Google+ Followers

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Somalia: a continuing commitment to restore livelihoods

Fortunately, the nutritional situation in Somalia has improved since the crisis peaked last July. However, despite all the efforts of the humanitarian community, many people are still facing considerable difficulties.

The ICRC supports 27 therapeutic feeding centres and 12 mobile clinics run by the Somali Red Crescent Society in the south-central part of the country, where 210,000 severely and moderately malnourished children and over 33,000 lactating mothers have been treated since January 2011.

Although in recent months new admissions at the feeding centres have been lower than at the onset of the crisis, the high number of relapses (cured patients who return to the centres) shows that the situation remains critical. This is especially worrying in the southern parts of the country, where poor security conditions have resulted in scaled-back treatment and in reduced access to clinics.

What is the ICRC doing to help needy people in Somalia?

The neediest people are those affected by the ongoing conflict or by natural disasters - mainly displaced people, farmers, livestock herders and members of marginalized communities. The ICRC helps them in a variety of different ways, each of which is designed to address specific needs. In acute crises we provide relief while preparing at the same time to help people restore their livelihoods, which we do by distributing tools and seed, upgrading farm infrastructure and taking various micro-economic initiatives.

What challenges do you face in seeking to bring people aid?

The biggest challenge is access. It has been very difficult to reach some areas where there are people who need our assistance, not only because of the security situation but also because of the logistics involved. The heavy rains in Mudug and Galgadud, for example, made it extremely difficult for trucks to use certain roads that are in very bad condition. That kind of problem often delays our work.
On the other hand, we benefit from very strong community support. Local communities don't hesitate to help us deliver urgently needed aid.
The fact that the situation in Somalia is constantly changing makes planning difficult, but we manage by designing flexibility into our activities so that they can be readily adapted.

What are the prospects for the coming months?

The combination of conflict, prolonged adverse climatic conditions and non-existent basic services has resulted in crop production levels that are far lower than the country's potential. Because of the conflict and lack of access to the main markets, the value of what little the farmers can produce will remain deflated. Although rainfall in northern and central Somalia was average to above-average, the gu rainy season from March to June seems to have failed in most southern areas - the hub of food production in Somalia. Unfortunately then, food insecurity in these conflict- and drought-affected areas is likely to remain at crisis level.

Are you likely to face other challenges?

The ongoing fighting has resulted in blocked roads between rural food production areas and major markets, an increase in the number of displaced people, and farmers abandoning their lands. It has also restricted the movement of livestock herders, depriving them of access to pasture for their animals. These developments have reduced the ability of all these people people, already hard put upon, to cope. That's the ICRC's main concern for the coming weeks and months.

Source: Reuters AlertNet

Bill to target antiterrorism banking regulations

Proposed changes could make it easier for local Somalis to send money abroad to loved ones.

A congressional committee is creating a bill that would decrease the risk for commercial banks to facilitate international transfers through Money Service Businesses, according to officials.

Late last week, the House Financial Services Subcommittee held an informational hearing to discuss weekly auditing requirements and antiterrorism financing laws that have caused banks to pull out of relationships with MSBs, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said.

Many local immigrant communities depend on these money transfer services to send remittances to their loved ones. In late December, after two local Somali women were found guilty of providing support to a Somali terrorist group, a number of U.S. banks stopped facilitating the transfers. The Minnesota Daily reported this action sparked a crisis among East African communities in the area.

Ellison said the new bill would decrease the frequency of audits and hold the MSBs, rather than commercial banks, accountable for money laundering or suspicious activity.

 “No one in the federal government told the banks don’t work with the hawalas,” Ellison said. “They made a business decision because it was too expensive, and failure to obey the Bank Secrecy Act could subject to significant civil and criminal penalties.”

Ellison said the committee is working to lower the regulatory threshold for commercial banks because U.S. remittances account for a large portion of Somalia’s national income. But some banks are still wary.

Nicole Sprenger, a US Bank representative, said that while they understand the need in the community for money to be transferred, the bank also has a duty to abide by the law.

“We have a responsibility to the nation and our regulators to make sure that money gets transferred to the right hands,” Sprenger said.

For more on how the bill could impact local communities and businesses, check out Tuesday’s Daily. 

Source: Minnesota Daily

US Congress ‘Victimizes’ Somali Americans

Many innocent Somalis feel victimized by Congress hearings on alleged radicalization in the Muslim community in the United States
But this invasion, among other things, has become a means for the birth of al-Shabab, which later announced its affiliation with al-Qaeda.

Many innocent Somalis feel victimized by Congress hearings on alleged radicalization in the Muslim community in the United States.

Apparently, from one way or another, as everyone is benefiting from the advancement of technology, the group has done its best to reach out young Somalis in Diaspora to join them in their "jihad." And the heart-breaking news came when Somalis in Minneapolis heard that some young Somalis have fallen under the hands of al-Shabaab recruiters to fight in Somalia.

In 2009, United States officials unsealed terrorism-related charges against men they say were key actors in a recruitment effort that led roughly 20 young Americans to join Al-Shabab. This is, in fact, what triggered what some may consider selective hearings in the House Committee on Homeland Security in the US House of Representatives.

In late 2006, the Ethiopian regime in Addis Ababa decided to invade Somalia under the pretext of "defending its national security" from the "threats" of Islamist groups led by what was then known the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).

However, on Wednesday, June 20, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing that was entitled, the American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization with their Community. This hearing was a follow up of four hearings that the House Committee had in the spring and the summer of 2011.
The main agenda of these hearings, initiated by Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, was to address homegrown radicalization and the recruitment of young Somali Americans by al-Shabaab.

Having a hearing on a specific community has raised disparities within those elected officials in the House Committee on Homeland Security. A top ranking member of the House Committee, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), has in many ways expressed his criticism on the way the chairman is taking the issue.
Congressman Thompson questioned the need for yet another session on the subject, given that since the first hearing in March 2011, al-Qaeda's operations have been dealt massive blows with the killing of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al Awlaki and other terrorist leaders.

Moreover, Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), who is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, confronted the committee that there should be "a hearing on right-wing extremists in the United States."

The importance of having a hearing on right-wing extremist groups in the United States can be supported by the assassination attempt against President Obama by extremist groups in the summer 2011. However, while "recruitment by al-Shabaab" on the young Somalis is emphasized, there has never been a hearing on the right-wing extremists.


Also, similar to Congresswoman Jackson Lee, Gene Green (D-TX) said that the hearings were unfair and that there should be hearings on the radicalization of Christians and other groups, too.

Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is the first elected Muslim Congressman in the US House of Representatives, expressed his concerns about the hearing.

In his statement at the House Committee hearing that was held in March 2011, Congressman Ellison acknowledged that violent extremism is a serious concern to all Americans, and it is a legitimate business that the House Committee for Homeland Security to address.

For instance, Ellison discussed the role that Muslim Americans have in this country, and he specifically mentioned Mohamed Salman Hamdani, who was a paramedic, and lost his life while he was trying to save lives during the terrorist attacks in 9/11.

However, Ellison clearly expressed his rejection of the hearing, reminding policy leaders "to be rigorous about [their] analysis of violent extremism."

As someone who comes from the Muslim Americans, and understands the negative impact that the hearing can create in the Muslim Community, Ellison hard-pressed that the responsibility of policy leaders is doing no harm.

Since the focus was on the young Somalis recruited by al-Shabaab, the only Somali community activist, who testified as a witness in the first hearing that was held in March 2011, was Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of Burhan Hassan who was found dead in Somalia in early 2009 after disappearing from Minnesota.

However, even though Bihi was selected by the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, his credibility in the Somali community in Minneapolis is questioned.

On March 18, which was a week after the first hearing in 2011, Imam Hassan Mohamud at Masjid Da'wah in St. Paul, Minnesota led a demonstration that about 200 Muslim imams and community leaders of the Somali community expressed their disapproval of the hearing that Bihi testified "on behalf of Somalis" in Minnesota.

Abukar Arman, who is the Somali Envoy to the US, says that it's the US law enforcement's job to repel any and all threats facing the public, and "any overreaction of the investigation process or allowing the politicization of the process can only undermine the objective and taint the reputation of the law enforcement."

Victimized Somalis

Even though Congressman Ellison suggested that the responsibility of policy leaders is doing no harm, harm has already taken place, and the recruitment for "jihad" by al-Shabab has victimized some innocent young Somalis.

In January 2011, Gulet Mohamed was refused to return to the US though he was finally permitted to re-enter.

Gulet said that he was beaten and tortured during his detention at Kuwait's Deportation Center.

However, there were two main reasons behind Gulet's saga. The first reason was that the interrogators demanded information on whether he had been in contact with the US-born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaqi during his time in Yemen, and the second reason was that initially Gulet's name was placed on a no-fly list, which made difficult for Kuwaiti officials to deport him back to the United States.

