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Sunday, March 31, 2013

National Dialogue on Justice Reform Conference to be help in Mogadishou April 1-5 2013

Under the auspices of his Excellency, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the Federal Government of Somalia hosts the “National Dialogue on Justice Reform Conference”, to be held in Mogadishu, April 1-5, 2013, to discuss critical issues of justice and rule of law in Somalia.

Unique to this conference is its focus on producing a Somali-led/Somali-controlled sector-wide reform strategy to confront, once and for all, the challenges facing the Somali justice system. Consecutive panel discussions and working group sessions include topics such as:

a. Comprehensive Review of Existing Justice Mechanisms;
b. Institutional Building in the Justice Sector;
c. Training, Education, and Capacity-Building;
d. Mapping the existing law texts and creating repository for Somali laws;
e. Justice Reform as an effective tool of National Reconciliation and Peace Building;
f. Review and Implementation of the justice-related provisions under the Provisional Constitution;
g. Harmonization of the Shariah, customary and statutory laws
h. Integration of Human Rights Norms into the Somali Justice System;
i. Engagement with International Partners on Justice and Rule of Law

These challenging questions and topics will be discussed with an eye on the overall conference objectives of (a) Increasing public awareness of the articles and principles contained in the Provisional Constitution, especially those pertaining to judicial mechanisms and fundamental human rights guarantees, (b) Gaining a better understanding of currently operating legal mechanisms and procedures in Somalia and discussing how they can be harmonized with a new statutory system and constitutional principles and frameworks, and (c) Formulating and recommending practical steps/measures that can be taken in the long- and short-term to re-establish rule of law in Somalia.

Participants and presenters from Somalia and the Diaspora include representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the judiciary, Members of the Parliament, Office of the Attorney General, the Somali armed forces court martial, the national police, the national security agency, prisons, lawyers association and legal professionals, academics, civil society organizations & women groups, human rights leaders, religious leaders, traditional/community leaders, International legal expert and regular citizens.
In addition to five days of engaging, thought-provoking programming, the conference will host viewing documentaries, site visits and other activities.

About the Conference: For further information please contact: Hussein Qasim Yusuf (Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the President) & Abdulwahid Qalinle (Sr. Legal Advisor) at:

Somali’s case a template for U.S. as it seeks to prosecute terrorism suspects in federal court



Aboard the USS Boxer, somewhere in the Indian Ocean, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was sitting across from a team of interrogators, talking and talking. In secure meeting rooms in Washington, senior officials in the Obama administration were wringing their hands over what to do with him.

Some in the administration desperately wanted to prosecute Warsame — a key facilitator between al-Qaeda franchises — in federal court. To do that, though, they needed a “clean team” of FBI agents to come in and read the Somali his rights, perhaps jeopardizing his willingness to keep talking. The quandary was particularly acute because Warsame had intelligence on Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and a senior leader in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“There was a fair amount of debate because some of the intel guys didn’t want to stop the interrogation,” said a former administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal government deliberations. “Others were getting antsy because they thought the longer you hold the guy and don’t Mirandize him, the worse off you are” if prosecutors try him in federal court.

In late June 2011, after two months of interrogation, the president’s national security advisers made the call. A team of FBI agents gave Warsame a Miranda warning, advising him of his right to remain silent and his right to counsel. “Then there was a kind of hold-your-breath moment,” the former official said.
Warsame waived his rights and continued to talk.

In that instant, the Obama administration may have preserved its ability to use the federal courts to prosecute high-value terrorists captured overseas.

Warsame was detained in April 2011, the same month that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. abandoned a criminal civilian trial in New York for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Holder sent the case back to a military commission at Guantanamo Bay. On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats were insisting that all terrorists captured overseas be sent to the military detention center in Cuba.

But inside the administration, senior lawyers calculated that Warsame could be interrogated for actionable intelligence while preparations were underway to bring him to federal court in New York for prosecution. For an administration that is determined not to add to the detainee population at Guantanamo, the handling of the Somali’s case has become something of a template for other terrorism suspects captured overseas.

Detainees are first held under the laws of war and questioned by an interagency team of interrogators, including military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel, without being advised of their rights. At some point, the interrogation is halted and — in the parlance of prosecutors — a “clean break” is established before a fresh team of only FBI agents informs the prisoner of his right to counsel. Shortly afterward, the suspect is put on a plane and flown to a federal district, most often New York, for trial.

According to the Justice Department, federal prosecutors since the Sept. 11 attacks have secured 67 convictions of terrorists captured overseas; a significant number have also been cooperative, providing information to authorities. In the same period, there have been only seven convictions in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Two of those have been overturned on appeal.

Moreover, in military commissions, unlike federal courts, there is serious doubt about the viability of two of the charges most commonly used against terrorists — material support and conspiracy — as law-of-war charges in cases in which suspects cannot be tied to a specific act of violence.

This month, federal prosecutors unsealed court documents that show that Warsame, who pleaded guilty to nine terrorism charges in December 2011, has continued to cooperate with authorities in the United States, almost certainly with the expectation that his cooperation will lead the government to petition the judge to sentence him to less than life in prison. It could be a while before any sentencing takes place; prosecutors may use him as a witness in other prosecutions.

Priya Chaudhry, an attorney for Warsame, said she could not comment on his cooperation. She said she was “working very hard to keep his family safe,” adding that the U.S. government was helping.

More cases brought to U.S.

In the wake of Warsame’s detention, other high-profile cases have followed, including that of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was arrested in Jordan last month and proceeded to speak at length with U.S. investigators. European allies have also extradited suspects to the United States on the express condition that they be tried in federal court. These include Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical preacher, who was extradited from Britain in 2012, and al-Qaeda veteran Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, who has been held secretly in New York for months and has been cooperating with U.S. investigators since before he was extradited from Italy in October.

“Rather than make a big argument for it, the administration has just brought these cases into the [civilian legal] system,” said Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. “And they have done them with an emphasis on getting information and getting it by legal means.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to object to such criminal prosecutions. The administration “risks missing important opportunities to gather intelligence to prevent future attacks and save lives,” Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) said in a joint statement after Ghaith’s court appearance. “A foreign member of al Qaeda should never be treated like a common criminal and should never hear the words ‘you have a right to remain silent.’ ”

Among some CIA officials, the emphasis on prosecutions has seemed to amount to an overcorrection at times. “There’s a concern that things are tilting the wrong way,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who would discuss intelligence issues only on the condition of anonymity. “Instead of questioning people and trying to get data from them, there is a push to put them in the legal process.”

Current and former administration officials say criminal prosecution does not preclude intelligence gathering. David Kris, the former head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said suspects talk for all kinds of reasons, but “one of the things the government can do in the criminal justice system, by offering somewhat shorter sentences in exchange for valuable cooperation, is to balance and re-balance over time the sometimes competing national security values of disrupting and incapacitating a particular target and gathering intelligence from that target that may help disrupt and incapacitate others.”

