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Thursday, May 31, 2012

COMMUNIQUE: The Istanbul Gathering of the Somali Civil Society

We, the participants of the Istanbul Civil Society gathering, consisting of Somali traditional elders, religious scholars, academics, organized polities, activists, women, youth, business and diaspora representatives, came together to discuss and evaluate the difficult conditions and existential threats facing our nation. The main objective of this gathering is to bridge the divisions within our society and focus our efforts and energies in building a sovereign, united, just, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Somalia.

Somali participants have been able to gather in an environment free of political pressures, interventions, candidate interests, and manipulation by foreign special interest operatives.

During the four day conference, the participants have identified and discussed many important issues through an interactive process designed to facilitate the expression of thoughts and ideas. The conference examined issues such as security, the constitution, economic reconstruction, social development, transitional justice and reconciliation. Eight groups representing varieties of perspectives discussed and debated each of these topics. Each group presented their recommendations to the plenary sessions where their suggestions and ideas were further scrutinized, discussed and agreed upon.

The conference resolved that:

· We are immeasurably grateful to the Turkish government and its people and we encourage the Republic of Turkey to continue its support and solidarity with the Somali people, to realize a Somalia that holds itself up to international standards and reclaims its position as a respected member of the family of nations.

· We are appreciative of the role of Turkey in convening this gathering in an environment that was constructive and fully supportive of the resurrection of the Somali state and the dignity of its people.

· We unequivocally support the conclusion of the transition period by August 20, 2012.

· Security: Establish an inclusive and effective national security forces under a civilian command; create a National Defense Commission to ensure continuity regardless of any changes within the government; implement effective training programs and space within the country to train Somali forces; inaugurate an allowance and salary commission to make sure that members of the security forces’ welfare is budgeted and protected; request the lifting of the UN Arms Embargo as soon as an inclusive and disciplined army is established; create an independent judicial system to examine the injustices that have occurred in Somalia; improve correctional institutions to meet the international human rights standards ; and request that AMISOM be converted into hybrid UN peacekeeping force and that includes additional forces from Muslim countries to counter Al-Shabab propaganda that Somalia has been invaded by non-Muslim forces.

· Economic Reconstruction: Developing effective, transparent, mutually accountable, and coordinated foreign aid policy to reduce dependency; build an effective taxation policy and administration; establish effective business regulation and enforcement system; convene a comprehensive conference on recovery and development that should be held as soon as feasible; adopt an effective accountability and transparency in all financial resources management; encourage private and public partnerships (PPP); institute effective poverty alleviation programs for the most vulnerable groups to reduce poverty; establish skill-building projects and focus on equal opportunities in order to reverse the massive brain drain of the past two decades; and create rural development programs that are essential in ensuring sustainable means of livelihood.

· Social Development: Institute a national education policy that standardizes the curriculum of the current multiple educational systems; provide free primary and secondary education for all; identify youth development programs as national priority area for sustainable peace; provide social development programs including adult and vocational training for the youth; health care and health education programs; clean water; establish national policies to address the continued marginalization of women in all sectors of society; and provide incentives for highly skilled Somalis to return and contribute to the reconstruction of the country, create an independent National Somali Diaspora Association.

· Reconciliation: The participants identified several causes that have perpetuated the violence in Somalia such as injustice, repression, land-grabbing, tribalism, corruption, and poverty. Therefore, the participants recommend the following solutions; give the Traditional Elders a vital role in the reconciliation process; end the culture of impunity and pressuring those who committed crimes to accept their responsibility; offer confidence-building measures in order to attain peace and reconciliation; engage all opposition groups; abolish the 4.5 formula and replacing it with 5 formula until a one person one vote system is achieved; form a second chamber for the traditional leaders; establish multi party-based politics and electoral system in which each party must have supporters in all regions; establish a truth and reconciliation commission to resolve the outstanding grievances.

· Constitution: A social contract of this magnitude could not and should not be endorsed in haste, while blind-folded or in contention or under a cloud of suspicion. Therefore, sufficient time must be given to the Constituent Assembly and the Somali people to scrutinize and digest any and all additions and omissions within the new constitution. The Conference participantswelcome the efforts to establish a constitution for Somalia and view it as a necessary national imperative; express grave concern about the prolonged and the unnecessary secrecy surrounding the progress of the new Draft Constitution; urge the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to release the latest version of the Draft-Constitution to the Somali public as soon as possible in order to ensure inclusiveness, and broad based participation and consensus; underline their firm resolve that the Somali Constitution must be based on the basic sources of Islam, namely the Quran and Sunna; call upon the TFG to make the constitution-making process transparent and a Somali owned process; call for the creation of permanent and institutional role for Somali traditional leaders in the governance system. Moreover, there is a controversy on the issue of “u-dhashay-ku-dhashay” and the conference recommends further discussion and consensus on the issue. The conference supports that women should get 30% representation in the parliament and all select committees; Participants did not reach a consensus on the “Federalism” principle and there was a recommendation for a broad national debate and discussion.

· Transition: The transition must end on August 20, 2012 and be replaced with a durable and democratic state that is based on Islam; there is a need for functioning, strong, national and just government.; all government institutions must be led by competent people; traditional leaders must be the reference point (second chamber); the participants call for the establishment of multi-party-based politics and electoral system and each party must have supporters in all regions; Somalis are equal and therefore favoritism, tribalism and nepotism should end; the Somali language consists of two - May and Maxaa Tiri. National media outlets should broadcast in both; the government must fight against corruption; the committee proposed increasing the number of the parliamentarians from 225 to 275; the terms of reference for the technical committee must be revised.

Source: Hiiraan Online

Turkey hosts meeting on Somalia

Istanbul gathering comes as Turkish government becomes one of the key backers of transitional government in Mogadishu.


Al Jazeera's Peter Greste reports from Istanbul on the donor conference currently underway

Somalia needs a global reconstruction effort to back up ongoing stabilisation efforts and stop the Horn of Africa's 20-year descent into chaos, leaders said at the start of a meeting in Turkey.

Representatives from 54 countries gathered in Istanbul on Thursday to find a path towards a better future for a country that was the reason the term "failed state" was coined two decades ago.

"After a long period of instability and conflict, we now have ahead of us an opportunity for genuine peace and security," Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said at the opening of the Second Istanbul Conference on Somalia.

He said the capital Mogadishu - where pro-government forces have largely driven out Islamist fighters - was now open for business and called for a broad international reconstruction effort.

The two-day conference - which follows a London meeting in February - kicked off with discussions among senior officials, experts and businessmen on four key issues: water, energy, roads and sustainability.

On Friday, the conference will turn its attention to the political dimension of aid to Somalia, with the participation of UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Somali President Sharif Ahmed, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"Somalia's future is in the hands of Somalia," Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali told the conference.

He said Somalia was ready for long-term development and urged "multiple donors to set up a trust fund for Somalia".

2015 roadmap

One major objective of the conference will be to outline the future of Somalia by setting goals for 2015, according to the Turkish foreign ministry.

The mandate of Somalia's transitional institutions is to expire in August and the current administration is battling against time to reclaim control of the territory before it dissolves.

Lawmakers are struggling in efforts to achieve a "roadmap" signed by Somalia's disparate leaders for the formation of a government by August 20 to replace the weak transitional body in Mogadishu.

Under the agreement, the latest among more than a dozen attempts to resolve the bloody civil war, lawmakers must agree on a system of government for Somalia's fragmented regional - and often rival - administrations.

The Istanbul meet comes as government troops backed by the AU force and anti-Islamist militia attempt to wrest control of Somalia back from the al-Shabab, an insurgent group that has declared its allegiance to al-Qaeda.

Forces from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti are fighting with the AU contingent, while neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia have also sent troops across the border in a bid to flush out al-Shabab.

"One of the big problems up until now is that big interests have benefited from the violence and lack of control," said Al Jazeera's Peter Greste, reporting from Istanbul.

Our correspondent said Somali political stability would improve "if they can control those spoilers - keep those business and politcal interests to one side".

Turkish efforts

During Somalia's devastating drought last year, Turkey launched a major diplomatic, economic and humanitarian push and become one of very few nations to set up an embassy in the capital.

was opened following a visit in August by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the first major non-African leader to visit the Somali capital in almost 20 years. Direct flights between Somalia and Turkey started in March.

A stream of Turkish aid workers have been sent to Mogadishu, with some even bringing their families to a city that has been dubbed the most dangerous in the world.

In his high-profile 2011 visit, Erdogan stressed that the international community's response to Somalia was a "test for civilisation and contemporary values".

Somalia has had no effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre touched off a bloody cycle of clashes between rival factions.

Since then, the country has been variously governed by ruthless warlords and militia groups in mini-fiefdoms, becoming the epitome of a failed state.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Somali President escapes rebel ambush on convoy

Somalia's al Shabaab rebels ambushed an armored convoy carrying the country's president during a rare overland trip outside the capital on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was unharmed in the attack which occurred on the outskirts of Elasha town, located between Mogadishu and the former rebel stronghold of Afgoye, about 30 km (18 miles) northwest of the city.

"The fighting split the convoy. Vehicles scattered in different directions," a Reuters photographer travelling with the convoy said. Bullets struck several African Union (AU) peacekeeper vehicles but none were damaged.

The firefight lasted about 30 minutes and forced the AU to fire shells to subdue the attack, he said, adding that the armored vehicle carrying Ahmed sped off as fighting broke out.

A spokesman for the AMISOM peacekeepers confirmed the ambush, A brazen raid which underscored the ease at which al Shabaab, which merged with al Qaeda earlier this year, are able to launch hit-and-run attacks in areas they have vacated.

Al Shabaab has in the last nine months surrendered territory under military pressure in and around Mogadishu and in parts of southern and central Somalia where they are battling Ethiopian and Kenyan forces.

On Tuesday, Kenyan battleships patrolling off the southern port city of Kismayu struck al Shabaab positions in the city after the rebels fired anti-aircraft guns at them.

"Our ships were fired at by onshore elements, so they fired back at rebel targets around the port," Kenya's military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna told Reuters.

Kismayu is the nerve-centre of al Shabaab's southern operations and their last main bastion after the fall of Afgoye.

Residents said the warships moved away after the morning bombardment, but returned later to attack militants again.

"We have not seen warships come that close before and fire on Kismayu," said resident Saleh Omar by telephone.

Asked if the strikes were a precursor to a long-anticipated assault on Kismayu, Oguna said: "Kismayu has remained an area of interest for the international effort to stabilize Somalia."

African Union and Somali government troops captured Afgoye on Friday and then secured an aid corridor linking the town to Mogadishu over the weekend, wresting control of a strip of land believed to hold around 400,000 people displaced by conflict.

Al Shabaab said they had pulled out of the Afgoye corridor in a tactical retreat, but threatened to strike back.

"If the government controls the Afgoye corridor, then President Sharif should be able to pass there peacefully," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday 14,000 people had been displaced by the recent military activity in the Afgoye corridor.

(Additional reporting and writing by Richard Lough in Nairobi)

Source: Reuters

Somali farmers rejoice at end of militant tax

The farmers in Afgoye, a town on the outskirts of Mogadishu long controlled by Islamist militants, didn't even wait to clear away the bullet casings from last week's battles before filling up trucks with produce to drive into the capital.

Farmers here are rejoicing at the taking of Afgoye by African Union peacekeepers on Friday after three days of fighting because they will no longer have to pay up to 50 percent of their crops in "taxes" to al-Shabab militants. The military operation marked the AU's biggest success in Somalia since the peacekeepers pushed the militants from the capital Mogadishu last August.