Extremism is not the only challenge that the young Somali Americans have been facing at least in the US.
Other challenges that are not widely addressed are being in organized gangs, the use of drugs and worst of all, prostitution.

These challenges and of course the radicalization for "jihad" by al-Shabaab demand a solution from the Somali Community leaders.

There is a need for coordination between officials and Somali Community leaders and the law enforcement community, because effective communication is a tool for finding a solution, and bridging the gaps that may exist.

Outreach programs, though there is an objection from ACLU that there aer used for intelligence gatherings, that the law enforcement community has put together have been working well to create understanding between Somali leaders and the Homeland Security and other law enforcement officials.

It is the role of the Somali community leaders, imams at the Islamic centers and the law enforcement community to come together to eliminate the challenges that young Somali Americans are facing.

Selective hearings can just add salt to the injury and create more suspicion and distrust between the Somali community and the larger American communities.


Somali refugees in Yemen continue to feel scourge of al-Shabaab

Thousands of Somali nationals have fled to Yemen over the past years to escape the violence and hard-line regime imposed by the al-Shabaab movement.

Little did the refugees know that the scourge of al-Shabaab and its al-Qaeda-backed ideology would follow them across the sea.

In February 2012, when al-Shabaab officially merged with al-Qaeda and vowed allegiance to its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group announced that their members would join "their Yemeni brothers in jihad".
In the months following that merger, al-Shabaab has been on the run, losing control of a number of key cities and facing a united military front of Somali government and African Union Mission in Somalia troops.
As a result, al-Shabaab members have been reportedly fleeing southern Somalia in small boats for the shores of Yemen in an attempt to escape what many analysts say is the group's inevitable defeat.
Mariam Said of the Somali army's communication centre in Mogadishu said the actual number of al-Shabaab fighters in Yemen is unclear.

"No one can give an exact figure regarding the number of Somali fighters that are incorporated into the Ansar al-Sharia group, which are fighting the Yemeni forces. [However] it is a very dangerous situation," she told Sabahi.

The presence of al-Shabaab members fighting alongside Ansar al-Sharia, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the fact that Somali nationals have been tied to terrorist operations in Yemen have created additional hardships for Somali refugees who are now under suspicion.

Somali suicide bomber kills Yemeni commander 

On June 18th in the city of Aden, a suicide bomber threw himself on the car of Major General Salem Ali Qoton, the commander of Yemen's southern region, and detonated his explosives belt.

Medical sources said Qoton died upon arrival at Sabir Hospital.

A few hours after the incident, the Yemeni Ministry of Defence stated on its website that the bomber was a Somali national.

On June 21st, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.

"We have heard preliminary news that the perpetrator of this criminal attack is a Somali national, but investigations are still under way to uncover his true identity," Somali Consul in Aden Ahmed Abdi Hassan told Sabahi.

Hassan explained how the incident will impact the lives of Somalis living in Yemen.

"We are convinced that the Yemeni people know very well that Somali refugees have not arrived in Yemen out of their own volition, but rather due to wars waged by the rebel al-Shabaab group that believes that they do not belong to one single nation but that the entire world is their homeland," he said.

"The police have every right to take certain precautionary measures to prevent security breaches, but we ask that they differentiate between those that have come to Yemen escaping wars in Somalia and those that are troublemakers," Hassan said.

The security committee in Dhamar province in central Yemen approved on June 19th a campaign to apprehend refugees who have flocked to the province in unprecedented numbers. The committee warned against the dangers of an influx of Somali refugees to the province, a development it says could threaten peace due to the security, social and economic problems that might occur, especially during a time when terrorist incidents are on the rise.

When asked about al-Shabaab's campaign to support Ansar al-Sharia, Hassan said, "[Al-Shabaab] had previously announced they would go to Yemen and join, what they called, their Yemeni brothers in jihad, and so we call on the Yemeni authorities to intensely monitor their coasts and borders so that this group cannot infiltrate their nation and destabilise their safety and security."

Most Somalis in Yemen pose 'no threat' 

"I am certain that most Somalis do not pose any threat to the security and stability of our neighbour, Yemen, similar to how the Yemeni community has been living in Somalia for the past decades," the consul continued. "We know that the people of Yemen love Somalis as they have broken bread with them, and their government has granted them freedom of movement to search for employment inside Yemen, not to mention providing scholarships for immigrant [Somali] students," Hassan said.

Faisal Mayow, 37, a Somali refugee who has lived in Aden for 12 years, told Sabahi that Yemen appreciates its fraternal, religious and neighbourly ties with Somalia.

"It has become the second country after Kenya to welcome Somali refugees, and Sanaa would not accept Somali citizens who are sponsors of al-Qaeda and brokers of al-Shabaab's Somali and foreign members," he said. "We will provide the Yemeni security forces with information to hunt down and detain those who infiltrate the [refugee] camps for the purpose of recruiting adolescents so they can be involved in conflicts in countries that they do not even belong to. We will fight the enemies of peace in every street and alley."

Stopping fighters at sea 

Admiral Farah Ahmed Omar Qare, commander of the Somali Navy, called on Yemen to exercise caution and prudence regarding terrorist groups that are trying to inflict pain on innocent people.

"We call on the government and people of Yemen to provide more assistance to Somalis who have fled the al-Shabaab hell and to help them in any way possible in terms of food, medicine, clothing and shelter," he told Sabahi. "We ask them not to harm [Somalis] passing in the streets, working or even those trying to enter the country."

"However, those who are implicated in acts of violence and in support of al-Qaeda should be punished," he added.

"This is a very delicate situation and we will co-operate with the Yemeni government to target terrorists while they are still at sea, before they land on the shores of both countries, because this is not Somalia's problem alone but will spread towards Yemen and the entire region," Qare said. 

"There has to be genuine international collaboration to end extremism and terrorism in Somalia and Yemen," he said. "This phenomenon is taking advantage of children's innocence and their naiveté to thrust them into a world filled with hatred and murder." 

Source: Sabahi Online

Somali militants ambush aid workers, killing 1 and kidnapping 4 at Kenya refugee camp

Somali militants ambushed an aid convoy Friday, killed a Kenyan aid worker and kidnapped four international workers at a Kenyan refugee camp near the border with Somalia, officials said. Kenyan police said they were pursuing the attackers.

Four international workers from the Norwegian Refugee Council were kidnapped after gunmen attacked a two-car convoy traveling through the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp, said police official Philip Ndolo. Dadaab hosts nearly 500,000 Somali refugees.

The gunmen killed a Kenyan driver for the aid group during the attack, Ndolo said. Earlier reports said one Kenyan driver was also kidnapped but a security official said only the four internationals were in hostage takers’ hands.

Ndolo said that police and military security personnel were pursuing the attackers. Kenya deployed troops into Somalia last October, so even if the kidnappers succeed in crossing back into Somalia, they may have to contend with Kenyan troops on the other side of the border.

A Norwegian Refugee Council spokesman in Norway, Rolf Vestvik, said he could not yet confirm any of the details of the incident. However, Vestvik did say that the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson was in Dadaab during the attack. Vestvik said Rasmusson is safe and unharmed.
A spate of kidnapping attacks by Somalia gunmen across the border in Kenya last year were one of the reasons Kenya used to publicly justify its military push into Somalia last year.

Last October gunmen entered Dadaab and snatched two Spanish women working for Doctors Without Borders. The two are still being held, likely in Somalia. Gunmen also carried out kidnapping attacks around the coastal resort town of Lamu.

Since those attacks, Kenya has moved thousands of troops into Somalia, complicating the blueprint used by previous ambush attacks: grab a valuable international aid worker, resident or tourist in Kenya and take them back to the safehaven of Somalia in hopes of eventually collecting ransom.

Despite the presence of Kenyan military troops, al-Shabab militants still control wide swaths of southern Somalia, and if the kidnappers make it into that region the hostages could be in for a long ordeal.
No claim of responsibility was immediately made after Friday’s attack.

Source: The Associated Press

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Somali drug gangs dealing in Southend

Court trial reveals gangs operating in seaside town

DANGEROUS Somali drugs gangs are dealing crack cocaine and heroin in Southend, a court has heard.

Detectives testifying in the trial of a juvenile drugs runner said the gangs took over their customers’ flats and paid them with drugs.
A youth at the centre of the trial, who cannot be named, claimed he was held hostage by one of the gangs for two months.
He said the gang befriended him, bought him food, clothes and cigarettes, then told him he had to work for them to pay off his ‘debt’.

He testified that the gang made him sleep on the floor of a flat in Hainault Avenue and forced him to carry out drug deals in Brightwell Avenue.

His story was uncovered after he dealt crack and heroin to undercover police on five occasions.
The undercover officers were part of Operation RASP, which saw police pose as addicts in order to gain intelligence on the seaside town’s drugs trade.

The operation ran between October 2011 and January 2012.

Detective Constables David Hobday and Jim English were involved in the operation, but did not go undercover.

Both testified in the trial at Basildon Crown Court last week.