Warsame, who is now 26, had been a high-priority target for capture in the months before April 19, 2011, when the U.S. military picked him and another man up in the Gulf of Aden from a fishing skiff leaving Yemen. The intelligence community identified Warsame as a key liaison between al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Officials in Washington first debated whether Warsame should be moved to Somalia for interrogation, but that was deemed too dangerous. They also discussed whether keeping him on a ship at sea would violate the Geneva Conventions. “The decision was to hold him on a ship but inform the Red Cross because if there was a Geneva Convention concern they would express it,” said the former administration official. Warsame was transported to the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship with a brig that was in the region.

The International Committee of the Red Cross visited the ship shortly after the capture, and the man who was detained with Warsame was let go. “He was a very small fry,” the former administration official said. “Everyone was comfortable with that.”

Justice Department officials decided to withhold from the interagency team the evidence they had previously assembled against him. Even if a judge threw out evidence secured by the interrogators aboard the vessel, the preexisting evidence could still be used.

When Warsame was captured, he had a laptop and other electronic media that included letters between the leadership of al-Shabab and AQAP; dozens of pages of handwritten notes on how to build bombs; and correspondence that detailed why he was sent to Yemen, according to court documents.

Warsame-Awlaki connection

Warsame began to talk almost immediately. Officials said the Somali, who attended college in Britain, was a sophisticated operator who was fluent in English. He understood how the U.S. legal system worked and “realized that his best chance at a reasonable outcome for himself was to cooperate,” said the former administration official.

After some initial skepticism about the intelligence Warsame was providing, counterterrorism agents grew increasingly confident about its accuracy and its potential use in planning future U.S. operations. According to court documents, investigators corroborated his information with four people who “interacted extensively with Warsame in East Africa.”

Three of those four witnesses are cooperating defendants in Minnesota who had been members of al-Shabab, and the fourth is in custody overseas and charged with capital crimes. They confirmed Warsame’s seniority and the fact that he once “commanded hundreds of al-Shabab fighters,” according to court documents.

He also provided information about Awlaki, who had become a major target for a capture or kill operation after he was tied to an attempt to bring down a commercial aircraft over Detroit. “He was a guy who was in fairly regular contact with Awlaki and talked about his contacts with Awlaki and Awlaki’s patterns of life,” said the former administration official.

In Washington, there “were numerous interagency meetings to receive updates on the status of the intelligence collection from the interrogations and to discuss his detention status and his ultimate disposition,” according to a background briefing by a senior administration official in July 2011.

“The big question was when to Mirandize him,” said the former administration official.

To establish a “clean break,” the administration decided in late June 2011 to give Warsame a four-day rest from questioning and invite the Red Cross back to see him. The former administration official said it was important he understand that he “has entered a different phase and that he has a new set of choices to make.”

Warsame, when confronted with a new team of FBI interrogators, chose to continue cooperating. After seven more days of questioning at sea, he was taken ashore at an undisclosed location and put on a plane to New York.

Several weeks later, on Sept. 30, 2011, Awlaki was killed in Yemen in a U.S. drone strike.

Greg Miller and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Supreme Court upholds Uhuru's election as president

The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya's fourth president.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said Mr Kenyatta and William Ruto were validly elected as President and Deputy President respectively.

"It is the decision that the third and fourth respondents were validly elected," Dr Mutunga said.

The judgement paves way for the swearing in ceremony of Mr Kenyatta set for April 9 at the Kasarani Gymnasium in Nairobi.

The Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia said the government will gazette Tuesday, April 9 as a public holiday when Mr Kenyatta will be sworn in as president.

"The rehearsals will begin on Monday. We have adopted the programme we had earlier on,” said Mr Kimemia Saturday.

Martha Karua, who was a presidential candidate in the March 4 General Election, lauded the Supreme Court's decision.

"It is great that the first and most contested decision of the Supreme Court was unanimous. It is a good start for the court," she said.

Source: Daily Nation


In Somalia, music festival aims to spread peace

Not long ago, such an event would have been unthinkable in the battle-scarred country. But worries about attacks by Islamist militants remain.

Mogadishu music fesitval in Somalia
Rap group Waayaha Cusub performs at the Somali Reconciliation Festival in Mogadishu, the city's first major music festival in two decades. The musicians aim to counter Islamist militants' message of violence with one of peace. (Phil Moore / AFP/Getty Images / March 30, 2013 

Lihle Muhdin was 11 years old when he first picked up a Kalashnikov rifle, pushed into combat by an Islamist militia in Mogadishu.

That was 15 years ago. Now he wields a microphone in his fight for peace. Muhdin is a member of the Somali rap group Waayaha Cusub, or New Era, whose music calls on young Somalis to renounce violence.
"I want to tell the Somali youth, don't kill," he said. "We must stop this violence."

The 26-year-old rapper recently returned to Mogadishu after 14 years as a refugee in Kenya to be among the headliners at the Somali Reconciliation Festival, Mogadishu's first major music festival in two decades.

For security reasons, the event, which opened this week, is being staged over six days in scattered venues and at different times.

In 1991, the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre's dictatorship triggered more than two decades of devastating civil war, clan battles and Islamist insurgency. Just two years ago, the musical festival would have been unthinkable.

Yet today, a cautious optimism is taking hold amid the city's blasted-out walls, collapsed rooftops and shattered neighborhoods. There is a relative calm, and as security improves week by week, the festival aims to buttress the optimism by bringing live music back to the country.

"With the reactions we get from the public seeing Waayaha Cusub's rappers coming to the city for the first time, or kids running to see an actual guitar, it's like an end to a kind of cultural famine," said festival co-producer Daniel Gerstle of New York.

"If Al Qaeda and these groups can so easily unite youth from Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan around killing, hate and extremism, we thought we should create the opposite … an alliance of youth from these same places, but focused on peace, reconciliation and artwork," Gerstle said.

At considerable peril, the Waayaha Cusub rappers have used their art to fiercely oppose the Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked militia.

The Shabab gained control of much of the country in 2009, imposing an austere version of Islam that banned music and dance as un-Islamic. It was forced from Mogadishu by African Union forces in 2011 and has lost control of many of its southern strongholds. But the extremists are still attempting to recruit young followers, according to Muhdin.

"Al Shabab are ... spreading propaganda, taking the minds of Somalia's youth," Muhdin said. "We can use music to combat its message."

Rappers and traditional musicians from Somalia, Kenya and Sudan are lined up to appear at a series of flash-mob-style festival events. Venues and times will be sent to ticket holders via text message shortly before each performance in an attempt to limit the possibility of attacks by the Shabab.

Music and poetry run deep in Somali culture, but musicians suffered violence and intimidation regularly during the conflict.

In 2005, a Somali refugee who was a guest singer with Waayaha Cusub had her face slashed in Kenya by assailants who accused her of violating Islamic laws. She is still in hiding. Three years later, the band's lead singer, Shiine Akhyaar Ali, was shot five times by Islamic extremists at his home in a Nairobi, Kenya, district known as Little Mogadishu.

"We have been threatened many times," Muhdin said. "They [the Shabab] say: 'Stop what you are doing and follow Islam's rules. If not, you are with the Christians and we will kill you.' "

Even with improvements in security and the presence of a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force, bombings and assassinations continue in the city. Although the festival organizers are relying on Mogadishu's renewed stability, there are obvious fears that it could be targeted. The performers are well aware of the dangers.