Since Afgoye's fall, dozens of vehicles carrying fresh fruits and vegetables have traveled from the farm town into the Somali capital, which last year experienced the region's worst famine in 18 years. The famine was declared over in January.

Some farmers hope they will be able to produce more crops now that the insurgents have been driven out. Tractors were already out in the fields this week, plowing more land. The farmers say hope has returned and they aim to plant sorghum, maize, bananas, mangos and other items.

Mohamed Hussein said he hoped to grow and sell more lemons since he would not have to pay such high taxes anymore. He recalled life under al-Shabab's strict rule as he supervised lemons being loaded onto vehicles at his store.

"We waited for this for a long time because we were the most affected," he said, looking out of a speeding car carrying bananas. "They took 50 percent. Many of us gave up farming. I hope the army's presence will soothe the town."

During the years when the town was under militant rule, many people soured on farming or fled the region. Even as crop production fell, hundreds of thousands of Somalis flooded into Afgoye from Mogadishu, seeking an escape from the years of fighting in the capital.

The taking of Afgoye is the latest success against al-Shabab militants. After African Union forces primarily from Uganda and Burundi pushed out the insurgents from Mogadishu, Kenyan troops began pressuring al-Shabab from the south and Ethiopian troops pushed in from the west.

The three-pronged offensive has given the African coalition the best chance in years of taking back control of Somalia to allow some nascent form of government to begin providing services.

Militants have increased bomb attacks as the territory they control shrinks.

On Tuesday al-Shabab fighters ambushed the convoy the Somali president was traveling in after he visited Afgoye, said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman of the African Union military force. The attack was repelled and the president safely returned to Mogadishu, he said.

UNHCR said on Tuesday that 14,000 people fled Afgoye over the last week, and that 10,000 have reached Mogadishu, where the aid community is providing assistance.

Nur Saney returned to Afgoye over the weekend after two years of life in Mogadishu. He had fled his farm because of the high taxes and on Sunday he was back on it, clearing weeds.

"I hope for better days ahead," he said.

Still, many in this agricultural town worry that irregularly paid government soldiers may become the next illegal tax collector.

Abdikarim Yusuf Dhagabadan, the chief of Somalia's armed forces, told reporters he has warned soldiers not to take money from citizens.

"We shall arrest any al-Shabab we see but we shall shoot to death any soldier on the spot who is robbing civilians," he said.

Source: The Associated Press

Danish police arrest two Somali terror suspects

Danish security services have arrested two Danish brothers originally from Somalia on suspicion they were plotting a terrorist attack, officials said on Tuesday. Few other details about the case were immediately released.

The two brothers, aged 18 and 23, were arrested on late Monday evening at two separate locations. One of them was arrested at his place of residence in Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark, while the other was arrested upon his arrival by plane at the international airport in Copenhagen.

"The detainees are suspected of planning a terrorist act by, among other activities, having discussed the method, the target and the weapon types to be used," the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) said in a statement on Tuesday. One of the brothers is believed to have underwent training at a camp belonging to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts which took over most of southern Somalia in the second half of 2006. Despite efforts from the Somali and Ethiopian governments, the group has continued its violent insurgency in southern and central Somalia. The African nation has been without an effective government since Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown two decades ago.

Danish authorities said the two brothers, who are both Danish citizens of Somali origin, have been living in Denmark's Aarhus region for approximately sixteen years. Officials carried out searches at their two addresses in Aarhus on Monday and Tuesday.

"As a result of the arrests, PET believes that a specific act of terrorism has been averted, and as such the perceived threat level against Denmark is not affected, although it remains high," the security service said in its statement. It did not identify when or where the alleged terror attack was to be carried out.
Source: BNO News

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Somali man Kalmio charged with four North Dakota murders

A Somali man charged in the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old woman in northwest North Dakota is now accused of killing her mother, brother and the mother's boyfriend, who were found dead the same day in mobile home across town.

Omar Mohamed Kalmio, 27, who has a history of violent crime, was charged with murder several months after his infant daughter's mother, Sabrina Zephier, was found dead at her home in Minot in January 2011. The baby was found in the home unharmed.

Court documents show prosecutors filed additional murder charges Friday, alleging Kalmio also was the gunman who killed 13-year-old Dylan Zephier, 38-year-old Jolene Zephier, and Jolene's 22-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Longie.

Multiple slayings are virtually unheard of in North Dakota, which had 10 murders and non-negligent homicides in all of 2010, according to data compiled by the FBI.

Ward County State's Attorney Roza Larson declined to comment on specifics of the case Wednesday, but she cited the ongoing work by Minot police and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Police also declined comment.

"They have been working this case since the murders occurred and they have been putting in a lot of tireless hours," she said. "A lot of times when things take a while, people have the perception that investigators aren't doing anything. They truly have been doing a lot."

Kalmio, who has pleaded not guilty in Sabrina Zephier's death, is being held without bond. His trial was scheduled to begin June 4, but was cancelled when the new charges were filed. His court-appointed attorney couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday; a recorded phone message said his mailbox was full.

Kalmio was arrested last August at the Grand Forks County jail, where he had been held since February 2011 on an unrelated charge. Police have said that last summer's devastating flooding in Minot may have delayed his arrest, because police had to divert their efforts elsewhere.

Somali national has said he was in the U.S. under political asylum. He's scheduled for a preliminary hearing June 19, and Larson said she expects the case to go to trial.

Sabrina Zephier's body was found in an apartment on Jan. 28, 2011, the same day the bodies of the other three were found in a nearby mobile home. They all had been shot.

The Zephiers were members of South Dakota's Yankton Sioux Tribe.

Source: The Associated Press

Egypt Elections 2012: Run-Off Set Between Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak's Last Prime Minister


 The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate and a veteran of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's autocratic regime will face each other in a runoff election for Egypt's president, according to first-round results Friday. The divisive showdown dismayed many Egyptians who fear either one means an end to any democratic gains produced by last year's uprising.

More than a year after protesters demanding democracy toppled Mubarak, the face-off between the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and former air force chief and prime minister Ahmed Shafiq looked like a throwback to the days of his regime – a rivalry between a military-rooted strongman promising a firm hand to ensure stability and Islamists vowing to implement religious law.

"The worst possible scenario," said Ahmed Khairy, spokesman for the Free Egyptians Party, one of the secular, liberal parties that emerged last year. Speaking to the Al-Ahram daily, he described Morsi as an "Islamic fascist" and Shafiq as a "military fascist."

He said he did know which candidate to endorse in the June 16-17. Many Egyptians face the same dilemma, with no figure representing a middle path of reforming a corrupt police state without lurching onto the divisive path of strict implementation of Islamic law.

The head-to-head match between Morsi and Shafiq will likely be a heated one. Each has die-hard supporters but is also loathed by significant sectors of the population.

The first round race, held Wednesday and Thursday, turned out close. By Friday evening, counts from stations around the country reported by the state news agency gave Morsi 25.3 percent and Shafiq 24.9 percent with less than 100,000 votes difference.

A large chunk of the vote – more than 40 percent – went to candidates who were seen as more in the spirit of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, that is neither from the Brotherhood nor from the so-called "feloul," or "remnants" of the old autocratic regime. In particular, those votes went to leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, who narrowly came in third in a surprisingly strong showing of 21.5 percent, and a moderate Islamist who broke with the Brotherhood, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh.

The Brotherhood, which already dominates parliament and hopes the presidency can seal its rise to power, scrambled to try to draw the revolution vote to its side. It invited other candidates and revolutionary groups to meet Saturday to "save the nation and the revolution" ahead of an expected fierce race.

The Brotherhood likely faces a tough task. Over the past six months, it has disillusioned many of those figures with plays for power that left its would-be allies feeling betrayed and deepened the Brotherhood's reputation as domineering and arrogant.

"Egypt is going through a truly historic transformation," senior Brotherhood figure Essam el-Erian said at a news conference. "We hope the runoff is more heated, more clear and more representative of the spirit of the January 25 revolution."

Shafiq's camp was making a similar appeal.

"We know the Muslim Brotherhood stole the revolution from the youth," said Shafiq's spokesman, Ahmed Sarhan. "Our program is about the future. The Muslim Brotherhood is about an Islamic empire. That is not what (the youth groups) called for" in the revolution.

The breakdown of the first round voting provided multiple surprises.

Shafiq's strong showing would have been inconceivable a year ago amid the public's anti-regime fervor. He was Mubarak's last prime minister and was himself forced out of office by protests several weeks after his former boss was ousted.

A former air force commander and personal friend of Mubarak, he campaigned overtly as an "anti-revolution" candidate in the presidential election, criticizing the revolutionary protesters. He still inspires venom from many who believe he will preserve the Mubarak-style autocracy. He has been met at public appearances by protesters throwing shoes.

But his rise underlines the frustration with the revolution felt by many Egyptians. The past 15 months have seen continuous chaos, with a shipwrecked economy, a breakdown in public services, increasing crime and persistent protests that turned into bloody riots. That has left many craving stability.

Nevine George, a 36-year-old Christian and government employee, said she voted for Shafiq because she didn't want to endure a new experiment in governing Egypt.

"Even if he's from the old system ... we need management skills. And we don't have to start from scratch," she said after voting in the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra.

Egypt's Christian minority – about 10 percent of the population of 82 million – overwhelmingly backed Shafiq, seeing him as a bulwark against the Islamist Brotherhood. One TV station reported that the entire voting population of one southern village – 4,000 Christians – cast ballot for Shafiq.

Shafiq also rallied former members of Mubarak's party and influential and widespread Muslim mystical sects known as Sufis, who fear the Brotherhood, which advocates implementing a harder line version of Islamic law. Analysts said Shafiq has also gained support from the families of security men_ as security personnel themselves are not allowed to vote.

Meanwhile, though Morsi came out on top, the vote was a blow to the Brotherhood. Their candidate received only half the vote that the group garnered in parliamentary elections late last year when it took nearly 50 percent of the legislature.

Since then, many of those who backed it grew disenchanted. Some voters said they turned against it because it failed to bring any improvements with its hold on parliament. Others were turned off by its seeming determination to monopolize power, excluding others.

In the end, Morsi was left to rely largely on the group's fiercely loyal and organized base of activists.

Perhaps most surprising was the performance of Sabahi, who had lagged far back in the polls for much of the campaign.

But he surged in the final days before voting began as Egyptians looked for an alternative to both Islamists and the "feloul." Campaigning on promises to help the poor, Sabahi claimed the mantle of the nationalist, socialist ideology of former President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who ruled from 1954 to 1970.

"The results reflect that people are searching for a third alternative, those who fear a religious state and those who don't want Mubarak's regime to come back," said Sabahi campaign spokesman Hossam Mounis.

Sabahi dominated in many urban areas, narrowly coming in first in Cairo and Port Said – a hotbed of revolution sentiment. He overpoweringly won in Egypt's second largest city, the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, doubling Morsi's showing, even though the city is considered a stronghold of Islamists.

Not far behind him was Abolfotoh, with around 19 percent. A moderate Islamist, Abolfotoh had appealed to a broad spectrum, including Islamists disenchanted with the Brotherhood and liberals.

A major question will be whether the two runoff candidates can draw in their backers. Islamists who voted for Abolfotoh are likely to turn to Morsi, despite their mistrust of the Brotherhood. Liberals, leftists and secular voters who rallied behind either Abolfotoh or Sabahi are likely to feel at a loss.

Abolfotoh called on his supporters to unite against the return of the former regime.

"We will build a national revolutionary consensus around the current issues and we will stand one line in the face of the symbols of corruption, injustices, oppression. Our revolution will triumph," he said in a statement on his Web site.

