Somalia

Foreign fighters in the Al-Shabaab rebel group are fleeing Somalia in droves.

Reports said up to eight boats had docked at Kismayu port in the last 48 hours to ferry the fighters, locally known as al-Mujahedeen al-Muhajereen (migrant jihadists) to Yemen.

The foreigners are reckoned to have been in Somalia to fight alongside Al-Shabaab militants battling the forces of the Transitional Federal Government and its supporters such as Amisom peacekeepers, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.

Sources in Kismayu, which is 500 km south of Mogadishu, say the boats had carried at least 100 jihadists destined for Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden.

Hundreds of fighters fled the central city of Baidoa this week after it was captured by Ethiopian troops.

Near Mogadishu, AU troops are also on the offensive against the rebels.

An air strike was launched at around K60 Area in Lower Shabelle region, about 60 km south of Mogadishu on Friday.

The raid targeted a four-wheel-drive vehicle carrying high ranking Al-Shabaab officials.

Unconfirmed reports said the targets could have been foreign jihadists. Al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist group, recently merged with Al-Qaeda.

In London, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who attended the Lancaster House conference on Somalia on Thursday, urged the international community to help eliminate Al-Shabaab and Al-Qeada through air raids.

“We welcome targeted air strikes against Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab,” said the premier at the convention that attracted representatives from over 50 countries and international organisations.

Mr Ali added that Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda had been weakened and he wanted them eliminated. In Mogadishu, Major General Fred Mugisha, the Commander of Amisom peacekeepers promised on Thursday that his force would remain in Somalia until Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda were defeated. Amisom would also strengthen the Somali forces.

“Amisom will continue training Somali forces,” said Maj-Gen Mugisha. His remarks came after news that the UN Security Council had approved the expansion of the AU mission in Somalia to 17,700 troops.

In addition, Gen Mugisha said that Kenyan forces will join Amisom while Ethiopian troops helping the pro-government forces will not be in Somalia for long.

“The Ethiopian troops will go back after offering help to the transitional government,” said the commander.

Source: The Nation (www.nation.co.ke)

Syria’s Horrors

More than 5,000 Syrians have died from President Bashar al-Assad’s butchery. The international community finally has a sense of urgency, but it has yet to come up with a strategy to end the killing. It needs to try harder.

There should be no illusions. This is an incredibly difficult problem. Most countries, the United States included, have rightly ruled out military intervention. Mr. Assad is determined to resist, no matter what the cost. The Syrian Army is far stronger and better armed than that of Libya’s under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. There is legitimate fear that a foreign intervention would unleash an even bloodier civil war and possibly spread beyond Syria’s borders.

The only hope is that the Syrian people are determined to resist and Mr. Assad’s isolation is growing. At a meeting in Tunis on Friday, more than 60 governments and organizations agreed to intensify diplomatic and economic pressure on the Syrian leader and vowed to find ways to support opposition forces trying to depose him.

On Monday, the European Union plans to freeze the assets of Syria’s central bank. The meeting called on all nations to impose additional sanctions, including travel bans on all of Mr. Assad’s cronies and a wider embargo on purchases of Syrian oil. But Syria still has far too many powerful protectors.

Russia and China have blocked any action at the United Nations Security Council. Russia and Iran are selling arms to Syria. The United States and Europe need to use all of their powers of persuasion and shaming to get Moscow and Beijing to cut all ties. Iran is obviously a lost cause.

At the meeting, countries also pledged millions of dollars worth of food and medicine to help people in Syria’s besieged cities. Officials suggested the aid could be distributed from border areas in Turkey, Jordan and, possibly, Lebanon. Mr. Assad is unlikely to let that happen.

Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, has been under a fierce government bombardment for three weeks. Scores of people have been killed in the shelling, and desperate residents are facing severe shortages of food and medical supplies. It is time for the United States and others to take a serious look at proposals by Turkey and others to create humanitarian corridors linking besieged communities to neighboring countries or safe zones along those borders. Both would require air cover and would be risky.

The meeting also called for the creation of a joint Arab League-United Nations peacekeeping force to be deployed if a cease-fire is reached. Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, has been appointed to pursue that solution. There is no sign whatsoever that Mr. Assad will cooperate.