Their testimony revealed that many Somali gangs had moved out of London after a Met Police crackdown and begun operating in the home counties.

DC Hobday said several gangs were operating in Southend using codenames like ‘Will’ and ‘Justin’, but police could not determine whether they were all connected.

Somali drugs gangs were known to have operated out of Southend’s Pennines flats and Quantock flats.
DC English said the gangs, sometimes known to carry knives and guns, assumed control of their customers’ flats and used them as bases.

He said: “A gang will sometimes get a little bit friendly with someone who is taking drugs and they will then take over that person’s flat and supply them with drugs.”

DC Hobday said the gangs operated like businesses, with bosses sometimes living as far away as Europe, but ‘receptionists’ taking calls and runners – like salespersons – delivering around the town.

He added: “There’s so many layers to protect [the bosses]. That’s why we normally only get the runners.”


Source: The Yellow Advertiser

Dubai Statement on Somalia and Somaliland

Add caption

Historic agreement paves way for end to Somali bloodshed

By and

An historic meeting between the presidents of Somalia and Somaliland in Dubai today may be the first step towards ending years of bloodshed there.

The meeting, facilitated by the UAE, was the first in 21 years. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the president of Somalia's transitional federal government, and Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, the president of the Republic of Somaliland, signed a declaration that paves the way for future talks and cooperation between the nations.

"This is a breakthrough and we are happy that our brothers in the north want to speak and negotiate," said Mr Ahmed. "As you know, all Somalis come from the same ethnic background, speak the same language and practice the same religion. So we are looking for solutions that satisfy all the segments of Somalia. Such negotiations need time and we hope it will succeed."

Mr Silanyo, Somaliland's president, voiced similar optimism.

"This will help for peace in the region as a whole, it will help in the fight against piracy and terrorism," he said.

Somaliland, which seceded from Somalia in 1991, has never been recognised by the international community. Mr Silanyo said he hoped the Dubai meeting would be the first step toward such recognition.

"We do hope it will contribute to us being recognised by the international community as a separate entity. We want to work together and live together - each country on its own," said Mr Silanyo.

The UAE foreign policy stance - that regionally initiated dialogue helps resolve conflict - was highlighted in the meeting of the presidents today.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of a two-day global counter-piracy convention in Dubai.

"What we see today is one people, who communicated and negotiated for the benefit of their people," said Anwar Mohammad Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

"The UAE is very aware that you cannot overcome many years of pain overnight, therefore we are witnessing a historic moment where the two presidents meet and sign this agreement to negotiations."

The one-page declaration signed by both presidents is titled The Dubai Statement.

"Both parties agreed to the continuation of this dialogue and agreed to allow the two committees, formed by the presidents, to continue the talks to clarify the relationship between the two sides," the statement read.

The meeting today formally endorses initial talks between ministers on both sides last week in London.

Somalia has functioned without a strong central administration since the ouster of the dictator Siad Barre in 1991. The collapse of his dictatorship led to civil war and inter-clan conflict, which split the country into the regions of Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug.

Somaliland, the northwestern region of Somalia, declared independence in 1991 and - despite a lack of recognition by the international community - has its own democratically elected government.

With limited economic opportunities at home, piracy became a lucrative business. Somalis say the root of piracy was in the early 1990s when local fishermen fought with foreign trawlers involved in illegal fishing and dumping toxic waste off its coast.

Source: The

Pro-govt forces push militants out of Somali town

A Somali military official says hundreds of African Union and Somali troops have swept into a town north of Mogadishu, forcing al-Shabab militants to flee.

Col. Abdullahi Ali Anod said troops encountered little resistance as they moved into the town of Balad on Tuesday. He said the town changed hands peacefully.

The taking of Balad is the latest success for pro-government forces in a year of big gains against al-Shabab. African Union forces kicked al-Shabab out of Mogadishu last August. In May, African Union troops moved into the Afgoye corridor outside of Mogadishu, pushing into the capital’s suburbs for the first time.

Source: The Associated Press

Somali president accuses world of balking at aid

Somalia's president on Wednesday accused the international community of refusing to fund the creation of local security forces capable of tackling piracy and al Qaeda-linked militants and urged them to pay up.

"The international community spends millions of dollars (because of piracy) and when you ask them to contribute to building forces on the ground they evade our request," Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a conference on piracy in Dubai.

Somalia has been mired in civil strife, grinding poverty, Islamist militancy and maritime piracy since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, leaving the African nation without an effective central government.

Ahmed said he thought international donors such as the United States were reluctant to contribute funds because they were concerned that the money would be embezzled and said he was willing to allow them to pay and train such forces themselves to allay such fears.

"If they (donors) are willing to help ... we can give them the chance to come and do the training, to give salaries to soldiers by themselves," he said.

Ahmed's complaint came as it was announced that the United Arab Emirates has pledged to donate $1 million to help build a Somali coast guard. Anwar Gargash, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, confirmed the news to reporters.

Piracy is just one of many problems plaguing Somalia. Ahmed's Western-backed government has been fighting al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants who still control large swathes of the country and want to impose sharia law.

Ahmed, who survived an assassination attempt by al Shabaab militants last month, has pledged to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates in the war-ravaged country.

"Uprooting Shabaab can only be done through building the capabilities of the Somali military, Somali intelligence," he said.


His government also needed funds to help integrate hundreds of former Shabaab members who had renounced their former affiliation, he said, adding that the government was already rehabilitating more than 500 former fighters.

"It was mostly extremists who wouldn't accept negotiations and they were members of al Qaeda, but we've been able to include a great number of al Shabaab in our side," he said.

Asked whether Shabaab and the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were closing ranks after Yemeni forces drove Islamist militants from several cities in the south, Ahmed said they were all part of the same group.

Yemeni officials spearheading a U.S.-backed offensive against Islamist militants have repeatedly identified Somali fighters among the casualties.

Ahmed said the threat from al Qaeda was far from over: "As far as we know, militants who were in Afghanistan started moving to Somalia and Yemen and this adds a lot of burden on us".

Ahmed's interim federal government is tasked with adopting a new constitution by August, aimed in part at redefining the relationship between Mogadishu and the regions and ending the cycle of violence.

He said parliamentary elections were also due in August.

His government last month held talks in London with the breakaway enclave of Somaliland for the first time since the entity declared its independence from Somalia in 1991.

"We are working towards bringing Somalia back to its natural unity, I have no doubts about our success," he said. "What we've agreed on is to start negotiations."

Asked whether the two sides discussed uniting in a federation or a confederation, he said: "We're discussing the important issues now."

Somaliland has enjoyed relative stability compared to the rest of Somalia, and has held a series of peaceful general elections.

(Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Source:  Reuters

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

43 migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia found dead in a truck

SOME 43 foreign nationals believed to be of Somali and Ethiopian origin have been found dead in a truck that they were reportedly traveling in from Arusha to Mbeya through Dodoma.

Initial reports have indicated that they succumbed to death due to suffocation inside the cargo truck in Chitego village in Kongwa District, roughly two kilometers from Kiteto District. A total of 113 people were said to be traveling in the truck. A Kongwa district official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not the official spokesperson, confirmed the deaths.

The source said it was the driver of the vehicle who first discovered that the passengers had died after he heard noises and decided to open the truck’s window.

Source: Nazret

Somalia marks 35th anniversary of Djibouti independence

Somalia is today marking the 35th anniversary of Djibouti independence as several colourful events are being held in various parts of the country including the capital, Mogadishu.

It is now exactly 35 years down the line after the tiny Horn of African country got its independence from France on 27 June 1977.

A colourful ceremony to honour the day was today held in Mogadishu and was attended by several top Somali government officials including Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, speaker of the national transitional federal parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan.

Djiboutian ambassador to Somalia Dayib Dubad Roble was also present at the ceremony.

A similar ceremony was held at the Somali central town of Beledweyne near Ethiopia, where Djiboutian soldiers serving the African Union Mission in Somalia are based.

The event comes just a day after Somalia celebrated the independence of its northern regions which gained the independence just four days before the south.

Djibouti which is inhabited by many ethnic Somalis is regarded “second home” by many Somalis due to its endless efforts towards peace and tranquility in Somalia which has been marred by two decades of civil war.

Source: SomaliCare

Peace returns to Mogadishu

By Daniel Howden

The blue and white uniform looks new and its wearer seems small and uncertain amid the mayhem of a Mogadishu rush hour. The drivers, many of whom are armed, are not yet used to the sight of a traffic policeman. It's something most Somalis haven't seen in their capital for 20 years.

Dabka junction on the road towards parliament is swarmed with battered mini-bus taxis that vie with ageing Japanese saloon cars and four-wheel drives with blacked-out windows. The new policing initiative, paid for by the United Nations, hasn't reached another junction half a kilometre away, where a militiaman keeps the taxis at bay by firing live rounds a few feet over the tops of their vehicles.

