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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Top Somali militant, wanted by U.S., killed in infighting

CNN

By Melissa Gray, CNN
 
A senior Somali militant who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head has been killed in infighting among members of the al Qaeda-aligned group Al-Shabaab, a spokesman for the group said Saturday.

Ibrahim Al Afghani, a senior member of Al-Shabaab, was killed along with another top member, Moalim Burhan, in a shootout between two factions of the group June 20, spokesman Abu Musab said.

Al Afghani was wanted for terrorism by the U.S. State Department, which offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his location.

A U.S. administration official said the United States believes the report of his death is true.

It is the first time Al-Shabaab has confirmed the killing of two of its most senior members.

The internal fighting in Al-Shabaab is between two groups, one loyal to founding member Ahmed Godane and another, smaller faction that supports foreign jihadists in Somalia. It began about a month ago when a member of the smaller group was targeted in a tea shop, allegedly by members from the other side.

Al Afghani and Burhan were both members of the smaller faction.

The main Al-Shabaab group denies there is infighting and blames reports of a split on local media.

Musab said the two men were killed when Al-Shabaab fighters tried to arrest them for supporting foreign jihadists and the pair fought back. He said Al Afghani and Burhan were not killed intentionally.

Residents of the town where the men were killed described heavy fighting between opposing sides of Al-Shabaab. They told the private Shabelle Media Network that they fear war between the two factions could break out at any time.

In addition to the killing of the two, a prominent Somali militant leader was arrested by pro-government forces and turned over to the government in Mogadishu.

Hassan Dahir Aweys was detained this month.


CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Detained Somali Islamist commander flown to Mogadishu

MOGADISHU

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys (2nd R), one of Somalia's most prominent Islamist rebel commanders, who was arrested on Wednesday, is escorted at Adado airstrip June 29, 2013, to be transferred to capital Mogadishu. REUTERS/Stringer (SOMALIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW POLITICS)
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys (2nd R), one of Somalia's most prominent Islamist rebel commanders, who was arrested on Wednesday, is escorted at Adado airstrip June 29, 2013, to be transferred to capital Mogadishu.

One of Somalia's most prominent Islamist rebel commanders, arrested by a regional administration, was flown to the capital Mogadishu on Saturday, where he agreed to hold talks with the federal government about his fate, Somali officials said.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, whose capture was a boost to Mogadishu in its battle against Islamist insurgents, was detained in central Somalia and then taken to the town of Adado.

Much of Somalia has been stabilized after two decades of turmoil by a campaign that drove back the militant group al Shabaab.

But the federal government, in charge for less than a year, is slowly working to extend its power and influence beyond Mogadishu with the help of the African peacekeeping troops on whom it relies for security.

Diplomats said Aweys, who is on a U.N. Security Council terrorism sanctions list, had fled a bout of in-fighting in al Shabaab.

"If he renounces violence, then we can start the discussion about the options available," government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman told Reuters, without describing the options.

He confirmed Aweys had arrived in the Somali capital.

Speaking before boarding the plane at Adado, the spokesman for the Himan and Heeb regional administration, Mohamed Omar Hagafey, said Aweys had agreed to meet top government officials "after much discussion" that had lasted several days.

Al Shabaab Islamists were driven from power in Somalia by African forces but still control swathes of the countryside. Analysts say the group has been mired in an internal row over whether to use foreign fighters, a tactic Aweys opposed.

Aweys helped to found the Union of Islamic Courts that briefly controlled Mogadishu and most of Somalia in 2006 before it was routed by Ethiopia, a nation long seen by the West as a bulwark against Islamist militancy in the region.

After a brief period abroad he returned, but his group was forced to join up with the more powerful al Shabaab.

(Additional reporting and writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Prominent militant arrested in blow to Somali Islamists

By
 
 
Senior al Shabaab officer Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys leads faithful in prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Somalia's capital Mogadishu
Senior al Shabaab officer Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys leads faithful in prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Somalia's capital Mogadishu November 6, 2011. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
 
One of Somalia's most prominent Islamist rebel commanders has been arrested and is in the hands of a regional administration, local and government officials said on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the country's al Shabaab insurgents.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was detained in a coastal area of central Somalia and had been taken to a safe-house in the town of Adado, said a spokesman for the Somali Federal Government.

Aweys was "linked to terrorism" by the United States shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and is on a U.N. Security Council terrorism sanctions list.

The arrest of a man who has been a major player in many stages of Somalia's long insurgency would be a boost for a government and its African allies struggling to contain months of guerrilla-style attacks.

Diplomats suggested Aweys had fled a bout of in-fighting that indicated rifts in the group. Analysts said Mogadishu might be open to negotiate with Aweys, who they say backed a faction in al Shabaab opposed to using foreign fighters.

Clan elders and the Adado administration, which is generally seen as friendly to Mogadishu, said negotiations were under way with the central government over what to do with Aweys.

"We are discussing how to solve the issue," said central government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman. "Our policy has always been that for those within al Shabaab who are Somalis and want to renounce violence, we are willing to lend a hand."

Adado resident Hassan Nur said the town was tense as militiamen and security forces loyal to the provincial Himan and Heeb administration sped around in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns.

"Aweys and his men are now in Himan and Heeb palace in Adado town," Abdi Kadawe, Adado's police chief, told Reuters by phone.

FIREBRAND CLERIC

Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, said Aweys' arrest would be a psychological blow but was unlikely to shift the power balance in al Shabaab, which has been weakened by an offensive led by African peacekeepers.

Aweys' influence had been "seriously diminished in recent years," Abdi told Reuters that
Aweys, a firebrand cleric believed to be in his late 70s, had been seen by many Somalis as the spiritual leader of al Shabaab and had been revered by militants as the father of Somalia's Islamist movement.

In the 1990s, as the Horn of Africa country imploded after the overthrow of a dictator, Aweys was military commander of Somalia's largest militant Islamist group but suffered defeats in battles against Ethiopia and warlords backed by Addis Ababa.

Aweys helped found the Union of Islamic Courts that briefly controlled Mogadishu and most of Somalia in 2006 before it too was routed by Ethiopia, a nation long seen by the West as a bulwark against Islamist militancy in the region.

He fled to Eritrea but returned three years later as leader of Hizbul Islam to battle the transitional government led by a former comrade. But the more powerful al Shabaab forced Aweys to merge his group with theirs.

Inside al Shabaab, Aweys became mired in a struggle between his faction that saw al Shabaab as a nationalist insurgency and another that comprised foreign fighters that saw the group as fighting a global jihad.