The worsening violence — and the mismatch between the 200,000-member Syrian Army and ragtag rebel forces — has accelerated calls, especially from the gulf states, to arm the opposition. Some countries are already quietly doing that. The United States this week opened the door to the possibility. At a minimum, Washington and its allies should consider providing communications equipment, intelligence and military training.

This will amount to little if the opposition — divided along ethnic and sectarian lines — fails to unite and offer a credible vision of a post-Assad future in which the rights of all Syrians will be respected. The leader of one group, the Syrian National Council, offered encouraging words on Friday, but there is a very long way to go. The United States and its allies will have to work hard to help them get there. The horrors and the death toll keep mounting.

Source: The New York Times - Editorial

In Break, Hamas Supports Syrian Opposition

By FARES AKRAM

A leader of Hamas spoke out against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, throwing its support behind the opposition and stripping Damascus of what little credibility it may have retained with the Arab street. It was Hamas’s first public break with its longtime patron.

Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said during Friday Prayer, “I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.”

The worshipers shouted back, “God is great” and “Syria! Syria!”

Mr. Haniya made his remarks in support of the uprising that is seeking to oust Mr. Assad, a reversal after years in which Mr. Assad has given safe haven to leaders of Hamas while helping supply it with weapons and cash in its battle against Israel.

But the remarks were almost as significant for where they were made: in Cairo, at Al Azhar Mosque.

During the years in which Syria supported Hamas, Egypt’s leaders were hostile to the group, treating it as a despised relative of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was also tagged an outlaw and banned. So Mr. Haniya’s remarks in Egypt served as another measure of how much has changed since popular uprisings began to sweep the region, removing President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and now trying to topple Mr. Assad.

Mr. Haniya’s comments confirmed a distance between Hamas and Damascus that emerged several weeks ago when the group’s leadership abandoned its longtime base in Syria as the environment there became more violent. The remarks, which were seen as the group’s official position because of Mr. Haniya’s role, reflected a progressively deeper split with Mr. Assad. Hamas also recently allowed residents of Gaza to stage protests against Mr. Assad and in support of the uprising.

In Syria, the protest movement began peacefully, but Mr. Assad’s forces struck back with lethal force.

In Cairo, as Mr. Haniya spoke, the crowds also shouted against Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, both of which continue to support Mr. Assad and have long been hailed on the Arab street for remaining defiant toward Israel. That was yet another significant shift caused by the Arab uprisings.

“No Iran, no Hezbollah. Syria is Islamic,” protesters chanted, according to Agence France-Presse.

Iran has been a key supporter of Hamas. On Thursday, Al Sharq Al Awsat, a London-based Arabic newspaper, published remarks by Ezzat al-Rashq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, who said that Iran had been the main financial supporter for the Hamas government in Gaza. Without the Iranian money, he said, Hamas would have never been able to pay its 45,000 government employees.

Mr. Haniya is in Cairo with other Hamas leaders from Gaza and abroad to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to try to form a government of national reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian movements. The plan for such a government was agreed to last May, along with a plan for Palestinian elections. But numerous disputes remain an obstacle.

Source: The New York Times

Atomic Agency Says Iran Is Making Fuel at Protected Site

By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD

International nuclear inspectors reported on Friday that Iran was moving more rapidly to produce nuclear fuel than many outsiders expected, at a deep underground site that Israel and the United States have said is better protected from attack than Iran’s older facilities.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that for the first time, Iran had begun producing fuel inside the new facility, in a mountain near the holy city of Qum. The agency’s inspectors found in their most recent visits that over the past three months, Iran had tripled its production capacity for a more purified type of fuel that is far closer to what is needed to make the core of a nuclear weapon.

The report is likely to inflame the debate over whether Iran is nearing what Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, calls entering a “zone of immunity.” The phrase refers to a vaguely defined point beyond which Iran could potentially produce weapon fuel without fear of an air attack that could wipe out its facilities.

The Iranians showed the inspectors the progress they had made at the underground facility, also known as Fordo, as part of the regular inspection of declared nuclear sites. They seemed eager to demonstrate that despite sanctions, sabotage and several United Nations Security Council resolutions, they were forging ahead in building a facility with a capability they insist is purely for energy production and medical research. But the Iranians know that this facility, under 250 feet of granite, is the one that worries Israel and the West the most, and the resources that Iran is putting into equipping it leaves considerable ambiguity about their intent.