"The spirit of hip-hop is to speak up when everyone is silent," said Sudanese rapper Ahmed Mahmoud, 25, resting in a fortified Mogadishu hotel in advance of the festival. "I'm here to show the youth that there are alternative ways to express themselves, through dialogue."

Muhdin, sitting outside in the shade of a palm tree, acknowledged the risks the musicians were taking, but he said their message made it worthwhile: "Youth, keep the peace."

Johnson is a special correspondent.

UK plans Somali trade, investment meeting

The United Kingdom has announced plans to host a trade and investment conference for Somalia in London during a planned security meeting to be held there in May, the UK Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, said Thursday.

Simmonds said at a meeting with Somali residents in London that the security improvements in Somalia had opened up new and exciting business opportunities there.

"Many diaspora organisations are already going back to invest. We want to encourage that, and also to demonstrate to non-Somali UK businesses the opportunities that exist across South Central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland," Simmonds said at the meeting with the Somalis.

"Today I announced that we will be holding a major trade and investment event aimed at supporting inward investment into Somalia," the minister said.

The minister, accompanied by local MP Angie Bray, visited Ealing on 26 March to meet members of London’s Somali community to hear from young Somalis about their hopes and aspirations for Somalia, and their objectives for the upcoming Somalia Conference in May.

The discussion was organised with the support of the Anti-Tribalism Movement.

"I am inspired by the dedication, commitment and passion I see among the Somali diaspora. The Somali diaspora have a vital role to play in the reconstruction of Somalia as it begins to emerge from 20 years of conflict," Simmonds said.

The UK’s Somali community play an active role in helping Somalia to recover from the conflict, famine and insecurity, the minister said.

For years, the diaspora have supported family members back home, and helped raise money for charitable causes in Somalia.

Now that security and political conditions are improving, many are going back to help with reconstruction and redevelopment and UK officials say positive steps are already being undertaken to bring stability to Somalia.

"The security improvements allow more and more Somalis to return home and make a difference for their people. This is leading to a palpable sense of optimism, especially in Mogadishu, and we are keen to support that," the minister said.

Somali Govt to deal with human rights violations in the country

Earlier, president Mohamud welcomed the Human Rights Watch report titled “Hostages of the Gatekeepers” detailing alleged abuses against Internally Displaced in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Authorities in Somalia have vowed to tackle human rights violations, two days after a report by Human Rights Watch revealed that internally displaced people in Somalia are suffering sexual violence and other forms of abuse.
The abuse takes place at the hands of armed groups, including government forces, it said.
In the report, women who fled famine and conflict describe being gang-raped in camps in the capital, Mogadishu.

The HRW report said managers of the camps – often allied to militias – siphon off food and other aid.

In a video message to the Public, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he was saddened by the HRW report on human rights abuses in the country, saying that his government is now working on ambitious plans to tackle the issue.

He said they are investigation the allegations contained in the report accusing government soldiers of committing gross violations against the internally displaced people in Mogadishu.

The president stated that it is unacceptable for Somali women toget abused in their own land by people who were to protect them.

The president pointed a blame finger on top leaders of the armed forces saying that they will also be responsible of their juniors’ actions.

In its report, HRW said that even though the new Somali government which came to power in September last year has made some impressive statements, it has done very little to change the situation on the ground.

“Our findings suggested that the people in these camps are often basically kept captive in the camps,” said David Mepham, the UK director of Human Rights Watch.

Earlier, president Mohamud welcomed the Human Rights Watch report titled “Hostages of the Gatekeepers” detailing alleged abuses against Internally Displaced in Mogadishu, Somalia.

“I and The Federal Government of Somalia welcome the Human Rights Watch for their detailed and comprehensive report into the situation faced by IDP’s in Mogadishu in 2011/12. The personal testimonies are heartbreaking and deplorable and totally unacceptable to the values of the Somali people,” said the president in a statement on Wednesday.

“I have stated publicly and reiterate again now, my personal commitment to the restoration of civil security in Somalia and to holding to account any who are found abusing human rights,” he added.

The president said the challenges facing the country’s leadershipin rebuilding the nation remains immense, and their need for constructive partnerships cannot be overstated, adding that security, both civil and military remains their highest priority.

“Reform of our security institutions is underway; leadership is being renewed, training is being designed and implemented, and discipline and professionalism issues are being addressed. We are committed to rebuilding security forces in which the publics have trust and confidence,” reads the statement in part.

He however stated that the decision to establish the Independent Task Force on Human Rights, which was launched on 5 February, was taken to address concerns about the human rights abuses and to investigate violence against women.

Source: Suna Times

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Human Rights Watch: Displaced Somalis suffer abuse in camps

Camps for internally displaced people in the capital city of Mogadishu have become like prisons, says Human Rights Watch in their new 80-page report.

Displaced Somalis suffer sexual violence and other abuses, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

State security forces and armed groups have "raped, beaten, and otherwise abused displaced Somalis," many who have come to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, to escape famine and armed conflict, HRW said Wednesday.

The report centers on those who have arrived there since 2011. Its findings show women have suffered gang-rapes in camps that have now become more like prisons than shelters.

“Our findings suggested that the people in these camps are often basically kept captive in the camps,” said David Mepham, the UK director of HRW. “They are not really able to leave. The gatekeepers who control the camps are themselves very abusive."

A camp resident told HRW about his family's situation:

“There is nothing worse than the situation we are in," he said. "Now all we want is to get a car and return to our villages, because if I can die here because of lack of food, I might as well die in my village, because death is death.”

Informal settlements have been a feature of Mogadishu's urban landscape since the start of the civil war in 1991, but they greatly expanded in 2011, when famine swept the south of the country and forced hundreds of thousands of destitute people to seek shelter and aid in the capital.

In addition to rape, abuses in the camps that still huddle among Mogadishu's scarred buildings and spread across its patches of once-empty land run the gamut of horrors, from the deliberate theft of donated food, the exaction of extortionate rents levied on the country's poorest and most vulnerable to the sexually-motivated violence of women and children that reaches epidemic proportions.

Today's Human Rights Watch report provides an unflinching litany of inflicted misery. Its title "Hostages of the Gatekeepers," refers to the camp managers — landlords and neighbourhood strongmen — who control the settlements, frequently with the help of militias, either their own private ones or co-opted or moonlighting government security forces.

As Somalia's new, Western-backed government seeks to establish its authority and credibility, HRW argues, it must reign in the militias and begin to exercise that most basic state function: the protection of its citizens.

New plan to ensure universal healthcare in Somalia


Every Somali citizen will have access to basic healthcare by 2016 if a new, government-led strategic plan achieves its aims.

The launch on 21 March of new Health Sector Strategic Plans (HSSPs) for Somalia’s three zones – south-central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland – indicates a move away from the emergency-level health provision that has been the norm in the country for over 20 years and towards more mainstream, national health systems.

“The strategic planning process leading to this result is a clear indication of the beginning of a new time, a time of good governance and re-building of systems,” Mariam Qasim, Somalia’s Minister for of Human Development and Public Services, said at the launch, adding that the implementation of the plan would be a “litmus test” of the government’s ability to provide services to its population.

Somalia has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and thousands of infants and children succumb annually to easily preventable and treatable conditions such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition and measles.