Rights of way are still being negotiated and the picture is uneven across a city more accustomed to war than peace but the warning shot is one of the few rounds heard. Mogadishu, which for so long had a soundtrack of mortars and small arms fire, is learning to live with the sounds of vehicles, street-hawkers and building work. The upsurge in traffic will see the city's first conventional petrol station open later this month.

Osman Mohamed is one of hundreds of Somalis returning from the diaspora - and like most of them, he was shocked at the state of his hometown. A doctor by training who hasn't practised medicine since he left Somalia during the civil war in the early 1990s, his first impression on coming home was that he had arrived in Hiroshima.

“It was a beautiful place, they used to call it the White City,” he said. “Now everything has been destroyed.” For now, the 58-year-old's family has stayed in the US but he is “coming back in stages”, looking to set up a medical charity to combat the counterfeit medicines the city is awash with.

In the 10 months since Islamic militants al-Shabaab pulled out of the capital, trench warfare and street battles have been replaced by a fragile peace punctuated by suicide bombings. Once weekly flights have now become daily with planes landing from neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti but also from the Gulf States and Turkey. Most of them are full of similarly tentative returnees.

A wrecked cargo plane shot down by al-Shabaab still lies next to the runway at the Aden Adde airport, but these days it's used to shelter deliveries of the leafy narcotic khat from the sun. The airport has been given a facelift with aid money from Istanbul, and the blue and white Somali star is matched everywhere by the Turkish flag.

Amid the wreckage of war, some traces of the city's old charm remain in the ruined stone buildings clustered around the old port. The stench of rubbish that was dumped here during years of fighting has at least partially subsided. A new sea wall has been built, lined on the outer side with dozens of rusted metal drums, a reminder of the way Somalia's shores have been used as a dumping ground.

To Abbas Ahmed this looks like a brave new world. The 40-year-old has worked through war, famine and foreign occupation at the crumbling, airless fish market. “This is a good year,” he says waving hands stained with the blood of gutted fish. “Every day we're getting new customers. We can't cope with the demand.”

On a good day he makes $35 (£22). A year ago as the city was being fought over by al-Shabaab and the African Union force, Amisom, he barely made enough to feed his family. Now he can afford to pay for his two children to go to one of the schools that has reopened. “It all depends on peace and security,” says Mr Ahmed. “Now people can come to the market.” Even as the season changes and the winds are keeping most fisherman ashore, the market is crowded. The floor is slick with blood, and clouds of flies hover over baskets of fish, shark fins and squid.

The same bustle is evident at the nearby Hamarweyne street market, where Muktar Mohamed is offering “new fashion” haircuts under a plastic awning. A Michael Jackson song blares from his tape recorder as he restyles a client with a “Ronaldo” cut. “Even if we played the music low [under al-Shabaab] we could get in trouble,” said the 28-year-old. “Now we play it as loud as you like.”

The Islamists' restrictions on music, sport and social life are being shrugged off all across town. Women and girls crowd onto the city's beaches to swim. A sports bar has opened in the centre, showing matches from the European football championships. The owner of the “Sports Cave” is Ahmed Jama, a catering graduate from Solihull college who has opened three restaurants since returning from the West Midlands.

His out-of-town favourite is on Jazeera beach about 10 miles along the coast, beyond the Amisom defences in a place that would, until recently, have been a no-go area. On Fridays there are traffic jams along the dirt road that cuts through the mangroves behind the sand dunes as wealthier residents make their way to Village Hotel and Restaurant for grilled seafood.

Speaking English with a West Midlands twang, he compares the new climate to a “change in the weather”. “In the last three months there's been a big change. It's not just about the military, it's the people who have had enough of the violence.”

Out on the white sands, young doctors and off-duty soldiers are playing beach football, while fisherman land a skiff through the surf. Despite the apparent peace, Mr Ahmed has seen at close quarters that his remains a lethally dangerous city. He was only two rows away from the suicide bomber who killed 10 people in April at a ceremony at the reopened National Theatre. Fingering a shrapnel scar on his cheek, he recalls that the female bomber was dressed smartly: “I never thought that kind of person could be a walking bomb.”

Mr Jama mentions casually that the Sports Cave was attacked last month with a car bomb exploding outside. “These people [al-Shabaab] want to send a signal that they're still here.”

In his office inside the Amisom base next to the airport, Ugandan Colonel Paddy Ankunda is surrounded by maps that until recently showed the African Union (AU) forces and the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) hemmed into just three of Mogadishu's 16 districts. Now the city is ringed by Amisom outposts and the picture has changed “permanently” he claims. “This city no longer faces a conventional threat,” he said.

The AU force has increased to 12 000 troops with Uganda and Burundi joined by troops from Kenya and Djibouti, with 5 000 more to deploy. The maps show al-Shabaab under pressure to the west from Ethiopian forces, to the south from Kenya, while Uganda and Burundi are pushing out from Mogadishu, recently taking Afgoye, an important food-producing area 50 miles outside the capital.

Among the Somalis who have been tempted to come home for the first time by the changed environment is Hassan Nur, the youngest son of Mogadishu mayor Mohamed Nur. Sitting on the veranda of his father's house halfway up the heavily guarded hill to the government compound at Villa Somalia, he had to persuade his father to let him tag along during a break from university in London.

The excitement of his homecoming captures the cautious optimism taking hold of Somalia's ruined capital. Asked to describe his first impression of the city he says it's hard for outsiders to comprehend: “It's half relaxing, half scary.”

Although al-Shabaab continues to exert influence across large parts of Somalia, Islamist fighters have been driven out of the capital, Mogadishu.

Source: The Independent

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrating Somalia's Independence Day - June 26th and July 1st

July 1st marks the 52nd anniversary of Somalia’s independence. On June 26th, 1960 was the independence of British Somaliland. A few days later, Italian Somaliland gained its independence from Italy on the 1st of July 1960 and was united the same day with the former British Somaliland.

We found this vintage video on youtube that has actual video footage of the 1960 celebration of Somalia’s independence.

Monday, June 25, 2012

US soldiers on secret Somali operations

Hundreds of the US military troops have been deployed in Somalia for secret operations in the capital Mogadishu, Press TV reports.

At least 390 American troops have been training local soldiers secretly in Somali training bases over the past two months, Somali military sources said on Sunday.

Somali military officer Abdiwahab Mohamed Ali told Press TV that at least 390 American forces, including 38 officers have secretly reached the Mogadishu international airport.

The American troops have also set up secret jails in the country and inject dangerous drugs to Somali soldiers, according to sources.

The report came following two Friday US assassination drone attacks on al-Shabab fighters’ Harweyne training base in Elasha Biyaha on the outskirts of the capital, which claimed the lives of at least 39 people.

Earlier in January, the White House officially admitted in a report that it is launching concerted deadly attacks in Somalia as part of its campaign against the war on terror and the al-Qaeda militant group.

Washington has been using assassination drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia and claims that it is targeting terrorists in the operations, but civilians have often been killed in the strikes.
Source: The Associated Press

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi declared the winner of Egypt’s presidential election

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi was declared the winner of Egypt’s first free presidential election Sunday, and he proclaimed himself a leader “for all Egyptians,” although he faces a struggle for power with the country’s still-dominant military rulers.

The announcement by election officials touched off a joyous celebration of chanting and dancing in the sweltering heat by tens of thousands of Morsi’s supporters jamming Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago.

It also capped a week of growing political tension in the streets after authorities delayed announcing the results of the June 16-17 runoff election between Morsi and Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

Tanks and other signs of heavy security had been deployed around the country, especially outside state institutions, in anticipation of possible violence reminiscent of the first days of last year’s revolution.

President Barack Obama telephoned the U.S.-educated Morsi to congratulate him on his victory and offer continued support for Egypt’s transition to democracy. The White House said Morsi expressed appreciation for Obama’s call and “welcomed U.S. support for Egypt’s transition.”

The reaction from Israel was subdued, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he respected the results of Egypt’s democratic process and hoped the peace agreement between the two countries would remain intact. Ecstatic residents in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip filled the streets, fired guns in the air and handed out candy.

Speaking on Egyptian television Sunday evening, Morsi declared he had a “message of peace. We will respect all international agreements.” He did not mention Israel but the remark seemed to be a reassuring nod to respecting the peace treaty.

The election commission said Morsi won 51.7 percent in the runoff — a margin of only 800,000 votes — over Shafiq, a former air force colonel who was perceived to be the favorite of the military council that took over from Mubarak.

“I tell everybody in this memorable day, that because of your choice, your will, and after God’s favor, I am a president for all Egyptians,” the 60-year-old engineer, professor and former lawmaker said in his speech, delivered stiffly as he read from notes.

Monday’s editions of Freedom and Justice, the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper that bears the same name as the group’s political party, bannered the headline: “The street explodes with joy, the people write history: Morsi President of Egypt.”