(Additional reporting and writing by Richard Lough in Nairobi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Heavens)

Source: Reuters

Somalia: Only The Strong Survive

al shabaab

Despite the security gains during the last few years, Somalia isn’t safe. It is safer, especially if you are armed or have bodyguards. But if you are unarmed, you are still in danger, especially if you are a foreigner (and seen to have a lot more worth stealing). Too many Somalis are armed and many of those are also deliberately dangerous. It is also dangerous for Somalis, especially if they are journalists or Christians. Al Shabaab gunmen seek out both and often murder them in public. This sort of thing, and the continued presence of some al Shabaab men (and lots more bandits and larceny minded Somali men with guns) is discouraging many of the half million refugees in Kenyan camps from returning home.

The government is pleading with foreign governments (especially Britain and the U.S.) to let up on new banking regulations that cut off cash transfers to Somali money transfer services that will not or cannot comply with new rules meant to halt the use of these firms to move money for terrorists and other criminals. About a quarter of the Somali GDP comes from these transfers from Somalis outside the country.

The piracy problem off Somalia has declined so much in the last two years that in 2012 there was actually more pirate activity off West Africa. Over the last five years Nigeria (and neighboring countries) have seen a steady growth in piracy incidents. Last year ships containing 966 sailors were attacked off West Africa while off Somalia only 851 sailors were threatened. Nigerian pirates rarely try to ransom ships but instead prefer to loot them. This sometimes includes meeting with another (pirate controlled) ship to transfer cargo (bulk or oil) at sea. That sort of thing rarely happens off Somalia.

The fighting in Jubaland continues, with lots of gunfire and few casualties. It is mainly about who will control the port of Kismayo, which is the second largest in Somalia and a cash cow for whoever controls it. Local clans cannot agree on who will get what and that has turned Kismayo into an occasional battleground.

June 23, 2013: The Somali government warned foreign fishing boats that if they don’t apply for, and pay for fishing permits, their boats will be subject to seizure in Somali waters and the crews will be arrested until fines are paid. The government has been trying to create a new coast guard for work like this. Foreigners fear that the new permit system will turn into another extortion scam.

June 22, 2013: In the south (Lower Juba) a new peacekeeper base (manned by Sierra Leone troops) was attacked with RPGs and gunfire. There were no casualties and Al Shabaab took responsibility.

June 21, 2013: Two al Shabaab factions are fighting each other in central Somalia (near the town of Hudur, capital of the Bakool region). Al Shabbab has controlled Hudur on and off for over five years. A local militia was supposed to provide security but these fellows are often intimidated when large groups of heavily armed al Shabaab men roll into town. The government has been working with the militia to improve their effectiveness.  Meanwhile, the local al Shabaab forces have been taking a beating and now different factions are fighting each other.

In northern Kenya two Somali clans have been fighting in and around a refugee camp for the last few days. This has left at least 16 dead and two dozen wounded. The fighting was apparently over a several issues that have caused retaliatory attacks and growing violence between the Garre and Degodia clans over the last few months.

June 20, 2013: In northern Kenya police seized a truck seeking to enter Somalia while carrying 27 tons of chemicals, some of them used in making explosives for terrorists. The shipment had recently arrived in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and may have been legitimate. Police are still investigating.

In Brava (220 kilometers down the coast from Mogadishu) at least six al Shabaab men died as two Islamic terrorist factions fought each other outside the town. Over the last two years al Shabaab has lost control of nearly all towns they once occupied and lived off, forcing the remaining Islamic terrorists out into the countryside where there was a lot less to steal.

June 19, 2013: In Mogadishu al Shabaab gunmen attacked a UN compound, leaving 14 dead and dozens wounded.

June 17, 2013: In the Kenyan port city of Mombasa police raided a house believed to be occupied by Islamic terrorists. Two men found there fired at the cops and were killed during a brief gun battle.

The two dead men were believed to be members of al Shabaab and responsible for some recent terrorist activity in the area.

June 15, 2013: In Wanlaweyn (90 kilometers inland from Mogadishu) seven were killed and 12 wounded when a bomb went off in a tea shop popular with soldiers. Most of the casualties were civilians.

June 14, 2013: In the southern port city of Kismayo at least ten people have died from clan violence over the last few days.

By Strategy Pages

Malta: Somali charged with grabbing girl’s breasts



A 27-year-old Somali was charged before Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras of orrupting a 16-year-old girl soon after the end of the Isle of MTV concert in Floriana.

Jama Ahmed Ali, of Mogadishu, was charged with grabbing the girl’s breasts and backside in Freedom Avenue at 12.30am Thursday.

He was also charged with keeping the girl against her will. He was granted conditional bail after pleading not guilty.

Djibouti celebrates 36th year of independence

Sabahionline.com


Djibouti celebrated its 36th anniversary of independence Thursday (June 27th) with a traditional military parade during the day and a fireworks display at midnight in the capital, the Djiboutian Information Agency reported.

A large number of Djiboutians dressed in white also walked toward the People's Palace in a procession dedicated to soldiers who died in combat.

In Somalia, Djiboutian Ambassador to Somalia Dayib Doubad Robleh, Somali Defence Minister Abdihakim Haji Mohamud Fiqi and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Chief of Staff Brigadier General Osman Soubagleh travelled to Beledweyne to celebrate with Djiboutian troops serving in AMISOM, the mission announced in a press release.

Djibouti: Regional Somali Language Academy Launched in Djibouti

Djibouti's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Culture and Waqf and the Somali-Speaking PEN Centre of Djibouti held an opening ceremony Wednesday (June 26th) for the first regional Somali language academy, Djibouti's La Nation reported.

Minister of Islamic affairs Aden Hassan Aden, Somalia's Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications Abdullahi Ilmoge Hirsi, Somaliland regional Minister of Culture Abiib Diriye Nur and Vice President of the Somali region of Ethiopia Abdihakim Igal Omar attended the event at the Kempinski Hotel in Djibouti, as did about 50 prominent Somali-speaking intellectuals from the region and abroad.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh met with the visiting officials before the ceremony to commend their efforts towards the preservation of the Somali language.

