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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s last act: West Bank walkway | Star Tribune

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s last act: West Bank walkway | Star Tribune

Mayor says stretch of 5th Street linking the East African area to downtown Minneapolis will be named after Hussein Samatar.
A stretch of 5th Street South that sweeps travelers from Interstate 94 into Minneapolis will be redesigned into a walkway that connects downtown with the heavily East African West Bank, Mayor R.T. Rybak said Monday in the last announcement of his 12-year tenure.
The city will name the area after Hussein Samatar, a former school board member who was the first Somali-American to win election in Minneapolis in 2010. He died of complications from leukemia over the summer.
Rybak told a crowd in the City Hall rotunda that while the West Bank has been home to immigrants for generations — first from Norway, Sweden and Germany and later from Southeast Asia and Somalia — it has become disconnected from other parts of Minneapolis.
“The West Bank, which is our Ellis Island, became an island separate from the rest of the city,” he lamented. “What we will do now is we will be reconnecting that island.”
He expressed hope that the boulevard would celebrate how immigrants have grown and built the city.
The city budget allocated $500,000 for the project, which is counting on an unspecified amount of private donations to pay for a skateboard park.
While the crossing will cater to pedestrians and bicyclists, city officials have not ruled out allowing cars through.
The project takes advantage of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s upcoming redesign of how travelers will enter downtown from I-94, shifting the exit from 5th Street to 7th Street to relieve congestion.
The department says the new exit will ease the bottleneck by the Hiawatha light-rail line and make bus transit lines more efficient, while also allowing better connections for pedestrians and bikers by repurposing 5th Street.
Samatar’s widow, Ubah Jama Samatar, attended the event with her 10-year-old daughter, Habon, and thanked the mayor with gifts of a scarf and a small wooden sculpture of a camel and its baby from Somalia.
Ubah Jama Samatar’s cousin Abdi Warsame became the first Somali-American to win election to the City Council last month.
Reflecting on the project, Warsame said having a road named after a Somali citizen was “extraordinary.” While the project will benefit the community, he said, the good is “more the symbolism” of its bearing Samatar’s name.
Rybak vowed after the announcement that he is completely done with the mayor’s job and would now “do the toughest thing for me, which is to keep my mouth shut and go away.”
He rattled through some of the favorite moments of his tenure, from seeing neighbors come together after the I-35 bridge collapse in 2007 and the north Minneapolis tornado in 2011 to watching graduates from the minority student internship program STEP-UP graduate and come back from college.
He said that when he was elected in 2001 he wanted Minneapolis to win back its “collective swagger,” and “I think the city is feeling good about itself right now. It’s going to do big things. We have our collective swagger back.”
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210 Africa: Journalists Killed in Somalia in 2013 Africa: Journalists Killed in Somalia in 2013

