Google+ Followers

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ban appoints British diplomat as new UN envoy for Somalia

Outgoing SRSG Augustine Mahiga and the new UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Nicholas Kay, a diplomat from the United Kingdom, as his new Special Representative for Somalia, it was announced today.

Mr. Kay succeeds Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania, who has served as Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) for the last three years and will complete his assignment on 3 June 2013.

In the announcement of the new appointment, the Secretary-General paid tribute to Mr. Mahiga’s “exemplary leadership” in helping to steer the conclusion of Somalia’s eight-year political transition in the summer of 2012.

“The Secretary-General recalls with deep appreciation the fact that Mr. Mahiga’s contributions had laid the foundation on which the Federal Government of Somalia, with the help of the international community, can now further engage on peacebuilding and the consolidation of security and development initiatives in the country.”

Mr. Kay is currently the Africa Director at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Prior to this, he served as Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan from 2007 to 2010 and 2010 to 2012, respectively.

He was also the UK’s Regional Coordinator for Southern Afghanistan and Head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team for Helmand Province from 2006 to 2007. His career also includes diplomatic stints in Spain and Cuba, as well as 14 years of work as an English teacher in a number of countries.

As the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somalia, Mr. Kay will be responsible for leading UN efforts to assist the country’s leaders and citizens to build peace, political stability and a hopeful future after decades of conflict.

Source: UN

Somali poet Warsan Shire on her African poetry award

Somali poet Warsan Shire has won the UK's Brunel University inaugural prize for African Poetry.

The prize is for African poets who have not yet published a full-length poetry collection, and entrants had to submit a total of 10 poems.

There were 655 entries and Ms Shire was chosen from a shortlist of six.

"I've never been to Somalia, and I'm Somali. So the poems for me are a way of creating a connection to a country I've never been to. I don't know how it feels to belong, or to be home or anything like that," the 24 year old told BBC Africa.

Ms Shire, who was born in Kenya to Somali parents and now lives in London, gave her reaction to the award.

Source: BBC

Somali man sentenced to life in prison in 2011 killing of 4 people in North Dakota

A Somali national was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for killing the mother of his child and three other people in North Dakota two years ago.

Omar Mohamed Kalmio, 28, declined to comment following the 30-minute sentencing hearing, the Minot Daily News reported ( ). Judge Douglas Mattson sentenced Kalmio to four consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kalmio was convicted of fatally shooting 19-year-old Sabrina Zephier on Jan. 28, 2011, at her Minot home. Authorities said he then killed her 13-year-old brother, Dillon Zephier; her mother Jolene Zephier, 38; and Jolene’s 22-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Longie, at the mother’s nearby mobile home. The baby girl was found unharmed in Sabrina Zephier’s home. They were members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe.

Kalmio, who had a history of violent crime, was working in North Dakota’s oil patch at the time of the killings and said he was in the U.S. under political asylum.

According to court documents, a witness said Kalmio and Zephier argued days before she was found dead. Kalmio’s co-workers at an oil rig site near Williston claimed he had told them Zephier purposely became pregnant and that she had ruined his life. Authorities said Kalmio described injuries to Zephier that had not been publicly disclosed.

Kalmio and a group of other Somali men were accused of attacking a man in Minneapolis in January 2006, and Kalmio stabbed him three times in the back with a knife. He was convicted of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and sentenced to about a year in prison. Kalmio also was convicted of theft in 2006, and ordered to pay a fine.

Multiple slayings are virtually unheard of in North Dakota, which had only 10 murders and non-negligent homicides in all of 2010 and 24 homicides the next year, according to data compiled by the FBI.

Source: The Associated Press

Tanzania investigates 14 Somali businessmen for human trafficking

The Tanzanian government is investigating 14 Somali businessmen, who are naturalised Tanzanian citizens, for allegedly facilitating the trafficking of hundreds of Somalis using forged documents, The East African reported Saturday (April 27th).

Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Pereira Ali Silima said intelligence agencies are also investigating politicians, businessmen and senior government officials who may be tied to the scheme of sending Somalis to South African countries and Europe in exchange for millions of dollars.

Somalis trafficked through Tanzania are taking advantage of the government's practice of granting citizenship to genuine asylum seekers and refugees, he said.

Currently, Tanzania provides asylum to about 526,800 refugees, a majority of whom are from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Since 2005, Tanzania has granted citizenship to 3,000 Somali refugees.

Principal Commissioner of Immigration Services Magnus Ulungi said the Tanzanian government has revoked the citizenship of 102 Somalis who had obtained the status illegally.

Source: SABAHI

Optimistic U.N. to triple international staff in Somali capital by July

Author: Katy Migiro

Although suicide bombings and shootings continue in the Somali capital, the United Nations plans to triple its international presence in Mogadishu by July to stem corruption in aid projects managed from outside the country and so it can access new areas.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous and logistically difficult places to deliver aid, with 136 humanitarian staff killed there since 2000, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.

But optimism is growing after two decades of civil war. An African Union military offensive has driven al Shabaab insurgents from Mogadishu and the current government, elected in August, enjoys more legitimacy than its predecessors.

The U.N. has around 25 international staff based in Mogadishu, up from 15 two years ago.

“We should be up to 70 to 90 slots within three months and that will make a huge difference,” said Justin Brady, head of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia.


Foreign aid workers in Somalia risk being kidnapped by militants who demand huge ransom payments. In addition, al Shabaab has banned many international agencies from working in its territory, accusing them of creating aid dependency.

Brady is the first U.N. country director to live in Mogadishu for many years. Most agencies operate by ‘remote control’ out of neighbouring Kenya, getting local Somali partners to implement their projects.

“The point of it was to see whether you could be based there,” Brady told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I think we have proven that you can and that has attracted others.”

The head of the U.N.’s Development Programme moved to Mogadishu in December and his counterpart at the U.N.’s refugee agency followed in February, Brady said.

The country directors of the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the U.N.’s children’s fund are also planning to relocate to the city in the next couple of months, he said.

Britain opened an embassy in Mogadishu last week – the first Western power to do so – ahead of an international conference on Somalia in London on May 7.

Brady said that it is 10 times more expensive to operate out of Mogadishu than Nairobi because of security costs and the challenge of finding suitable offices in a city where many buildings have been reduced to rubble.

“When we go around Mogadishu, I am in an armoured vehicle with a vest on and an armed escort,” he said in an interview in Nairobi.

“People talk about the cost of going there, security and relocation and facilities. But the costs of staying here and trying to remote control it are, I think, much greater for our credibility and the relevance of our programming.”


International agencies have been severely criticised for failing to monitor or coordinate their aid projects.
A report by Refugees International said that the theft of aid from displaced people’s camps in Mogadishu was systemic. It gave examples of multiple donors funding the same latrine project and ‘ghost camps’ where tents and latrines are set up with no people living there.

“The lack of effective governance in Mogadishu, along with the 'remote control' approach that aid groups have taken in Somalia, have sustained this abusive system for years,” it said.

Brady admitted “a very low level of service delivery” and said an increased U.N. presence has improved its monitoring of national staff who supervise aid projects.

In the last few months, the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services has visited Mogadishu to check the records of one of the U.N.’s partner agencies, he said.