It was a stunning victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that was outlawed under Mubarak. But the liberal and secular youth groups that drove the uprising were left wondering whether Egypt has taken a step toward becoming a repressive Islamist state, or a new power sharing agreement between Morsi and the military — the traditional power brokers.

“This is not the best scenario I anticipated,” said Sarah Kamal, a liberal activist who was in Tahrir Square when Morsi’s victory was announced. She ululated and cheered for him despite criticism from many of her friends that Morsi would endanger a secular Egypt.

“I know they have sold the revolution short before. But they are better than the ‘felool,’” she said, referring to the remnants of the old regime. “I will stand with the Brotherhood against the military for now, and later I will fight off the Brotherhood’s hold,” she added.

In his speech, Morsi sought to reach out to the activists by paying tribute to the nearly 900 protesters killed in the uprising. “I wouldn’t have been here between your hands as the first elected president without ... the blood, the tears, and sacrifices of the martyrs,” he said.

A week ago, when the polls were closing in the runoff election, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president’s office of most of its major powers. The ruling generals made themselves the final arbiters over the most pressing issues still complicating the transition— such as writing the constitution, legislating, passing the state budget— and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.

A court earlier dissolved the freely elected parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving the military also in charge of legislating.

According to the constitutional declaration, the new president won’t appoint the defense minister and will lose the title of “Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.”

Tens of thousands of Morsi’s supporters vowed to stay in the square, pressing for the reversal of those actions by the generals. Mohammed el-Beltagy, a leading member of the Brotherhood and former lawmaker, said the protesters would not leave until the military fulfills its promises to hand over power to a civilian president by July 1.

“The military council must live up to these demands or it would be reneging on its promises, he told Misr 25, the Brotherhood’s TV station. “We are against any confrontation, or violence, or clashes or obstruction of state institutions. We are a peaceful revolution that will insist on meeting its demands.”

The defiant tone of el-Beltagy highlighted the fine line the 84-year-old Muslim Brotherhood group has had to tread amid high expectations from a president with little authority and a powerful adversary.

Ahmed Abdel-Attie, a Morsi campaign manager, told state TV that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council, called Morsi to congratulate him and that the two will meet Monday.

The military’s moves had drawn international condemnation from human rights groups and the U.S., raising fears that the generals wanted to undercut Egypt’s democratic experience and entrench military rule.

The ultra-conservative Salafi party Al-Nour has mediated between the Brotherhood and the military to ensure a “smooth gradual transition,” said Youssri Hamad, a spokesman for the group. Hamad didn’t discuss details of the mediation but he said this was in part behind the delay in announcing the election results.

The armed forces have been the source of power in Egypt since a military coup in 1952. Since then, it has acquired vast economic interests — giant construction companies, farms, water-bottling facilities and a nationwide chain of gas stations— as well as leading government posts. Civilian oversight has been one of the demands of the revolutionary groups.

The Brotherhood still controls the panel that has been given the task of writing the constitution, although the military-drafted declaration allows the generals to object to any article in it or form a new panel altogether if the panel is unable to continue its work. Liberals and secular activists have accused the Islamists of trying to dominate the writing of the new charter. There are also concerns the new constitution may try to limit the political role of the military.

Morsi also faces enormous challenges of improving the economy and maintaining law and order — both of which deteriorated in the post-Mubarak period.

Pro-democracy leader Mohammed ElBaradei urged unity after the results were announced.

“It is time we work all as Egyptians as part of a national consensus to build Egypt that is based on freedom and social justice,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic Christian business tycoon who joined a liberal bloc in voicing opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday, said he expects Morsi to send a reassuring message to Egypt’s Christian minority who represent around 10 percent of the population of 85 million.

“There are fears of imposing an Islamic state ... where Christians don’t have same rights,” Sawiris told the private TV station CBC. Morsi “is required to prove the opposite. ... We don’t want speeches or promises, but in the coming period, it is about taking action. ... He was not our choice but we are accepting it is a democratic choice.”

This is the first time modern Egypt will be headed by an Islamist and by a freely elected civilian. The last four presidents in the past six decades have all come from the ranks of the military.

“Before the revolution, we were forced to choose between Mubarak’s ruling party and the Muslim Brotherhood (as the opposition). The revolution was about creating a third power, the people ... who are not seeking power but are seeking real change in the dynamics of power in Egypt,” said Lobna Darwish, an activist who boycotted the elections.

“I am happy the Brotherhood won because now the revolution will continue on the street against both of them, the Brotherhood and the SCAF,” she said.

Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a leading leftist politician, said Morsi also needs to address the issue of meting out justice to former regime officials implicated in the killings of protesters in the uprising. Mubarak, 84 and in ill health, is serving a life sentence in prison for his role.

AP writers Maggie Michael in Cairo, Robert Burns in Washington, Josef Federman in Jerusalem, and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this story.

Source: The Associated Press

Somali stabs girlfriend 57 times in Britain

A 29-year-old Somali refugee in Britain has been jailed for at least 26 years for stabbing his girlfriend 57 times with shards of a broken mirror.

Zakaria Mohamed killed 32-year-old TV recruitment consultant Amina Adan at the home they shared in Walworth, south London.

The Old Bailey court heard he had assaulted her twice before during their year-long relationship, but magistrates put off sentencing him so that he could take part in a domestic abuse programme, the Daily Mail reported.

The man pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend in November last year with three knives and shards of glass from a broken mirror.

After a row, a drunk Mohamed went home, dragged the woman down the stairs by her hair, beat her unconscious, kicked and stamped on her and stabbed her.

When police arrived, he threatened to kill them too and had to be subdued with a Taser gun.

The victim, who was brought up in Kenya, was described as being hard working and popular at the Al Jazeera TV news network where she worked in human resources.

The man came to Britain in 2002 on a forged Dutch passport. His request for asylum was turned down but he was given indefinite leave in 2007 to remain under an amnesty.

In April 2011, he pleaded guilty to battery on Adan and was placed on a community order that included a domestic abuse programme.

In May 2011, he punched Adan in the stomach and went on the run before being arrested in July. In September, he was convicted of the assault.

Source: News Track India

Why so many Somali-Canadians who go west end up dead

They are called the ciyaal baraf, or the children of the snow. The kids of a generation who fled blood-stained Somalia two decades ago.

Their parents sought refuge across the world in a mass exodus from civil war. Many settled in Canada, mostly in Toronto, where they raised their children, often in poverty. And, as the children came of age and branched out across the country, a new kind of grief emerged.

Since 2005, dozens of young men from Canada’s Somali community have been killed, most of them casualties along a cocaine-dusted corridor between the housing projects of Toronto and the oil patch in Alberta. Most cases remain unsolved.

The latest slaying was among the most brazen. Ahmed Hassan, a 24-year-old who’d been charged with dealing drugs in Alberta, was gunned down in Toronto’s Eaton Centre. His public death has nudged this grief into the spotlight and renewed calls from Somali community leaders for governments to help stop the bloodshed.

Ultimately, the shooting has forced the country to confront the vexing question of why so many of these young men who go west end up dead.

Western dream a nightmare

The Somali-Canadian community may be rooted in Toronto, but the source of its grief is in Alberta, where at least 23 young men have died in the past seven years.

There are about 3,000 Somalis who live in or near the oil-sands city of Fort McMurray. Their community is clustered in a series of low-rise apartments tucked between a grocery store, a mall and a graveyard. They come here dreaming of well-paying jobs, hoping to send money back home and end two decades of poverty. But many lack recognized skills and end up chronically underemployed, driving cabs or working as hotel housekeepers; or they’re unemployed, as is the case with more than 300 Somalis in Fort McMurray today.

“We’re called the lost generation,” explained Warsame Adam, a 29-year-old facility manager at the Fort McMurray mosque. “We’re hit from every direction, Somalis. It’s like we don’t belong anywhere.”

Mr. Adam found meaningful work out west. Others, however, heeded a different, persistent call – that of the drug trade.

“I don’t think anybody goes there saying, ‘You know what, I’m going to go over there and become a drug dealer,’ ” said Ali Abdullahi, who runs youth programs for Somalis in Toronto and knew at least one of the men killed in Alberta. “It’s a lot of young men who go over there, look for work, and some of them may not have all the qualifications to find a job.”

But they still need to make money, said Hukun Hurur, a Somali leader in Fort McMurray. “And then they turn to other things.”

Cocaine use thrives in Alberta’s oil patch, driven by those who did find well-paying jobs. In 2010, Fort McMurray RCMP laid five cocaine-trafficking charges for every marijuana charge.

It’s a brisk trade. High-level dealers can quickly gross $5,000 a day selling crack and cocaine, making $12-per-hour labour jobs seem laughable.

“We don’t get a job. So the only option is to get money, to sell drugs,” said one young Somali-Canadian in Fort McMurray, who calls himself M.J.

“There’s something wrong with this city,” he said.