Biographies from the Committee to Protect Journalists of the media workers killed in Somalia in 2013:
Mohamed Mohamud Universal TV October 26, 2013, in Mogadishu, Somalia
Unidentified gunmen shot Universal TV reporter Mohamed Mohamud, 26, outside of his home on October 22, 2013, in Wadajir district of the capital, Mogadishu, local journalists told CPJ. He was shot six times in the neck, chest, and shoulder as he drove to work, the journalists said.
Mohamed, also known as "Tima'ade," died of internal bleeding around 10:30 p.m on October 26.
Mohamed was an outspoken reporter who often covered social and security issues in Mogadishu, local journalists said. It's not clear who carried out the attack, although a Twitter account claiming to represent the Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the shooting. Local journalists could not pinpoint one particular report by the U.K.-based, privately owned broadcaster that may have led to the attack, but said Mohamed had received text message threats in the past by suspected Al-Shabaab militiamen.
Mohamed is survived by a wife and daughter.
Liban Abdullahi Farah Kalsan TV July 7, 2013, in Puntland, Somalia
Two unidentified gunmen shot Liban, a correspondent for Kalsan TV, near his home in the Wajadir village area, north Galkayo, in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, local journalists told CPJ. The gunmen fled before police arrived.
Liban, who was also known as "Liban Qaran" died before reaching a local hospital, the same colleagues told CPJ. He is survived by a wife and five children.
An energetic reporter with vast experience in the field, Liban had previously worked for Radio SBC (Somali Broadcasting Corporation), Radio Daljir, Codka Nabadda ("Voice of Peace"), and Royal Television.
Local journalists said they suspected Liban had been targeted for his reporting on the council elections. The vote was originally scheduled for mid-July 2013, but was postponed for security concerns, according to news reports.
Local journalists told CPJ that Ahmed Mohamed Ali, another Puntland-based journalist and Liban's former colleague at Codka Nabada in Galkayo, had received threatening phone calls in late July after he reported on Liban's death. The caller told Ahmed that he would befall the "same fate as Liban Abdullahi," the journalists told CPJ.
Mohamed Ibrahim Raage Radio Mogadishu, Somali National Television April 21, 2013, in Mogadishu, Somalia
Two unidentified gunmen shot Mohamed multiple times just outside his home in the Dharkenley district of the capital, according to news reports and local journalists.
After a period in exile, Mohamed, 34, had recently returned to Somalia to work as a reporter and producer for state broadcasters Radio Mogadishu and Somali National Television. He had covered government and parliamentary affairs, according to local journalists and news reports.
Mohamed had fled Somalia in 2009 due to the country's insecurity, resettling in Kampala, Uganda, for a time, according to news reports.
Nicknamed "Honest," he had formerly worked at the independent outlet Radio Shabelle.
Local journalists speculated he could have been killed by Al-Shabaab militants because of his affiliation with government media. Journalists for Radio Shabelle, his former station, had also been targeted for attack in the previous year.
Mohamed was survived by a pregnant wife and two daughters, local journalists told CPJ.
Abdihared Osman Aden Shabelle Media Network January 18, 2013, in Mogadishu, Somalia
Unidentified gunmen shot Abdihared, a producer for the Shabelle Media Network, at around 7 a.m. while he was walking to work in the Wadajir district of Mogadishu, according to local journalists and news reports.
The journalist, who was shot at least three times, died at a local hospital, the sources said.
Shabelle released a statement after the attack, calling Abdihared a veteran TV and radio producer and "outstanding colleague." Abdihared was the fifth Shabelle journalist to be killed in 13 months.
In November 2012, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud said he would be setting up a task force to investigate the cases of journalist murders in the country. News reports quoted the president as saying, "The era of impunity must stop immediately." But the president had not followed through on the pledge by January 2013, according to local journalists.
Abdihared, 45, was survived by his wife and two children.

Class C drug khat from Somalia in NZ - Story - NZ News - 3 News

Class C drug khat from Somalia in NZ - Story - NZ News - 3 News

A New Zealand-Somali community leader says the use of the drug khat by a small group is causing unwanted delays at the border for hundreds of people.

The plant is illegal in New Zealand, but that hasn't stopped vast quantities being seized.

The plant is a centuries-old part of Somali culture but in New Zealand it's not welcome.

"We see a steady supply of khat coming into New Zealand," says Customs manager Shane Penettiere. "Both MPI and Customs deal with khat in various forms, either fresh or dried."

"Usually MPI examines it first for pests and diseases, then we'll hand it to Customs for them to manage," says Ministry of Primary Industries passenger and mail manager Craig Hughes.

Figures obtained by 3 News show more than 100kg have been intercepted since July 2011.

Khat releases an amphetamine-like stimulant when chewed and is native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. 

"They don't see it as a big deal," says chairman of the Somali Community of Wellington Yussuf Khalif. "They see it like you drinking a coffee."

Mr Khalif believes most Kiwi-Somalis are aware khat is a Class C controlled drug in New Zealand. But because the drug's still being imported, he says many in his community are stopped and searched at the border.

"Every time they go and come back they have to be searched, and some people say they are asked straight away by Customs, 'Do you have khat?'" says Mr Khalif. "They'll say, 'I don't even chew. I don't even use it.'

But they don't believe it. That's the thing. We want people to be treated normally, not targeted."

But Customs says it doesn't target or single out Somali travellers. The spokesperson went on to say no one had been stopped and searched specifically for khat in recent weeks.