Starting anew

The country’s health system was virtually destroyed by more than 20 years of conflict, during which time there was no legitimate government; during the war, NGOs, the UN and private sector practitioners managed healthcare.

“The major change is government ownership of the HSSP,” said Marina Madeo, the coordinator of the Somali health sector. “By 2016, we hope that in every part of the country, health centres will be equipped with drugs, equipment and health workers.”

She noted that for now, as the government continued to build its ability to handle healthcare, large parallel health programmes such as immunization would continue to be handled by UN agencies. The government and its partners will also seek public-private partnerships with the country’s vibrant private health sector.

The HSSPs are expected to make improvements to health financing, human resources for health, drugs and the country’s health infrastructure, among other things. The four-year strategies are expected to cost US$350 million, 70 to 75 percent of which will be spent on actual health services. Some $50 million has already been raised; key donors include the Australian, Swedish, UK and US governments.

Marthe Everard, UN World Health Organization representative for Somalia, stressed that “all national and international investments in the health sector should be guided by these plans, which provide the basis for cooperation, harmonization and alignment of all support to the Somali health sector”.


Although much of Somalia is now secure, Islamist insurgents still control parts of south-central Somalia. Qasim said she hoped security would continue to improve, and that in the interim “there are always ways” to work in Al-Shabab-controlled areas.

“We can’t wait for everything to be in place [to] secure to start working,” said Madeo.

Source: IRIN

Somali provincial leaders fear wider Ethiopian pull-out


By Abdi Moalim in Mogadishu

Ethiopian soldiers stand guard in Baidoa after they assisted Somali forces in taking control of the town from al-Shabaab in February 2012. Ethiopia says it intervened in Somalia to help stamp out the militant group, but does not plan to stay for long. [Jenny Vaughan/AFP]

Ethiopia's decision to withdraw its troops from Hudur in Somalia's Bakool region is causing consternation among administration leaders in other Somali regions.

The fear is that al-Shabaab could make territorial gains in other areas should the Ethiopian army pull out of them as well.

When Ethiopian and Somali forces left Hudur on March 17th, about 2,000 residents fled with them. Al-Shabaab then took control of the town, killing civilians in the process.

Ethiopian troops have been supporting the Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) security forces on and off since 2006. They were first deployed during the administration of President Abdullahi Yusuf in 2006 to help install the Somali Federal Government in Mogadishu, and later withdrew in 2009.

Ethiopian forces returned to Somalia in 2011 and re-captured from al-Shabaab large swathes near the border. However, Addis Ababa said it did not plan to deploy its troops in Somalia for the long-term.

Filling the security vacuum

Now there is growing concern that Ethiopia will vacate other regions of Somalia before the Somali army and AMISOM forces are ready to move in and fill the vacuum.

Somali government forces lack weapons, technical ability and adequate supplies to compensate for an Ethiopian departure, said Osman Libah, a parliamentarian from Baidoa who represents Bay and Bakool regions.

"It was the government's job to negotiate these things with the Ethiopians because the Ethiopian army has been responsible for security for over a year," Libah told Sabahi. "But the government has failed to nurture regional forces so that they are strong."

"The security forces located here are not small in number, but they do not have food or weapons, and they are very demoralised, resulting in them fleeing along with the residents," he said.

In addition, Somali forces are relatively green, according to Bakool Deputy Governor Hassan Ibrahim Hassan.

"The government forces in Bakool region were recently formed and do not have the capacity to battle al-Shabaab," he told Sabahi. "Therefore, we need support in order for the army to regain control of Hudur."

Director General in the Ministry of Interior and National Security Hussein Abdi Adam said a joint military effort is still the best way to ensure security, since the Somali government was until recently unable to arm itself due to the United Nations arms embargo, which was partially lifted this month.

"Nothing can be done about the state of security without a joint effort by Ethiopian, AMISOM and government forces, because the government has faced the obstacle of the arms embargo, resulting in the inability of government troops to retain places vacated by the Ethiopians," Adam told Sabahi.

AMISOM vows to replace Ethiopian troops

For its part, AMISOM has said it is ready and able to fill the military vacuum left by the departure of Ethiopian forces.

"Our work is to help the citizens of Somalia and the government, to enable them to regain control of the country in order to bring back and reinforce law and order," said AMISOM spokesman Colonel Ali Aden Humud, according to RBC Radio.

"We are putting final touches on our plan to reach Hudur town and other areas in Bay and Bakool region where al-Shabaab control now and we promise we will take over the control of the areas that al-Shabaab are currently controlling," he said.

AMISOM Commander Andrew Gutti said he was confident there were sufficient troop levels in the area.

"We have in place contingent measures to ensure that areas in Bay and Bakool … remain stable and secure in the event of further Ethiopian troop withdrawals," he said.

Libah, however, said AMISOM cannot cover all of Somalia. "It is possible that AMISOM will secure Baidoa and other places, but it cannot reach far-off districts and villages such as Qansah Dhere and Berdale," he said.

Mogadishu University Professor Abdulkarim Daud, a former army colonel, said AMISOM is capable of replacing Ethiopian forces, but its lack of readiness could end up strengthening al-Shabaab.

"If AMISOM uses its 17,000-strong forces in Somalia, it can do a lot," he told Sabahi. "However, looking at the current reality, it is not prepared and has no intention of quickly replacing the Ethiopians."

To prevent al-Shabaab from capturing militarily exposed regions in the future, the Somali government must focus on breaking its dependence on direct foreign military assistance, Daud said.

"The only solution to this problem is the government building up its forces so that there is no longer a need to depend on foreign troops," he said.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Amal Mohamed has been awarded Calgary Community Service Award 2013 Recipient


BLOOM, the celebration of new lives, new leaders and new community, took place on march 01,2013,The Westin. Immigrant Services Calgary was pleased to be celebrating 17th annual “It is Immigrants of Distinction Awards , an event of great pride for Calgary to be celebrating the wonderful accomplishments of esteemed future leaders.

The awards celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of immigrants to Calgary in the categories of Business, Youth Scholarship, Community Service, Organizational Diversity, Lifetime Achievement and Achievement Under 40. The Hadassah Ksienski Distinguished Service Award recognizes the achievement of leaders in the community dedicated to furthering diversity and helping immigrants.

Amal Mohamed has provided outstanding community service to the city of Calgary and immigrant communities in a volunteer capacity.

A founder of the Somali International Youth Board (SIYB), Amal has committed her life to creating awareness around youth-related issues. SIYB offers youth of any ethnicity participation in social awareness and recreational activities. Through the Somali United Basketball League, Amal has established a program for young people aged 16-25.

Her accomplishments include being invited to a conference for “Canadian Wide Initiative To Help High- Risk Somalis” held by Public Safety Canada and establishing a network for young Somali youth in Canada and the United States to play in a national basketball tournament. Amal is currently in the property management industry as a Buyer .She is also working towards her Purchasing Management Association of Canada designation and manages to juggle her studies while volunteering numerous hours to support marginalized youth in her community.

Also, check out:

Amal has appeared on the CBC news radio show " Eye opener "

Amal Mohamed on the Calgary Herald
Amal Mohamed has been aired on Shaw TV

Website .