Across Somalia, the U.N. says there are one million people in crisis, down from 4 million at the height of the 2011 famine.

However, access has not improved significantly since then, with international agencies still only able to reach about half of those in need.

Brady said the U.N. now has a presence in several major towns like Baidoa in Bay region and Xudur in Bakool region, which extend north-west of coastal Mogadishu up to the Ethiopian border.

But they are essentially garrison towns, surrounded by rebel-controlled countryside. Aid has to be brought in by air, which is expensive.

This has discouraged other agencies from moving in.

“There isn’t the ability to move about freely even in these areas where you have government or aligned control,” he said. “Even where Shabaab doesn’t necessarily have influence, it has the ability to strike and disrupt.”

Al Shabaab has said it plans to launch more attacks after it killed 30 people in a coordinated wave of shootings and bombings in Mogadishu on April 14.

Source: Reuters

Somalia: Journalist Living and Working On the Edge

By Abdurrahman Warsameh

When journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Rageh was shot by unknown assailants outside his home in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Apr. 22, his name was added to a list of four journalists who have been killed in this Horn of Africa nation since January.

Last year, 18 members of the media were killed across the country, according to figures from the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) - the country's largest.

But despite efforts by the Somali government, which earlier this year offered a reward of 50,000 dollars for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons involved in the murder of reporters, analysts say that Somalia cannot protect its officials, let alone journalists.

Abdirashid Hashi, the deputy director of the Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a non-profit policy research and analysis institute, says there is not much that the Somali government can do for the media.

"Frankly, I do not think that the government is going to do, or is able to do, anything special for any professional group, like journalists. It cannot do anything for its members of parliament, government employees, or National Security Service operatives who are killed day in and day out in Mogadishu. The government can only improve the general security," Hashi tells IPS.

On Apr. 14, 30 people were killed in bombings near Mogadishu's courthouse. And in March, a suicide car bomb meant for Mogadishu's security chief Khalif Ahmed Ereg exploded near the presidential palace, killing 10 people, including a journalist. Ereg was not injured. The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for both attacks.

While the Islamist extremist group has not claimed responsibility for the death of reporters here, it does maintain that those working for government media are "legitimate targets."

Rageh, who worked for state broadcasters Radio Mogadishu and Somalia National Television, was shot several times as he stood at the gate of his home in Dharkenley district, western Mogadishu.
He died immediately, in front of his family. There have been no arrests.

His friend and colleague, Mohamed Nur Amiin, tells IPS: "We don't know who will be next and who is targeting us. I leave my house everyday not knowing if I will return safely. And neither does my family know (if I will return)."

According to Reporters Without Borders, an NGO that protects the rights of media workers, Somalia is "one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists."

A reporter based in Galkayo town in central Somalia, who sought anonymity because he fears for his life, tells IPS by phone: "We place our trust in Allah because we don't know who is killing us and why we are being targeted. And that is the worst part of it."

But Hashi says that a lack of adequate resources, scarcely competent government personnel and an absence of effective security institutions are hampering the government's efforts to improve security in the country.

He says that the insecurity is "part and parcel" of the situation in Somalia and that the media "need to try their best to stay safe as they are on their own, like most of us."

But Rageh's murder has resulted in renewed calls for an investigation into the assassinations of reporters here. According to NUSOJ and other international media watchdogs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more than 50 reporters have been killed in Somalia since 1992.

"The government has made a firm pledge to root out the perpetrators who target journalists, and now is the time to honour that commitment by ensuring those responsible for Mohamed's (Rageh) death are brought to book," said CPJ East Africa consultant Tom Rhodes in a recent press release.

Few cases involving the murder of Somali reporters are brought to court and, to date, no one has been convicted.

Last February the government launched the Independent Task Force on Human Rights to tackle the "culture of impunity" over rights abuses, and "investigate the broadest range of human rights abuses, including the organised killing of journalists and sexual violence against women."

The new body has a three-month mandate and will produce a report at the end of its term.

But the country's NUSOJ says they were never consulted on the setting up of the task force and that it is "a mere PR exercise on the part of the government."

Numerous calls by IPS to Somali government officials remained unanswered and those who did respond refused to explain the status of the body or its investigation.

Hassan Muunye, a political commentator in Mogadishu, says an independent investigation into the murder of reporters is required.

"We hear these calls (for an investigation) from every corner of the world every time a journalist is murdered in Somalia, but nothing seems to be done by the Somali government. Weak as it may be in its capacity to investigate, we have never heard it asking for help to protect journalists," Muunye tells IPS.

Muunye says despite "the bravery of Somali journalists and their determination to tell the truth," the ongoing murders of media members here could slowly lead to the silencing of reporters from this part of the world.

He says that the killings are "the death of nascent democracy" in Somalia.

NUSOJ secretary general, Mohamed Ibrahim, says Rageh's murder is another episode in "the nightmare" that Somali reporters live through.

"We have called upon the government to launch an independent investigation into the murders of our colleagues but so far we don't see any concrete actions by the government," Ibrahim tells IPS.

Despite the persistent danger to their lives, many journalists say they continue to work in the hope that they will make a positive contribution to their communities.

One journalist from Mogadishu tells IPS: "I have dreamed of doing stories that touch people's lives and that is what I am doing for the people. I know the price and I am prepared to pay it because it is worth it."

Source: AllAfrica

260,000 died in 2011 Somali famine, AP new report say; half were 5 and under

The 2011 Somali famine killed an estimated 260,000 people, half of them age 5 and under, according to a new report to be published this week that more than doubles previous death toll estimates, officials told The Associated Press.

The aid community believes that tens of thousands of people died needlessly because the international community was slow to respond to early signs of approaching hunger in East Africa in late 2010 and early 2011.

The toll was also exacerbated by extremist militants from al-Shabab who banned food aid deliveries to the areas of south-central Somalia that they controlled. Those same militants have also made the task of figuring out an accurate death toll extremely difficult.

A Western official briefed on the new report — the most authoritative to date — told AP that it says 260,000 people died, and that half the victims were 5 and under. Two other international officials briefed on the report confirmed that the toll was in the quarter-million range. All three insisted they not be identified because they were not authorized to share the report’s contents before it is officially released.

The report is being made public Thursday by FEWSNET, a famine early warning system funded by the U.S. government’s aid arm USAID, and by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia, which is funded by the U.S. and Britain.

A previous estimate by the U.K. government said between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in the famine. The new report used research conducted by specialists experienced in estimating death tolls in emergencies and disasters. Those researchers relied on food and mortality data compiled by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.

Because of the imprecise nature of the data available, the toll remains only an estimate.

When asked about the report, Somalia Health Minister Maryan Qasim Ahmed said she didn’t want to comment until she read it because of questions she had about the accuracy of the figures.

Sikander Khan, the head of UNICEF in Somalia, also said he needed to look at the report’s methodology before commenting specifically. But he said generally that the response to the famine was problematic because it depended on political dynamics. He said the international community needs to change the way it classifies famines.

“You lose children by the time people realize it’s met the established definition of famine,” he said.