3 News

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Growing number of Somali refugees making Milwaukee home

Growing number of Somali refugees making Milwaukee home

Omar Mohamad left his war-torn homeland of Somalia when he was about 6. For the next decade, his family lived in a refugee camp in Kenya.
Finally, in 2004, he and some family members were resettled in Milwaukee. He remembers it was October and the first time he had worn a jacket.
Although he had never been to school — there was little education in the camps — he was placed at Washington High School. He spoke no English. Students made fun of the way he dressed, and referred to him and other Somali Bantu — an ethnic minority within Somalia — as "those Africans."
He began by reciting the ABCs and reading nursery rhymes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb." His studying was relentless.
"School was not easy," he said. "All I did was go home and study, eat and go to class."
In 2008, he graduated as valedictorian. He continued on to Marquette University, where he received a degree in social welfare and justice. Now 24, he plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to get a master's degree in social work.
Among Milwaukee's small but growing Somali community, he's the first refugee to earn a college degree. He recently became a U.S. citizen and changed his last name to Mohamad from Mursal.
Mohamad said he's confident others will follow and take their place among the growing ranks of a new generation of Somali Bantus who now call Milwaukee home. He works at Our Next Generation, a nonprofit organization at N. 34th St. and W. Lisbon Ave. that offers homework help, tutoring, mentoring and summer camp to nearly 600 elementary and high school Milwaukee youth in a neighborhood where poverty is high and educational attainment low.
About 40% of the elementary school-age children who attend the center are Somali, said Robert Dunn, president and CEO of Our Next Generation.
"Two or three years ago a Somali father came to us and was interested in the academic support we could offer his children," Dunn said. Once that family came to the center, others followed.
"The influx of Somali children has been of great benefit to the cultural understanding and awareness," Dunn said. At first, the Somali children were viewed as outsiders, he said. They look and dress differently. As Muslims, the girls cover their hair and wear long dresses.
But with time, the children began to understand one another and attitudes began to change, he said.
Mohamad started working at the center as a Marquette intern and he's now a project leader who does community outreach. He tutors children, and also works with families.
"He's a remarkable young man," Dunn said.
In addition to tutoring, Mohamad now opens the center on Sunday afternoons, when about 30 to 40 Somali Bantu families gather for religious classes and to hear announcements and discuss community and cultural issues.
"It's an indirect way to engage the parents," Dunn said.
Those who come to the center feel more a part of the community, Mohamad said. When he's not at the center, Mohamad offers translation assistance with job applications or doctor's appointments.

Opening businesses

According to the state's Department of Children and Families, the first wave of Somali refugees began arriving in 1995. Since then the federal government has resettled approximately 700 Somali in Wisconsin, primarily in Brown, Barron, Dane and Milwaukee counties.
The largest population — about 400 people —lives in Milwaukee, said Joe Scialfa, communications director for DCF.
But Ussuf Mursal, Mohamad's brother, who works at Catholic Social Services refugee program, thinks the actual number is considerably larger. He estimates as many as 1,300 Somalis are now living here.
There are about 250 families, he said, and most families have five or more children. For example, he said, he now has six children and his ex-wife has 11 children, including two of his.
With such large families, providing the necessary support is a strain, he said. And because so many Somali Bantu did not go to school, passing the U.S. citizenship test presents a problem. Still, many are getting established, buying homes and starting businesses.
Milwaukee now has two small Somali restaurants — the Blue Star Cafe at 1619 N. Farwell Ave., and the Sogal Cafe, 1835 N. King Drive. Both offer traditional dishes made with goat, beef, chicken and fish, along with fragrant rice and sambusas — a triangular puff pastry.
Amoud Warsame, 24, and his mother, Alia Muhyadin, 50, opened the Blue Star Cafe more than a year ago. The cafe only has six tables, but many order food to go. Both Warsame and his mom mix spices and do the cooking in the small kitchen. Warsame and his family immigrated to Chicago in 1993, but his mother wanted a quieter city, so they moved to Milwaukee.
"Cooking and business are her passion, and the family had restaurants in Africa," he said. For a time she ran a small grocery store, but saved up to start the restaurant.
On Mitchell St. on the city's south side, Abdisalam Hassan, who arrived in 2004, owns and operates the Garden of Eden, an international grocery store that sells a variety of food — from halal meats (meats permissible under Islamic law), to spices, basmati rice and teas. Hassan had a number of jobs, including driving a taxi, before he bought the business in 2010 with loans from family members.
Like many other adults who left Somalia, he has painful memories of family members getting killed and raped. He's now a citizen and loves Milwaukee.
"We came here for security, education and a better life," he said. He has 13 children, some grown, some who attend Riverside High School or Milwaukee Area Technical College.
"We've all struggled very hard, but people like Omar and my kids will be a good example to others," he said.
Mohamad said he wants to continue to work with his community. "My goal is to to make a path for my community and make our horizons bigger."