Source: The Huffington Post

African Union Troops Cross Shabelle River and Secure Afgooye Town



AMISOM
PRESS RELEASE
(For immediate release)


AMISOM troops have today crossed the Shabelle River and secured all the major roads leading into and out of Afgooye town. The town is strategically located 30km from the capital, Mogadishu, and governing routes to the port town of Marka, as well as the towns of Baidoa and Jowhar.

Leaders of the Al Qaeda-affiliated terror group, al Shabaab are believed to have fled the town, which was their main base in the region and where they were known to have been extorting revenues from farmers, traders and pastoralists.

On Monday, AMISOM launched a joint military operation with the Somali National Army, code-named ‘Operation Free Shabelle’ with the objective of securing the Afgooye corridor, home to the world’s largest concentration of internally displaced people. Operations are still ongoing to secure the market town of Elasha Biyaha. Harabsca, a trading centre located 26km from Mogadishu, has also been secured.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra said: “Securing the town of Afgooye is a great achievement for the Somali government and the Somali people. This will not only make possible the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population, but will go a long way in consolidating the country’s peace process.”

AMISOM Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, applauded the AU troops for taking all the necessary precautions to prevent harm or injury to civilians. “The soldiers have conducted this operation in an exemplary manner,” he said. “During the operation, AMISOM troops specifically avoided entering the built up areas and camps around the main road to Afgooye.”

Earlier in the week, the UN Humanitarian Coordination for Somalia, Mark Bowden stated that the UN had “no reports of significant movements of people from Afgooye corridor” as a result of the operation.

The SNA will now conduct security operations inside the town to remove any remaining terrorist elements and to ensure it is safe.

The Force Commander appealed to all those Al Shabaab militants who are still hiding in the liberated areas to surrender and join the peace process. He assured them of safety should they choose to abandon the Al Qaeda-backed al Shabaab and join other Somalis in rebuilding their country.

Source: AMISOM

Somalia to have federal government .

SOMALI will finally have a federal government in 90 days, United Nations Political Office for Somalia has said. Speaking yesterday just two days after the Addis Ababa consultative meeting of the Somali Signatories of the process for ending the transition, the UN secretary special representative on Somalia Augustine Mahiga said the meeting had resolved to put up systems to end the transitional system and install a new government by August 20.

He said the Addis meeting was "extremely successful" as it cleared many obstacles that had blocked the drafting and adoption of the provisional new Somali constitution and ending of the transitional period. “Somalia is less than ninety days away from the most momentous even in its recent history. The agreements made in Addis Ababa cleared the road of any procedural obstacles. The timetable can only be revised backwards, we have no time lose, no moment to spare and the mood rife, what we should be thinking about is how will the morning of August 21,” Mahiga said.

He said the signatories to the Road-map had agreed that traditional elders now meeting in Mogadishu would select the delegates for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) not later than June 20. The assembly will convene on July 2 to choose the members of the new Somali parliament, in a month selection process to be validated by arbitration committee comprised of the Elders themselves. A process that will see the number of members of Somali parliament cut from the current 550 to 225 members only.

The communique signed by the signatories also recommends that in order to take action on critical legislation currently stuck in the Somali parliament, TFG president will use a presidential decree to convene the NCA, steer the constitutional process towards the adoption stage and adopt the long-pending National security and stabilization plan which lays the foundation for the development of the Somali justice and security sector.

However, the communique emphasized that no delay or obstruction will be accepted by the Somali people or the international community, and spoilers will be identified and named for appropriate action on them by Somali and international stakeholders. “We already have the suspects whom we are monitoring and if they continue we shall name them as well as ask the regional governments to enforce sanctions on them which will include travel bans,” Mahiga said.

Source: The Star

Consultative Meeting of the Somali Signatories of the Process for Ending the Transition.

the Somali signatories of the process for ending the transition held a consultative meeting in The African Union Headquarters, from May 21 to May 23, 2012.

The meeting was hosted by the African Union and facilitated by the Office of the UN Special Representative for Somalia (UNPOS).

The meeting was attended by the signatories of the process for ending the transition, including HE Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG); HE Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), HE Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Prime Minister of TFG; HE Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), President of Puntland State; HE Mohamed Ahmed Aalim President of Galmudug State; Khaliif Abdulkadir Moallim Noor, Representative of Ahlu Sunnah Wal-Jama’a (ASWJ) and the UN Special Representative for Somalia (SRSG) Amb. Augustine Mahiga.

The Signatories of the Roadmap have today received final draft copies of the Draft Constitution which was subjected to a constitutional review by a technical committee. They harmonized and incorporated the written submissions of the signatories into the final Draft Constitution

Considering the current political situation in Somalia as well as the need to urgently and fully implement the Roadmap to End the Transition based on the principles agreed upon in the Garowe I and II and Galka’yo consultations, the Somali signatories discussed at length the modalities of implementing the above- mentioned principles and agreements.

The Signatories took into account that the Transitional Federal Parliament in its current state is unable to pass the required amendments to the Transitional Federal Charter and necessary legislation to end the transition and enact the subsequent legislation required to allow the constitutional process to proceed. This comes at a time when the final preparations to table the Draft Constitution for provisional adoption are underway and the transition end date is three months away-20 August 2012.
  
Consequently, the Signatories of the process for ending the transition resolved to advance the process in consultation with the recognized Somali Traditional Leaders (Duubab), in accordance with Somali customary law, and have agreed:

1. To recommend that the President of the TFG provide, through a presidential decree, a legal basis to steer the constitutional process towards the adoption stage and to end the transition.

2. To consequently convene a National Constituent Assembly as soon as is practicable, pursuant to Article 1 (g) of the Garowe I Principles. The signatories have agreed that the selection of National Constituent Assembly (NCA) delegates shall be finalized no later than 20th of June 2012 and the New Federal Parliament (NFP) members no later than 15th of July 2012.

3. To facilitate the implementation of the Garowe I and II, and Galka’yo agreements and the clauses above, by adopting:

          a. A Protocol Establishing the Constituent Assembly and the New Federal Parliament. 
b. A Protocol Establishing the Technical Selection Committee (TSC)


c. A Protocol Authorizing the Finalization of the Provisional Constitution with the Incorporation of the Harmonized Submissions of the Signatories to constitute the final draft for presentation to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA)  
4. That the TSC will assist the recognized Traditional Leaders (Duubab) to ensure that the nominees of the NCA and NFP comply with the criteria set out in Garowe II. The TSC will support the NCA in management and dispute resolution. It is agreed to amend Article 5 of the Galkayo Agreement 26 March 2012, to revise the size and composition of the TSC. It is hereby agreed that the TSC will be made up of 27 Somali members, 2 members from UNPOS and 7 International Observers. The Somali members shall be selected by the Somali signatories on the basis of the 4.5 formula.

5. To amend Article 3 (e)(i) of the Garowe II Principles of 17 February 2012, regarding the nomination process for New Federal Parliament. The Traditional Leaders shall be required to nominate one candidate for every seat instead of two. This is reflected in the Protocol Establishing the Constituent Assembly.

6. To establish an Arbitration Board of the Traditional Leaders (Duubab) no later than 26th of May 2012 to resolve any disputes that may occur regarding the validation of the Traditional Elders. The Arbitration Board will consist of 25 Traditional Leaders, 5 from each Clan to resolve any issues or disputes arising from their respective Clans.

7. To recognize that the continuing responsibility for completing the process of ending the transition and implementing the principles of Garowe I & II and Galka’yo lies specifically with the signatories of the process for ending the transition.

8. To establish a RoadMap Signatories Coordination Office in Mogadishu to ensure effective communication and information sharing.

9. Bearing in mind that the process to end the Transition shall end on 20 August 2012, the signatories agree to the following updated timelines in order to give direction to all stakeholders:
  • 26th May 2012 Arbitration Board of the Traditional Leaders shall be established 
  • 1st Jun 2012 Technical Selection Committee (TSC) established 
  • 20th Jun 2012- TSC publishes the finalized (and fully vetted) list of NCA delegates.
  • 30th Jun 2012 Selected NCA members to be present in Mogadishu; Copies of draft constitution to be received by the NCA delegates
  • 2nd Jul 2012 NCA convened – Opening ceremony 
  • 10th Jul 2012 Provisional Constitution adopted
  • 15th Jul 2012 TSC publishes finalized and fully vetted list of New Federal Parliament (NFP) 
  • 20th Jul 2012 New Federal Parliament members sworn in 
  • 4th Aug 2012 Election of Speaker and Deputy Speakers by NFP
  • 20th Aug 2012 Election of President by the NFP

10.To recommend that the President approves the National Security and Stabilization Plan 2011 – 2014 (NSSP) through a presidential decree, mindful of the urgency to institute a wholly Somali owned national security sector and given the fact that the current Parliament is unable to table a motion on this matter.

11.To urge the TFG and the International Community to lend support to Puntland and Galmudug and ASWJ-controlled areas with respect to the urgent security needs of these regions stemming from the Al Shabbab’s spillover northwards up to the Golis Mountains and piracy.

12. To urge the international community to provide in a timely manner, political good offices, facilitation and financial support for the process to end the transition and to that end, lift the arms embargo as appropriate.

13.To emphasize that no delay or obstruction will be accepted by the Somali people or the International Community, and spoilers will be identified and named, and appropriate joint action by Somali and International stakeholders will be taken against them.

14.To encourage regional states and organizations –AU, IGAD, League of Arab States and OIC, to continue providing support for this process.

15.To thank the wider International Community and the UN agencies, UNPOS in particular, for their on-going support

16.Anything that is not clear in this agreement or the Protocols incorporated by reference herein shall be interpreted and applied in accordance with the Roadmap and the Garowe I & II Principles, and the Galka’yo Agreement.

Source: Soomaaliyeeytoosoo Blogger

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Somali politics ‘entering most critical phase’

By KEVIN J. KELLEY 

Time and money are both in short supply as Somalia scurries to meet an approaching deadline for establishing a new political order, the United Nations special envoy for Mogadishu warned last week.

Western forces are simultaneously piling military pressure on pirates who have contributed to the lawlessness that has plagued Somalia for the past 20 years.

A European Union naval force last week carried out a first-ever raid on an inland pirate base, reportedly destroying fuel depots, speed boats and weapons stockpiles. Calling the air attack “focused, precise and proportionate,” the EU emphasised that none of its troops had set foot on Somali soil. Surveillance indicated that there had been no Somali casualties, the EU added.

At the UN, Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga told the Security Council that the country is entering its “most critical stage” in the run-up to the August 20 deadline for dissolution of transitional governing arrangements in place since 2004. There will be no extension of the deadline, US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice declared during the council’s debate on Somalia.

A “roadmap” for Somalia’s future drawn up last September calls for establishment of a new Parliament as well as a 1,000-member National Constituent Assembly charged with drafting a new constitution for the country.

“The lack of funding for implementing the roadmap in the remaining three months is of serious concern to all of us,” Mahiga told the Security Council. “The Constituent Assembly is almost grinding to a halt for lack of funding.”

The special representative repeated warnings to unnamed “spoilers” who, he charged, are trying to obstruct the political process. Mahiga noted that the UN, the African Union military mission in Somalia (Amisom) and East Africa’s InterGovernmental Authority on Development have jointly threatened sanctions against those designated as spoilers. “Naming and shaming” of these “elements” may also occur, Mahiga said.

The United Kingdom’s UN ambassador, Philip Parham, offered a counterpoint during the council’s debate, cautioning that dissenters should not be disparaged as spoilers. He called for transparency in deliberations pertaining to implementation of the roadmap.

Mahiga presented an optimistic assessment of the security situation, saying Al Shabaab militants are now “retreating rapidly.”