Civil war

Most of these children of the snow can trace their roots to strife-torn Somalia. In 1991, armed opposition groups overthrew the ruling military government, thrusting the country into a brutal and protracted civil war.

As the conflict worsened, migrants poured into Toronto, along with other cities in the United States and Britain. Many arrived with limited English skills and few resources. In places like Toronto, where there was no existing Somali community to join, families were left to fend for themselves.

Rima Berns-McGown, a University of Toronto professor who has studied the Somali diaspora in Canada and Britain, said many parents who brought their children abroad were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – yet another challenge for young families adapting to life on a new continent.

Those who came to Canada were overwhelmingly directed to Toronto’s social-housing projects, places like Regent Park and Jane and Finch, where residents are in frequent conflict with police. And as the children of the first wave of refugees grew up, many of them faced a double stigmatization as Muslims who are black – a situation some Somalis say was acutely reinforced after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

Many of the rivalries that play out in Alberta are in fact nurtured in Toronto, where an estimated 80,000 Somali-Canadians live.

“Whatever’s going on over in Toronto, it comes over here,” M.J. said. “Everybody wants to make his money, so they’re going to shoot each other.”

The deadly pull westward among Toronto’s Somali community, according to one community source, began with one young man from the East Mall neighbourhood who got involved in Alberta’s lucrative oil-sands spinoff through a friend who was working there. When the man returned home to Toronto, he drove a flashy car, bought drinks for his friends and was rich enough to leave expensive items behind at bars and nightclubs.

The siren song of easy money was attractive to some of the young men he grew up with, many of whom were struggling to find work in Toronto. A few left to join him. Soon after, others followed.

“He really recruited a lot of people into that stuff,” said the source, a respected member of the community who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It seems like there was a chain migration. One guy left and the others followed him.”

Looking to the U.S.

When Canadian law-enforcement officials attempted to better understand this phenomenon last year, one of the places they looked was Minnesota. The state is home to an estimated 32,000 Somali-Americans, the largest concentration in the U.S. There, as in Alberta, many young Somalis have sought prosperity in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, a 10-hour drive west of Minneapolis.

The heart of Minneapolis’s Somali community is Cedar-Riverside, an enclave often referred to as Little Mogadishu. The towers of Riverside Plaza – a social-housing complex that’s long been a haven for previous waves of refugees – are now home to thousands of Somali-Americans.

Police officer Jeanine Brudenell, who was invited to share her experiences with Canadian officials, began tracking street gangs in the city’s Somali community in 2005. Gradually, she said, her role shifted to providing programs aimed at teaching Somali-Americans about their legal rights and encouraging them to report criminal activity.

Minnesota police have long been frustrated with how difficult it is to solve crimes in the Somali community: of roughly eight gang-related homicides in Minneapolis in recent years, only one has been solved, a problem Ms. Brudenell attributes to distrust of police and the possibility of retaliation. “They don’t want to be testifying or be a witness because they fear they’re going to be in danger,” she said, adding, “It’s a fair fear.”

In recent years, the force has hired two Somali-speaking beat officers who work nights in the neighbourhood, which most people say has improved safety and helped reduce conflicts with police.

“Police are usually suspicious of [a group of] black kids who are maybe up to no good walking around,” said Saeed Fahia, a community leader. “It’s possible that they’re doing nothing. So someone who knows the culture could tell you if they are up to no good or not. An ordinary police officer cannot do that.”

They also hired a civilian liaison to work with the Somali community and opened a “safety centre” at the base of one of the public-housing towers, aimed at encouraging residents to report crime.

Ms. Brudenell said that, as the department does a better job of tracking and catching gangsters, some of the most serious criminals are turning up in other cities instead. “We get calls, ‘Oh my God, we have all your people here,’ ” she said.

The Minnesota experience may not translate exactly in Fort McMurray, where the young men getting into trouble are hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from family. But law-enforcement officials share a common frustration in getting Somali community members to talk to investigators.

In one Edmonton murder case on New Year’s Day in 2011, a restaurant full of people yielded just one suspect description. Homicide detective Bill Clark complained publicly, forcing the police chief to apologize and mend fences with Somali leaders.

M.J., sitting in Fort McMurray, said he’d never speak to police.

“Where’s my benefit, if I snitch on you? I put my life in danger. I have no benefits. They do nothing for me, they pull me over, because being black, and you think I’m going to go to them and tell them what’s going on?”

‘Positive programs’

Somali leaders want program funding for their summer camps, soccer and basketball leagues, or a community centre – anything to engage young Somali men, specifically. Existing programs are piecemeal, and rely heavily on volunteer hours at Somali organizations. “The only way we can stop them from joining these bad activities is to make them busy with positive programs,” said Bashir Ahmed, executive director of Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian Education and Rural Development Organization.

But those don’t always work. Mr. Hassan was once in one, writing he was“planning to be productive member of society.” He was later charged with cocaine trafficking before being gunned down earlier this month.

Five years ago, community leaders produced a provincially funded report on the risks facing Somali youth in Edmonton. One of the co-authors was Abdullahi Roble – Mr. Hassan’s father – who doesn’t want to talk about his dead son. “There’s nothing to prove, nothing. … We will not gain anything about him. He’s dead, that’s it. That’s enough for me,” he said.

But for those who get caught up in the game and survive, the challenges are far from over.

Saeed Ibrahim Jama’s parents fled Somalia’s turmoil and went to Saudi Arabia, where he was born, before eventually ending up in Canada in 2001. They lived in poor neighbourhoods in Toronto and Winnipeg and Edmonton, and Mr. Jama and his older brother both fell into crime.

Mr. Jama served 27 months for getting caught with drugs he planned to sell. Since being released, he said he’s turned his life around, but was denied citizenship. Last Wednesday, Canada served him a final deportation notice. On July 22, barring a last-minute legal intervention, he’ll be deported to Somalia, a country he has never stepped foot in.

The federal official ruled he faced no “significant personalized risk” by returning to a country where it recommends Canadian citizens “avoid all travel.”

Mr. Jama is repentant. “I completely understand why they want to deport me. I understand it. I did what I did,” he said this week. But, he said, the government is making it impossible for his generation to make amends.

I’ve been working, doing everything I can. I don’t make no trouble. But they don’t see it,” he said. Once part of a middle-class family that began to struggle, he says he got into drugs for the money, and because of peer pressure. His oldest sister is a university graduate, and another sister is in university. But he and his brother, the ciyaal baraf, have criminal records.

“I was young, and I didn’t take it seriously,” he said, adding some advice for other young Somalis. “They need to look at what their parents went through to get them here. But no one sees it like that.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

Friday, June 22, 2012

Somali leaders adopt draft constitution

Somalia's leaders said Friday they have adopted a draft constitution, billed as the key to lifting the Horn of Africa nation out of two decades of instability and civil war.

The draft law must first be approved by a constituent assembly whose members will be designated next month and then, at a date still to be determined, put to a nationwide referendum.

"This is the most critical step because it ushers in the major step to end transition," UN Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga told reporters in Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The adoption of the text came at the end of three days of meetings between Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and the speaker of parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan.

Also in attendance were the leaders of the self-proclaimed autonomous republics of Puntland and Galmudug, and the head of the Sufi movement.

Somalia's transitional institutions, including the presidency and the parliament, were set up in 2004 but must be replaced by permanent institutions by August 20.

Somali elders will designate the members of a constituent assembly, which is supposed to convene for the first time around July 12, as well as the members of the new parliament.

The members of parliament are to choose a new president by August 20.

Source: AFP

Somali piracy death toll rises as violence worsens

Somali pirates seizing Indian Ocean ships were responsible for at least 35 hostage deaths in 2011, a report showed on Friday, with levels of violence rising.

The number of prisoners taken by pirates fell to 555, at least, in 2011 from 645 in 2010, the report by the U.S.-based One Earth Future foundation and International Maritime Bureau said.

Eight were known to have been killed by their captors either during their initial capture or were executed later, it said, with another eight dying of malnutrition or disease. The remainder were killed either during rescue attempts by military forces or while trying to escape.

While solid data on previous years is limited, the total of 35 is seen as by far the highest number of piracy-related fatalities in a single year.

"We know these figures are almost certainly an underestimate," project manager Kaija Hurlburt told Reuters. "A lot of the ships now being taken are regional dhows that are often never reported. They might have 12 to 20 people aboard each time."

Despite a major naval effort by several nations, hundreds of young Somalis engage in piracy every year in the hope of ransoms that can run to millions of dollars.

With some shipowners apparently simply abandoning their vessels and crews, particularly the smaller more vulnerable craft, crews have found themselves held for ever longer periods.

As more and more merchant ships carry armed guards, foreign navies take tougher action and some shipowners prove unable or unwilling to pay up, some believe piracy itself is getting harder - and that is being taken out on those in captivity.

At least 149 hostages had now been held for more than a year, the report said, with 26 held for more than two years. Many of those released reported abuse including beatings, removal of fingernails and dumping in the sea.