For years, the Iranians have refused to answer questions raised by the inspectors about what the I.A.E.A. delicately calls “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian program — evidence that some work has been conducted on warhead designs, trigger devices and similar technologies that strongly suggest that the country is contemplating using its fuel for weapons.

The White House, which has been trying to increase the economic pressure on Iran while trying to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, characterized the newest report as more evidence of Iranian defiance. “Iran has continued to pursue its uranium enrichment program in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions without demonstrating any credible or legitimate purpose for doing so,” the National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said on Friday. “When combined with its continued stonewalling of international inspectors, Iran’s actions demonstrate why Iran has failed to convince the international community that is nuclear program is peaceful.”

Despite the I.A.E.A.’s findings at Fordo, American officials insist that Iran’s overall progress has been halting at best. The report also shows that despite Iran’s repeated boasts, it is still having trouble using a significant amount of next-generation equipment to make fuel. The United States also argues, in anonymous interviews and in conversations with Israeli officials, that Iran’s program has a number of vulnerabilities that could be exploited should it decide to try to develop a bomb. American intelligence officials say they do not believe that Iranian leaders have made that decision, though Israeli and British intelligence disagree.

When President Obama and other Western leaders first made public the discovery of the new facility in 2009, American officials said they believed that its exposure meant it would never be used. However, the report on Friday indicated that 696 centrifuges — the tall, silvery machines that enrich uranium by spinning it at supersonic speeds — have been installed. An additional 2,088 have been partially installed, meaning the facility is approaching its design capacity.

The 11-page report also described how Iran has refused, in two separate meetings with inspectors, to answer questions raised in the I.A.E.A.’s last report, issued in November, about experiments that could be linked to work on nuclear weapons. Inspectors were told they could not visit a military site called Parchin, where the inspectors suspect that work was done on conventional explosives that can be used to trigger a warhead. “Iran stated that it was still not able to grant access to that site,” the report said.

Iran has said that it produces fuel enriched to 20 percent purity, the highest level the I.A.E.A. reported being produced at Fordo, to replenish a small nuclear reactor in Tehran that is used to make medical isotopes. That claim appears to be true, at least in part: the inspectors say a fraction of the fuel was used to manufacture a single fuel assembly that was inserted in that reactor in recent days as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad watched. The event was televised in Iran, underscoring the country’s intent to continue its nuclear program despite international sanctions and sabotage.

Iranian officials have said in recent months, however, that they plan to produce more of the fuel enriched to 20 percent purity than is needed for the reactor. “They have now produced nearly enough 20 percent to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor for the next 20 years,” one diplomat in Europe who closely follows the agency’s work in Iran said on Friday. The fact that Iran is increasing production further has heighted suspicions in the West that it wants to stockpile the fuel in case it decides, in the future, to produce bomb-grade material. It would take relatively little additional work to get that fuel to the 90 percent purity needed for weapon fuel.

Iranian officials deny that this is their intent, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, explicitly ruled out producing a weapon in a recent speech.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and William J. Broad from New
York.


Source: The New York Times

Friday, February 24, 2012

Federalism could be key to Somalia’s future

Swiss-style federalism could play a key role in helping Somalia overcome the effects of 20 years of civil war, says Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.

Burkhalter told an international conference in London on Thursday that the next six months would be crucial “to bring governance and a functioning state back to the country and emerge from over 20 years of state collapse”.

The foreign minister pointed out that Switzerland had given its support to peace building in Somalia and contributed to the drafting of new constitution.

The different Somali factions have shown an interest in federalism, according to Burkhalter, and it could help overcome tensions in a country where regional identities often play an important role.

“A system with federalist elements would give democracy a better chance of taking root,” added Burkhalter.

Switzerland spent SFr19 million ($21.08 million) on projects in Somalia last year.

Source: Swiss Info

UK cannot recolonize

While Britain is hosting a conference on Somalia as it is concerned over her interests in the region, al-Shabaab fighters have warned the UK government, saying, “It is not possible for you to recolonize us.”