Marthe Everard, the World Health Organization’s country director for Somalia, said she has not yet seen the report but would not be surprised by such a high death toll.

“The Somalis themselves were shocked about the number of women and children dying,” she said, adding later: “It should give us lessons learned, but what do we do with it? How do we correct it for next time?”

Much of the aid response came after pictures of weak and dying children were publicized by international media outlets around the time the U.N. declared a famine in July 2011.

“By then you are too late,” Everard said.

A report last year by the aid groups Oxfam and Save the Children found that rich donor nations waited until the crisis was in full swing before donating a substantial amount of money. The report also said aid agencies were slow to respond.

Quicker action wouldn’t have prevented the deaths in areas controlled by al-Shabab. The militant group prevented many men from leaving the famine-hit region and allowed no emergency food aid in.

Thousands of Somalis walked dozens or hundreds of miles to reach camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. Countless numbers of families lost children or elderly members along routes that became known as roads of death.

Source: The Associated Press

Monday, April 29, 2013

Somalis engaged in Minneapolis politics


Are members of the media ready to recognize the community’s integration with its new society?

 Hundreds of people crowded into the gym at the Bryan Coyle Center to participate in the Ward 6, Precinct 3 caucus on April 16 in Minneapolis. Mohamed Jama, in blue, passed out ballot cards and assisted women who wanted to be elected to the Ward 6 convention.
‘It reinforced and reminded me that recent immigrants will soon be integrated into this society and frictions/problems will resolve themselves. History bears this to be true.”

These sentences were written on an evaluation form completed by police officers attending one of the seminars that I conduct for law enforcement officers from time to time. It was an event at the Anoka Police Department several years ago. The forms were filed anonymously, but I wish I knew the evaluator’s name so that I could credit him or her.

That note gave me hope and increased my trust in our law enforcement system, arising, as it did, from a Twin Cities suburb where most inhabitants have few encounters with immigrant communities. It came as a surprise to me that a police officer (or police department employee) would be so optimistic about immigrant communities.

Back then, I thought there might be a long way to go before those beautiful words could come true, that the officer in question was exaggerating. But it didn’t take me long to see the light of hope at the end of the tunnel — a reality that recently arrived communities are integrating into mainstream society.

As one current example, you may have learned through the major media that, in Minneapolis, the election of DFL Party delegates is coming up soon. But you’d think the election were tomorrow if you could listen to Somalis talking in the coffee shops where they gather after long days of work. The election is already eliciting constant debate. The differences among the candidates are discussed, as are their positions on city issues like the budget, neighborhoods, security and so on.

It is interesting that two Somali candidates are running for the positions involved and that Somali-Americans, residents of Minneapolis, are talking about whom they plan to vote for and the reasoning behind their support. In my judgment and humble experience, the city is not yet ready for a mayor drawn from the ethnic Somali or East African communities. But running for the post is a good start.

It is a reflection of the feeling of the Somali-Americans, and of their willingness to participate in the democratic process of their city. It is a sign indicating that these, my own people, at last believe what we’ve heard for many years — that America is a land of opportunities.

Let this experience be a reason to bring unity among Somali-Americans so that they can work together toward a strengthening of our forces as a community. Numbers and voices matter in this country and in the West in general, and we must actively participate in the development of our new country, the United States.
And one more point: I sincerely hope that the media will begin to depict the Somali community in a more positive light. For up to now, at the hands of the local news outlets, we have been a defenseless community whose image has been continuously undermined by the negative stereotypes.
Abdi G. Elmi, is a trainer on diversity and cultures in Minneapolis. He can be reached at

Source: Star Tribune

Somalia: United Somalia is the only option we have, president says

RBC Radio

By Abdalle Ahmed

The President of Somalia Federal Republic Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in  a short working visit to the northeastern semi-autonomous region of Puntland has rebuffed claiming from local politicians towards the unity of the country as a northern region seeking for separation from Somalia since 1992, RBC Radio reports.

“Today it is not a matter of choosing whether we will be united together or breakaway into states, but it is the matter of reconciliation and treating all the civil war wounds to our people.” president Hassan announced on Sunday during a press conference in Garowe town, the capital of Puntland.

“I know that there are some people in parts of Somalia who feel the traumas left by civil wars.  We have to come together and help out finalizing all these matters.” he added.

President Mohamud also acknowledged that the federal government needed to build its full and inclusive institutions as part of nation-wide recovery system.

“We let alone mention the incomplete provisionally adopted Constitution but also as well the federal institutions of the government.” President emphasized.

Touching on the accomplishment of federal system into the country, the president whispered that there were too many questions on the kind of the federalism that Somalia should maintain and how it should be taken into practice.

“There are some people who could not find the answers of these questions who then run into false claiming of that the government is opposing the federalism.” he noted.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

American jihadi in Somalia tweets on assassination attempt

Fox News - Fair & Balanced
May 11, 2011 - FILE photo - American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami, addresses a press conference of the militant group al-Shabab at a farm in southern Mogadishu's Afgoye district in Somalia. (AP)

A most-wanted American jihadi in Somalia said Friday that the leader of Islamic extremist rebels in Somali was starting a civil war, just hours after an assassination attempt left the Alabama native with a neck wound.
Omar Hammami posted on Twitter about what he labeled an assassination attempt late Thursday as he was sitting in a tea shop. He posted four pictures, one of which shows his face with blood on his neck and a dark blood-stained t-shirt.

Hammami, one of the two most notorious Americans in overseas jihadi groups, moved from Alabama to Somalia and joined al-Shabab in about 2006. He fought alongside the al Qaeda-linked group for years while gaining fame for posting YouTube videos of jihadi rap songs.

But Hammami had a falling out with al Shabab and has engaged in a public fight with the group over the last year amid signs of increasing tension between Somalis and foreign fighters in the group. He first expressed fear for his life in an extraordinary web video in March 2012 that publicized his rift with al Shabab. He said he received another death threat earlier this year that was not carried out.

"Just been shot in neck by shabab assassin. not critical yet," Hammami tweeted late Thursday. On Friday he wrote that the leader of al Shabab was sending in forces from multiple directions. "we are few but we might get back up. abu zubayr has gone mad. he's starting a civil war," Hammami posted.

Hammami has been a thorn in the side of al Shabab after accusing the group's leaders of living extravagant lifestyles with the taxes fighters collect from Somali residents. Another Hammami grievance is that the Somali militant leaders sideline foreign militants inside al Shabab and are concerned only about fighting in Somalia, not globally. Hammami's Friday comment about a civil war could refer to violence between those two groups.

Al Shabab slapped Hammami publicly in a December Internet statement, saying his video releases are the result of personal grievances that stem from a "narcissistic pursuit of fame." The statement said al Shabab was morally obligated to stamp out his "obstinacy."

Hammami has enemies on all sides. The U.S. named Hammami to its Most Wanted terrorist list in March and is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. Al Shabab fighters are not eligible for the reward.

Along with Adam Gadahn in Pakistan -- a former Osama bin Laden spokesman -- Hammami is one of the two most notorious Americans in jihad groups. He grew up in Daphne, Alabama, a bedroom community of 20,000 outside Mobile. He is the son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father.