Somalia’s president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was less positive. He told the council that additional international assistance is needed to maintain the security gains that have been achieved and to address the continuing threats posed by Al Shabaab.

In her remarks to the council, US envoy Rice cited “signs of promise for the country” and described Somalia as “a different and better place” than it was a year ago.

“Areas on the outskirts of Mogadishu and the key cities of Beledweyne, Baidoa, and Huddur in southwestern Somalia have recently been liberated from Al Shabaab,” Rice noted. She credited these gains to Amisom and Somalia’s own security units, saying the losses of lives sustained by these forces “are testament to their will and dedication to bring peace and stability to Somalia.”

Calling for full staffing of Amisom to a level of 20,000 troops, Rice also urged donor states to increase their support for Somalia’s security forces.

Source: The East African

The Somali millionaire 'thanked' for being rich

By Mary Harper - BBC News, Dubai

Dubai marina park

The emirate of Dubai is one of the richest places in the world with a large population of foreign nationals - including tens of thousands of expat Somalis, some wealthier and more successful than others.

"Why this car?" I asked.

"Because I don't like the Phantom."

"The Phantom?"

"Oh, you know, the Rolls-Royce Phantom."

The car I was talking about was a Bentley. And the man I was talking to was a Somali, originally from Mogadishu, who had done rather well for himself in the mobile phone business.

He was dressed in an understated but expensive way. We were in the underground car park of a giant, glitzy shopping mall in Dubai.

The car was enormous. Six metres (20ft) long and a rich, dark gold colour. A small Indian man was polishing its wheels.

"Get in," said the Somali.

I obeyed his instruction and placed myself as elegantly as I could on the smooth leather seat. The floors were made of soft brown fur.

"Lambskin," Abdullahi Abdi Hussein said, as he closed the door for me. A quiet, expensive clunk.

"This car cost $500,000 (£315,000)," he added as he slid into the driver's seat.

"Look at the dashboard. It's African cherry wood and crystal. The interior, including the ceiling, is cow leather. Special cow, blemish-free cow, bred especially for Bentley."

We purred into action and out into the sunlight. The glistening, glass-and-marble world of Dubai. Past the tallest building in the world. A city where everything looks unreal - even the people.

"I like the best of everything," said Abdullahi. "Have you heard of Number One perfume? "

"I've heard of Chanel No 5."

"No, I'm speaking about Number One - the most expensive perfume in the world."

"Here," he said, giving me his phone. "This is a photo I took of my bottle. Next to my watch."

He told me the make of the watch which I now forget but I have checked the price of the perfume he was talking about.

It is £2,700 ($4,300) for 30 millilitres.

Before I tell you more about my journey in the Bentley, I think I should tell you about the other Somalis I met in Dubai.

They congratulate me and say thank you - they say seeing me in my car makes them proud to be Somali”

End Quote They were right in the middle of the city, in a place that contrasts dramatically with the extreme order, the perfect cars and clothes, the extraordinary buildings in all sorts of surreal shapes and sizes. A world apart from the air-conditioned shopping malls selling things that none of us really needs, at prices I certainly cannot afford.

Moored in the creek that runs through Dubai is a long stretch of old, scruffy, splintering wooden dhows. Their design has not changed much for centuries. The sailors are Gujaratis and several of those I met did not even have shoes.

All of them were going to Somalia, including Mogadishu, which is often described as the most dangerous city in the world. They did not seem in the least bit concerned.

The area was a frenzy of activity.

All sorts of things were being loaded on to the dhows, Somali merchants keeping a sharp eye on what went where.

There was a lot of dried pasta, a staple in Somalia. There was quite a lot of bottled water. There were cars, vans and spare tyres, scaffolding, paint, tiles - an amazing array of construction material, a sign perhaps that Somalia is starting to rebuild itself after more than 20 years of war.

Even though it is a country of fewer than 10 million people and has come top of the world's list of failed states for the past four years in a row, it is, I am told, the second biggest importer of goods from Dubai, after Iran.

And it does this in the most basic of ways, by loading goods on to wooden boats which then take a few days to sail to Somalia. Some of them are seized by pirates on the way.

But back to that car, that Bentley with its digital displays, wireless headphones and no fewer than 20 speakers to pump out the music.

It even had massage machines built into the seats which, I confess, I found truly delicious.

As we slid along boulevards - the playgrounds of the rich - people stopped and stared, their heads swivelling in amazement, eyes popping, sometimes cameras flashing.

"What do other Somalis make of you and this car?" I asked.

"Oh, they are extremely happy. They congratulate me and say thank you. They say seeing me in my car makes them proud to be Somali."

"They don't feel jealous or disgusted?"

"Oh no. Why should they? I give them hope. I bought this car because it shows success."

As those flashing cameras showed, the Bentley even managed to impress the ultra-wealthy residents of Dubai.

But I am not sure what it would have meant, if anything, to those Somalis I met at the port, or indeed the Somalis back home in Mogadishu, most of whom can only dream of owning a car, let alone a Bentley.

Source; BBC News

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cultures & immigration beat: Somalis decry new rule on visas

By: Allie Shah , Star Tribune

A major bump has surfaced in the well-traveled road from Nairobi, Kenya, to Minnesota for Somali refugees hoping to reunite with family members here.

Recently, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi began asking for more proof to verify that refugees applying to come here are who they say are.

The result, according to immigration attorneys in Minnesota familiar with the changes, is that the embassy is rejecting applicants at an alarming rate.

"I got a spike of clients in the last four months," said Abdinasir Abdulahi, a Minneapolis immigration attorney. "They were storming into my office."

The trouble began near the end of 2011, he said, when embassy officials started requiring applicants for what's called the I-130 visa to produce a refugee ID issued by the Kenyan government.

Since 2007, Kenya has required Somali refugees to register with the government and carry an ID, but many refugees don't understand the requirement, Abdulahi says.

Identifying refugees fleeing Somalia has always been a sticky issue. Most people arrive in neighboring Kenya without any papers.

According to the U.S. State Department website: "There is no competent civil authority in Somalia. The Government of Somalia ceased to exist in December of 1990. Since that time the country has undergone a destructive and brutal civil war, in the course of which most records were destroyed."

In the past, embassy officials have accepted sworn affidavits from town elders to confirm the identities of individuals. More recently, in response to reports of fraud, they rely on DNA testing to prove, for example, that a person claiming to be the sister of a Minnesota Somali really is the sister.

But even the DNA evidence doesn't seem to be enough to satisfy officials, say some local immigration attorneys, who argue that the tighter rules amount to unnecessary red tape. They'll discuss the issue Friday at a meeting of the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

Source: Star Tribune

With conference in Mogadishu, TEDx is officially everywhere



The Somali capital is not an obvious choice for a conference that highlights 'ideas worth spreading,' but organizers say growing peace gives Somalis a chance to change their future.

For the past two decades, Somalia’s shredded and shell-shocked capital of Mogadishu has shown the world little more than recycled failures. Bad ideas, policies, and governments replaced by worse ones. Unmitigated piracy on its high seas, brutal civil war and tribal divisions, a governance system that has become almost synonymous with anarchy, Islamic extremists, kidnappings, and humanitarian catastrophes.

Most people would assume that one of the most dangerous places on earth, where both man and nature’s worst elements have destroyed and demoralized the population, would be a hopeless place to scour for good “ideas worth spreading.” But an independent group of Somalis see things differently.

Today, the TEDxMogadishu conference with the theme of "rebirth," aims to showcase the brighter side of Somalia.

An offshoot of TED – the global conference that holds powerful, inspiring, and “riveting talks” by the worlds most remarkable people, from former presidents to Nobel Prize winners – TEDx’s are independently organized conferences that stimulate dialogue and bring “TED-like experiences” to the local level. While they have been held in places from Baghdad to Bogotá, Harare to Hanoi, Mogadishu is perhaps the most daring – and risky.

Wave of optimism

“Rebirth” rides on the heels of a budding wave of optimism that the city is turning around, undergoing its own bizarre renaissance.

The Al Qaeda-linked terrorist network Al Shabab vanished from the capital city, the African Union’s 17,000 troops have brought a level of peace and security that was once unimaginable – helping expand the control of the Transitional Federal Government to more than just a city block – and the city is reveling in its longest period of sustained peace since 1991. Even Turkish Airlines has opened up direct flights to Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport.

There’s no doubt the city is improving, and thousands of Somalis are returning home to open businesses, invest, and move their country forward.

Yet given Somalia’s unpredictability, any optimism must be measured. There hasn’t been a functioning government in decades, and things can change quickly. The day after The New York Times published a feature chronicling a “Taste of Hope in Somalia’s Battered Capital,” the newly reopened National Theater was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing 10, wounding dozens, and delivering a significant emotional blow to the city’s “rebirthing.”

While TEDx is being held in a secure location in Mogadishu at an address given only to participants, it is also being live streamed on the Web.

The conference is hosting a wide range of speakers from Mogadishu’s “higher society” – a chef, real estate developer, university founder, camel farmer, healthcare specialist, and journalist, are among those offering 15-minute talks in hopes of inspiring a nation. The only voices missing are perhaps the ones who control the throttle on the rest of society: pirates, politicians, extremists, and warlords, who often one and the same.

The organizers, like Liban Egal, a Somali emigrant to America who recently returned to found the First Somali Bank, the first commercial bank in the city since the country spiraled into chaos 21 years ago, are energized. “Just having this event is a success, no matter how the speakers or the audience turns out,” he says in an interview with the Monitor.

Clash of civilizations

Yet it’s hard to ignore the evident clash of civilizations. While TEDx exemplifies and promotes a world of optimism, embracing the limitless possibilities of technology, innovation, and inspiration to improve our world, one can only note that these things have been seemingly absent in Somalia.

For many Somalis, optimism is hoping there’s enough food to feed your family. There is barely enough infrastructure to power much in the way of technological advancements, and innovation is typically not a venture-backed effort to improve society, but a crudely hacked necessity to survive.

In fact, given the longstanding absence of a central bank, Mogadishu’s booming black market economy is probably the greatest sea of innovation in the country. But it’s likely you won’t find those innovators giving a TED Talk.

When explaining TEDxMogadishu, Liban says “surprise” is the most common response he receives. Somalia has offered the world no shortage of “surprises” over the years, yet more often then not they haven’t been pleasant ones. TEDx’s arrival in town – simply the fact that it can happen – shows that perhaps a “Rebirth” isn’t as far fetched as it may seem, and the tides may really, finally, be ebbing in Somalia’s favor.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

EU carries out first air strikes against Somali pirates


Somali pirates raided by EU naval forces for the first time

The European Union naval force patrolling the Indian Ocean on Tuesday carried out its first air strikes against pirate targets on shore, with a pirate reporting that the raid destroyed speed boats, fuel depots and an arms store.

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, said Tuesday the attack on Handulle village in the Mudug region of Somalia's central coastline will cause a setback to pirate operations. The village lies about 18 kilometres north of Haradheere town, a key pirate lair. There were no reports of deaths in the attack.

Maritime aircraft and attack helicopters took part in the attacks early in the morning on the mainland, an EU spokesman said.

The EU is the main donor to the Somali transitional government. It is also trains Somali army troops, and is reinforcing the navies of five neighbouring countries to enable them to counter piracy themselves.

The long coastline of war-ravaged Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirate gangs preying on shipping off the East African coast.

"This action against piracy is part of a comprehensive EU approach to the crisis in Somalia, where we support a lasting political solution on land," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Naval force protects aid ships

Since December 2008, the EU has kept five to 10 warships off the Horn of Africa in an operation known as Atalanta.

NATO has a similar anti-piracy flotilla known as Ocean Shield, and other countries — including the United States, India, China, Russia, and Malaysia — also have dispatched naval vessels to patrol the region.