As Britain hosts the London conference on Somalia inviting representatives from over 40 governments including the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, al-Shabaab considers the conference deeply offensive blaming Britain for decades of trouble in their country stemming from the colonial era.

Al-Shabaab spokesman, Ali Dhere, also warned against British-led meddling in the affairs of Somalia as London is to lead an intervention in Somalia in order to secure her interests in the resource-rich country.

“Your peace depends upon us being left alone. If you do not let us live in peace, you will not enjoy peace either. We are telling them this in a loud voice,” said Dhere in an interview with Channel 4.

“We want to inform them that we do not want peace from them. We do not want humanitarian and material help from them. We will build our country and we can do that without them. We don’t need them. Just leave us alone,” he added.

Al-Shabaab also sent a message to British Prime Minister David Cameron, saying “the UK colonized this country for a long time, caused many problems and took its resources. Don’t attempt to come for a second time.”

“You never left our country of your own accord. The masses of this country woke up and forced you to leave. Today, the people are more aware. It is not possible for you to recolonize us. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your sons and resources for something you cannot achieve,” the message said.

The warning to the British government comes at a significant time as Britain struggles to fix its reputation ahead of the 2012 London Olympics with the unprecedented unrest in August last year severely damaging London’s image.

Source: Press TV

Former Somali General Admits Liability For War Crimes

A seven year court battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court ended in a federal courtroom in Virginia on Thursday when former Somali Gen. Mohamed Ali Samantar admitted liability for war crimes and human rights abuses committed in the late 1980s, when he was the defense minister and commander of military forces in Somalia.

The case against Samantar was brought by former Somali citizens who were granted asylum in the U.S. They had suffered years of imprisonment, torture, rape and abduction — one even survived a firing squad under a pile of bodies. When they discovered that Samantar, their one-time tormentor, was living in the U.S. too, they sued him in federal court under the Torture Victim Protection Act, a law passed in 2006 to ensure that the U.S. would not be a safe haven for human rights abusers.

For seven years, Samantar sought to head off a trial. Having lost in the Supreme Court once, and twice after that in a federal appeals court, Samantar tried a last-ditch maneuver. Late Sunday night, he filed for bankruptcy, a move that could have prevented this week's scheduled trial from taking place.

But that strategem failed, too. And on Thursday morning, in open court, Samantar defaulted, meaning that he accepted liability for the crimes charged against him.

For the rest of the day, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema heard evidence about the damages she will assess against him.

In addition to testimony from the victims who brought the suit, the judge heard from a U.S. military official about the breadth of the war crimes that were committed under Samantar's command. Also testifying via video hook-up was a witness who talked about digging mass graves and a BBC reporter who interviewed Samantar, winning an admission that he had ordered his forces to carpet-bomb to an area politically opposed to the regime. Samantar had previously maintained that the BBC interview was a fake.

The hearing marked the first time that anyone has been held accountable for the atrocities of the brutal Siad Barre regime, which ruled Somalia in the late 1980s and was eventually overthrown, leaving chaos and instability that persists to this day.

A final decision on damages is expected from Judge Brinkema either Friday or soon after.

(Nina Totenberg is NPR's legal affairs correspondent.)

Source: NPR

How to Halt the Butchery in Syria

By ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER

FOREIGN military intervention in Syria offers the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war. The mantra of those opposed to intervention is “Syria is not Libya.” In fact, Syria is far more strategically located than Libya, and a lengthy civil war there would be much more dangerous to our interests. America has a major stake in helping Syria’s neighbors stop the killing.

Simply arming the opposition, in many ways the easiest option, would bring about exactly the scenario the world should fear most: a proxy war that would spill into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan and fracture Syria along sectarian lines. It could also allow Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to gain a foothold in Syria and perhaps gain access to chemical and biological weapons.

There is an alternative. The Friends of Syria, some 70 countries scheduled to meet in Tunis today, should establish “no-kill zones” now to protect all Syrians regardless of creed, ethnicity or political allegiance. The Free Syrian Army, a growing force of defectors from the government’s army, would set up these no-kill zones near the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Each zone should be established as close to the border as possible to allow the creation of short humanitarian corridors for the Red Cross and other groups to bring food, water and medicine in and take wounded patients out. The zones would be managed by already active civilian committees.