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kenya Wants Amina Mohammed to Head WTO

By Wambui Ndonga

The Kenya government is now pushing for the appointment of former Justice Permanent Secretary Amina Mohammed as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Through a statement sent by Foreign Affairs Communication Officer Anthony Munyao, the government said that Mohammed was an accomplished diplomat with impressive credentials and a wide experience in multilateral diplomacy.

Munyao noted that the international body had never been headed by an African or a woman and time had therefore come to change the trend. He added that Mohammed fits both categories perfectly because she was well known in international circles and was an experienced negotiator.

"It is noteworthy that neither the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs nor WTO has ever been headed by an African nor by a woman and for this reason, Amb. Mohamed stands a strong chance of being the first ever in both respects," the statement from the ministry said.

Mohammed, who currently works as the Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, promised to set out a clear and focused vision of priorities for the WTO, if Members agreed to elect her as the Director-General.

She is a law graduate from the University of Kiev in Ukraine and the Kenya School of Law. Her work covers 26 years including a broad spectrum of domestic and international assignments.

She rose through the ranks in Kenya's Diplomatic Service from a legal advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the highest level of Ambassador/Permanent Representative at the Kenyan Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

Mohammed also chaired the General Council of the WTO in 2005, and presided over the selection process of the incumbent (Pascal Lamy) for his first term.

"My vision of the Organisation shall revolve around the imperative of an updated agenda for trade negotiations which is relevant to contemporary challenges in the global economy and the expansion of stakeholders to ensure the relevance of WTO," she said.

Though the position of Director-General of the WTO is not an elective post, international politics and engagement with WTO member states greatly influences the outcome of the process. In January 2013, Mohamed and eight other candidates vying for the position made their presentations before the General Council of the WTO.

"The other candidates are Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo from Brazil, Anabel Gonzalez from Costa Rica, John Kwadwo Kyerematen from Ghana, Mari Pangestu from Indonesia, Ahmad Hindawi from Jordan, Herminio Blanco from Mexico, Tim Groser from New Zealand and Taeho Bark from South Korea," noted Munyao.

Also read: Amina Mohammed Profile

Kenya's Supreme court orders presidential poll recount for 22 centres


Kenya's Supreme Court on Monday ordered a recount of votes cast at 22 polling centres, after presidential elections in which a second-round run off was only avoided by the narrowest of margins.

"Retallying is to be done in 22 polling stations," said Supreme Court Judge Smokin Wanjala.

The counting of the March 4 ballots -- a fraction of the total votes cast in some 32,000 centres nationwide -- is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Official election results showed president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta won 50.07 percent of the vote, only just breaking the first-round threshold by some 8,000 ballots.

He was, however, around 800,000 votes ahead of his closest rival, outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Odinga's party and civil society groups have filed separate legal challenges in Kenya's highest court alleging widespread irregularities in the polls.

The panel of six judges have until Saturday to decide whether Kenyatta should be confirmed as Kenya's new president or whether new elections should take place -- a high-stakes test for a country still traumatised by deadly violence after the last polls five years ago.

The court also ordered the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC) to provide the voter registration list it used in the tally of the presidential vote after an electronic system failed.

"We order the IEBC to provide the principal voter register in its entirety," said Judge Njoki Ndung'u.

The elections in 2007 were marred by similar complaints of fraud and descended into tribal bloodshed that killed more than 1,100 people and caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Odinga claims the poll was marred by irregularities including changes to the voter register, inflated numbers of registered voters and technical incompetence by the electoral commission.

He has urged supporters to stay calm while he challenges the outcome, and has promised to abide by the court's decision -- which is expected this week.

Source: Global Post

Female Journalist Shot dead in Somalia

Unknown gunmen shot dead a local female journalist in Mogadishu on Monday, witnesses and media reports said.

Two young men armed with pistols shot Rahma Abdelkadir, who worked as a correspondent for a radio station, several times before fleeing, witnesses said.

Rahma came to Mogadishu from the central region of Galgadud, where she has been working, a few weeks ago, local report said.

Rahma became the first female journalist and the third journalist to be killed in the capital since the start of the year.

A freelance journalist was among 10 people killed in a suicide car explosion in Mogadishu last week. Another journalist was murdered in the city in January.

Last year, 18 journalists and media workers were killed in the Horn of Africa nation. Somalia is considered as the worst place for a journalist to operate in Africa and the second most dangerous in the world after Syria.

Source: Xinhua

The Pain Of The Ogaden Somali People: Hiding From The Truth – OpEd

Eurasia Review


Shaded relief map of Ethiopia, cropped and centered on the Ogaden area
“Every night, they took all of us girls to [interrogations]. They would separate us and beat us. The second time they took me, they raped me… All three of the men raped me, consecutively”. Along with 15 other female students, Human Rights Watch (HRW)i report in Collective Punishment, this innocent 17 year-old Ogaden Somali girl, was held captive for three months in a “dark hole in the ground” and raped 13 times.

This is just one of countless accounts of abuse, from within the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, where it is widely reported criminal acts like these are perpetrated by the Ethiopian military and paramilitary forces on a daily basis. Untold atrocities like this; past and present are awaiting investigation, amid what is a much-ignored, little known conflict in the Horn of Africa.

In an attempt to hide the facts from the rest of the world, in 2007 the Ethiopian government banned all international media, and expelled many humanitarian aid groups from the area. It is reputed that any Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) allowed to stay do so on the condition that they sign a waiver document, agreeing not to report human rights violations by the government. Ethiopia, Leslie Lefkow of HRWii states, “is one of the most difficult places to work for human rights groups or humanitarian agencies on the African continent”, and the Ogaden (a barren land, littered with military remnants from past conflicts), “is one of the most difficult places to work in Ethiopia.” There are “huge challenges to doing investigations on the ground because the security apparatus of the government is extremely extensive and permeates even the lowest levels, the grass roots, the village levels”, where regime spies and informers operate, reporting anything and anyone suspicious.

Information about life within the region comes from whispering sources on the ground, and from those who have fled the violence, and are now living outside Ethiopia. Many are in refugee camps in Kenya and Yemen, from where they recount stories of horrific abuse. Mohammed, from the Dhadhaab (or Dadaab) camp in Kenya, described to Ogaden Online (OO) 1/12/2012 iii how he was captured by the Ethiopian military, accused of being a supporter of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and mercilessly tortured. “They hogtied me”, he said, “and then flogged me while pinned down.”

Mohamed’s face “was disfigured to the point where he can’t be recognized”. Refugees support Amnesty International’s (AI)iv findings of “torture and extrajudicial executions of detainees in the region” – women tell of multiple gang rapes, their arms, feet and necks tied with wire, for which they bear the scars, men speak of barbaric torture techniques at the hands of the Ethiopian military and paramilitary – the notorious, semi legal, completely barbaric Liyu Police, who, Laetitia Bader of HRWv says, “fit into this context of impunity where security forces can do more or less what they want”.