More than 40 percent said that at some stage they had been used as human shields, often when pirates sailed captured vessels back out to sea to act as mother ships for new attacks. Most hostages were from developing countries, particularly the Philippines, India and China as well as Gulf and African states.

The level of violence being used was also increasing, the report said. In 2011, more than 3,800 personnel were aboard ships that were attacked by pirates with firearms in what were often prolonged and brutal assaults.

Casualties among the pirates were also almost certainly on the rise, with reports of at least 111 killed in 2011, some 70 percent in clashes with increasingly aggressive naval forces.

(Reporting by Peter Apps; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Source: Reuters

Some Somalis Fight Slavery Despite Failed State

Prosecution of Traffickers in Puntland Draws Praise

Failure is no stranger in Somalia. From warlords Ali Mahdi Mohamed and Mohamed Farrah Aidid to the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, a generation of chaos followed the 1991 ouster of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre.

Despite the sacrifices of African Union peacekeepers backing a Transitional Federal Government, Somalia today leads the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index for a fifth straight year based on the organization’s analyses of political, economic, and social pressures on 178 nations.

Somalia’s unrivaled failure results from what this year’s report calls “widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgency, crime, and well-publicized pirate attacks against foreign vessels.” An unenviable ranking to be sure, but at least it is a ranking. Somalia is too often the blank line across human development tables because sufficient information is perennially “not available.”

Children Forcibly Recruited by al-Shababb

This year’s U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons report looks at slavery in 186 countries and ranks 185 of them, with Somalia again the lone exception — a “special case” for the tenth consecutive year “due to the lack of a viable central government.” The report says al-Shabaab continues to forcibly recruit young girls who are then “married” to militia leaders and used for sexual servitude, logistical support, and intelligence gathering. It says al-Shabaab uses “systematic force and deception to target vulnerable children, sometimes as young as eight years old,” threatening teachers and parents who refuse to send children for training in roadside bombs and assassination.

But human trafficking is not entirely invisible within this failed state. In April, courts in the self-declared republic of Puntland sentenced a Somali man to 12 years in prison for trying to traffic nine children between the ages of seven and 14 from southern Somalia to Yemen through Puntland. The court transferred custody of the children to a local, UNICEF-funded NGO until their parents could be identified.

Praise for Puntland

“Even in Somalia, there are heroes of the anti-trafficking fight,” says the director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca. He says the Puntland prosecution shows that “even in countries where there is not a functioning government, the legal system and others can work together to bring traffickers to justice.”

Officials in the semi-autonomous region continue to boost Puntland’s Marine Police Force patrols to combat piracy and the trafficking of Somali and Ethiopians across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen through Qaw, Mareero, and Elayo.

The State Department report says Puntland and the semi-autonomous Somaliland established a referral process for the transfer of trafficking victims to NGOs while immigration officials began using a screening checklist developed by the International Organization for Migration to help identify trafficking cases. Also, clan elders have started referring suspected trafficking victims to IOM workers. Over the past year, IOM and local partners have provided housing, medical and psychological assistance, food, clothes, vocational training, and seed money for starting small businesses to 27 victims of trafficking in Puntland and Somaliland.

Clinton Issues a Challenge

Unveiling the Human Trafficking report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it a useful and specific guide for governments looking to scale up their own efforts at prevention, prosecution, and protection.

“What kind of psychological support might a victim need? How should immigration laws work to protect migrant victims? How can labor inspectors learn to recognize the warning signs of traffickers? And what can you and all of us do to try to help?” Clinton says. “One person’s commitment and passion, one person’s experience and the courage to share that experience with the world can have a huge impact.”

Source: VOA News

South Africans Freed From Somali Pirates

Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari at news conference with Somali Foreign Minister Abdulahi Haji Hassan, left, and Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse, Mogadishu, June 21, 2012.

Two South Africans kidnapped 20 months ago by pirates off the Somali coast have been freed. Source: VOA

Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse told reporters Thursday the pair was rescued by security forces during an early morning raid.

However, a security source said that a ransom was paid to win their release.

The couple, Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, had been held hostage since October 2010, when Somali pirates hijacked their yacht off the southeastern coast of Africa.

The two appeared with Somali officials during a press conference in Mogadishu. Pelizzari, who appeared emotional, thanked the Somali people.

"All I can say is thank you for the support and giving us our freedom," he said. "I thank the Somali people, the beautiful country. Please open your hospitality to the world. It's dawn. It's a new age."

The captors originally demanded a ransom of $10 million for the release of the couple.

Somalia-based pirates have hijacked dozens of ships traveling near the Horn of Africa in the past five years and collected hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom.

The number of successful hijackings has declined over the past year, as foreign naval forces patrol the coastline more closely and more ships take protective measures, including having armed guards on board.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

Source: VOA

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Somalia-Somaliland Talks Begin Outside London

Representatives from the Somali Transitional Government and the breakaway region of Somaliland began two days of talks outside London Wednesday on a wide range of issues, including the future of the self-declared republic.

Ten officials — five from each side — are taking part in the closed-door discussions organized by Britain and the European Union. The two sides agreed to meet during an international conference on Somalia's future in London in February.

During the conference, world leaders pledged new help to tackle terrorism and piracy in the troubled East African country, but insisted that Somalia's government must push ahead with forming a stable government.

Reports say that if an agreement is reached, a meeting between Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and his Somaliland counterpart, Ahmed Siilanyo, will take place sometime next week in Dubai.

Somalia has endured two decades of civil war and poverty since the fall of its last stable government in 1991. More recently, it has struggled to deal with a devastating famine, as well as pirates and al-Shabab, a militant group seen as a threat to regional security.

Somaliland broke away from the rest of Somalia after the fall of the central government in Mogadishu. No country or international body has recognized it as an independent nation.

The de-facto government, which includes elected lawmakers, independent judiciary and three official parties, has maintained relative stability and peace in the region.

Source: VOA

Survey Offers Rare Glimpse of Somalis’ Political Views

A new VOA survey offers a rare look at the political views of people in war-torn Somalia.

More than 3,000 people throughout Somalia responded to an unprecedented survey about the country's proposed constitution.

More than three-quarters of the respondents supported the draft constitution.

The vast majority backed a provision calling for Islamic law, or Sharia.

They were divided on the inclusion of women in politics and largely supported the protection of press freedoms.

The majority also backed a strong central government in the fractured country, which has endured two decades of internal conflict and lawlessness.

VOA's Somali Service collected more than 20,000 phone numbers for the survey, which was conducted with technical support from Google.

Somali Service chief Abdirahman Yabarow said people in areas controlled by militant group al-Shabab were the most difficult to survey.

“You have to make really 20, 30, 40 calls in order to get one successful call. So it was very difficult to get people who are willing to talk. And people were very afraid. And I will say they had reason to be afraid because these guys, Shabab, were not joking. They're killing people day after day.”

The draft constitution is likely to be adopted provisionally next month by Somalia's 825-member Constituent Assembly.

About 61 percent of Somalis surveyed believe people should vote on the measure in a nationwide referendum.

The international community and Somali government have said the security situation remains too unstable to hold a nationwide vote.

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government was established in 2004, but has been unable to assert power because of chronic infighting and the chaos in the country.

Source: VOA

Playing a good host to your guest: The Native/Somali Friendship Committee

By Allison Herrera, The Uptake

It all started with an email nearly three years ago. A Native American elder was allegedly attacked by a Somali youth in the Phillips Neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Instead of retaliating, Wade Keezer sent an email out on the Minnesota Indian Listserv urging people to keep the peace.

Native Americans living in Phillips were frustrated. After all, they consider this neighborhood their own-until many Somali moved there, opening businesses and raising their families.

“All these things I’ve been hearing through these years through cultural teachings is that you play a good host to your guest,” says Wade Keezer, one of the organizers of the Native American/Somali Friendship Committee.

That was the spirit that formed the Native American Somali Friendship Committee, which formed 2 1/2 years ago on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Now, members of both communities meet monthly to share stories, a meal and just talk.

“There’s a lot of stereotypes-thinking that these people are just coming and taking their housing. But that’s not the case. We come here and go through the process and everything,” says Amina Saleh, another organizer of the friendship committee.

Keezer says they don’t have to hug each other and sing kumbaya, but rather just learn to live and let live.

Now, the Friendship Committee has taken a new turn: a play is being produced by local playwright Rhianna Yazzie. This yearlong process starts with people in the community doing one simple act: walking down Franklin Avenue together to enjoy the beautiful summer weather.

Although there haven’t been physical conflicts, there is still tension. Keezer says that while Native Americans have suffered from discrimination, sometimes they can be the same way towards others. His hopes are that this group will lead to breaking down those stereotypes.

Source: The Uptake

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Somalia: 10 Somali Businessmen Killed in South Africa

Armed South African Gangs have deliberately killed 10 Somali businessmen in the past five days after robbing their shopping centers in across that country, reports said.