Review: "A Hijacking" Is a Cautionary Tale for CEOs

Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) spends much of "A Hijacking" at gunpoint
Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) spends much of "A Hijacking" at gunpoint
Rarely, if ever, has an awful day at the office made for a better movie than A Hijacking, a Danish export now in limited theatrical release in the U.S. As the title plainly suggests, the picture follows the travails of a vessel, the Rozen, and its seven-man crew as they’re overtaken by hijackers—Somali pirates—out on the Indian Ocean. Our principals are the Rozen‘s cook, Mikkel; Peter, the executive in charge of the Rozen; and Omar, the translator and negotiator for the pirates who may or may not be their mastermind as well. A Hijacking’s signal achievement is that the drama on both ends of the phone is riveting. In the hands of writer-director Tobias Lindholm, who directed R and was a writer on the BBC hit Borgen, the tedium of being held up for months on a ship is unbearably tense. Back in Denmark, Peter and his associates become hostages in their own way, too, after Peter insists, against the advice of a crisis specialist, to negotiate for his captive employees himself.
Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk), the cook, is the first to win our sympathy. A devoted husband and dad, he’s lichen-bearded Everyman at the end of his hitch, eager to be home for his daughter’s birthday. In a Hollywood, or even Sundance, version, Mikkel could be counted on to cultivate some heartening or eccentric Birdman of Alcatraz-type coping mechanism. And there is a scene in A Hijacking when he brings the pirates and crew together over a freshly caught fish. But Mikkel remains a simpleton, and a victim. We suffer along with him as he cracks up under the pressure of being a pawn in Peter’s and Omar’s months-long haggling.
Less sympathetic, perhaps, is Peter. Taciturn in a typically Scandinavian way, he’s proud, fastidious, in control. It’s clear he didn’t reach the chief executive level by asking for help. He gets results. If his insistence on personally handling the hostage crisis is hubristic, however—when he says, pointedly, that “this is my company, it’s my ship, it’s my crew, it’s my job to bring back my men”—his sense of duty and even moral obligation are hard to deny.
Abdihakin Asgar makes an indelible impression as Omar. Adamant that he is neither a pirate nor a villain, he is, like Peter, a resolute professional. From the moment he first sizes up Mikkel to the moment he arranges for Mikkel to call his wife (before using their emotional reconnection to his tactical advantage), Omar comes across as a humanist in a desperate, nasty business. Asgar’s Omar professes that he’s trapped, too, and wants the whole affair over as soon as possible—but, of course, only if the terms are right. As the negotiations unfold, it’s hard not to share Omar’s impatience with Peter’s need to drive down the ransom, which is why close observers of real-world Somali piracy have applauded the film.
“The business model for piracy was built by the British insurance business, and the Somalis quickly learned exactly how to play the game for maximum benefit,” says Robert Young Pelton, the publisher of the Somali Report. “What was never discussed in polite circles was the horror and stress the captives had to go through while business owners, insurance providers, and shipowners haggled over price. That’s why this is such an excellent film: Now viewers will see the human cost of piracy.”
Some of A Hijacking is in Danish, with English subtitles, although much of the critical dialogue, at Omar’s request, is in English. (Some of the Somali is subtitled, too, although mostly it’s not. As such, we appreciate the special torment of having an incomprehensible stranger waving a gun in one’s face. What if I’m being asked to do something I don’t understand? Will they kill me for not doing it? Where is the line between clowning to ingratiate oneself and forfeiting the last of one’s dignity?
It will spoil nothing to reveal that A Hijacking does not have a high body count. It doesn’t need to. The psychological violence is many times worse than the cannon fodder mass murder of Man of Steel or White House Down. In an intensely male picture, A Hijacking’s only notable roles for women are Peter’s concerned wife and the cook’s hysterical one. If far from ideal, this doesn’t seem at all sexist, drippy, or false. (There just aren’t many women manning cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden). Lindholm, meanwhile, is merciless on masked vulnerability. A Hijacking has the power to bring even a self-styled hard man to tears.
Wieners (@bradwieners) is an executive editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

CAIR Offers Guide to Help Muslims Share Ramadan with Neighbors




PRESS RELEASE

Fast-breaking 'iftars' designed to enhance interfaith understanding.

The nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today urged Muslim communities nationwide to reach out to their neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds by inviting them to take part in an interfaith "iftar," or fast-breaking meal, during the upcoming month-long fast of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. It is estimated to begin July 9 this year.

To assist local Muslim community leaders, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has produced a "Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide 2013" that offers step-by-step advice on hosting an interfaith iftar.

The resource guide includes instructions on forming a "Sharing Ramadan" committee, a sample media advisory for an iftar, advice on reaching out to local media, an advertisement for the event, text for a "Welcome to Our Ramadan Fast-Breaking" brochure, frequently-asked questions about Ramadan, and a sample event program and newspaper advertisement.

"The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said Ramadan 'is the month of sharing with others,'" said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. "All our research has shown that prejudice and stereotyping decrease when people of other faiths know more about Islam and interact with ordinary Muslims."

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Become a Fan of CAIR on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/CAIRNational

Subscribe to CAIR's E-Mail List http://tinyurl.com/cairsubscribe

Subscribe to CAIR's Twitter Feed http://twitter.com/cairnational

Subscribe to CAIR's YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/cairtv

SEE: CAIR Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide 2013 http://www.cair.com/images/pdf/Sharing-Ramadan-2013.pdf

SOURCE: Council on American-Islamic Relations

Friday, June 28, 2013

USA, Minneapolis: Thousands to celebrate Somali Independence Day

By AP


Thousands of people are expected to flock to Minneapolis on Sunday for this year’s Somali Independence Day festival.

Organizers say the event is designed to celebrate Somalia’s independence, and also pay homage to the United States — the country that gave refugees a chance at a new life.

Sunday’s event will be held from 1 to 9 p.m. on Lake Street, between Blaisdell and Pleasant Avenues, near the Somali Mall.

It will feature live music, artists, authentic Somali food and other attractions. Several dignitaries are also expected to speak at the event.

The festival is hosted by Ka Joog, a nonprofit group that helps enrich lives of Somali-American youth through arts and education.

Ka Joog says it welcomes all Minnesotans to celebrate alongside Somali-Americans.

Source: The Associated Press

Muslim community prepares for Ramadan

 By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald

Muslim community prepares for Ramadan
Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and
lead imam of the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre.

During Calgary Stampede for first time in 30 years


Calgary’s Muslim community is preparing for Ramadan, a period of fasting and prayer.

And for the first time in about 30 years, it will be taking place during the Calgary Stampede.

Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and lead imam of the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, says the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar and based on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, Muslims should witness the new moon and then start Ramadan.