The ONLF is cast as the enemy of the state, and regarded, as all dissenting troublesome groups are, as terrorists. They in fact won 60% of seats and were democratically elected to the regional parliament in the only inclusive open elections to be held, back in 1992. Civilians suspected, however vaguely of supporting the so-called ‘rebels’, are forcibly re-located from their homes. The evacuated villages and settlements, emptied at gunpoint HRW (CP) record, “become no-go areas” and in a further act of state criminality, “civilians who remain behind risk being shot on sight, tortured, or raped if spotted by soldiers”.

Children, refugees report are hanged, villages and settlements razed to the ground and cattle stolen to feed soldiers: HRW record (CP), “water sources and wells have [also] been destroyed”. Systematic, strategic methods of violence and intimidation employed by the Ethiopian regime, that has, Genocide Watch (GW)vi state, “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali population”.

Pervasive pernicious control

Spearheading the Governments campaign of terror in the region is the Liyu Police. A force of 10,000-14,000 18-20 year olds, with little or no knowledge of criminal law or human Rights, David Mepham UK Director of HRW told The Guardian 15/01/2013vii, that “for years we have documented egregious human rights abuses committed by the Liyu police, including the March 2012 extra-judicial execution of 10 men in their custody and the killing of nine other villagers”. Established in 2005, to replace a discredited military, the Liyu initiative was the brainchild of a group led by the current regional President, Abdi Mohamoud Omar and was eagerly embraced by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. His Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime was and remains, at war with the ONLF, who are seeking self-determination for the five million ethnic Somali’s, in line with their constitutional rights under the governments Ethnic Federalism policy.

The EPRDF is a highly controlling repressive regime, which has extended its pervasive reach in the nine districts of the Ogaden, to where, HRW (CP) records, “security committees, which exist at every administrative level [and]… include members of the armed forces, military intelligence, security officials.”

The local Ogaden administration “does nothing but carry out Ethiopian dictates and represents the interests of the present, centralised regime,” the Ogaden Women’s Relief Association (OWRA)viii record in their study, A Place to Call Home. Dictates’ of government brutality and intimidation regimentally carried out by the Ethiopian military apparatus, fully equipped by their principle donor, America, who GW recommend, should “immediately cease all military assistance”.

Terrifying tools of oppression and imprisonment

The current regime operates under the premiership of Hailemariam Desalegn, who, true to his inaugural word, is following in predecessor Meles Zenawi’s shoes – has expanded the EPRDF’s repertoire of violence and control and, in addition to the range of violent measures employed, is imposing additional economic pressures, intimidation and extortion the name of the game. It is widely reported that In the midst of the current dry (or Jilaal) season, new taxes are being levied on water drawn from wells for livestock and domestic use. Sums of up to $150 are reportedly being charged to people living in rural areas, already burdened by an economic and aid embargo, which is causing civilians great hardship.

Additional tax demands are also being made – OO (8/03/2013)ix carry the story that, “reliable reports…. confirm the imposition of what the locals term an illegal ‘head tax’, imposed on the civilian population as well as on their livestock”. A local elder, whose “family consists of eight children and he and his wife” received an arbitrary charge of “150 Ethiopian Birrs ($8) per individual regardless of age or gender”, a total of 1200 birr ($56) – far beyond his means.

Kidnapping, with subsequent ransom demands, is another applied tool of terror. Family members, abducted and imprisoned, are released upon receipt of ransom payments, made either by relatives inside Ethiopia or those living overseas. Levels of extortion vary, with those in the west paying anything from “$300 to $1,500”; the McGill Reportx found “in some cases those amounts were contributions to total collected ransoms of more than $10,000”. This criminal practice is widespread: civilians are arrested and imprisoned, without regard to due process, often repeatedly as Ifraah, a 25 year-old Ogaden Somali woman, told the OWRA: “To be released, you have to pay the Ethiopian military from 1,000 ($56) to 2,000 birr ($112).

And the price keeps going up. If they suspect that the family has money, they raise the price. Poor people often stay in prison much longer because they can’t raise the ransom. It happened to me twice. The first time I wasn’t yet married. I spent a couple of months in prison and had to pay 500 birr ($28); the second time, I had to pay 1,000.” It’s a business in human suffering, “arrests also benefit the military; it’s a flourishing trade.

Innocent people are captured and have to come up with a lot of money to free themselves.” This illegal income, it is widely believed, is being used to supplement the paramilitary soldiers salaries’. “There are women thrown into prison five times, and each time they have to pay to get out. But economic factors are not the only ones. There’s also torture and rape”.

Civilians like Ifraah indiscriminately accused of supporting the ONLF are detained without charge. Leslie Lefkow of HRW makes clear that, “the way the EPRDF targets people, is an enormous problem from a human rights point of view”. HRW have been monitoring the situation in the region for the past five years, and have seen and documented a range of Human Rights abuses, including “arbitrary detaining [of] family members, often for long periods of time, sexual violence against women and girls, sometimes if they are viewed as being members of the ONLF or supporters or simply because they are family members [of ONLF supporters]. There is a kind of ‘guilt by association’ that is used to target the family members”, punishable by “summary executions… where suspected ONLF supporters have been executed in cold blood.”

Incarcerated in what are often makeshift prisons (e.g. deserted school buildings), prisoners held in appalling conditions, are tortured, abused and intimidated. Ina and Halima, two young women from the town of Saga, were, OO 21/01/2011 report, “suspended in the air by their ankles with their legs spread wide, while the soldiers poured water mixed with red chilli powder over them [and] applied [it] in and around the victims’ genitalia, causing severe burns.” In ‘prison’ there are no medical facilities and, Ifraah says, no food: “You get your food from relatives. If you don’t have anyone nearby, your relatives send money to people who live there so they can buy you food”; or inmates share what little they have. Abdullahi, held amongst, others without trial for nine months, related to OWRA how their captors “locked us in an underground room” Young girls are regarded as Liyu property, kidnapped, held captive and repeatedly raped, often falling pregnant in the process. “Little girls”, record OWRA, “13 to 15-year-olds, in prison and suddenly pregnant….at night you hear the girls screaming when soldiers take them from their cells” – their dignity and childhood stolen from them.

Government genocide

The government’s so-called counter-insurgency policy in the Ogaden is, in truth, a form of genocide and is regarded as such by GW. Is it ethnic hatred, fear and loathing of the ‘other’, or simply greed for the regions natural resources – the oil and natural gas that drives the government’s violent, multi-pronged approach? An approach that HRW (CP) makes clear, aims “at cutting off economic resources, weakening the ONLF’s civilian support base, and confining its geographic area of operation”. In pursuing these duplicitous goals, the Ethiopian regime seems to exist on an island of impunity, hidden from the international community; as The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)xi state, “there is a shocking lack of international attention directed at the situation” and, despite the “substantial documentation of the violations committed…published by human rights NGOs, governments and media outlets”, nothing is being done.

Let us be clear and state, unequivocally the findings of Human Rights groups: that the Ethiopian military and paramilitary is committing wide-ranging Human Rights violations in the Ogaden, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. “The situation” should, as GW demand, be “referred by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

Such Human Rights violations are not confined to the Ogaden region. GW consider “Ethiopia to have already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes”. The EPRDF, unsurprisingly, plead innocent to all such accusations of abuse and state criminality and dismiss allegations of human rights abuse substantiated by reports from international human rights group such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The Ogaden regional president claims, they “peddle lies and propaganda from our enemies”xii. However, if the Ethiopian government has nothing to hide, why don’t they allow independent investigators and journalists access to the Ogaden region?