Establishing these zones would require nations like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to arm the opposition soldiers with anti-tank, countersniper and portable antiaircraft weapons. Special forces from countries like Qatar, Turkey and possibly Britain and France could offer tactical and strategic advice to the Free Syrian Army forces. Sending them in is logistically and politically feasible; some may be there already.

Crucially, these special forces would control the flow of intelligence regarding the government’s troop movements and lines of communication to allow opposition troops to cordon off population centers and rid them of snipers. Once Syrian government forces were killed, captured or allowed to defect without reprisal, attention would turn to defending and expanding the no-kill zones.

This next step would require intelligence focused on tank and aircraft movements, the placement of artillery batteries and communications lines among Syrian government forces. The goal would be to weaken and isolate government units charged with attacking particular towns; this would allow opposition forces to negotiate directly with army officers on truces within each zone, which could then expand into a regional, and ultimately national, truce.

The key condition for all such assistance, inside or outside Syria, is that it be used defensively — only to stop attacks by the Syrian military or to clear out government forces that dare to attack the no-kill zones. Although keeping intervention limited is always hard, international assistance could be curtailed if the Free Syrian Army took the offensive. The absolute priority within no-kill zones would be public safety and humanitarian aid; revenge attacks would not be tolerated.

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is increasingly depending on government-sponsored gangs and on shelling cities with heavy artillery rather than overrunning them with troops, precisely because he is concerned about the loyalty of soldiers forced to shoot their fellow citizens at point-blank range. If government troops entered no-kill zones they would have to face their former comrades. Placing them in this situation, and presenting the option to defect, would show just how many members of Syria’s army — estimated at 300,000 men — were actually willing to fight for Mr. Assad.

Turkey and the Arab League should also help opposition forces inside Syria more actively through the use of remotely piloted helicopters, either for delivery of cargo and weapons — as America has used them in Afghanistan — or to attack Syrian air defenses and mortars in order to protect the no-kill zones.

Turkey is rightfully cautious about deploying its ground forces, an act that Mr. Assad could use as grounds to declare war and retaliate. But Turkey has some of its own drones, and Arab League countries could quickly lease others.

As in Libya, the international community should not act without the approval and the invitation of the countries in the region that are most directly affected by Mr. Assad’s war on his own people. Thus it is up to the Arab League and Turkey to adopt a plan of action. If Russia and China were willing to abstain rather than exercise another massacre-enabling veto, then the Arab League could go back to the United Nations Security Council for approval. If not, then Turkey and the Arab League should act, on their own authority and that of the other 13 members of the Security Council and 137 members of the General Assembly who voted last week to condemn Mr. Assad’s brutality.

The power of the Syrian protesters over the past 11 months has arisen from their determination to face down bullets with chants, signs and their own bodies. The international community can draw on the power of nonviolence and create zones of peace in what are now zones of death. The Syrians have the ability to make that happen; the rest of the world must give them the means to do it.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011.

Source: The New York Times

Somali terrorists warn of reprisals on British streets

Islamists tell West not to intervene as London summit discusses future of war-torn state

Islamist fighters in Somalia last night warned of deadly reprisals on Britain's streets if the West mounted military action in the war-torn east African state.

As a conference on Somalia's future closed in London, the country's President appealed for bombing raids on the positions of al-Shabaab, which recently merged with al-Qa'ida. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said he would welcome air strikes against the "menace" of the insurgents, warning: "This isn't a Somali problem, it has to be addressed globally."

David Cameron left open the option of authorising action against al-Shabaab, which controls much of Somalia, but he made clear his preference for a lasting political settlement.

Last night the spokesman for the Islamist group, Sheikh Ali Dhere, warned it could launch terror attacks in the West if countries such as Britain and the US intervened in Somalia. "Your peace depends upon us being left alone," he told Channel 4 News. "If you do not let us live in peace, you will not enjoy peace either."

Al Shabaab was not invited to yesterday's conference, but Mr Cameron insisted its fighters could be brought into the tentative political process if they laid down their weapons and genuinely renounced violence.