Hammami regularly chats on Twitter with a group of American terrorism experts, conversations that are so colloquial and so infused with Americana that many in the counter-terror field have formed a type of digital bond with Hammami.

After Hammami publicized the assassination attempt, one of his Twitter followers, a counter-terrorism expert from Canada, wrote that Hammami had nine lives. Hammami responded with an apparent reference to the movie The Blues Brothers. "'I'm on a mission from God.' minus the blues music," Hammami wrote.

After the shooting, American terrorism expert J.M. Berger, who has a long-running Twitter relationship with Hammami, posted that it looks like Hammami came within a quarter-inch of death. "Perhaps it's time to come in now," Berger tweeted.

Terrorism expert Clint Watts wrote on his blog,, that the attack proves that Hammami should fear for his life. Watts said Hammami's anti-Shabab social rants were annoying the militant group and he predicted conflict between Somali militants and foreign fighters.

"If there is going to be a war inside Shabaab, I'm guessing it will happen soon," Watts wrote.

Somali community in Malta condemns rape of Italian woman

The Somali community in Malta has expressed concern about the rape of an Italian woman, allegedly committed by several Somali men in Malta.

It expressed solidarity with the Italian woman and hoped that the men who committed the crime would be brought to justice.

“It is for the Maltese Court to decide on the case, but in general we wish to say that such actions against women are serious crimes and are not tolerated by law or by the Somali community.

“We are urging the Maltese government not to stop their tireless efforts to help Somali refugees who need protection. We also ask people not to judge the whole Somali community by the actions of a few.

“Finally, we the Somali Community are fully on the side of peace, respecting the laws, regulations and people of Malta. We are indeed grateful for your crucial assistance,” the community said.

Under darkness in the Somali region of Ethiopia


By Graham Peebles

Silence in Ogaden

No matter how tightly the truth is tied down, confined and suffocated, it slowly escapes. It seeps out through cracks and openings large and small, illuminating all and revealing the grime and shame that cowers in the shadows.

The arid Somali (or Ogaden) region of Ethiopia, home to some five million ethnic Somalis, has been isolated from the world since 2005, when the Ethiopian government banned all international media and most humanitarian groups from operating in the area.

State criminality

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the Ethiopian government “has tried to stem the flow of information from the region. Some foreign journalists who have attempted to conduct independent investigations have been arrested, and residents and witnesses have been threatened and detained in order to prevent them from speaking out“. Aid workers with the United Nations, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, plus journalists from a range of Western papers, including the New York Times, have all had staff expelled and/or detained, by the Ethiopian regime, which speaks of democracy yet fails to act in accordance with its own liberal constitution and consistently violates international law, with total impunity.

Under the cover of media darkness and donor country indifference, the Ethiopian government, according to a host of human rights organizations, is committing wide-ranging human rights abuses that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Serious accusations, based on accounts relayed by refugees and interviews with Ogaden Somalis on the ground, give what could be only a hint of the level of state criminality taking place in the troubled and largely ignored region. HRW makes clear the seriousness of the situation, stating that “tens of thousands of ethnic Somali civilians living in eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State are experiencing serious abuses… Ethiopian troops have forcibly displaced entire rural communities, ordering villagers to leave their homes within a few days or witness their houses being burnt down and possessions destroyed – and risk death.”

In a detailed study conservatively titled Concerns Over the Ogaden Territory, the African Rights Monitor (ARM) found “that the Ethiopian government has systematically and repeatedly arbitrarily detained, tortured and inhumanly degraded the Ogaden people”. Women and children, they report, “are raped, sexually assaulted and killed”. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), they found, “systematically attacks the women and children as they are the weakest in a civil society” and are unable to defend themselves. Documenting a series of specific cases of violence, HRW  reports that “an Ethiopian government-backed paramilitary force [the Liyuu police] summarily executed 10 men during a March 2012 operation”. HRW “interviewed witnesses and relatives of the victims who described witnessing at least 10 summary executions. The actual number may be higher.”

Accounts such as these clearly warrant investigation by independent agencies, and yet they are resolutely ignored. Supporters of the regime know well what is occurring throughout the Ogaden, and yet they remain silent. America – the single biggest donor to the country, with military bases inside Ethiopia from where their deadly drones are launched into Somalia and Yemen – and Britain are close allies of the Ethiopian government but not of the Ethiopian people, it seems.


A regime of abuse

Page after page could be filled with detailed accounts of abuse from refugees who have fled the region, human rights groups and members of the Ogaden diaspora. According to Genocide Watch (GW), atrocities meted out to innocent civilians suspected of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity”. These include beating people to death, hanging people from trees, tying people with wire and holding them over burning chillies, rape and repeated false imprisonment – unjustifiable acts that are justified by the government as part of a “counter-insurgency operation” against the ONLF, which is predictably branded as terrorist.

Documented reports of human rights violations amounting to state terrorism are dismissed by the EPRDF government, which has a notoriously dismal human rights record. However, as Leslie Lefkow, HRW’s deputy director of Africa, says “if the Ethiopian government doesn’t have anything to hide, why don’t they allow independent investigators and journalists into the region”. There is, she says with understatement, “a lot of concern about the human rights situation on the Ogaden”. GW are more blunt, claiming unequivocally that Ethiopia is committing genocide in the Somali region, as well as to the “Anuak, Oromo and Omo” ethnic groups (or tribes). And it calls on the EPRDF regime to cease all attacks on the Ogaden Somali people and immediately release all prisoners, urging it to “adhere to it’s own constitution and allow its provinces the legal autonomy they are guaranteed”.


The captain’s story

In 2005, implementation of the Ethiopian government’s policy of violent suppression in the Ogaden was transferred from the military to the newly-formed paramilitary group, the Liyuu police. As Faysal Mohmoud Abdi Wali,  38, a captain who defected from the Liyuu’s ninth regiment, based in Duhun  district, makes clear, the Liyuu is not a recognizable police force but “an extension of the military”, which operates under a cloak of impunity and lacks any accountability. Abdi Wali served in the Liyuu from its inception eight years ago, when it was called the ‘Liyuu Xayi’, and defected in 2012. His testimony is sof particular interest, especially given the media ban.

Abdi Wali was interviewd by Swedish journalists, Amnesty International and myself. He related how young men are forced to join the Liyuu’s police and arrested if they refuse. He confirmed findings by HRW that forced recruitment takes place among tribal groups whose elders are ordered, Abdi Wali says, “to bring at least 80 fighters for every single tribe. If any of these [recruited fighters] escapes from the militia they seek and capture [them] then [the escapee is] forced to kill one of his relatives or kinship”.

He recounts mass killings in “Hamaro, Sagag and Dhuhun of Fiq provinces”, where he says “large numbers of civilians accused of being ONLF sympathizers” were massacred. “These people are mostly killed by hanging from trees and girls are gang-raped and then murdered”.