The shocking accounts of violence and abuse are endless. The situation is clearly extremely critical and demands the immediate attention of Ethiopia’s main benefactors – America and sister donor nations, the European Union and Britain. To continue to ignore the evidence of state criminality and to blindly support the Ethiopian government in the face of such persecution, is to be complicit in the murder and violent abuse of the innocent people of the Ogaden region.

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Immigrant’s 1980s Somali pop group enjoying unexpected revival


By  Kevin Joy
The Columbus Dispatch

Comeback thanks to African music campaign

Eric Albrecht | DISPATCH
Dur-Dur Band members Sahra Dawo and her husband, Abdinur Daljir, at their Global Mall shop in Columbus

In recent weeks, Columbus-based, Somali-born musician Abdinur Daljir has drawn press accolades more commonly bestowed on American rock stars.

Pitchfork, a picky and powerful music website, called his global pop “a superb glimpse of what was” and touted “synth lines and accent percussion that would sound at home on Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required.”

The Chicago Reader alternative weekly deemed his jubilant melodies “too good to ignore.”

And a Daljir song was named a “track of the week” in the culture pages of The Guardian in London.

Never mind that the 25-year-old material is mildly distorted from a lifetime on a warped cassette and sung in a foreign tongue.

Thanks to an unlikely listener, the vintage fare has found a new platform.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Daljir said between sips of lentil soup over lunch at African Paradise, a North Side restaurant serving the cuisine of his native Somalia.

“I used to be popular.”

His group, Dur-Dur Band, thrived in late-1980s Mogadishu — a time when, despite communist rule, the ocean-side capital bustled with art, music and literature.

Dur-Dur Band, Daljir said, means stream — “a stream of music, a stream of wisdom, a stream of lyrics; melodious voice.” It also reflects the title of a lengthy Somali poem.

Although most other musicians of the period spread politicized content as government employees, his crew maintained its independence — as “a bunch of young people who said, ‘Let’s form our own band.’  ”

They sang of “love and affection,” he said.

At its peak, the ensemble boasted 12 members — including Daljir’s wife, singer-pianist Sahra Dawo — and traveled to festivals in Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

As their country fell into chaos in 1991 amid a civil war — in 1993, it was the site of a deadly U.S. military intervention, depicted in the film Black Hawk Down — Dur-Dur players fled to Ethiopia before scattering. Two have since died.

Daljir and his wife had intended to return to a peaceful Somalia, but “We spent 12 years waiting for that,” he said.

Both immigrated in 2004 to join relatives in Columbus, where they operate a music store in the North Side international marketplace known as Global Mall.

Somalis in central Ohio are aware of Dur-Dur Band’s one-time celebrity.“Back in the day, they were as big as Michael Jackson,” said a barber who has a shop in the same complex.

The couple still performs occasionally but not in the grand hotels and soccer stadiums of the past. Music fuels a hobby, not a paycheck.

A big boost came recently from Brian Shimkovitz, a Chicago native who, during Fulbright studies a decade ago in Ghana, took a shine to foreign sounds. Many of them — Daljir’s work included — had been relegated to castoff cassettes.

That led to Awesome Tapes From Africa, a label and blog that Shimkovitz, 32, runs from Berlin.

On Tuesday, the label rereleased the 1987 Dur-Dur Band effort, Vol. 5, on iTunes and Amazon. com. True to the album’s humble origins, a limited-edition cassette is also available.

“This just seemed really funky and really interesting,” said Shimkovitz, who once worked for a New York publicity company that includes Bjork and the Black Keys among its clients.“I want to see these artists have a chance to tour and build their audiences.”

But finding Daljir wasn’t easy.

Shimkovitz scoured the Web to find journalists and Somalis connected to the musician, who seemed to have dropped off the radar. The search ended with Jibril Mohamed in central Ohio.

Mohamed, an Ohio State University lecturer and the leader of the Somali Community Access Network in Columbus, didn’t know Daljir but was familiar with him and the group.

“Their music has stayed alive,” said Mohamed, who helped the parties connect.
Shimkovitz and Daljir will split 50-50 any Dur-Dur Band sales.

From Paul Simon’s Grammy-winning Graceland and the indie jangle of Vampire Weekend to Somali-born hip-hop songwriter K’N aan, African sounds have experienced successful crossovers. And, with the Internet broadening tastes, Shimkovitz sees potential.

“People are going farther and farther from the typical pop music,” he said.

Daljir, who declined to give his age, is planning more original material and a Dur-Dur Band reunion concert, to take place in May in London.

Also bolstering his spirits is the situation in his homeland: “the most promising time,” he called it.

In January, the United States formally recognized the Somali government — for the first time in more than two decades — because of the newly elected president and parliament.

Combined with potential new gigs, Daljir thinks the moment is prime for an encore.

“The goal of us being in music was to take Somali music to the global level,” he said. “The fact that it’s being recognized and it’s moving up the chain, that’s a very encouraging sign that we have done something good.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Somali refugees struggling to integrate in NZ - research logo

Many Somali refugees who suffered major trauma during their country’s civil war and subsequent refugee flight have struggled to integrate into New Zealand society, a University of Canterbury (UC) researcher has found.

UC PhD education student Hassan Ibrahim says those refugees with the greatest apparent level of recognised need and vulnerability were those with the poorest communication skill.

This has resulted in their having a poor relationship with schools and has left them quite alienated. For many families the only time they dealt with their local school was when summoned to discuss the infractions of their children and any subsequent disciplinary measures. One of the greatest needs to improve communication and collaboration was identified as the ability to learn the English language.

Other barriers included issues associated with racism, cultural awareness, teacher workload, lack of acknowledgement of refugees’ special needs in school policies, teachers’ low expectations of refugee parents, intimidating school environments, ambiguous information, the Somali oral culture, parents’ financial hardship, parents’ lack of transport, parents’ workload, inadequate housing and the families’ high mobility.

There are no national policies or adequate resources to facilitate refugees improving their English language skills, nor to support schools in other aspects of their communication and collaboration with refugee families.

The absence of guidelines and resourcing is another key factor behind the poor engagement between families and schools. Schools and their teachers also need good professional development that takes account of the diverse needs of these families in order to help build and strengthen better working relationships with refugee families,’’ Ibrahim said.

He recommended principals meet and welcome parents when children enrol, provide follow-up meetings after enrolment and developing structures, policies and guidelines to promote parent-school collaboration.

Principals needed to provide adequate resources to educate school personnel and mainstream parents about the refugees’ culture and experiences and designate a co-ordinator with responsibility for creating an inclusive environment with positive ethnic relations.

He also called for greater inter-agency co-ordination and co-operation between the schools and health services, social services, Work and Income New Zealand, the Immigration Service and the police.

Somalia has undergone a prolonged period of civil war, lawlessness and turmoil, which has resulted in many people becoming displaced, a number which have migrated to New Zealand as refugees.

Ibrahim’s study of Somali refugee families and their children’s schools took into account families’ experiences in their home country, the flight process, refugee camp experiences and the migration and resettlement process in New Zealand.