The EU naval force is responsible for the protection of World FoodProgram ships carrying humanitarian aid for Somalia, and the logistic support vessels of the African Union troops conducting operations there. It also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.In March, the EU adopted a more robust mandate for its naval force, allowing it for the first time to mount strikes against pirate targets on Somalia's "coastal territory and internal waters."

At the time, officials said the new tactics could include using warships or their helicopters to target pirate boats moored along the shoreline, as well as land vehicles or fuel tanks used by the pirates.

The EU did not say which member nation's forces carried out Monday's raid.

"Today's action is ... in line with the new mandate," Mann said. "The EU will continue to remain active in this field."

Source: AP

Sunday, May 13, 2012

REFILE-Row between Somali regions slows oil exploration

By Kelly Gilblom

A dispute between two semi-autonomous regions in Somalia is delaying exploration for oil and gas over fears that local authorities are issuing licences to explore blocks that overlap in each other's territories, officials said.

East Africa has become a hot spot for oil and gas exploration after new finds in waters off countries including Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique.

The boom has led to speculation about the potential for finding oil offshore Somalia in the Horn of Africa, which so far has no proven hydrocarbon reserves.

"Put it this way: Puntland and Somaliland have what's called 'disputed areas.' It's really created a quagmire," said Ali Abdullahi, the chief executive officer of Amsas Consulting, a Somali firm that advises private oil firms in the region.

Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 but is still not recognised internationally, has been relatively stable compared with other parts of the country, which has lacked effective central government for two decades.

Although Puntland is also stable, it is notorious for piracy and has frosty relations with Somaliland.

Both regions claim they control a disputed area known as Sool, Cayn and Sanaag (SSC).

Within that zone lie nearly a dozen oil blocks, mostly unlicensed, demarcated by Puntland and Somaliland authorities, according to a map from data firm IHS.

Companies are unsure whether their contracts with the local authorities to drill wells will remain valid.

The dispute between Somaliland and Puntland mirrors another between Kenya and Somalia over their maritime border, which may also deter oil exploring firms.

In March, Canadian firm Horn Petroleum, and its exploration partners, including Vancouver-listed Africa Oil Corp., started drilling in the Dharoor Block, located in the northeast part of Puntland.

Oil consultant Abdullahi and other Somali oil analysts have claimed, furthermore, that any find by Horn Petroleum in Dharoor may be threatened by the fact that state-controlled Italian explorer Eni may still have legal rights to the block.

Eni was issued a license by the Somali government in the 1980s to explore Dharoor.

Both Eni and Horn Petroleum declined to comment.

OVERLAPPING CLAIMS

Additionally, another block licensed by Horn Petroleum and its working partners in the western part of Puntland, known as the Nugaal Block, overlaps a block licensed by Somaliland to unlisted British explorer Asante Oil.

"We are aware that there are overlapping claims in the Nugaal block but don't wish to comment publicly," said Keith Hill, chairman of Horn Petroleum, in an email to Reuters.

"We believe this is a matter best resolved directly by the respective parties."

Asante Oil could not be reached for comment.

For their part, Somaliland and Puntland each deny they have encroached on the other's territory. They blame the other side for licensing blocks in areas that don't belong to them.

"There were a lot of stories about overlapping licenses, (but) it is clear that Somaliland doesn't make any claim beyond the colonial borders that were demarcated," Hussein Du'ale, the minister of mineral resource, energy and water, told Reuters.

In an interview in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa he said the Nugaal Basin, where the Nugaal Block is located, is 80 percent owned by Somaliland, and the licenses issued by Puntland authorities to the same stretch of land are invalid.

"We recognize that there is license given by the administration of Puntland, which claims that this is part of their territory," Du'ale said

"If you look at the colonial border this goes deep into Somaliland territory. We don't ... claim areas in Puntland, and we hope that our brothers will reciprocate."

Issa Mohamud Farah, Puntland's petroleum director, who is in charge of oil exploration, was unavailable to comment.

Without a central government, analysts said it is unclear how and when the potential oil and gas reserves believed to be in Somalia can be explored.

"The (Somali) federal government has been weak for a very long time," said Abdullahi, the oil consultant.

"That leaves the question of who's right and who's wrong here? It's so hard to know."

(Additional reporting by Husein Ali Noor in Hargeisa; Editing by James Macharia and Jane Baird)

Source: Reuters







Somalis, Latinos Protest At Wells Fargo Bank In Mpls.

Dozens of Somalis in the Twin Cities are being joined by members of the area’s Latino community to protest their inability to transfer money back home to their loved ones.

A group of protestors gathered at the Wells Fargo Bank at 6th and Marquette in Mineapolis, threatening to close their accounts due to the bank’s alleged failure to restart money transfers to their families back home.

Ibrahim Nsur of Minneapolis said he was part of the delegation trying to solve the problem earlier this year, but he was treated with disrespect by bank executives.

“When they sat down with us, they told us they are not interested in doing this business,” said Nsur. “They did not tell us the real reason.”

However, Wells Fargo regional spokesperson Peggy Gunn says the decision to stop transfers to Somali is due to U.S. Federal Government regulations, and that this had been explained to their customers.

Gunn, who did not wish to be recorded, told WCCO Radio the bank remains active and supportive in the Somali community.

Ibrahim said he does not see any willingness by the bank to help them.

“We sat down with them,” said Nsur. “They were disrespectful to us, and kept ignoring us.”

He also said negotiations have begun with U.S. Bank, which he claims is more eager to find a solution for its Somali customers.

Source: WCCO (cbs Tv)

Somali Pirates Hijack Greek-Owned Oil Tanker Off Oman

A Greek-owned oil tanker has been hijacked by suspected Somali pirates off the coast of Oman, the ship's operator said Friday.

According to Athens-based Dynacom Tankers, Liberian-flagged Smyrni, carrying 135000 tonnes of oil, was seized Thursday some 300 nautical miles east of the Omani coast .

The company said in a statement that the management's "top priorities are the safe return of the ship and crew and the integrity of the cargo."

Media reports indicated some 15 crew members on board the seized vessel, mainly Indians and Filipinos. The ship was reportedly sailing from Turkey to Indonesia when it was boarded by pirates Thursday.

It is understood that the ship is currently moving towards Somalia's coastline. Basing their calculations on the present course and speed of the ship, experts expect it to reach Somalia around midday on Saturday.

Piracy continues to be a menace on the vital sea route in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia, which connects the Persian Gulf and Asia to Europe and beyond via the Suez Canal. It is critical to Gulf oil shipments.

Somalia's coastline, particularly the Gulf of Aden, has been infested with pirates in recent years. Pirates are presently believed to be holding at least ten ships and more than 240 hostages. The incidents mostly end with payment of ransom after lengthy negotiations, but generally without any fatalities.

Pirate attacks off the Somali coast and in the Indian Ocean continue despite the presence of several warships deployed by navies of the NATO, the European Union, Russia, China, South Korea and India to protect cargo and cruise ships against piracy.

In recent months, pirates have extended their operations deep into the Indian Ocean to avoid interception by international anti-piracy forces conducting regular patrols in the Gulf of Aden, off the Somali coast and parts of the Indian Ocean.

Source: RTT Staff Writer

The Somali American Remittance Dilemma

By Jon Matonis, Contributor

By threatening to close their Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp accounts this week, a group representing Somali Americans has pushed the ongoing hawala remittance issue to a head. For months now, Somalis in Minnesota have been barred from making the small regular transfers to their family members in Somalia that they have been making for years.

According to American Banker, “Bank officials say they sympathize with the plight of the expatriates but that there is no clear way to process the payments comfortably within federal rules. The problem lies in Somalia’s money-services businesses. Remittance there is done through a loose network of MSBs known as hawalas. U.S.-based hawalas work with banks to wire the money to hawalas in Somalia.” Since hawalas in Somalia are unregulated, the U.S. government worries that such intermediaries could assist in funding terrorism.

Unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident. This scenario is likely to happen more and more as onerous Bank Secrecy and USA Patriot Acts make it increasingly difficult for financial institutions to be in full compliance with anti-money laundering regulations. Instead of trying to comply, they are electing to opt out so as not to encounter heavy federal fines. It sure would be nice if the world had a decentralized peer-to-peer digital currency that could be transferred to mobile devices in a secure fashion.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t bitcoin allow for rapid and trustworthy international value transfer? Isn’t bitcoin fairly easy to obtain in the developed economies of North America and Europe? Doesn’t Somalia have good telecommunications infrastructure supporting mobile phones?

Here’s how the bitcoin money remittance process would work. A hard-working honest Somali American wishes to send the equivalent of $150 to his mother in Somalia so he purchases bitcoin at one of the many exchanges that accept cash deposits at banks for bitcoin. Alternatively, our would-be remitter could use the Bitcoin OTC (over-the-counter) exchange and arrange a person-to-person sale based on reputation history. Once the bitcoin is stored safely in the remitter’s client wallet, he would ask the overseas recipient to generate a bitcoin receiving address using one of the many bitcoin wallet apps for Android. [Sorry but Apple's App Store is currently restricting bitcoin wallet apps with send or receive capability.]

After his mother in Somalia has received and confirmed the bitcoin transaction (approximately 10 minutes), she would be able to maintain the bitcoin balance or change it out into her local currency, the Somali shilling. Bitcoin exchangers are already springing up in many countries around the world including Brazil, Latvia, and Philippines. If it hasn’t happened already, a savvy merchant in Somalia will start accepting bitcoin for Somali shillings. Or a traditional currency exchange dealer could get in on the action too — the spreads are certainly there.

In September 2010, the mobile penetration rate in Somalia was estimated at 25.84% over a population estimate of 9.9 million. Since the financial flow would be principally in U.S. dollars to bitcoin to Somali shillings, several aggregators could make a market in bitcoin and then sell their bitcoin in the market to other intermediaries. All it takes is a few Somalia-based bitcoin outlets to open up their economy to the rest of the world economy.

As a distributed network, bitcoin possesses the capability to route around interference and disruption. In fact, this was a key design consideration as resiliency has grown to become an imperative for privacy-enhancing electronic cash. Its detractors remind me of the holy papacy being fearful of the printing press because it allowed for individual interpretation and diminished mankind’s reliance on the anointed biblical teachers.

Source:  Forbes

In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive

By ROBERT F. WORTH

One night last September, a prisoner named Naji Najjar was brought, blindfolded and handcuffed, to an abandoned military base on the outskirts of Tripoli. A group of young men in camouflage pushed him into a dimly lit interrogation room and forced him to his knees. The commander of the militia, a big man with disheveled hair and sleepy eyes, stood behind Najjar. “What do you want?” the commander said, clutching a length of industrial pipe.

“What do you mean?” the prisoner said.

“What do you want?” the commander repeated. He paused. “Don’t you remember?”

Of course Najjar remembered. Until a few weeks earlier, he was a notorious guard at one of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s prisons. Then Tripoli fell, and the same men he’d beaten for so long tracked him down at his sister’s house and dragged him to their base. Now they were mimicking his own sadistic ritual. Every day, Najjar greeted the prisoners with the words What do you want? forcing them to beg for the pipe — known in the prison by its industrial term, PPR — or be beaten twice as badly. The militia commander now standing behind him, Jalal Ragai, had been one of his favorite victims.

“What do you want?” Jalal said for the last time. He held the very same pipe that had so often been used on him.

“PPR!” Najjar howled, and his former victim brought the rod down on his back.