He goes on to say “the youth in Dhuhun, the young men and the young women in Hamaro – the young men slaughtered in Degeh-bur and teens summarily executed [in] Denan and Dakhato”. Extra-judicial executions, intimidation and “forceful methods, strangling and rape of females aged 15-25”, are used as weapons of terror, “based on the advice we received from the regional president, Abdi Mohamud Omar, who said “indoctrinate the women with the male phallus and the men with guns”. Omar was largely responsible for the creation of the Liyuu, which evolved out of the Ethiopian army and was embraced by former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The captain states he was an “eyewitness for unaccountable massacres” by Liyuu police who, after killing villagers, “burned the entire village to the ground”. They “forcefully remove them [the villagers] from the land and slaughter their livestock. In remote villages, they sometimes massacre them all. For example, they forcefully removed many villagers from Gudhis, massacring 125 members from that village and burned the village, in 2007.”

Soldiers are rewarded, he says, for killing civilians, for the “good job they have done”. Nomads who have the misfortune to see the Liyuu in action are killed, “in order to make sure that their information is not received by the ONLF rebels“. Summary executions, he reports, are commonplace, as “in Dakhato in June 2010 … [where] 43 nomads were killed”. Abdi Wali estimates the number of civilians murdered by the Liyuu since 2005 “to be in excess of 30,000 people”.


Urgent action required

The Somali region, poor and desolate, is potentially the richest part of Ethiopia. Natural gas and oil have been discovered under the harsh surface and various contracts for exploration have been granted to international companies (without consultation with local, indigenous people, needless to say).

The current round of violence is to many people linked to the discovery of these natural treasures. GW relays how, “immediately after oil and gas were discovered in the Ogaden, Ethiopian government forces evicted large numbers of Ogaden Somalis from their ancestral grazing lands”. According to Abdi Wali the federal government “has strategic economic and land acquisition aims in the Ogaden region, intended to exploit the natural resources of the region”. These are strategic aims which they are seeking to realize by silencing the indigenous local people.

While some numbers, dates and locations from these and other accounts may be debated, the weight of claims of human rights violations and state criminality is, it would appear, beyond dispute, to the extent that GW has “called upon the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation in Ethiopia to the International Criminal Court”.

This necessary measure, together with a range of others (including the immediate release of all political prisoners, the correct distribution of all humanitarian aid to the needy, giving journalists open and unrestricted access, and a thorough investigation by independent observers) would be the right and proper course of action in the region. It is a course of action that should be urgently undertaken at the insistence of Ethiopia’s main donors: the United States, Britain and the European Union.

Sundance-winning filmmaker explores grim world of Somali piracy in ‘Fishing Without Nets,’ starring Somali refugees

Cutter Hodierne, a 26-year-old filmmaker, is expanding his Sundance-winning short film about Somali pirates -- cast by actual Somali refugees living in Kenya -- into a feature film produced by Brooklyn's Vice Media.

Fishing Without Nets. A movie about Somali pirates.
                                                                                     Fishing Without Nets/somalipirat
A Somali pirate chews khat in 'Fishing Without Nets,' an upcoming feature film about Somali piracy directed by Cutter Hodierne and co-produced by Vice Media.

Director Cutter Hodierne knew there was trouble when the pirates decided to mutiny.

Hodierne and a film crew were aboard a small fleet of boats off the coast of Kenya last fall shooting a scene for "Fishing Without Nets," his movie about Somali pirates, when the 26-year-old got word over a walkie-talkie that his pirate actors had captured a boat and were heading to shore.

In true swashbuckling fashion, the pirates, played by a group of Somali refugees, had been up all night drinking in Malindi, the coastal Kenyan town where the film was based.

Once at sea, one of them couldn't stop vomiting. Choppy waters didn't help.

After Hodierne brushed off their pleas to take the sick man home, the actors seized one of the shoot's support boats, thrust their AK-47s in the skipper's face and ordered him to take them ashore.

"They jumped on, pointed the guns and were like "Hands up! Go!" Hodierne said recently in an interview at Vice Media's Williamsburg office, where he is editing the film.

In the film, which is fiction, the pirates are played by a group of Somali refugees living in Kenya.  
                                                                                                              Katelyn Partlow
In the film, which is fiction, the pirates are played by a group of Somali refugees living in Kenya. 
"The guy knows there's no bullets in the guns," he said. "But these guys are so in the moment, so convincing that he's worried about a rifle butt to the face."

About an hour later, the actors sailed back to set, down one hungover pirate.
Hodierne scolded them for costing precious daylight.

"They were like, 'What? We had to!'" Hodierne said.

That do-or-die spirit is a persistent theme in the evolution of the upcoming film, which began as a 17-minute short shot guerilla-style by three young Americans in the slums of Mombasa and went on to win its category at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

A full-length feature, shot in Kenya last fall, is set to debut later this year as a co-production by Vice and Cleveland-based Think Media.

The film tells the story of a desperate fisherman who joins a gang of pirates to hijack an oil tanker. A 17-minute short version won the grand prize in the shorts category at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
                                                                                     Fishing Without Nets/somalipirat
The film tells the story of a desperate fisherman who joins a gang of pirates to hijack an oil tanker. A 17-minute short version won the grand prize in the shorts category at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
On the surface, "Nets" is an action flick. Set in Somalia during the late-aughts heyday of Indian Ocean piracy, it tells the story of a poor fisherman who is cajoled into helping a gang of pirates hijack an oil tanker.

The ship in the film, the East Wind, is an actual 305-foot oil tanker based out of the Antilles. Many of its crew members play hostages in the film, with a few professional actors sprinkled in.

All of the Somalis were first-time actors, cast from auditions held at a Mobmasa nightclub and, in some cases, people Hodierne and his crew met on the street while shooting the short.

Eddy Moretti, Vice's creative director, said the film's gonzo spirit meshed perfectly with his growing media empire, which recently debuted a half-hour news show on HBO.

"It could have been a Vice documentary, but it's a feature instead," Moretti said. "What he's managed to do with non-actors, on the ground, in country… it's blowing my mind."

"It's really poetic and beautifully shot," he said. "My partners at Vice were all blown away. And that's a really good litmus test."

Cutter Hodierne, right, with an actor. The 26-year-old filmmaker flew to Kenya with three others in 2010 and filmed the short guerilla-style in the slums of Mombasa and aboard rented ships in the Indian Ocean. 
                                                                                                            Katelyn Partlow
Cutter Hodierne, right, with an actor. The 26-year-old filmmaker flew to Kenya with three others in 2010 and filmed the short guerilla-style in the slums of Mombasa and aboard rented ships in the Indian Ocean.
Hodierne grew up in northern Virginia making small films and dropped out of Emerson College to direct full-time.

Somali piracy first piqued his interest in 2009, amid the drama aboard the captive MERSK Alabama.

"From a filmmaking standpoint, there was something about the bravado and overall visual element of it I was hooked just on," he said.

After a stint as tour videographer for U2 - roadies nicknamed him "Almost Famous" - Hodierne spent the summer of 2010 working on a short script with his writing partner, John Hibey.

They pair wanted to frame the story from the perspective of the pirates. Neither had visited Africa.

After months of slow progress, "We said, f-- it, let's just go there," Hodierne said.

“It could have been a Vice documentary, but it’s a feature instead,” Vice Media's creative director Eddy Moretti said. 
                                                                   Fishing Without Nets/
“It could have been a Vice documentary, but it’s a feature instead,” Vice Media's creative director Eddy Moretti said.
The two flew to Mombasa in October 2010 and hooked up with a local fixer, who helped scout locations, rent weapons from the police and secure a hook-up for fresh khat, the narcotic leaf Somalis chew for a speedy, euphoric buzz.