The new moon is expected to be visible this year on July 9 with the first day of Ramadan starting July 10 and ending on August 8.

“Ramadan is called the month of fasting,” says Soharwardy. It is one of the holiest months of the Islamic calendar. In this month, every adult Muslim must fast from dawn to sunset every day of the month.”

 
“Ramadan is the month when the first revelation of the holy Qur’an was sent by Allah to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him," Soharwardy says.

 
"Special nightly prayers called Taraweeh are offered and the memorizers of the holy Qur’an complete the recitation of the holy Qur’an in the Taraweeh prayers during this month."

Ramadan is also a month of charity. Muslims are required to reach out to the needy and poor.

 
“Muslim families invite neighbours, relatives, friends and people in need to share food with them,” says Soharwardy.

“It is the month of families getting together and celebration.”

He says the Prophet Muhammad said that the first 10 days of Ramadan are mercy, the middle 10 days are forgiveness and last 10 days are salvation.

“This year and the coming few years, the fasting in Ramadan will be harder as Ramadan falls in the summer. The longer days of summer are difficult for Muslims fasting but committed Muslims do get strength from their faith,” he says.

“As far as the Stampede is concerned, we can enjoy the fun of Stampede and fast at the same time.

Fasting does not stop Muslims from enjoying Stampede. The only difference will be that the Muslims will enjoy the food and the drinks after the sunset. The rest is the same.”

At the end of Ramadan, the festival of Eid ul Fitr is celebrated. It is a day of celebration and fun. Gifts are exchanged and parties are held. Family reunions are held and people greet each other and exchange gifts, says Soharwardy.

This year Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre will be collecting non-perishable food items for the Interfaith Food Bank of Calgary.

Somali leaders urge unity as northern territories celebrate colonial independence

Somali leaders joined the country's northern territories in celebrating 53 years of independence from British colonialism Wednesday (June 26th).



Somaliland's 26th June 1960, 73 Years Of  Protectorate
  Parts of northern Somalia, comprising what came to be known as Somaliland, peacefully ended 73 years of British rule on June 26, 1960. On July 1st the same year, it united with the rest of Somalia, which had been under Italian rule, to form the Somali Republic.

Speaking at an official ceremony celebrating the event at the presidential palace, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud urged the Somali people to incorporate their forefathers' values of dignity, freedom and independence, Somalia's Radio Mogadishu reported.

Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari and Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon also took the opportunity to affirm their commitment to the unity of the country.

Source: Sabahi

The Somali Political class and the struggle over Form of Government


The political conflict is centred on two forms of government – federalism and centralised unitary state, and one political goal, secession, argues Liban Ahmad.

Somalilandsun - The political conflict in Somalia is no longer characterised as a conflict between clans vying for the presidency. The conflict is over the form of government Somalia would adopt to be become a viable state again. There are many factors that contributed to this transformation. One of them is the international community's renewed interest in and commitment to helping Somalis to end the 'failed state' status of their country.

Another factor is the threat of transnational Islamist movements in Somalia. This essay argues that clan narratives form the undercurrent of an intractable political conflict. What makes large-scale, inter-clan conflict less likely in many parts of South-central Somalia for now is the presence of African Peacekeeping troops.

The former armed opposition fronts that brought to an end the military dictatorship in 1991 shared no post-dictatorship political goals. After successive attempts at reconciliation conferences, two transitional administrations were formed before the current Somali Federal Government based , in theory, on federalism, had come into existence in 2012. Twenty two years after the overthrow of the military dictatorship in Somalia the political class in Somalia are divided on not only how federalism would be applied but how power would be exercised at the centre as well.

The political conflict is centred on two forms of government – federalism and centralised unitary state, and one political goal, secession. The proponents of federalism have in common with proponents of centralised unitary state the goal to safeguard the political unity and territorial integrity Somalia.

Unlike the 1990s political conflict the current political conflict is shaped by individual experiences of the three groups of supporters for federal Somalia, a centralised unitary state, and secession (Somaliland).

Somalis share the bitter experience of living under a military dictatorship and being let down by armed opposition movements that squandered the opportunity to put Somalia on the road to democracy again. Somaliland's desire to secede from Somalia is partly based on the human rights violations against supporters of the former armed opposition outfit (Somali National Movement) and the destruction of northern towns by the former Somali Army after Somali National Movement (SNM) forces captured Burao (Burco) and Hargeisa in May 1988.

There was contradiction in the manner the military dictatorship had dealt with armed opposition groups. It viewed each opposition group as a political platform for one clan and yet the regime indiscriminately targeted clans whose political leaders formed opposition movements based outside Somalia. Arbitrary detention, torture and extra-judicial killing turned out to be measures that alienated clans and swelled the ranks of armed opposition groups. Since SNM was the most organised opposition group to wage a war against the regime inside Somalia, clans and sub-clans in districts thought to be traditional supporters of SNM suffered at the hands of the government troops. More than 100,000 people sought refuge in Ethiopia in 1988. Those experiences form some of the core arguments of proponents of secession. Somaliland has held three two presidential elections and have political parties but the case for secession has weaknesses (see table 1.)
Proponents of federalism cite post-1991 massacres and dispossessing of thousands of people in Mogadishu for sharing clan affiliation with the late dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre. Puntland, the major proponent of federalism, was formed in 1998, " as a choice between... secession [ in the North] and ...civil war in the South." Fifteen years after the establishment of Puntand, the regional administration created Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) ahead of local elections to be held in June. Many people view the Puntland model as a recipe for clan-based regional administrations.

Supporters of a Somalia based on centralised unitary state hail from powerful clans traditionally associated with Mogadishu and have not experimented with self-rule in the form of a regional administration after state collapse. Warlords ruled Mogadishu and neighbouring regions for fifteen years until the Union of Islamic Courts defeated the Alliance for Counterterrorism formed by a group of warlords in an attempt to rebrand themselves to keep their grip on Mogadishu and nearby regions.

Supporters of centralised unitary state, federalism and secession live or control in 16 of Somalia's 18 regions. Roughly 89% of Somalis are divided into three groups in disagreement over the political future of Somalia. In other words the three groups are three of the five major clans under the new power-sharing arrangement ( Hawiye, Dir and Darod). The other two clans are Digil iyo Mirifle and the Fifth clan (formerly 0.50 clan). This does not mean Digil iyo Mirife and the Fifth Clan have no political aspirations. Mogadishu-based centralism proponents use seat of the government and associated advantages as an organising principle for centralised unitary state; Puntland and Somaliland supporters use their self-rule achievements as organising principles and bulwark against a centralism-based government. This makes federalism and secession proponents an alliance of convenience.