I heard this story in early April from Naji Najjar himself. He was still being held captive by the militia, living with 11 other men who had killed and tortured for Qaddafi, in a large room with a single barred window and mattresses piled on the floor. The rebels had attached a white metal plate onto the door and a couple of big bolts, to make it look more like a prison. Najjar’s old PPR pipe and falga, a wooden stick used to raise prisoners’ legs in order to beat them on the soles of the feet, rested on a table upstairs. They had gotten some use in the first months of his confinement, when former victims and their relatives came to the base to deliver revenge beatings. One rebel laughed as he told me about a woman whose brother had his finger cut off in prison: when she found the man who did it, she beat him with a broom until it broke. Now, though, the instruments of torture were mostly museum pieces. After six months in captivity, Najjar — Naji to everyone here — had come to seem more clown than villain, and the militiamen had appointed him their cook. Slouching in an armchair among a group of rebels who smoked and chatted casually, Najjar recounted his strange journey from guard to prisoner. “One of the visitors once broke the PPR on me,” he told me.

“Naji, that wasn’t a PPR; it was plastic,” one rebel shot back. “You could beat a pig with a PPR all day, and it wouldn’t break.” Besides, he said, the visitor in question had a ruptured disc from one of Naji’s own beatings, so it was only fair. The men then got into a friendly argument about Naji’s favorite tactics for beating and whether he had used a pipe or a hose when he gashed Jalal’s forehead back in July.

The militia’s deputy commander strolled into the room and gave Najjar’s palm a friendly slap. “Hey, Sheik Naji,” he said. “You got a letter.” The commander opened it and began to read. “It’s from your brother,” he said, and his face lit up with a derisive smile. “It says: ‘Naji is being held by an illegal entity, being tortured on a daily basis, starved and forced to sign false statements.’ Oh, and look at this — the letter is copied to the army and the Higher Security Committee!” This last detail elicited a burst of laughter from the men in the room. Even Naji seemed to find it funny. “We always tell the relatives the same thing,” one man added, for my benefit: “There is no legal entity for us to hand the prisoners over to.”

Libya has no army. It has no government. These things exist on paper, but in practice, Libya has yet to recover from the long maelstrom of Qaddafi’s rule. The country’s oil is being pumped again, but there are still no lawmakers, no provincial governors, no unions and almost no police. Streetlights in Tripoli blink red and green and are universally ignored. Residents cart their garbage to Qaddafi’s ruined stronghold, Bab al-Aziziya, and dump it on piles that have grown mountainous, their stench overpowering. Even such basic issues as property ownership are in a state of profound confusion. Qaddafi nationalized much of the private property in Libya starting in 1978, and now the old owners, some of them returning after decades abroad, are clamoring for the apartments and villas and factories that belonged to their grandparents. I met Libyans brandishing faded documents in Turkish and Italian, threatening to take up arms if their ancestral tracts of land were not returned.

What Libya does have is militias, more than 60 of them, manned by rebels who had little or no military or police training when the revolution broke out less than 15 months ago. They prefer to be called katibas, or brigades, and their members are universally known as thuwar, or revolutionaries. Each brigade exercises unfettered authority over its turf, with “revolutionary legitimacy” as its only warrant. Inside their barracks — usually repurposed schools, police stations or security centers — a vast experiment in role reversal is being carried out: the guards have become the prisoners and the prisoners have become the guards. There are no rules, and each katiba is left to deal in its own way with the captives, who range from common criminals to Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the deposed leader’s son and onetime heir apparent. Some have simply replicated the worst tortures that were carried out under the old regime. More have exercised restraint. Almost all of them have offered victims a chance to confront their former torturers face to face, to test their instincts, to balance the desire for revenge against the will to make Libya into something more than a madman’s playground.

The first thing you see as you approach Jalal’s base in the Tajoura neighborhood is a bullet-scarred bus — now almost a holy relic — that was used as a shield by rebels during the first protests in Tripoli in early 2011. Across a patch of wasted ground is an ugly, dilapidated military-training facility made mostly of cinder blocks. On its second floor is a long hallway, the walls of which are covered with images of prisoners at the Yarmouk military base, where perhaps the most notorious massacre of the Libyan war took place. On Aug. 23, Qaddafi loyalists threw grenades and fired machine guns into a small hangar packed with prisoners. About 100 were killed; most of their bodies were piled up and burned. Dozens more were executed nearby. Many of the brigade’s current members are either former prisoners of Yarmouk or the relatives of men who were killed there. The victims’ portraits line the hallway. One of them appears twice, a man with a youthful, sensitive face, framed by rimless glasses and pale gray hair. This is Omar Salhoba, a 42-year-old doctor who was shot and killed on Aug. 24, more than two days after Tripoli fell. He was revered at Yarmouk for his insistence on treating injured fellow prisoners and for his brave, failed efforts to break the men free.

Omar’s older brother Nasser is now the brigade’s chief interrogator. He is lean and wiry, with a taut face and dark eyes that seem fixed in a wistful expression. When I met him, he was sitting in his office, a spare room with peeling paint and a battered desk with files stacked on it. He wore jeans and a blue-and-white button-down shirt, and he nervously chain-smoked. “I never left this place for the first three and a half months after we started,” he told me just after we met. “It’s only recently that I started sleeping at my apartment again.”

Nasser Salhoba’s grudge against Qaddafi goes back a long way. In 1996, he was in training to be a police investigator, his boyhood dream, when his brother Adel was gunned down in a Tripoli soccer stadium. The fans had dared to boo Saadi el-Qaddafi, the dictator’s son and sponsor of a local team, and Saadi’s guards opened fire, killing at least 20 people. When the Salhoba family was told they could not receive Adel’s body unless they signed a form stating that he was a mushaghib, a hooligan, Nasser went straight to the Interior Ministry headquarters and confronted officials there, an unthinkable act of defiance. “I was furious,” he told me. “I started waving my gun around and shouting.” Guards quickly subdued him, and though they allowed him to go home that night, he soon got wind of his impending arrest. On his family’s advice, Nasser fled to Malta, where he stayed for seven years, earning a meager living by smuggling cigarettes and falling into drinking and drugs. Even after he returned to Libya, his rampage at the Interior Ministry kept him blacklisted, and he could not find steady work. It was his little brother, Omar, now a successful pediatrician with two young daughters, who kept him going, lending him money and urging him to clean up his act.

Then came the revolution. While Nasser waited it out, cynical as ever, Omar — the family’s frail idealist — risked his life by providing thousands of dollars’ worth of medical supplies to the rebels. On June 7, Omar was operating on a child at his clinic in Tripoli when two intelligence agents arrived and bundled him into a car. No one knew where he was taken. More than two months later, on Aug. 24, Nasser got a call telling him Omar had been shot in the Yarmouk prison. Gunbattles were still raging in the streets, and Nasser searched for more than a day before a rebel showed him a picture of his brother’s bloodied body. Muslim ritual requires bodies to be buried quickly, and Nasser drove to a military hospital and frantically held up the picture to anyone who might help, until a doctor told him that Omar’s body had been sent to the local mosque to be buried. Nasser found the mosque and reached the graveyard just minutes after the body was sealed into a cement tomb. He reached out and touched the tomb: the mortar was still wet.

Nasser winced as he recalled that day. “I feel so bad I wasn’t able to save him,” he said more than once. “My brother was the special one in the family. I could never be compared to him.”

The three men responsible for Omar’s death were all now living one floor below us. The executioner was a 28-year-old named Marwan Gdoura. It was Marwan who insisted on speaking to the Yarmouk commander that morning, even though most of Tripoli had fallen to the rebels. It was Marwan who shot Omar and the other five victims first; the other two guards fired only after Marwan emptied two clips from his AK-47. I learned all this over the course of my conversations with them in the brigade jail. They were perfectly open about their roles at Yarmouk, though they spoke in soft, penitent tones, saying they had tortured and killed only on orders.

When I asked Nasser what it felt like to interrogate the man who murdered his brother, he got up from his office chair and walked out of the room. Scarcely a minute later, he reappeared with Marwan, who sat down and leaned forward, his hands clasped in front of him. He had small, narrow-set eyes, a thin beard and monkish, close-cropped dark hair. His gaze was direct but meek, and I could see nothing vicious in his face or manner. The rebels had already told me that Marwan was very devout, that he spent most of his time praying or reading the Koran. I asked about his background and then moved to the events of Aug. 24, when he executed Omar and the other five men. Marwan spoke softly but without hesitation. “One thing is very clear,” he said. “You’re a soldier, you must obey orders. At that moment, if you say no, you will be considered a traitor and added to the victims. And if you don’t do the execution, others will.” Nasser smoked quietly as Marwan spoke, glancing at him now and then with a look of professional detachment.

Marwan explained that the Yarmouk prison commander, a man named Hamza Hirazi, ordered him by phone to execute six prisoners, including Omar and several officers who had been arrested for helping the rebels. “We brought them from the hangar and put them in a small room,” he said when I pressed him for more details. “The killing happened with a light weapon. We closed the door and left.” Marwan did not tell me — though I heard it from the other men who were present for the executions — that in the last moments before he was murdered, Omar Salhoba turned and made a final plea: “Marwan, fear God.”

Hours after the execution, Marwan said, he fled with about 200 soldiers under the leadership of Khamis el-Qaddafi, another of the dictator’s sons. The convoy ran into rebels, and Khamis was killed in a gunbattle. The loyalists then fled to Bani Walid, where Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi was receiving condolences for his brother’s death in a military barracks. “I won’t lie to you,” Marwan said. “I shook his hand and kissed him.” After camping out in an olive grove for a few days, a dwindling band of loyalists drove east to Sirte, Qaddafi’s final stronghold, and then south to the city of Sabha. Every day, men were deserting and driving home, Marwan said. But he stayed until there were only five or six loyalists left, holed up in a farmhouse outside Sabha. Only when a truck full of rebels attacked the farmhouse did he flee into the desert. He hid until dark and then made his way to a nearby town, where he caught a minibus northward. A day later, he arrived in his hometown, Surman. I asked him why he stayed with Qaddafi’s forces for so long. “I wanted to go home all along,” he said, “but I had no car.”

This was hard to believe. I was reminded of what some of Marwan’s fellow prisoners had told me: that he was the true Qaddafi loyalist among the guards. They had all fled right after the execution. Naji Najjar left with another guard before it even started. But Marwan insisted on standing firm and carrying out Hamza Hirazi’s orders to kill the six men. Some of the other prisoners now resented Marwan and blamed him for their fate. Naji once told me: “I have told Marwan, ‘I wish I could be back in the prison, the first thing I would do is kill you.’ Because if he’d listened to me, we would all have escaped on the day after Tripoli fell.”

Marwan had stopped talking. Nasser was now staring at him through a cloud of cigarette smoke.

“During all that month after Tripoli fell, did you think about the six people you executed?” Nasser said.

“I did think about them and also about the prisoners who were killed and burned in the hangar.”

“But this was different,” Nasser said. “You executed these six people yourself. Did you talk about it with the other soldiers?”

“No,” Marwan replied quietly.

There was a long pause. Nasser looked away, as if he felt he ought to stop, but then he turned back toward Marwan. “You say you followed orders,” he said. “Suppose I get an order to do the same thing to you. Should I do it?”

Marwan stared down at the coffee table in front of him.

Later, after Marwan was taken back downstairs, Nasser said he still wanted to kill him. But more than that, he wanted to understand why. “I’ve asked him repeatedly why and how,” he said. “I’ve talked to him alone and in groups. Once Marwan told me, ‘One can’t truly understand it unless one goes through the same experience.’ ”

I asked Nasser if he believed that Marwan felt remorse, as he says he does. Nasser shook his head slowly and grimaced. Not long ago, he said, Marwan went out of his way to avoid stepping on a Qaddafi-era flag that had been placed in a doorway (the rebels all relish stomping on it). He apparently thought no one was watching.