None of the actors spoke English, so communicating was a perverse game of telephone: the Americans spoke English to the fixer, who spoke Swahili with one actor, who relayed directions to the rest in Somali.

The planned five-week stint grew into a three-month slog during which the filmmakers were robbed, jailed, preyed on by hookers and shaken down by armed thugs posing as Kenyan soldiers.

In that incident, Hodierne, Hibey and another producer, Raphael Swann, were surrounded and handcuffed while walking at night along Diani Beach, a tourist spot south of Mombasa.

As the crooks jabbed their rifles and shouted in Swahili, Hodierne heard a cover band blaring from a stage a few hundred yards away.

They were playing U2.

'From a filmmaking standpoint, there was something about the bravado and overall visual element of [piracy] I was hooked just on,” Hodierne said. 
                                                               Katelyn Partlow
'From a filmmaking standpoint, there was something about the bravado and overall visual element of [piracy] I was hooked just on,” Hodierne said.
"All we can hear is 'It's a beautiful daayy!' blasting behind us," Hodierne told Vice in an interview last year. "At the time, I thought it was going to be the soundtrack to my death."

The group eventually returned to the U.S. in December, and Hodierne, nearly bankrupt after blowing $30,000 on the shoot, spent most of 2011 cutting hundreds of hours of footage down to 17 minutes.

In November, the filmmakers learned it would be one of 32 short films to show at Sundance's Short Films Program in January. It took the Grand Jury Prize.

"I don't think anybody was expecting us to win," Hodierne said. "But when that happened, it immediately opened up all the doors."

After hashing out a deal with Vice and Think Media - Hodierne said the budget is "under $5 million" - the filmmakers returned to Kenya in October with a much larger crew to shoot the full-length film.

Seated in Vice's editing room recently, Hodierne said he hoped to capture the desperation that drives some Somalis to piracy, without either victimizing or glorifying them.

Hodierne is editing the film at Vice's Brooklyn office. It is expected to be released at the end of the year. 
                                                                                                            Katelyn Partlow
Hodierne is editing the film at Vice's Brooklyn office. It is expected to be released at the end of the year.

"It's not like Muslim extremism, or an army, where the guys a rallying around a cause," he said. "There's no ideology here, except to make money."

Walking to his monitor, he cued up a scene showing a pirate aboard a listing ship, singing a love song in Somali to himself.

The scene was improvised, shot on the fly after the actor began singing quietly to pass the time.

"There are no caricatures in the film," Moretti said. "It's real, because they are real, and Cutter is a sensitive enough director to show their complexity."

The short ‘Fishing Without Nets’ is available on iTunes.

On a mobile device? To view the trailer, visit

Source: nydailynews

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Return to sender? Maybe not as Somalia to restart mail 22 years on

Somalis may soon be receiving letters from abroad for the first time in more than 20 years after a deal was struck with the United Nations' postal agency, the latest step towards ending Somalia's isolation following two decades of civil conflict.

But the challenges to bringing the Horn of Africa country back into the global postal community are manifold - there are no functioning post offices, only the main roads are named and most houses do not have a number.

Add to that the ongoing struggle with al Qaeda-linked insurgents, who still control much of the countryside, and parts of the coastline infested with pirates, and it is clear the U.N.'s Universal Postal Union (UPU) and its partners have their work cut out.

The Swiss-based UPU said in a statement on Friday that international postal services could start operating again in Somalia within the next few months.

Somalia's Minister of Information and Communication Abdullahi Hirsi signed a memorandum of understanding with Emirates Post Group this week for Dubai to act as a hub for handling mail destined for Somalia, it said.

The UPU, which brokered the deal, said its 192 member countries could resume sending mail to Somalia once the arrangements were finalized.

About 2 million Somalis live abroad and 9.9 million in Somalia, served by a postal network that is "basically inexistant", the UPU said, having dwindled from 100 post offices in 1991.

UPU spokesman Rheal LeBlanc said Somalia had created an office at the airport to handle mail moving in and out of the country, initially to service the government, embassies and universities, "but they seem to have plans to phase in postal services across the country over the next few months and years".

Hirsi said his country would need help getting the post going again.

"We ask for all means of assistance as we have to start from ground zero," the UPU statement quoted him as saying.

In the latest sign of optimism that Somalia was emerging from its violent recent past, Britain opened an embassy at Mogadishu airport on Thursday after its previous mission closed in 1991 as civil war broke out.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Mike Collett-White)

US reiterates support for peaceful, united Somalia

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's met with President of Somaliland Ahmed Silanyo and reiterated US support for continued dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland authorities.

"Yesterday, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman met with Somaliland administration President Ahmed Silanyo. Under Secretary Sherman and President Silanyo discussed issues of mutual concern, including stability, democracy and governance, and the need to combat Al-Shabaab", said the State Department in a statement Friday.

"The United States expressed support for continued dialogue between the Government of Somalia and Somaliland authorities, as took place in Turkey on April 13. The United States reiterated its strong support for a peaceful and united Somalia", added the statement.

Somaliland is a non-recognized self declared state that is internationally classified as an autonomous region of Somalia.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Somali government launches universal healthcare plan

Somalia says every Somali citizens will have access to basic healthcare by 2016 under a new government-led strategic plan.

The four-year plan will be a test for the new Somali government’s ability to provide services to its people suffering from two decade of civil war and recurrent famine.

The plan is expected to cost 350 million dollars, 70 to 75 percent of which will be spent on actual health services. It is expected to improve financing, human resources, medicine supply, and infrastructure in the health sector.

On March 21st, the government launched a new Health Sector Strategic Plan for three zones, south-central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland. This, indicates the government is moving away from the emergency-level health provision that has been the norm in the country for over 20 years.

Kassim also says by generous donations, Mogadishu will have thirty two new intensive care units to tackle the growing emergency cases in the war-torn capital.

The country's healthcare system is virtually destroyed by more than 20 years of conflict during which there was no legitimate government. NGOs, the United Nations, and private sector practitioners was managing the sector during that time.

The U-N statistics shows Somalia has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and thousands of infants and children died from easily preventable and treatable conditions such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition and measles. The Somali government has recently launched a vaccination campaign against six deadly diseases in the capital Mogadishu.

Somali violence down, new push for child vaccines

A World Health Organization worker gives a dose of polio vaccine to a Somali child in Mogadishu, Somalia. Vaccination teams, including community health workers and village elders working at full force to deliver lifesaving immunization to children under the age of five. (AP)

Two dozen babies sat on the laps of their mothers, who dressed in a rainbow of headscarves at the Medina Maternal Child Health Center. They are among Somalia's luckiest — the first to receive a new vaccine that protects against five dangerous diseases.

With more regions of Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, at peace for the first time in 20 years, health care workers are expanding vaccination programs and can now access 40 percent of south-central Somalia, where the influence of hardline Islamic insurgents is highest. Three years ago, health workers could access only 15 to 20 percent of that territory.