Table 1: Inter-clan struggle over Somalia's political future

In Understanding the Somalia Conflagration , Professor Afyare Elmi argues that reestablishment of "the coercive capacity of the state" will lead to peace. Such an emphasis "will shift the agenda of the Somalia debate from organizing peace conferences to building the capacity of the state." For a country to function a strong a state is vital. The question is : does the goal of 're-establishing the coercive capacity of the state' come before or after helping Somalis to agree on a viable form of government for their country as a part of genuine political reconciliation? Somalis have coined a verb: dowladee meaning " ( Of clans) to act like or pretend to be a government)". It shows the extent to which Somalis are disillusioned with coercive power of the state and liken it to a property waiting to be looted. If , as Rothberg argued, the raison d'être of the nation-state is to give, among other public political goods, security of persons and property , the pre- and post-1991 Somali state has failed to deliver the goods.

Liban Ahmad
libahm@gmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 



 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

USA, Taxes: Fort Worth police find body near where 5-year-old Somali boy went missing

By
Staff Writer

Fort Worth

Fort Worth police said in a news release that the body belongs to a young black male, but investigators "are working with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office to determine the cause of death and if the deceased is Sida Osman."

Police said the investigation is still active and no other details can be released right now.

Update at 2:45 p.m.:

Police have reportedly found a body not far from the apartments where a 5-year-old Somali boy went missing.

Investigators cordoned off a vacant home at Lois Street and Anglin Drive, around the corner from the boy's home, but they have yet to confirm that they've found Sida Odman.

Sida's uncle, however, told Lindsay Wilcox of NBC 5 that the family fears the worst: "We were expecting him to come home smiling & happy."

Helicopters, K-9 units and officers have been searching for Sida, since late Tuesday, when he ran away from his mother.

Shortly after 1 p.m., officers sectioned off a residence near Lois Street and Anglin Drive in Fort Worth, just a few blocks away from his home on Freshfield Road.

Original entry at 7:48 p.m.:

Police in Fort Worth are asking for help in the search for a Somali boy who went missing Tuesday night.

Five-year-old Sida Osman was last seen about 6 p.m. playing at his apartment complex near Village Creek Road and East Berry Street.

Police began the search after the family called 911 shortly before 10:30 p.m. At one point a helicopter was used to look for the boy.

Sida, who does not speak English, was reportedly wearing a short-sleeve blue shirt with white stripes down both sleeves, baby-blue shorts and boots.

Anyone who sees the boy should call police at 817-335-4222 or 911.

USA, Minnesota: Somali inmate raises concerns about meal options, other considerations at Rice County Jail


Mahmood Ahmed

A Somali man in jail on charges of terroristic threats and property damage claims that he has been forced to eat pork and that the jail administrator has refused to work with him on the issue.
But Rice County Jail Administrator Jodi Bushey says jail staff do everything they can to meet the dietary needs of every inmate, whether it be related to religion, medical needs, food allergies or a vegetarian diet.
Mahmood Abdulle Ahmed made the allegations during a scheduled omnibus hearing in Rice County District Court Tuesday afternoon. His public defender, Alex De Marco, entered a not guilty plea to charges of terroristic threats and property damage.

De Marco told Judge John Cajacob that while there are issues in the case they are better left addressed in a jury trial.

Ahmed, 30, is charged with three separate counts of felony terroristic threats and one felony count of first-degree property damage. Ahmed allegedly used a baseball bat to break the windows out of three businesses in downtown Faribault during the early hours of April 26.

Faribault Police arrested Ahmed at about 2:30 a.m. April 28. Later that same morning Ahmed allegedly threatened to blow up the Faribault Police Department if he was charged with a felony in court, according to one criminal complaint.

Ahmed has denied the allegations in open court, saying that he’s been a “good citizen” while living in Faribault and that he wasn’t in town when the property damage occurred.

Ahmed remains in the Rice County Jail on $20,000 conditional bail.

With De Marco at his side, Ahmed told Judge Cajacob on Tuesday about his fight for a pork alternative as well as concerns about access to a Quran and medication. He said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago and has struggled with lucid dreams while in the jail.

Ahmed specifically mentioned bologna-type sandwiches and noted that one time he was served an egg salad sandwich instead. A jail staffer reportedly told him the bologna didn’t contain pork, but Ahmed told Judge Cajacob that he’s still waiting to see an ingredient list.

Ahmed told Judge Cajacob that he eats what is served because he “won’t be starving.”

Bushey told the Daily News on Wednesday that meals within the jail vary, but that only one meal — a ham sandwich — contains pork. The sandwich is served once a week, Bushey said, and a turkey sandwich is substituted for those on special diets.

“(S)taff ensures that any inmate requiring a special meal is provided the appropriate meal through consultation with the kitchen and proper distribution,” Bushey said. Citing state law, Bushey refused to comment on specific dietary needs or medical conditions related to Ahmed.

Ahmed also told Judge Cajacob that the jail library did not have any copies of the Quran. He was allowed to request a copy, he said, but then was charged $10. Bushey explained on Wednesday the $10 fee was a damage deposit that is refunded when a book is returned in good condition.

“Despite the best efforts of the staff, inmates may complain about various issues within the jail based upon their perception,” Bushey said.

Bushey said complaints are reviewed and, if necessary, addressed.

Reach reporter Rebecca Rodenborg at 333-3128, or follow her on Twitter.com @FDNRebecca

Top Somali Islamist militant arrested

Cadaado

One of Somalia's most prominent Islamist rebel commanders has been arrested and is in the hands of a regional administration, local and government officials said on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the country's al-Shabaab insurgents.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was detained in a coastal area of central Somalia and had been taken to a safe-house in the town of Adado, said a spokesperson for the Somali Federal Government.

Aweys was "linked to terrorism" by the United States shortly after the 11 September, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and is on a UN Security Council terrorism sanctions list.

The arrest of a man who has been a major player in many stages of Somalia's long insurgency would be a boost for a government and its African allies struggling to contain months of guerrilla-style attacks.

Diplomats suggested Aweys had fled a bout of in-fighting that indicated rifts in the group. Analysts said Mogadishu might be open to negotiate with Aweys, who they say backed a faction in al-Shabaab opposed to using foreign fighters.

Clan elders and the Adado administration, which is generally seen as friendly to Mogadishu, said negotiations were under way with the central government over what to do with Aweys.