“I was furious,” Nasser said. “I beat him with the falga. It was the only time I’ve ever done that. To think that he still feels that way after all this time, that he would kill all of us here if he could.”

One evening at the brigade headquarters, Nasser and Jalal allowed me to sit with them as they looked through a packet of documents sent by someone urging them to arrest a Qaddafi loyalist. These kinds of letters still arrive at the rate of two or three a week, Jalal explained. “When there’s something substantial on the person, we go and get them,” he said. They sifted through the papers, and at one point, Jalal handed me a photocopied clipping, written in French, from a Burkina Faso newspaper. “Does it say anything bad about him?” Jalal asked. I looked at the story and translated its main points. As I did so, I had the uneasy feeling that my answer could decide whether they would go out into the night and grab this man from his home and put him into indefinite detention in the basement. “Nah,” Jalal finally said. “I think this is just another person looking for revenge.”

As far as I could tell, Jalal was more disciplined and less inclined to revenge than many of the commanders in Libya. In the early days after the fall of Tripoli, when I first met him, he had joined with a group of hard-core rebel fighters from Misurata, where some of the war’s bloodiest battles took place. But the Misuratans began carrying out brutal reprisals on their newly acquired prisoners. One of the Yarmouk guards they captured, a man named Abdel Razaq al-Barouni, was actually viewed as a hero by some of the former prisoners, who told me Barouni unlocked the door of the hangar and urged them to escape just before the Yarmouk massacre began. After Jalal watched one of the Misuratans shoot Barouni in the foot during an interrogation, he decided to take his own fighters and leave, reluctantly allowing the Misuratans to cart off some of his prisoners to their city.

As for the prisoners still in their possession, Nasser and Jalal told me they were eager to hand them over as soon as there was a reliable government to take them. But they were keen to let me know that in a few cases, notorious killers had been turned over and promptly released. Jalal, who is starting to develop political ambitions, seemed especially eager to prove that he had solid reasons to hold onto his 12 prisoners. He had evidence that no one had seen, he said: torture tapes made by Qaddafi’s jailers. He had taken them from the ransacked offices of Hamza Hirazi, the commander at Yarmouk.

One night Jalal drove me to his house in Tajoura, not far from the base. It was dark inside, a cluttered den crowded with black couches and tables and littered with cups and ashtrays. We sat on the floor with a couple of his friends sharing a bowl of spaghetti, and then Jalal set a dusty laptop on the edge of one of the couches. The screen lit up, revealing a small room with a brown leather desk chair. A man in a white blindfold appeared, arms tied behind his back, and was shoved into the chair. A voice behind the camera began interrogating him: “Who gave you the money? What were their names?” A cellphone rang in the background. The prisoner was taken off-camera, and then a horrifying electronic buzzing sound could be heard, accompanied by moans and screams of pain.

“They almost killed us in that room,” Jalal said.

A slim, dark-skinned guard entered the torture room, carrying a tray of coffee. I recognized the face: This was Jumaa, one of the men now being held in the brigade’s jail. The contrast with the man I had met — meek, apologetic, full of remorse — was alarming. In the video, Jumaa wore a look of bored arrogance. He sipped his coffee casually as the electric torture-prod buzzed and the prisoner screamed. Occasionally he joined in, kicking the prisoner in the ribs and calling him a dog. He came and went at random, apparently joining in the beatings for the sheer pleasure of it.

Jalal clicked on another video. In this one, Jumaa and two other guards were kicking and beating a blindfolded prisoner with extraordinary ferocity. “Kill me, Ibrahim, kill me!” the prisoner screamed repeatedly. “I don’t want to live anymore! Kill me!” The man to whom he was pleading was Ibrahim Lousha, whom I already knew by reputation as the most notorious torturer at Yarmouk. “Do you love the leader?” Lousha said, and the prisoner replied frantically, “Yes, yes!”

Yet another video showed a handcuffed man, whose body looked twisted and broken, speaking in a shaky voice. Jalal then showed a photo of the same man, lying dead on the ground, facedown, his hands bound. And then another photo, this one of a blackened corpse: “This man was covered with oil, we think, and then burned,” Jalal said.

On it went, a series of appalling scenes interrupted by Jalal’s running commentary: “That guy survived and is living in Zliten,” or “That guy died in the hangar.” But Jalal and his friends, including one who had been in the prison with him, were so used to it that they spent half the time laughing at the videos. At one point, Jalal pointed to the wall behind a blindfolded prisoner’s head, where a rack of keys could be seen. “Hey, look, on the end, those are the keys to my car!” he said. “I’m serious!” He and his friends cracked up and could not stop, the helpless peals of laughter filling the room. Later, Jumaa appeared on the screen grinning raucously and doing a mock-sensual dance behind the terrified prisoner. To an outsider like me, Jumaa’s dance was sickeningly callous, but Jalal and his friends found it so funny that they replayed it again and again, clapping their hands and doubling over with laughter. It was a distinctive sound, and I came to think of it as Libyan laughter: a high-pitched, giddy surrender, which seemed to convey the absurdity and despair these men had lived with for so long. Driving home that night, a Libyan friend offered me an old expression that shed some light: Sharr al baliyya ma yudhik, which translates roughly as “It’s the worst of the calamity that makes you laugh.”

A few days later, I went to see Ibrahim Lousha, the torturer on the video. He was being held by one of the brigades in Misurata, about two hours from Tripoli, in a battered old government building. I was led to a big empty room and told to wait, and then suddenly there he was, looking like a mere child as he slumped in a chair. He wore gray sweat pants and a blue V-neck sweater and flip-flops. He had big eyes and a buzz cut, a morose expression on his face. He sat with his hands together in his lap, his left leg bouncing restlessly. The Misurata brigade had become infamous for the torture of Qaddafi loyalists in recent months, but Lousha said he was treated well. No one was monitoring us, aside from a bored-looking guard across the room.

He was 20 years old, he said, the son of a Tripoli policeman. When I asked him about the torture at Yarmouk, Lousha answered numbly: beatings, electricity, other methods. “We didn’t give them water every day,” he said. “We brought them piss.” Whose? “Our piss. In bottles. Also we gave them a Muammar poster and made them pray on it.” I asked if he was ordered to do these things. He said no, that he and the fellow guards came up with these ideas while drinking liquor and smoking hashish. Wasn’t that an insult to Islam, to make people pray to Qaddafi, I asked. “We didn’t think about it,” he said. He told me that on the day of the massacre, a commander named Muhammad Mansour arrived late in the afternoon and ordered the guards to kill all the prisoners in the hangar. Then he left without saying anything about why they were to be killed or where the order originated. “We looked at each other,” Lousha said. “And then I got the grenades.” He spoke in monosyllables, and I had to press him constantly for more details. “The other guards had the grenades. I told them, ‘Give the grenades to me.’ ” He threw two into the hangar, one after the other, and the door blew open. He could hear the screams of the dying prisoners. I asked him what he thought about after he went home to his parents and siblings. He had made no effort to escape. “I was thinking about everything that happened,” he said, his face as expressionless as ever. “The whole disaster, the killing. I was thinking between me and God.”

The next time I saw Nasser, he proudly announced to me that their brigade was not just some freelance unit but officially recognized by the government. It turns out this is true of dozens of rebel bands in Libya, though all it means is that they have sent their names to the Interior Ministry, which has offered them the chance to apply for positions in the country’s new security services. The recruits are mostly being directed to the National Guard, a newly formed body — free of the taint of Qaddafi’s goon squads — that is housed in an old police academy building in Tripoli. I drove there on an April morning and found thousands of men standing outside in the sun. All of them were thuwar, and they were waiting to be paid. The transitional government decided in March to pay each rebel about $1,900 ($3,100 for married men). Anyone could sign up, and so 80,000 men registered as thuwar in Tripoli alone. One man waiting in line told me, “If we’d really had this many people fighting Qaddafi, the war would have lasted a week, not eight months.” It is lucky for Libya that the oil fields did not burn and enough crude is being pumped and sold to keep the thuwar happy.

Inside the building, I was led into an upstairs room that resembled a hotel suite, with plush carpets and curtains and bright green walls. On the walls were old maps used by the border patrol during the Qaddafi era. After a few minutes, a middle-aged man named Ali Nayab sat down and introduced himself as the deputy head of the new National Guard. He was a fighter pilot in the old Libyan Air Force, he told me, but was jailed for seven years for his role in a 1988 coup plot (he had intended to fly his jet, Kamikaze-style, into Qaddafi’s villa). “I really didn’t want to die,” Nayab said, “but I would have if that was the only way to get Qaddafi.” When I asked about integrating the thuwar into the National Guard, he smiled apologetically and explained that the guard had not been able to do anything yet for the men who signed up. They were still waiting for the transitional government to make decisions. The men, meanwhile, were sitting at home or working with their brigades. “The result is a big void between the transitional government and the thuwar. They are starting to feel frustrated.” Nayab also conceded that some brigade commanders were reluctant to give up the power they had acquired. Many were nobodies before the revolution, and now they command the respect due to a warlord. The longer the current vacuum lasts, the more entrenched these men may become, making it harder for a new national government to enforce its writ.

One of those commanders is now holding Hamza Hirazi, the officer who oversaw the massacre at the Yarmouk prison. I was eager to talk to him, because no one had yet been able to explain to me one of the central mysteries of the terrible massacres that took place in Yarmouk and other places in the last days of Qaddafi’s regime. As Tripoli was clearly falling to the rebels, the loyalists killed Omar Salhoba and the others on Aug. 23 and 24. Why? And who gave the orders?

The man guarding Hirazi runs a large brigade of men from the Nafusah Mountains, three hours southwest of Tripoli. His name is Eissa Gliza, and his brigade is based in one of Tripoli’s wealthiest neighborhoods, in a flamboyant villa that used to belong to Qaddafi’s sons. Before the revolution, Gliza was a construction contractor, he told me. Now he commands 1,100 men. When I arrived on a Tuesday morning, he was sitting at his desk in an opulent office, watching a gigantic TV screen. A warm breeze blew in from the Mediterranean, which glittered in the sun a few hundred yards away. Gliza is a powerfully built man of 50, with thick greasy hair and a stubbly beard. He looked sweaty and tired. As we made small talk, the guards outside got into a screaming match, and then one of them threw a punch and the others pinned him down. Gliza ignored it. He held out his cellphone, showing me a series of sickening videos of men being beaten and tortured by Qaddafi loyalists. “It’s a shame they’re still alive, after what they did,” he said. I asked about a meeting with Hirazi. Gliza said he would try to arrange something, but it wasn’t easy. There had been two attempts on Hirazi’s life already, he said. He was moving Hirazi around constantly. I asked if the government had expressed any interest in Hirazi, given his prominent role under Qaddafi. “The government?” Gliza said with contempt. “They are interested in business and oil. They are the sons of Qatar. They are being directed by Sheika Mozah” — a wife of the emir of Qatar. “They have not seen the front line.”

On the television, there was an announcement that the head of Libya’s Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, had threatened to use force to quell a battle going on between two towns in western Libya. Gliza laughed dismissively. “Who? Who will use force?” he said. “Three days ago they went to Zuwarah and said, ‘We’re the national army, we want to go to the front line.’ They didn’t stay one hour. One of them pissed his pants. They say 35,000 men have joined the national army. I tell you, if all 35,000 came here, they could not get past our 200 men. Until there’s a true government, no one will give up power.”