With one in five Somali children dying before his or her fifth birthday, the international community is rolling out the new five-in-one child vaccine they say will save thousands of lives.

The roll-out of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and an influenza known as Hib comes as health leaders on Thursday held the Global Vaccine Summit in the United Arab Emirates, where a six-year plan to eradicate polio was unveiled.

Violence and insecurity cost children dearly when it comes to preventable diseases. Polio remains endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. All three experience heavy violence. In February, gunmen believed to belong to a radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram shot and killed at least nine women taking part in a polio vaccination drive in northern Nigeria.

In Somalia, efforts by African Union forces — from Kenya, Uganda and Burundi primarily — have beaten al-Shabab back from areas it once controlled. As evidence of the improved security, Britain's foreign secretary traveled to Mogadishu on Thursday to open the British Embassy, the first time Britain has had an embassy in Somalia since 1991, when violence forced an embassy evacuation.

When al-Shabab is forced out, health officials rush in and vaccinate children, said Marthe Everard, the World Health Organization country director for Somalia. After Kenyan forces took the coastal city of Kisumu last year from al-Shabab, health officials immediately vaccinated nearly 13,000 children, but districts around the city remain off-limits, she said.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, speaking at the new vaccine's launch in Mogadishu on Wednesday, said all Somali children deserve the good health that children from rich countries enjoy. He blamed much of the country's vaccination problem on al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked militant group that controls much of south-central Somalia and up until August 2011 controlled Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab, the president said, is killing people with attacks and explosions, but also by forbidding children access to vaccines. Maryan Qasim Ahmed, the country's health minister, said al-Shabab kills aid workers who try to better health in south-central Somalia, "so they are contributing to child and infant mortality."

"The state of child health in Somalia is one of the worst in the whole world," said Ahmed. "The children of Somalia are dying from diseases that don't exist in the rest of the world."

Al-Shabab distributes false propaganda against vaccines, Everard said, such as claims the vaccines will make girls infertile, or that the vaccines are made by Christian countries. The vaccines are actually made in Indonesia and Pakistan, Muslim countries.

Sikander Khan, the head of UNICEF in Somalia, said the health sector must take advantage of Somalia's improved security: "There's more confidence and there's more hope. I don't think we can afford to let go of this opportunity."

But the remote stretches of the arid Horn of Africa nation also hamper aid workers.

Saqa Farah is the mother of 12 children from a nomadic goat-herding family in Somalia's north, where al-Shabab is not prominent. Only her youngest child, Abdi, was vaccinated. But even Abdi didn't get a full cycle and he's now in a Mogadishu hospital with measles.

"There is no medicine," Farah said. "I'm a nomad. When one of us gets sick we either get medicine or we die."

Omar Mayuw Mahdi, the nurse in charge of the Medina Maternal Child Health Center, where the two dozen mothers waited on Wednesday, said Somali mothers know that prevention is better than cure, but in the country's Bay and Bakool regions, where al-Shabab still reigns, there are no vaccines. "The situation does not allow it."

Global health leaders face similar security problems in trying to stamp out the last few remaining patches of polio around the world. The crippling disease is at its lowest level ever. Nineteen children have been paralyzed by polio so far this year; 223 were paralyzed last year.

The new anti-polio push will cost $5.5 billion, three-quarters of which has already been pledged, including $1.8 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"After millennia battling polio, this plan puts us within sight of the endgame," said World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan.

The six-year plan to end polio addresses such challenges as insecurity and hard-to-reach populations.

Somali civil society groups to take on bigger role at London conference

By Abdi Moalim in Mogadishu

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) and British Prime Minister David Cameron, shown during a February meeting at No. 10 Downing Street, will co-chair an international conference on Somalia scheduled for May 7th in London. [Leon Neal/AFP]
A number of Somali civil society groups say they are hopeful that their influence on the upcoming international conference on Somalia in London will bring about lasting benefits for the country.

Set for May 7th, the London conference on Somalia will be the second one in the British capital in as many years, presenting an opportunity to follow-up on issues raised at the first conference in February 2012. The meeting will focus on security, transparency in financial management, justice and human rights.

Somalis had no role in chairing previous international conferences, but this time around, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will co-chair the conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said Deputy Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications Abdishakur Ali Mire.

The representatives of more than 40 countries and international organisations that attended the 2012 London conference will be at next month's meeting, Mire said. The Somali government is pinning its hopes on the conference leading to political victories, stability and economic growth for Somalia, he told Sabahi.

Civil society looks to influence decisions

Civil society groups have put forth a number of recommendations through which they are looking to influence decisions coming out of the conference.

"The role of civil society groups is advisory, so our recommendation is for the conference to provide solutions that will positively impact the country and that are innovative. This can only come from strengthening the government and giving it strong diplomatic support," said Abdirahman Moalim Ablal, head of the School Association for Formal Education (SAFE), an umbrella organisation for non-profits working in education.

"As the education community, we hope the conference will do a lot for education," he told Sabahi. "We do not have adequate security or transparent politics. Therefore, if the security and politics are improved, I expect education will be improved. This can result in providing educational opportunities for many children who are currently unable to get an education."

Shueyb Abdullahi, head of Somalia Youth, a Mogadishu-based organisation that aims to advance the interest of youths in the country, said ultimately the fate of Somalia is in the hands of Somalis who must play an active role in rebuilding the country and take ownership of their future.

"We plan to participate in the conference and believe our contribution will be invaluable," he told Sabahi. "Statehood must come from within, we can only expect assistance from the outside world, but the Somali government must rely on its own people and listen to them."

"We hope the international community will continue supporting the Somali government until it can stand with its own two feet," he added.

The Somalia South-Central Non-State Actors (SOSCENSA) organisation, whose members plan to attend the London conference, is busy in the run-up to it with a public awareness campaign on how the conference could shape the question of Somali statehood.

SOSCENSA, which deals with a range of issues including poverty reduction, development, good governance, democracy, peace and security, convened a meeting April 9th-10th in Mogadishu on how the London conference agenda could advance Somalia's future.

Thirty people representing civil society groups attended the meeting, including religious scholars, traditional elders, women, police officers and intellectuals.

"We are urging the international community to directly deal with the Somali federal government regarding the needs of the Somali people and to extend diplomatic, political, economic and technical support to the government," SOSCENSA said in statement directed at London conference organisers.

The group also recommended the Somali government facilitate talks between leaders of different regions in order to resolve disputes if they decide to form their own regional administrations.

Responsibilities of citizens

SOSCENSA urged the public to join the government in stabilising the country and improving security through participating in decision-making, facilitating talks, extending services, research and awareness campaigns.

"We also urge the government to give women important roles in the leadership of government agencies as general directors, general managers, provincial governors, district commissioners and employment office directors," SOSCENSA said.

Asli Duale, a member of SOSCENSA, said they are looking for solutions to the challenges ahead.

"We are deeply aware of the problems facing the country and we can contribute good ideas to finding solutions, and that is why we issued preliminary recommendations," Duale told Sabahi. "We are asking the world to help our government in public service infrastructure to improve the lives of vulnerable people."