Several Somali immigrants living inSouth Africa confirmed to Shabelle Media the killings, saying that they were very concerned about the deliberately killing against Somalis in South Africain recent weeks.

The latest reports from South Africa say that most of the Somali youngsters in country had decided to leave and go back home after failing to endure further the endless deadly attacks against them by South African armed gangs who also accustomed to loot properties owned by Somalis.

Somali community leaders in South Africasay they informed security agencies to protect and stop attacks against the innocent Somali immigrants living from corner to corner in that country.

"We reported to the national security agencies ofSouth Africaabout this to stop such cruel actions against Somali people, but yet the government has so far promised it would tighten the security of Somali immigrants," a Somali businessman told Shabelle Media through telephone, on condition of anonymity, because of his security.

It was two weeks ago when at least 20 shopping centers belonging to Somalis were looted by South African armed groups. The police assured Somalis only t save their lives instead their properties.

Source: AllAfrica

Somali pirates weakened but not defeated: EU commander

The number of successful Somali pirate attacks has fallen but international navies must not drop their guard and keep up the pressure, the commander of the EU mission said Tuesday.

British Rear Admiral Duncan Potts warned that the gains made against pirates off the Horn of Africa were reversible and that the fight against piracy would only succeed once governance and security improve in Somalia.

"Yes we have increased the pressure on the pirates but I think now that we are enjoying tactical success, the importance is increasing that pressure evermore," Potts told a news conference in Brussels.

The European Union handed the admiral new powers this year to destroy pirate equipment stashed on beaches, a tactic he used only once so far last month when a helicopter gunship struck a stockpile of skiffs in central Galmudug region.

The number of successful pirate actions began to fall last year.

Pirates hijacked 28 vessels in the first half of 2011 and only three in the second half. They have successfully attacked five ships so far this year.

Seven commercial ships and 213 sailors are in pirate hands compared to 20 vessels and 550 hostages a year ago.

Meanwhile, 1,009 pirates are facing prosecution in 20 countries while a German-Dutch team of investigators was set up in January to go after piracy financiers.

"We have achieved considerable tactical progress but the strategic context does not change, and therefore one of the risks that I have is that somehow we start to believe that the piracy issue is cracked," he said.

The mission was short of ships late last year, a problem that was linked to budget constraints in some nations, but the operation is back to normal.

Since 2008, EU nations have deployed between four and seven combat ships off the Horn of Africa to police an area the size of the 27-nation European Union.

The Atalanta mission is part of the EU's "comprehensive approach", which includes financial aid to help give the strife-torn country a functioning government.

"There is no room for complacency," said the EU special representative to the Horn of Africa, Alexander Rondos.

"This is not going to be over soon. We have to maintain the level of forces so that we can deter and contain while the operations on the ground transform the reality on the ground," he said.

Source: AFP

Analysis: Somali rebels bruised, but may dodge knockout blow

Expelled from a string of strategic towns, cut off from revenue sources and struggling for its survival, Somalia's Islamist militant group al Shabaab is steeling for an anticipated assault on its last bastion by Western-backed African forces.

But while the capture of the southern port and militant stronghold of Kismayu in coming weeks could weaken the al Qaeda-linked rebels, it is unlikely to deliver the knock-out blow hoped for by Mogadishu and its allies.

Kenyan forces operating in Somalia seized the southern rebel stronghold of Afmadow in late May. This opened the way for what Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said would be a "final onslaught" on Kismayu, Somalia's second biggest city which is a hub for al Shabaab and a main base for its foreign fighters.

Kismayu would be taken by August, Odinga said this month.

But some regional diplomats feel this target is over ambitious. There are fears too a wounded al Shabaab will simply redeploy from Kismayu and hit back with guerrilla raids and urban bombings, disrupting efforts to end two decades of violence in the Horn of Africa state.

"The fall of Kismayu might hurt the rebel economy, but they will launch more attacks," said Hassan Farah, a shopkeeper in the coastal city. He said the dense forest surrounding the port would be an easy hiding ground for the rebels.

"Al Shabaab will not go far, even if they lose Kismayu."

The diplomats argue that African Union peace keepers deployed against al Shabaab need to consolidate their numbers in other recently won urban areas, before the assault on Kismayu.

There are also questions about whether the rebels, wary of possible heavy casualties and an expensive battle, will dig in and defend the densely-populated port that has served as a financial lifeline, or melt into the jungle hinterlands.

"Kismayu has a strong administration under al Shabaab. The markets are busy and there is security," said Farah. "I know of many residents who are ready to fight alongside al Shabaab."
Natznet Tesfay, a Somalia expert from Exclusive Analysis, said al Shabaab would likely pull back and turn to guerrilla-style hit-and-run sabotage attacks, as they did in Mogadishu after they were expelled by African troops.

"We are more likely to see a lull in the intensity (of) al Shabaab activity and possibly a rebranding rather than the group's collapse," Tesfay said.

That, Tesfay said, could mean the Islamist movement splitting into splinter groups, between those motivated by a nationalist agenda to impose strict sharia law on the country, and those motivated by more global jihadi sentiments.


An al Shabaab suicide bomber on Saturday attacked a government base outside the Somali capital in Afgoye, a town captured at the end of May by Somali government and African Union troops. This underscored the security challenge facing the government and its allies despite their recent successes.

The market town was a cash cow for al Shabaab which extorted taxes on goods destined for Mogadishu, compounding the financial blow the insurgents suffered last August when they were driven from Mogadishu's Bakara market, the capital's economic heart.

In a sign of the mounting pressure on the group, a steady trickle of defections points to low morale within rebel ranks. Defectors tell of al Shabaab foot soldiers demoralized by battle fatigue, meager salaries and a lack of sophisticated weaponry.

Mogadishu's Western allies are keen to capitalize on the group's troubles. Washington this month offered multi-million dollar bounties for information leading to the location of seven key militant commanders.

But talk of a "tipping point" is premature, analysts say.

"While there are clearly splits within al Shabaab, divisions which will be exacerbated by the loss of two of the most significant towns still under its control, al Shabaab has always shown a remarkable resilience," said J. Peter Pham of U.S. think-tank the Atlantic Council.

"In fact, there is already evidence that the group has laid the foundations for its eventual resurgence after the current setbacks."


Intelligence picked up by security agencies, research by the United Nations and accounts by Muslim Kenyans suggests al Shabaab is mentoring a new and increasingly multi-ethnic generation of militants.

The concern is that an increasingly cornered al Shabaab may attack more widely in the region, a capability demonstrated by a double bombing in Uganda in 2010 that killed 79 people.

Under pressure in south and central Somalia, diplomats say al Shabaab is moving combatants to the semi-autonomous Puntland territory that is separated by only a narrow neck of water from Yemen, a hotspot in the U.S.-led war against militant Islam.

"Obviously it's of concern not just because it could further undermine stability in ... a more secure and stable area, but also because of a potential link up to AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula)," said a senior diplomatic source who follows Somalia.

Al Shabaab formally joined al Qaeda's ranks in February. The diplomat said there were definitely contacts - "facilitators" from AQAP or Somalis in Yemen who have ties to both groups going back and forth. But there had been little visible evidence so far of more strategic coordination or active combined plotting.

Puntland's authorities have warned of growing militant numbers in the rugged mountains south of Bossaso, an area that would provide hideouts and access to ports to bring in weapons, ammunition and foreign jihadists.


The rebels retain pockets of support in areas under their control, despite the sometimes draconian rules they have imposed that include amputation of criminals' limbs and banning of music and watching football.

In the former rebel stronghold of Baidoa, trader Fatuma Bashir lamented the failure of Ethiopian and Somali soldiers now there to prevent recurring militant grenade attacks as the city awaits the deployment of more than 2,000 AU peacekeepers.

"We don't want al Shabaab back, but life has not changed for the better after the seizure of the town," Bashir said. "Al Shabaab used to take tax from our sales in the city. Now they tax our commodities outside Baidoa," she said.

Two decades after Somalia's civil conflict erupted, the central government still exerts little meaningful control beyond the capital. Security analysts say al Shabaab could take advantage of power vacuums if concrete political administration and reform does not keep pace with military advances.

"All the attention is on getting rid of al Shabaab. Then what? There are no institutions ... to implement the rule of law," said London-based Somali analyst Hamza Mohamed.

"They are not solving the issues that gave rise to al Shabaab. They're just putting a bandage on a gaping wound."

Somali politics has long been driven by feuding clans battling to safeguard their hold on the accompanying financial spoils. Many Somalis remain unconvinced their leaders are committed to lasting reform and peace.

David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, said the political landscape in Somalia had changed through the conflict for the "foreseeable and possibly permanent future".

"Militant Islam, or at least Salafi ideology, is here to stay just as we are seeing in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and to a lesser extent Morocco," Shinn said.

(Additional reporting by David Clarke and James Macharia in Nairobi and Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Anna Willard)

Source: Reuters