Not long afterward, an old man walked into the office, dressed in a djellaba, with a long white beard and a skullcap on his head, holding a cane. He began complaining that Gliza and his men were behaving as if they owned the entire neighborhood. They were giving out brigade ID cards to Africans and letting them wander all over the place, demanding money for cleaning people’s cars. The old man’s voice rose to a shout, and his thin arms shook with rage. “What gives you the right to issue IDs?” he went on. “These are not even Libyans!” Gliza shouted right back at him, saying the neighbors should be grateful. It went on for 20 minutes at earsplitting volume, each accusing the other of not showing proper respect, until finally the old man seemed to deflate and hobbled out the door.

Perhaps the most potent evidence of Libya’s power vacuum is at the borders. In early April, fighting broke out between two bands of thuwar near the western town Zuwarah. The smuggling trade is lucrative, and a similar fight over the country’s southern borders had left about 150 people dead the previous week. When I arrived in Zuwarah, two days after my visit with Gliza, it was a war zone. The earth shook with mortar blasts, and I recognized the rapid-fire thumping of antiaircraft guns. A man who called himself the spokesman of the local military council offered to drive me to the front line. He said 14 people from Zuwarah had been killed that day, and another 126 wounded. We drove along Zuwarah’s main street, where the buildings were pocked with bullet holes. At the edge of town, the road was clustered with cars and pickup trucks mounted with guns. Two shipping containers marked the start of no-man’s land. Beyond it, the road rose to a dusty hilltop and disappeared from sight. One rebel, a handsome 23-year-old named Ayoub Sufyan who carried a rifle over his shoulder, shouted into my ear in English over the din of the guns: “The government says they sent the national army. Have you seen one of them? After they kidnapped 25 of our men, we said that’s enough. We told the government: ‘If you want to help us, fine. If not, we go alone.’ As youngsters, we don’t believe this is our government anymore.”

A few hundred yards away, just beyond artillery range, I found some of Libya’s best-known rebel commanders standing by the roadside in a state of confusion. Some said they represented the Interior Ministry, others the Defense Ministry, still others the Libya Shield border patrol. Among them was Mokhtar al-Akhdar, the famous leader of the Zintan brigade, which until recently controlled Tripoli’s airport. He seemed born to play the part of a rebel, with chiseled features and a stoic expression, a scarf wrapped elegantly around his head. I asked him what he was doing here. “We’re not fighting,” he said. “We are the revolutionaries of Libya. We want to solve the problem. Both sides here are accusing each other, and we are determined to solve the problem.”

The violence continued, and the following day, Jalal drove out to a town near Zuwarah to attend a meeting of a group called the Wise Men’s Council. It was held in an old hotel on the seaside, in a conference room with a vast rectangular table set with miniature Libyan flags and bottles of water for each speaker. A series of older men wearing traditional white robes spoke about the lack of any government authority and the inability of any rebel leaders to stop the violence in Zuwarah. They reached no consensus, and after an hour, they began to get up and leave. “This council is useless,” Jalal said as we drove back to Tripoli in his Land Cruiser. “The elders have no control over the street. Not like they used to. We need to speak to youth in language they understand. Some people are here for personal gain. I’m just here because my friends were burned and killed.”

One morning in early April, Nasser told me, his frustration with Marwan reached a boiling point. He had spent months talking to him, asking him why he killed his brother, demanding more details about Omar’s final days, trying to understand how, if the war was over, the execution of his brother had come to pass. “I see Marwan as such a cold person,” Nasser told me later. “He was the head of the snake. Of all the guards, he insisted on following orders. The others didn’t want to kill. He was so emotionless and still is. I wanted to see: Is he the same person when he sees his family?”

So Nasser called Marwan’s father and invited him to come see his son. For the last six months, the family stayed away out of fear that the thuwar would take revenge on them all. On the following Friday, eight of them showed up at the base in Tajoura. Nasser greeted them at the door and led them downstairs. “It was a very emotional moment,” Nasser said. “You can imagine how I felt when I saw my brother’s killer embracing his brother.” The two brothers hugged each other for a long time, sobbing, until finally Nasser pushed them apart, because he could not bear it anymore. Later, he took one of the cousins aside and asked him if he knew why Marwan was being held. The man said no. “I told him: ‘Your cousin killed six very qualified people whom Libya will need, two doctors and four officers. One of them was my brother.’ ” The cousin listened, and then he hugged Nasser before the family left.

For Nasser, the family meeting was a revelation. “He was very emotional,” he said of Marwan. “His sister loves him; his brother loves him. You see him with them, and it’s such a contrast with this cold killer.” He seemed comforted by this, less burdened, though he could not say exactly why. He told me that he now felt that he understood Marwan a little better, even if his crime remained a mystery.

On the following Friday, Marwan’s father returned, this time with two relatives. Nasser helped them carry crates of food — yogurt, fruit, homebaked biscuits — down to Marwan’s cell. When Nasser came back upstairs, Marwan’s father was standing by the door. He went straight up to Nasser and looked him sorrowfully in the eye. “He embraced me and kissed me on the forehead,” Nasser said. “So he must know.”

Two days later, as we talked in his office, Nasser asked me: “What’s the definition of revenge? To make the family of the person who did it feel what my family felt? I could have killed Marwan at any time, nobody would have known. But I don’t want to betray the blood of our martyrs. We want a country of laws.” He picked up the files on his desk and put them into his cabinet. He seemed preoccupied, as though he were trying to convince himself of something. He rubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray and turned to me again. “Besides,” he said, “where is the honor in taking revenge on a prisoner?”

I couldn’t be sure exactly what was motivating Nasser in his long struggle with Marwan. Certainly part of it was anger, which has not subsided and possibly never will. But the long months of interrogations had given him an unexpected solace, too, a chance to get to know his brother better and to sift through his own failings. “I keep asking the prisoners small details, like how many times he was beaten, what he talked about, how he seemed,” Nasser told me. “How he used to get into fights, demanding proper medical attention for the other inmates. Whenever they were tortured, they would be brought to his cell so he could treat them.” Nasser had been moved by the stories he heard of his brother’s bravery. Once, Omar paid a guard to take a prescription notice to a pharmacy. He had written a plea for help on the note, in English. But the woman at the pharmacy simply translated the note for the guard, who went straight back to Yarmouk and beat Omar severely. Omar kept on trying, sending notes to colleagues who either could not, or would not, help.

One thing in particular was haunting Nasser. According to the prisoners, Omar had talked a lot about Nasser in jail, saying he was sure his brother would rescue him if he could. “I feel such remorse I wasn’t able to help him,” Nasser said again and again. He told a long story about a well-connected soldier he’d known, who might have been able to do something if he had pushed him hard enough. He said he hadn’t seen Omar during the last days before the arrest, and now he chastised himself, imagining alternative endings. “I would’ve done anything, even gone to the front for Qaddafi’s people, if that would have saved my brother,” Nasser told me. “At the end of the day, it’s what’s inside you that counts.” But he didn’t sound convinced.

Nasser didn’t stop with the recent past. He reviewed his whole life for me, trying to understand where he went wrong. He was always the family’s bad angel, he said, a prodigal son. Omar was the conscientious one. He returned to Libya after a decade abroad in 2009, telling friends that he was ashamed of Libya’s backwardness and eager to help out. He brought back books about Qaddafi written by dissidents and a conviction that the country needed to change. At the time, Nasser told me, he thought his brother was being naїve. Now he understood he was right. It was as if Omar had become a screen onto which Nasser’s own failures were projected: the lies, the cowardly survival mechanisms that come with living under a dictatorship. I had the sense that Nasser was struggling to learn from his brother, and in an odd way, trying in turn to teach something to Marwan. After Marwan’s family left, Nasser went downstairs and spoke to him. “I said, ‘Look what I did, and look what you did,’ ” Nasser told me. “ ‘You killed my brother, and I arranged for you to see your family.’ ”

Omar’s life cast a similar shadow onto other people. One was his closest colleague, a doctor named Mahfoud Ghaddour. Omar’s fellow prisoners from Yarmouk told me he was always trying to contact Ghaddour, whom he saw as a possible savior. In fact, Ghaddour was aware that Omar was being held in Yarmouk — one of the frantic messages Omar sent from the prison got through to him — and yet he did nothing. Ghaddour told me so himself, during a long talk in his office at the hospital. “I started looking in that place,” he said, “using contacts with people in the government. But it was somewhat difficult. They started changing their mobile phones. I had difficulty getting help.”

Ghaddour said this with a wincing half smile. I found it impossible to believe. I knew other people who got relatives out of Yarmouk. As a prominent doctor, Ghaddour had plenty of contacts he could have called on. And even if he failed, he could at least have told Omar’s family, or his in-laws, who were desperate to know where he was being held. Ghaddour must have sensed my skepticism. He continued with a long, rambling narrative in which he tried to blame other people for not rescuing Omar from the prison and talked at length about how dangerous it was in Tripoli at that time. But there was something pained and apologetic about his manner, as if he were groping toward a confession. He cared about Omar but did not want to make trouble for his own family. He had done what so many others had done in Qaddafi’s Libya — kept his head down and let others take the risks. These are the survivors in Libya, the ones who adapted to a place where fear was the only law. Most of the brave ones are dead.

One afternoon, Nasser drove me to see his brother’s widow in Souq al-Jumaa, a middle-class neighborhood of Tripoli. Omar’s daughter opened the door, a pretty 10-year-old with lots of orange and pink bracelets on her wrists. She greeted me in English and led us to a Western-style living room with a white shag carpet. Her name was Abrar, and her 4-year-old sister, Ebaa, skipped across the room with us to the couch, where both girls sat beside me. After a minute their mother, Lubna, came downstairs and introduced herself. She launched right into a narrative about the family, their years living in Newcastle and Liverpool, their return to Libya and then her husband’s disappearance. “We were so scared all during that time,” she said. “Even now when I hear an airplane I am frightened.” As Lubna spoke, her younger daughter toyed with my beard and stole my pen and notebook. Finally she cuddled up next to me, clutching my arm and pressing her head into my shoulder. “She has been like this ever since her father died,” Lubna said. Abrar, the older girl, ran off to find a journal she kept about her father’s death. It was a remarkable document, an account written in English on lined paper in a child’s straightforward prose. “Then we got a phone call saying my daddy died, and my mama banged her head against the wall and screamed, and I cried,” she wrote of the day they found out. This was followed by her descriptions of a series of dreams she had about her father. In all of them, he reassured her that he was in Paradise, and in two dreams he offered to introduce her to the Prophet Muhammad.

At one point Lubna mentioned that she had urged her husband to take them all to Tunisia, where it was safer. Abrar piped up, speaking in the same direct, poised tone as her writing: “We said, ‘Take us out of Libya.’ He said: ‘Never, the hospital needs me. The kids need me. I will never leave. I will die in it.’ ”

Throughout our visit, Nasser quietly sat on the couch, now and then offering toys to the younger girl. On our way out, the girls offered to show us their father’s home office. It was a small room, sparsely decorated, with his British medical degrees framed on the wall, and two big drawers full of toys for the girls. “This is what kills me,” Nasser said. “All men love their children, but with him, it was even more.”

We walked through the gathering dusk to the car, and I asked Nasser about his future. What would he do once the brigade no longer existed? He wants to become a police investigator, he said, but for a real department. Abrar got into the back seat, clutching a stuffed bear. Her uncle was taking her to the stationery store to buy school supplies. We drove toward Martyrs’ Square, the new name given to the plaza where Qaddafi once urged Libyans to fight to the last man. Now there wasn’t a single image of his face in the streets, and rebels had scrawled “Change the color” on any wall that was painted his signature green. There was a chill in the air, and I heard a single shot ring out over the Mediterranean as we wove through the traffic.

“I didn’t always get along with my brother,” Nasser said. “But only because he wanted me to be better.”

Robert F. Worth is a staff writer for the magazine.

Source: The New York Times