"We are discussing how to solve the issue," said central government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman. "Our policy has always been that for those within al Shabaab who are Somalis and want to renounce violence, we are willing to lend a hand."

Adado resident Hassan Nur said the town was tense as militiamen and security forces loyal to the provincial Himan and Heeb administration sped around in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns.

"Aweys and his men are now in Himan and Heeb palace in Adado town," Abdi Kadawe, Adado's police chief, told Reuters by phone.

Firebrand cleric


Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, said Aweys' arrest would be a psychological blow but was unlikely to shift the power balance in al Shabaab, which has been weakened by an offensive led by African peacekeepers.

Aweys' influence had been "seriously diminished in recent years," Abdi told Reuters that
Aweys, a firebrand cleric believed to be in his late 70s, had been seen by many Somalis as the spiritual leader of al-Shabaab and had been revered by militants as the father of Somalia's Islamist movement.

In the 1990s, as the Horn of Africa country imploded after the overthrow of a dictator, Aweys was military commander of Somalia's largest militant Islamist group but suffered defeats in battles against Ethiopia and warlords backed by Addis Ababa.

Aweys helped found the Union of Islamic Courts that briefly controlled Mogadishu and most of Somalia in 2006 before it too was routed by Ethiopia, a nation long seen by the West as a bulwark against Islamist militancy in the region.

He fled to Eritrea but returned three years later as leader of Hizbul Islam to battle the transitional government led by a former comrade. But the more powerful al Shabaab forced Aweys to merge his group with theirs.

Inside al-Shabaab, Aweys became mired in a struggle between his faction that saw al-Shabaab as a nationalist insurgency and another that comprised foreign fighters that saw the group as fighting a global jihad.



Source: Reuters

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Four die in wave of violence - Crime & Courts | IOL News | IOL.co.za

Four die in wave of violence - Crime & Courts | IOL News | IOL.co.za

Ramazan 2013 – The Holy Month of Fasting

The holy month of Ramazan (Ramadan) begins on Tuesday 9th July when observant Muslim’s will fast from sunrise to sunset. What is it all about and how could it affect you if you plan to go on holiday to Turkey over that time?

Ramazan begins this year on 20th July.


Observing Ramazan, the holy month, is very important for Muslims worldwide as it is one of the five basic duties of the faith.

It is a time of fasting, prayer and celebration.

It is also a time for contemplation when people examine their own lives, understand the gift of eating when they feel like it and remind themselves of virtues such as charity, compassion and forgiveness.

Nil by Mouth


During the period between sunrise and sunset nothing will pass the lips – no food, drink, smoke or chewing gum.

Observant fasters will also not swim or shower during the day time fast in case water passes the lips.

But, when the sun sets, the fast is broken and participants will celebrate with a feast known as the Iftar – ‘Break-fast’.

The date of Ramazan changes by 11 days each year (earlier) and this year it will begin on the night of Tuesday 9th July and end 30 days later on the evening of the 7th August.

At the end of Ramazan a three day holiday known as Seker Bayrami celebrates the end of the fast.

Why Does the Date Change?


Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar. However, the date on the Gregorian calendar, the one we use, varies from year to year. This is because since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar.

This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year.

The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not. So in North America Ramadan starts a day later than in Turkey.

Ramazan Head


As the fast is now well into the summer months it will bring with it additional pressures of heat and a very long day.

Imagine not drinking any water in this heat and you’ll soon understand the sacrifice people are putting themselves through.

Not only that but smokers will also be climbing the walls too without their fix of nicotine.

The Turks describe the side effects of fasting as Ramazan 'kafasi', or 'Ramazan Head' in English, that distant, irritable, and some may say, spaced out feeling of going without.

Be Prepared


Fethiye, Marmaris and Bodrum are tourist areas so the locals make allowances for visitors.

In fact many tourists will probably be blissfully unaware of not only Ramazan but also that their waiters or other hotel staff are fasting.

You will see people (Tourists and some Turks) eating, drinking and smoking during the day, but it's good form to be considerate to those Turkish people who are fasting and do any consumption subtly.

This is particularly the case if you smoke - walking down the street puffing away isn't going to make you popular with those with a nicotine craving.

In more rural places, or traditional cities (like Konya) you need to be more vigilant.

Religious beliefs can be strong so don't let people see you eat/drink or smoke in public.

If you are travelling outside a tourist area you may find it difficult to find anywhere to eat during the day so take some food and drink with you.

A few things to watch out for:

Irritation


Some people fasting will be irritable especially in the first few days so be extra careful to be polite and respectful in your day to day dealings with people.

Crazy or Crazier Driving


Around dusk the hungry faster will speed home for their Iftar meal.

Hungry, dying for a fag and with low blood sugar their driving will be even more erratic than normal.
So be careful crossing the road or driving around about this time.

In fact try to avoid going out at this time and wait half an hour after sunset and you’ll have everywhere to yourself.

Bang Bang - The Ramazan Drummer


It's dying out now but this person stalks the streets in the early morning (from 2:30 am in some cases) beating his drum to awake the fasters for their breakfast.

The drum is very effective at waking people up because the drummer uses uneven and therefore annoying beats.

He doesn't care if you aren't a faster and wakes you up so get some earplugs - or as one person did - pay him to go elsewhere!!

Special Foods


During the period of Ramazan, a special bread becomes available (called Pide) which is large and round and sprinkled with black cumin seeds. [These make great bases for French bread style pizza].

Supermarkets will also sell Ramazan hampers stocked with certain foods. These are given as gifts by employers to their staff.

Office Hours


Some business may have shorter opening hours during Ramazan so keep an eye out for signs advising of the times.

Restaurants


If you are travelling away from the popular resorts restaurants may only service one meal, the Iftar meal, at sunset and only with a reservation.

Those restaurants may also refuse to sell you alcohol.

If you don’t want to go hungry plan ahead.

Travel


Be aware that public transport will be full at the end of Ramazan for the three day Seker Bayrami festival.

If you must travel on these days make sure you book well in advance.

Source: Fethiye Times

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2013 Failed States

Pressure Won’t Work


If 2011 was the year in which the Arab uprisings showed the world that no dictator is forever, then 2012 was the year skeptics got to say, “I told you so.” It turns out that overthrowing an entrenched regime really is the easy part. From the ashes of the U.S. mission in Benghazi to the killing fields of Aleppo, the forces of chaos have imposed their will on the fragile green shoots of democratic order, sending once-stable states higher on the list.