Standard Digital News : : Business - Trust: The driving force behind many Somali traders’ success

Standard Digital News : : Business - Trust: The driving force behind many Somali traders’ success

The phenomenal growth of Somali businesses in Kenya’s commercial towns and urban centres is an envy to any would-be entrepreneur or business person.
From the often frequented restaurants in Nairobi’s Central Business District to well-stocked boutiques their business models have created a massive economic touch, which cannot be overlooked.
Behind this upward curve though is a business based on trust, a character trait that has remained elusive in many conventional entrepreneurs, who find it hard to trust their wealth with others, however creative their ideas may be.
Trust, in a good number of the Somali community resonates loudly in respect to raising enough capital among family members and close friends for a profitable venture as well as one that creates an even economic impact in the entire society.
Takaful Insurance Managing Director Hassan Bashir agrees that trust in the community has played an incredible role in fuelling success in their business growth.
“Ours is a business model that is based on trust as shown by the community. Such ventures thrive since it’s founded on the human spirit,” he argues.
The human spirit, he reckons, is one where both the seller and buyer trust that the product is certified and is of good quality. This is not the practice where Nairobi residents and visitors at times buy donkey meat, instead of beef.
Bashir, who is also the chairman to the board of the recently launched Crescent Takaful Sacco, noted that human relationship is largely driven by trust and this is the key concept they hope to build on to grow strong businesses culture.
“I will deal with an individual due to the trust I have and one equally transacts a business with the person he trusts,” he noted.
As a pastoralist community, he says, the Somali has a practice where they give some members a cow in the hope that they will return it. “This is where our trust to transfer capital from one trustworthy individual has been inherited from.”
Being a resilient people, Somalis have prospered because they are willing to take risks and accept smaller profits, which is another factor that has seen their business thrive. Abdullahi Dahir, the director at the Imara Daima Gardens, explains that when it comes to trade, “everyone wants to be very competitive in terms of the pricing factor, so it’s the margin that people are looking for.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Situation of human rights in Somalia

Situation of human rights in Somalia

UN expert tasks Somalia on human rights roadmap - UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Mr. Shamsul Bari, on Thursday urged the Somali government to finalize and carry out a human rights roadmap endorsed by the cabinet in August.

PANA in New York, reports that a UN statement said the roadmap defines the government’s responsibilities and sets goals to be achieved in a short period of time.

Mr. Bari stated: 'Finalizing it would demonstrate a sincere commitment by government to rebuild the foundation and structures of human rights in Somalia.'

He called on the country’s new Prime Minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, and the international community to seize the opportunity to build a new Somalia 'where the rule of law and respect of human rights for all Somalis would be the norm'.

He also stressed that the roadmap offers 'a unique opportunity' for the advancement of human rights in Somalia, and advised the government to consult with regional administrations and civil society organisations throughout the country to finalize it.

The roadmap, an initiative proposed by the UN expert to the Somali authorities, is based on key human rights themes, each containing its own action plan to be implemented by ministries, and sets out a post-transition strategy running until 2015.