Several dozen Britons are thought to be fighting for Al Shabaab and the fear in intelligence circles is that they could return to this country on UK passports with the expertise and motivation to launch terror attacks. The UK believes that Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan are now the world's main breeding grounds for Islamist terrorism.

Representatives of the 55 governments and international organisations at the conference included the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They signed a final communiqué calling for renewed action to disrupt terrorists travelling to and from Somalia and urging countries in the region to tackle money laundering and the financing of militant groups. They also backed a fresh attempt to catch the pirates operating with near impunity off the Somali coast and to find and prosecute the "kingpins" behind them.

The power vacuum in the country has allowed pirates to disrupt important shipping lanes and kidnap several western tourists. The British woman, Judith Tebbutt, is still missing after being seized five months ago from a Kenyan resort near the Somali border. Tanzania has agreed to detain and try suspected pirates captured by the Royal Navy, with Mauritius expected to follow suit.

Britain will lead an international taskforce that will attempt to identify the figures behind the pirate trade and to agree a common declaration that ransoms will never be paid. Somali pirates are estimated to have earned about £110m from ransoms last year.

The conference also called for "new momentum" to be injected into the political process, agreeing that a permanent government should replace Somalia's temporary regime by August.

Terror threat: Who are Al-Shabaab?

The group exercises control over vast swathes of the south, where it imposes its own version of Sharia, and until recently had fought African Union forces for control of Mogadishu. In August 2011, Al-Shabaab began pulling fighters out of Mogadishu, raising hopes that humanitarian groups would be able to step up aid deliveries. Its fighters come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf region, as well as the United States and Britain.

Last month, the group's leadership announced that Al-Shabaab would be joining forces with Al Q'aida – with whom it had previously shared ideological ties.

Source: The Independent

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Somalia: Far from a failed state?

With leaders from more than 50 countries and international organisations due to gather this week for the London Conference on Somalia, BBC Africa analyst and Somalia specialist Mary Harper argues that Somalia's business leaders offer reasons to hope for the war-torn country's future.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has managed to convince some of the world's most powerful people, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to come to London because Somalia is seen as the world's most comprehensively failed state, representing a threat to itself, the Horn of Africa region and the wider world.

The conference will focus on three issues that have already had far-reaching and devastating consequences: Piracy, terrorism and famine.

But away from the headlines and the stereotypical media images of skeletal children, skinny pirates in tiny skiffs, and gun-wielding Islamist insurgents, their heads wrapped in black and white scarves, there is another side to the Somali story that is positive, enterprising and hopeful.

Remarkable things are happening which could serve as models for a new start.

It may come as a surprise that, despite coming top of the world's Failed State Index for the past four years in a row, Somalia ranks in the top 50% of African countries on several key development indicators.

A study by the US-based Independent Institute found that Somalia came near the bottom on only three out of 13 indicators: Infant mortality; access to improved water resources and immunisation rates.

It came in the top 50% in crucial indicators like child malnutrition and life expectancy, although this may have changed since last year's famine.

"Far from chaos and economic collapse, we found that Somalia is generally doing better than when it had a state," said the institute.

"Urban businessmen, international corporations, and rural pastoralists have all functioned in a stateless Somalia, achieving standards of living for the country that are equal or superior to many other African nations."

'Freewheeling capitalism'

Of course many people in Somalia have suffered horribly during the past 20 years of state collapse, but some sectors of the economy, both traditional and modern, are positively booming.

It may come as another surprise that two northern Somali ports account for 95% of all goat and 52% of all sheep exports for the entire East African region.

According to the London-based Chatham House think-tank, the export of livestock through these ports, and the nearby port of Djibouti, represents what "is said to be the largest movement of live animal - 'on the hoof' - trade anywhere in the world".

I recently visited one of these ports, Berbera, in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, where port manager Ali Xoorxoor told me: "I expect livestock exports from the port to increase dramatically from three million head of livestock in 2011 to 4.5 million in 2012.

"This is because of healthy demand from the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, and new markets emerging in Egypt, Syria and Oman. The Egyptians are especially fond of our camels, mainly for meat."

The livestock trade has exploded since Somalia's government imploded in 1991.