The top ranks of this year’s Failed States Index, prepared by the Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy, are depressingly familiar. Perennial stalwarts Chad, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have returned, while Somalia has the dubious honor of being the world’s No. 1 failed state for the sixth straight year.

This year’s special report highlights three case studies of failed-state pathology: Congo (No. 2), a state in name only; Egypt (No. 34), a state that has had such difficulty realizing its post-revolutionary aspirations that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei says it has already failed; and Greece (No. 138), a state that seemed to have graduated to the First World but instead has become Western Europe’s very own basket case. (Don't miss Paul Starobin’s profile of Jeffrey Sachs and his controversial solution for eradicating poverty, and Charles Kenny and Justin Sandefur’s skewering of the grand “solutionist” schemes of Silicon Valley tycoons.)

If there is one happy story to emerge from this 2013 index, it is the case of Myanmar, which has gone in short order from international pariah to the darling of global investors, edging its way out of the top 25. And, as finance guru Mark Mobius details, sub-Saharan Africa is in the early stages of a gold rush that just might turn the Failed States Index upside down in years to come.

Somalia is still on the top of the world's 60 most fragile states, ranking No. 1 for the last two decades.

Source: FP

Qatar emir hands power to son, no word on prime minister



Qatar's Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C) arrives at Al-Sadd Stadium for the final Crown Prince Cup soccer match between Qatari teams Al-Sadd and Lekhwaiya in Doha May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani handed power on Tuesday to his son, Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim, taking the rare step for a Gulf Arab ruler of voluntarily ceding power to try to ensure a smooth succession.

But the 61-year-old emir made no immediate mention of the public face of Qatar's assertive foreign policy, prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, a veteran politician who had been expected also to step down.

In a seven-minute speech aired on state television, the emir said it was time for a new generation to take over following his 18 years at the helm of the small, rich state.

"The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities ... with their innovative ideas," said Sheikh Hamad, reading a prepared text behind his desk, where Qatar's deep red and white flag was perched nearby.

"I address you today to inform you that I will transfer power to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. I am fully confident that he is qualified for the responsibility and is trustworthy."

State television later showed streams of well wishers greeting the outgoing emir and Sheikh Tamim at the royal court.

The emir did not specify when the change would take effect but a Qatari official had said the move, once announced, would take immediate effect.

POLLS POSTPONED
On the eve of the power transfer, Sheikh Hamad issued a decree extending the term of the advisory shura council, in effect indefinitely postponing elections that had been tentatively scheduled for the second half of the year.

The election would have been the first to the Shura Council, 30 of whose 45 members are meant to be elected, with the others appointed by the emir, under a constitution approved in 2003. All the body's current members are appointed.

Diplomats have said the emir, who overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1995, had long planned to abdicate in favor of 33-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim.

Tuesday was a national holiday in the country of a one-family absolute monarchy has ruled over for more than 130 years. The royal court has invited Qataris to go to swear allegiance to Sheikh Tamim on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Qatar is a small country of 2 million people but is a big exporter of natural gas, a global investment powerhouse and a financial backer of Arab Spring revolts.

In Tehran, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said: "Most definitely we will be watching these developments and waiting for more details ... The tranquility and stability in that country and elsewhere in the region is of high importance for the Islamic Republic of Iran."

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the dominant Gulf Arab power, congratulated Sheikh Tamim on his accession, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

British foreign secretary William Hague said in a statement he looked forward to even stronger ties to Qatar.

ELEVATING QATAR'S PROFILE
The emir has elevated Qatar's global profile through the development of the Al Jazeera television network, as well as its successful bid to host the 2022 soccer World Cup tournament.

Qatari state media said Sheikh Hamad had formally informed family members and top decision makers in the U.S.-allied state of his decision at a meeting in the capital Doha on Monday.

Qatari political analyst Mohammed al-Misfer said he did not expect major changes to foreign policy or domestic plans after the handover, adding that Sheikh Tamim was already involved in running the country under his father's direction.

Arab and Western diplomats said they understood the motive was the emir's desire to have a smooth transition to a younger generation. Such a transition would be unusual for Gulf Arab states, where leaders usually die in office.

"As Tamim's succession is very much the outcome of a longer process rather than the enforced product of any sudden upheaval, there will be less sensitivity attached to the change of leadership than might otherwise be the case," said Gulf expert Kristian Ulrichsen at the Baker Institute for Public Policy.

"If anything, the decision to hand power to a younger generation confirms Qatar as the regional outlier, as a state that does things differently, meaning there is less direct comparison with other Gulf States," he said.

BIG ROLE IN "ARAB SPRING"
Qataris appeared to take the news in their stride.

"We are not surprised. The emir has been introducing his son for a long time. Hopefully, it's a good step," Khalid Mohammed, a 21-year-old Qatari student said on Monday.

Qatar has played a big role in promoting Arab Spring protests, lending significant support to rebels who toppled and killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and to a continuing uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It has forged strong links with moderate Islamists especially Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood group. State television showed prominent Sunni cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi, a high profile Egyptian preacher based in Qatar, greeting the outgoing emir and his son.

It has also played host to a delegation of the Afghan Taliban, which opened an office in Doha last week in preparation for expected talks with the United States about how to end a 12-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

Other political crises and wars that Qatar has tackled include Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Darfur and the Palestinian territories, often arranging for peace talks on its own soil to show it can punch above its weight in international diplomacy.

But while he strongly supported Arab Spring revolts abroad, Sheikh Hamad cracked down on dissent in Qatar, where there is no freedom of expression.

In February this year a Qatari poet was jailed for 15 years for criticizing the emir and attempting to incite revolt.

(Additional reporting by Mahmoud Habboush, Amena Bakr and Yara Bayoumy, Marcus George; Writing by Sami Aboudi and Yara Bayoumy; Editing by William Maclean)

ICOP: 10th July 2013 will be the first day of the holy month of Ramadan 1434H

The Islamic Crescents' Observation Project (ICOP) announced that the sighting of the new crescent of the holy month of Ramadan 1434H should be expected as on Monday (8th July 2013) which would be impossible to see as the new moon sets before or simultaneously with sunset and therefore Tuesday (9th July 2013) would be the 30th day of Sha'ban 1434H and so the 10th of July 2013 will be the first day of the holy month of Ramadan 1434H.

For Muslims who prefer to observe the new moon, the first day of Ramadan 1434H would be Wednesday 10th July 2013. However, those sufficed with astronomical calculations, the first day of Ramadan 1434H would be Tuesday 9th July 2013.