"We do not want to pressure anyone," Abdullahi Mohamed, the chairman of SOSCENSA, told Sabahi. "Our goal is to support the points that will be discussed in the London conference and we are happy with how things are being managed."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, opens new British Embassy in Somalia

ITV News

Foreign Secretary opens new British Embassy in Mogadishu

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has travelled to Somalia to open the new British Embassy in Mogadishu.

This will be the first time the UK has an Embassy in Somalia since 1991 when the Embassy was closed and the Ambassador and his staff evacuated.

This makes the UK the first EU country to re-open an Embassy in Somalia.

Mr Hague said: "Somalia has been through a dramatic shift over the last year but continues to face huge challenges.

"Today’s opening is testament both to the strength of the UK / Somalia bilateral relationship and to UK government’s commitment to work with the Federal Government of Somalia as they rebuild their country after two decades of conflict."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Somalia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012


The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) completed the September 2011 Roadmap for Ending the Transition during the year, partnering with representatives of Puntland, Galmuduug, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ), and the international community. Completion of the roadmap included drafting a provisional federal constitution, forming an 825-member National Constituent Assembly (NCA) that ratified the provisional constitution, selecting a 275-member federal parliament, and holding speakership and presidential elections. On May 5, clan elders convened in Mogadishu to nominate NCA delegates and members of the federal parliament. On August 1, the NCA ratified the provisional federal constitution. The federal parliament was inaugurated on August 20. On August 28, parliament elected Professor Mohamed Sheikh Osman (Jawari) as speaker. On September 10, parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Former TFG president and 2012 presidential candidate Sheikh Sharif deemed the presidential vote to be fair and conceded defeat. Neither the TFG nor the newly established government had effective control over some parts of the country, and essential governance functions were provided by regional administrations, if at all, including by the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the northwest and Puntland State in the northeast. There were instances in which elements of the Somali security forces acted independently of civilian control.

Civilians continued to suffer from conflict-related abuses, including killings, displacement, and the diversion or confiscation of humanitarian assistance by armed groups, principally al-Shabaab--a terrorist organization. According to the UN, there were more than 1.36 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, and more than one million persons had taken refuge in other countries by the middle of the year.

Severe human rights abuses included killings; restrictions on freedom of the press, including violence against and targeted assassinations of journalists; and discrimination and violence against women and girls, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Other major human rights abuses included harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detention; denial of a fair trial; corruption; trafficking in persons; abuse of and discrimination against minority clans; restrictions on workers’ rights; forced labor; and child labor.

In general impunity remained the norm, particularly in the south and central regions. Governmental authorities took some steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, particularly military and police officials accused of committing rape, murder, and extortion of civilians.

Al-Shabaab retained control of some rural areas of the south and central regions, but lost control over all major population centers it previously controlled. Al-Shabaab continued to commit grave abuses. It attacked towns where its forces had withdrawn or been defeated by Somali National, African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Ethiopian, and TFG-allied forces. Al-Shabaab committed abuses including extrajudicial killings; disappearances; cruel and unusual punishment; rape; restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of movement; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian assistance; and conscription and use of child soldiers.

Read full report here

Oil Companies Indicate Renewed Interest in Somalia

The head of Somalia's state- owned Somalia Petroleum Corporation has said that the country plans to sign 30 oil and gas production-sharing contracts this year.

Three of the international companies operating in Somalia in the 1980s (Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Eni SpA (ENI), and ConocoPhillips (C)) are reported to have said they are ready to operate again in Somalia.

BP Plc (BP) is also said to indicated interest. The government in Mogadishu is currently reviewing legislation to manage oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

Source: AllAfrica

Kenya’s new Foreign minister is a woman; how very East African! Kenya’s “first Somali ethnic” woman to be slated for the job.


Amina Mohamed appointed as the new fireign minister of Kenya,

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday named the first four ministers of his Cabinet.

Among them is Ms Amina Mohamed as Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The media and blogs immediately noted that she was Kenya’s “first Somali ethnic” woman to be slated for the job. Indeed, if her appointment is approved by Parliament, she will be Kenya’s first ever female Foreign minister.

But you have to look outside Kenya’s borders in other Eastern African countries to understand why Ms Mohamed’s appointment is a truly intriguing story.

If she travels to Mogadishu to discuss matters of Kenya’s forces in south Somalia, she will meet with Fauzia Yusuf Adam. Adam is Somalia’s deputy prime minister, the first woman to hold the position, and Foreign minister – again the first Somali woman to hold that job.

And at a regional ministerial meeting to review security in the Great Lakes region, three of the delegations will be led by women. Beside Kenya and Somalia, the third will be Rwanda. As we all know, Rwanda’s Foreign minister is the feisty Louise Mushikiwabo.

Mushikiwabo has a record of sorts. She has been Foreign minister since 2009, the longest any woman has held the docket in this region.

Rwanda is different from other countries in East Africa in that before Mushikiwabo, its Foreign minister was Rosemary Museminali who had been minister since 2005. Thus for the last eight years, women have locked down Rwanda’s top diplomatic job.

Tanzania too gave us a female Foreign minister between 2006 and 2007 in the person of Asha-Rose Migiro, before she moved to become the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York.

Ms Migiro is back in Dar es Salaam, where she became Secretary-General for Politics and Foreign Affairs of the ruling CCM party. One of her leading supporters whispered in my ears that President Jakaya Kikwete backed her for that job because he is lining her up for the party presidency, and thus Tanzania’s next president.

Most colourful stint

If that is true, come the 2015 election, she could easily become the region’s first woman president.

And, in keeping with tradition, Burundi too had a female Foreign minister from 2005 to 2009. Antoinette Batumubwira steered Burundi’s foreign relations following the end of the civil war and entrance into the EAC.

But, without doubt, the shortest and most colourful stint anyone in the world was Uganda’s Princess Elizabeth Bagaya. She was dictator Idi Amin’s Foreign minister for just one year in 1974. Cambridge-educated, she was the first woman from East Africa to be admitted to the English bar.

Portrayed by the Western media as the most beautiful black woman in her heyday, Bagaya never made her name or fortune in law. She became an actress, and was the first black model featured on the cover of the American fashion magazine, Vogue, in 1968.

Her career ended in tears. Amin, typically sacked and humiliated her by alleging she had broken one of the 10 Commandments with a French minister in a Paris airport washroom.

So if, even in misogynistic Somalia, a woman can be appointed Foreign minister, we have to ask what it is about the job.

It is probably the way our governments acknowledge that we live in a globalised world. Politics at home might still be highly patriarchal, but when we go out into the rest of the world, we have at some point to meet it on its terms.

In that big world out there, there are many nations in which the equality of the sexes has advanced considerably. A female Foreign minister is a low-cost way of saying we recognise the limits of our “native” masculine domestic politics, and that talent is gender-neutral.

Few people in our part of the world will have heard of The Communist Party of the Philippines. However, it has a worthy philosophy. It holds that there is really one thing that reveals the nature of a society or an organisation – its attitude towards women.

Uhuru’s Kenya, like Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda, seems to suggest that if you are an East African woman, there is hope for a fair share of public goods. There are parts of Africa where women still can’t even dare dream that one of them will be Foreign minister. & twitter : @cobbo3