One trader told me exports from the northern ports alone is worth more than $2bn (£1.3bn) a year; this does not appear to be an exaggeration, when one considers that just one sheep is worth at least $30 and a camel several hundred.

Academic Peter Little found what he described as a "spectacular surge" in cross-border cattle trade from Somalia to Kenya, where cattle sales in the Kenyan town of Garissa, near the border with Somalia, grew by an "astounding" 600% in the years following the collapse of central authority.

In his book, Somalia: Economy without State, Mr Little describes how "a freewheeling, stateless capitalism" has flourished in the country.

On their way to market, Somali nomads drive their livestock through hundreds of kilometres of harsh, hostile terrain, much of it occupied by militias including the Islamist group, al-Shabab.

These nomads know how to negotiate their way through enemy territory; perhaps they have a thing or two to teach Somali politicians and international agencies struggling to get aid to those who need it most.

Cold Coca-Cola

Another traditional area of the Somali economy which has thrived in a stateless society, and could serve as a useful model, is the khat trade, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

This narcotic leaf, grown in Kenya and Ethiopia, is delivered fresh, with tremendous efficiency, to remote parts of Somalia, including those affected by drought and famine.

Special "khat planes", pick-up trucks and people on foot ensure khat gets to market before noon, the day after it is picked.

Otherwise, the khat-chewers will not buy it.

The local authorities and international aid agencies could learn something from those in the khat business about how to deliver supplies, perhaps of food, medicine and other essential items, to difficult and dangerous areas.

As Somali analyst Nuradin Dirie says: "The khat network reaches every corner of Somalia every day of the year and doesn't stop for wars, drought, floods, epidemics, Friday prayers, Ramadan - anything really.

"I suggested to the UN that it could make use of khat networks to vaccinate children as this would create an opportunity for 100% vaccination coverages.

"Of course I did not succeed," he says.

"I have travelled quite a lot inside Somalia. To little villages and big towns, to far away rural areas and to remote coastal outposts.

"Wherever I go, I always manage to get a cold Coca-Cola. If they can store cool Coca-Cola, there is a strong possibility they can handle vaccinations too."

Other more modern sectors of the economy are also thriving.

Somalia has one of the cheapest, most efficient mobile phone networks in Africa.

It is home to Dahabshiil, one of the largest money transfer companies on the continent, which together with other remittance outfits, delivers some $2bn worth of remittances to Somali territories a year, according to the UN.

Like the khat traders, remittance companies deliver money to remote and treacherous places all over Somalia.

Can-do attitude

Some humanitarian groups use these companies to deliver cash-for-food and other forms of assistance; perhaps more use could be made of these pre-existing remittance networks, which link Somalis together, wherever they are in the world, connecting them in a matter of minutes.

There is a startling contrast between the productive, can-do attitude of the Somali business community, and the sometimes obstructive, counter-productive approach of the politicians.

Members of the Somali diaspora, and those who stayed behind during the long years of conflict, are doing daring, imaginative and positive things.

A group of British-educated brothers from the self-declared republic of Somaliland has built a Coca-Cola bottling plant amongst the sand, anthills and cacti, creating a surreal environment of green lawns, gleaming white walls, glossy red paint, and polished factory floors.

A pioneering young woman has recently set up an art gallery in Hargeisa

Another has opened up a boutique, where smartly dressed attendants sell shoes, handbags, brightly coloured lingerie, and men's and women's clothes in the very latest Somali fashion.

A man in Mogadishu runs a Billiards and Snooker Federation.

There are also political models and inspirations on offer within the Somali territories.

The most striking is Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia in 1991, and has built itself up from war-torn rubble into probably the most democratic polity in the Horn of Africa.

It has done this on its own, from the bottom-up, combining the old with the new, to create a political system that gives authority to clan elders as well as those elected by the public.

The Somali business community and places like Somaliland have "worked" because they have married the best of the traditional and the modern.

Much that has "failed" in Somalia is a result of combining the "bad", divisive things about the traditional clan system with dangerous modern elements, especially weapons.

It might be more productive for anyone interested in helping Somalia back onto its feet, including those at the London Conference, to deal with and learn from the business community instead of the politicians.

Source: BBC News