According to ICOP's chairman engineer Mohammed Shawkat, new moon would be impossible to see on 8th July 2013 from all parts of the northern hemisphere and also from some central parts, including Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

The ICOP urged officials in Islamic countries to precisely verify the testimony of eyewitnesses who show up to bear witness on Monday because the new crescent cannot be seen by the naked eye, binoculars or telescope on Monday 8th July 2013. (IY)

Source: Bahrain News Agency

Govt: No terrorists among Somali refugees

Pereira Silima, Home Affairs deputy minister
 
The government has refuted the claims that there are some Al-Shabaab terrorists among the 1,300 Somali refugees who have been granted full Tanzanian citizenship.

The Somalis entered the country as refugees and were accommodated at Chogo settlement in Tanga Region. They are still in the process of being naturalised.

Speaking in an interview after the commemoration of World Refugees Day in Dar es Salaam on Thursday evening, Home Affairs deputy minister Pereira Silima said no Al-Shabaab terrorist was among the refugees who relocated after living in Somalia for centuries.

He said the National Eligibility Committee screened all the refugees to detect their status.

“Bantu Somali refugees have come back home after they stayed in Somali for a long time… we want to assure Tanzanians that there is no Al-Shabaab terrorist who came with the group of Bantu Somalis.

Our National Eligibility Committee has done its work to make sure that we have no terrorists among the returned Tanzanians,” he said

In his speech to mark the refugee day, the deputy minister said: “Tanzania has registered impressive strides in finding durable solution to the refugee problem after successful closure of Mtabila camp in Kigoma region where more than 35,000 Burundian refugees went back to their country of origin and were re-integrated in their former communitie.”

He added: “Tanzania remains committed and all set to collaborate with the international community in finding a lasting solution to the refugee problem. Indeed our policy seen with the context of regional and sub regional perspectives, seeks to address refugee problem as a collective responsibility.”

He underscored that as the country strives to find durable solutions for the Congolese refugees, the international community should work out ways and means of addressing the security concerns in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo by supporting the international peacekeepers who are trying to disarm the warlords and other criminal elements terrorising the general populace in the country.

For her part, UNHCR Representative Joyce Mends-Cole said despite growing pressure on the international protection system, Tanzania has gone beyond its duty in the active pursuit of durable solutions for refugees and continue to be acclaimed.

“Through the Tanzanian governments’ proactive approach and with UNHCR’s support, the number of refugees hosted in the country has decreased very significantly over the years, from nearly 700,000 in the 1990’s to just about 102,000 today,” she said

She stressed: “While half a million have returned home and some 16,000 have been resettled in third countries, a significant number have been generously offered a home in Tanzania through naturalization.

Somali Bantu refugees who settled since the 1990’s in the land of their ancestors - the Zigua tribe in Tanga Region, have already been naturalized,” she said, adding that there is expectation that an additional of 1500 of Bantu-Somali will become Tanzanians by the end of this year.

“Another recent accomplishment is the return in an orderly, dignified and safe manner of 34,052 Burundian refugees from Mtabila camp, allowing for its closure,” she said.

She also said that the main challenge facing UNHCR in Tanzania is the Nyarugusu camp which still hosts around 68,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Our recent Global Trends report shows that Nyarugusu camp is the fifth largest refugee camp in the world in 2012. Many of the adults did not come recently from DRC but belong to one of the 30 situations worldwide which UNHCR considers to be protracted as they have been in exile in Tanzania for an average of 20 years and this protracted situation is regrettably combined with low prospects for return,” she said. 

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN

Barclays faces pressure from Somali cash transfer firms

BBC

Refugee Abshiro Isakbul sits by her sick son at the Transit Centre in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, on December 15, 2011. Many Somalis rely on money sent from their relatives abroad
 
The UK government is being urged to stop Barclays closing the last account in Somalia which allows its citizens overseas to send money back home.

A group of aid practitioners said the service was a "lifeline" for an estimated 40% of the Somali population which rely on the transfers.

There are an estimated 1.5m Somalis living overseas.

Barclays told Dahabshiil the move was "a commercial decision due to the risks of the sector in which you operate".

"The decision to exit our business relationship with you is not a negative reflection of your anti-money laundering standards, nor a belief that your business has been unwittingly been a conduit for financial crime," Barclays wrote in a letter sent to Dahabshiil.

Barclays is the last major British bank to still provide such money transfer services in Somalia.

The letter signed by more than 100 researchers and aid workers states that its plan to close its account with Dahabshiil - the largest money transfer business providing services to Somalia - on 10 July will cause a crisis for the families that rely on the transfers.

Abdirashid Duale, chief executive officer of Dahabshiil, said Barclay's decision could see money transfers pushed underground into the hands of "unregulated and illegal providers".

"Barclays' decision to terminate its relationship with Dahabshiil results from changes in Barclays eligibility criteria, which have affected a large number of Barclays' customers in the Money Service Business sector, including Dahabshiil," Mr Duale added.

Six-month extension
 
The letters signatories want the UK government to ask Barclays to extend its termination deadline for at least six months.

They also said they wanted the UK government to assist Somali money transfer businesses in finding alternative banking partners, as well as help the businesses develop the enhanced due diligence required by banks.

The group estimates that almost three quarters of Somalis who receive funds from overseas use it to pay for basic food, education and medical expenses.

It says one third of those who receive funds would not be able to afford basic food if the transfers are stopped.

The UK Serious Organised Crime Agency has identified money service businesses generally as a potential money laundering risk.

And all international banks have been tightening rules in a bid to cut money laundering and funding of groups accused of terrorism.

"Some money service businesses don't have the proper checks in place to spot criminal activity and could therefore unwittingly be facilitating money laundering and terrorist financing," Barclays said in a statement.

The bank emphasised that it was "very happy" to serve companies with strong anti-financial crime controls.

Lifeline

The Somali Money Services Association (SOMSA), an umbrella group of transfer services, said the closures would "have dire consequences in Somalia, where no alternatives to the money service businesses exist".

Of SOMSA's 17 members, 12 have already had their accounts closed, with the remaining five facing "imminent" shutdown.

"The key issue is the damage to flows of cash to the vulnerable Somali people, who depend on remittances for their livelihood; and the likely threat of this action to economic and political stability in fragile parts of the Somali region," SOMSA said in a statement.

Somalis send money back home via transfer shops known as hawala, which can accept deposits abroad and immediately credit recipients in Somalia.