His research - from Warzone to Godzone’’ - took into account socio-economic status, urban versus rural origins, English language levels, poverty, employable work skills and refugee trauma.

Ibrahim’s research was supervised by Dr David Small.

The risks and rewards of easing Somalia's arms embargo

The UN Security Council earlier this month relaxed a long-standing arms embargo on Somalia, allowing the government to purchase light weapons for 12 months.

“On the arms embargo, originally imposed in 1992, the Council decided that it would not apply to arms or equipment sold or supplied solely for the development of the government’s security forces, but it kept its restrictions in place on heavy weapons, such as surface-to-air missiles,” UN Security Council Resolution 2093, adopted on 6 March, said.

The government - or member states delivering weapons - are required to notify the Council’s sanctions committee of any such deliveries.

Below, IRIN has put together a briefing on the implications of easing the embargo.

Why ease the embargo?

For more than two decades after the fall of Siyad Barre in 1991, Somalia experienced widespread gun violence in the form of clan conflict and, more recently, conflict involving the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)-supported government and Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabab.

According to the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea, between May 2004 and July 2011, some 445 instances of arms transfers or seizures, involving almost 50,000 small arms and light weapons, took place in Somalia. Also in violation of the embargo, arms continued to flow into Somalia by land, air and sea from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen.

But following more than a year of relative stability in Mogadishu and many other parts of south-central Somalia, some analysts expressed a desire to see the UN relax the embargo. In February, the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), a Mogadishu-based think tank, urged the US to “lobby for a gradual end to the arms embargo on Somalia… so that the Federal Government can take a qualitative monopoly on the instruments of legitimate violence”.

Easing the arms embargo would, according to HIPS director Abdi Aynte, “gradually give the Somali National Army [SNA] the qualitative edge over their principal adversaries, such as Al-Shabab”.

“At the moment, the SNA is battling Al-Shabab using the same [old] AK47s. They'd have to change, especially if we want the SNA to ultimately defeat Al-Shabab,” he told IRIN. “It would allow the Somali government to gradually monopolize the use of legitimate force. Currently, all actors are armed to the teeth, and that won't change for some time, but it could be reversed over time.”

In a statement, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the decision to lift the embargo as a reflection of “a new and steadily improving political situation in Somalia”.

“Thousands of Somali National Army recruits, trained by our international partners, have returned to Somalia but have been unable to perform their security duties effectively alongside AMISOM troops because the government was unable to access the equipment they needed,” he added. “Lifting the arms embargo was the missing element, and now the gap has been filled.”HAbdullahi Boru Halakhe, a Horn of Africa analyst, said the resolution made necessary compromises between the need for legitimate weapons and the fear of illegal ones. “The way the resolution was crafted struck a balance between the concerns of those who feel the country is still [too] awash with weapons for the embargo to be lifted, and those who consider the government needs to be able to purchase weapons to provide security for its people,” he said.

What are the risks?

Halakhe warned, however, that “even the best laid plans can go awry”.

“The immediate danger is if the weapons find their way in the hands of groups like Al-Shabab through corrupt government officials/security officers,” which could lead to “an incredibly difficult situation, where these weapons could fuel further conflict”.

Two days before the embargo was lifted, rights group Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council to keep the embargo in place, and even strengthen it, citing the possibility of groups like Al-Shabab becoming better armed.

“For several years, the arms embargo on Somalia has been continuously violated, with arms supplied to armed groups on all sides of the conflict. The flow of arms to Somalia has fuelled serious human rights abuses,” Gemma Davies, Amnesty International’s Somalia researcher, said in a statement that stressed the risks of “removing existing mechanisms of transparency and accountability”.

“Without adequate safeguards, arms transfers may expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation,” she added.

Countries within the region are wary of the easing of the embargo, fearing that it could, if managed poorly, allow illegal weapons to flow out of Somalia and into the region, where they could be used to create instability.

“As a sovereign state, Somalia is entitled to strengthen its security and defence. The present situation in Somalia, however, is still fragile… The institutions that control and manage small arms are not yet stable, with the AU still the factor holding the peace and return to stability. Already, there are so many illegal guns within Somalia and these are yet to be properly accounted for, managed and effectively controlled,” said Joe Burua, of Uganda’s National Focal Point on Small Arms.

“Letting more arms into Somalia will only give credence to the illegal ones [as] trade commodities, basically supporting illegal trade in firearms as security tightens.”e noted that while experts believe few guns have so far left Somalia for other countries in the region, “the fear is, like the Cold War era of the West and Eastern bloc countries, when the war is concluded, unscrupulous characters will seize the opportunity to engage in illegal trade in firearms”.

What safeguards are needed?

According to Burua, if the lifting of the embargo is to work, Somalia’s government will need to, among other things: strengthen internal measures for the safe storage of firearms; sensitize armed communities about the dangers of possessing illegal firearms; conduct a robust demobilization and disarmament programme; enact an amnesty for armed communities that voluntarily surrender their firearms; strengthen the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to manage firearms; strengthen laws and regulations on firearms; and partner with neighbouring states to strengthen border points and curtail illegal cross-border transfers.

“At this current juncture during the problematic early stages of the Somali Federal Government, the initial issue before armament should be country-wide disarmament,” Kainan Abdullahi Mohamed said in a recent opinion piece for the Somali new service, Garoowe Online. “Firstly and foremost in the capital, where guns are found as easily as any other product such as soap and groceries.”

He further argued that there would be a need to harmonize and reform the army if the easing of the embargo was to work.

Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste notes in a 21 March blog that beyond guns, there is a need for ongoing negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty to impose strict controls on not just weapons, but ammunition as well.

“As it stands, the treaty places trade in weapons themselves under encouragingly tight controls,” he said. “But the treaty shunts ammunition and spare parts to an annex with far loser restrictions. If those restrictions continue to allow a black market to flourish, the treaty fails, especially in places like Somalia.”

Amnesty International has also made the case for stronger controls on ammunition.

Somalia has attempted disarmament several times in the past. The Islamic Courts Union’s disarmament efforts in 2006 were met with stiff resistance by warlords. In 2007, the prime minister of the Transitional Federal Government extended an amnesty to Islamists and established collection points for arms around Mogadishu. This, too, was met with resistance.

There is also the issue of how much of a role AMISOM should play in supporting the purchase or monitoring of weapons. HIPS’s Aynte says that while AMISOM should not, in the long term, be an intermediary in the procurement of weapons, the Somali government needs to first put in place “verifiable mechanisms for purchasing, accounting and accountability before going on an arms shopping spree”.

“There are groups and communities in Somalia and abroad that are legitimately concerned about the capacity of the SNA to buy arms… The government must allay these fears by reforming the SNF and making it more competent, credible, inclusive and, above all, accountable to a strong and transparent judicial system,” he added.

President Mohamud’s statement made it clear that the Somali army would continue to work with AMISOM to execute its duties. The SNA and the country’s police force are undergoing a process of reform with the support of AMISOM, the UN and neighbouring countries like Uganda.

Halakhe, the analyst, said, “I hope besides providing security, the AU forces will able to monitor that these weapons do not find their way into the hands of Al-Shabab and other similar destabilizing forces… We need to move slowly.”