The Filmmaker and the Pirate Negotiator: A Curious Case | Thymaya Payne

The Filmmaker and the Pirate Negotiator: A Curious Case | Thymaya Payne

When you get your first call from the FBI, you never forget it. The conversation usually starts off as if it were a bill collector, but the voice on the other end of the line sounds more like special agent Starling from Silence of the Lambs. And when you hear the words "special agent", you almost have to giggle and look around to see if you are on some sort of weird reality show. But then it sinks in quickly. This is not a joke and yes you really are getting a call from the FBI. And yes, they want to talk to you. And yes, they mean you. I can't say that I was surprised they called. Yet in that moment, a cold electric numbness shivered through my bones and a new confusing journey began.
My FBI chat came about because I had made a documentary about Somali pirates and spent several years going back and forth to Somalia tracking down "dangerous" people, researching the pirate trade, doing what I had to in order to dissect a fascinating phenomenon. During the filming of the movie I met Ishmael Ali, a Somali American pirate negotiator for a hijacked ship called the CEC future. Ali was dynamic and keen to do press. A recent retiree, Ali had moved back from the States to his homeland and found himself working as an interpreter for several pirates.
As a well-spoken man at the heart of the action, he was the perfect protagonist for my film. Ali invited me into his home, introduced me to his young son and trusted me to tell his story. The final result of our exchange is a film that showcases Ali's incredible journey from retiree to international pirate negotiator.
The only problem in this doc-film-fairytale is that my film wound up playing a part in the U.S. government's decision that Ali was not just a pirate negotiator, but also an actual pirate. And, in the rush for "justice", they tricked him into coming back to the U.S. for a conference. Upon arrival at Dulles, he was immediately arrested, and has been awaiting trial for the three years since.
Last week, I was flown across country to his testify as a prosecution's witness at his trial. I spent a full day in a small room, reviewing jumbled out-takes and off the cuff comments never intended to be on camera, so as to authenticate my footage. I was then brought in to court, facing Ali and a large contingent of the Somali community -- a group I spent years courting and earning their trust, and was forced to authenticate my out-of-context, incoherent "seemingly" damning footage for a snoozing jury.
As I pointed out Ali in the courtroom, I realized that in one fail swoop, I would never be able to do this type of work with the Somali community again. I was done, even if it was against my will, I had become one of the "them", a tool for the U.S. government, an unwitting spy into the close-knit Somali world whom I had just moments before had limited, but great access to. Was my work putting away a hardened, dangerous criminal, or merely just dressing for a weak legal dog and pony show? It all seemed like such a waste.
Documentary work relies on at least a presumption of independence. Subjects often confide in documentary filmmakers because they are not traditional media. Filmmakers spend time with their subjects building up trust. If documentary films (along with out-takes, interview notes and off the record conversations) can be subpoenaed, this presents a significant hurdle in establishment of subject-filmmaker trust. It also poses considerable ethical issues for me as a filmmaker when I engage my subjects. As a documentary filmmaker, I am at all times collecting evidence. But now it is not just for me. I am now a tentacle. The end effect: My independence is dead.
My job as a documentary filmmaker is to delineate truth. Documentaries are meant to present complex and nuanced narratives in a rigorous and well-informed manner. I purposely left my film ambiguous because I wanted the audience to see both sides of view equally. Yes, I want to manifest change. I want to change how one approaches the discussion. I am not here to tell people how to think and feel. I am not here to judge, but to listen and report. I would hate for my film to become a mouthpiece for a cause. It's ironic thus that my film would be used to tell a jury how they should think about the totality of a man's actions.
I don't know if Ali is a pirate or just a negotiator. We met many times. There was a building of trust and of a relationship. A courtship. A dance. Ali could have lied to me, perhaps motivated by ego or a desire to impress, or he may have told the truth. I was not there to judge him. I was there to listen.
Journalists and filmmakers are kidnapped and killed every day around the world. In places like Somalia, filmmakers are already assumed to be Western spies. There have been instances where government officials posed as filmmakers luring a Somali pirate to Europe for a fake movie. It takes hours of work to convince people otherwise. And it takes courage for young filmmakers to negotiate themselves into these unknown worlds, armed only with cameras and inquisitive minds. With the increasing usage of documentary as a pawn in the actions of prosecutions, comes the increasing likelihood of further violence against journalists and filmmakers and less access into these worlds. And this is bad, not only for journalism, but also for global security. There is a need for independent information. Without it we enter the same echo chambers that led us into the Iraq war. This is a time when we need to encourage questioning, not discourage it with fear of government intervention.
Ali's verdict came in. He was found not guilty on piracy and there was a hung jury on the other counts. A wave of relief has washed over me. At least my raw footage was not there to help condemn a man to life imprisonment. But I can't help, but feel unclean about the entire experience.
Once I stepped into that courtroom and let my raw footage speak for me, the sanctity of my film feels violated, and no matter how nice the FBI agents are to you or how many times your friends and family tell you that you had no other choice, there is a creepy feeling that roils your innards every time you think about it. My film has been soiled, the creative process tarnished, and the bruise from the government's abuse of power shadows over my future films. Unfortunately, I know now that I will think twice the next time I feel the urge to look into the dark and see what's there.

BBC News - Losing glasses brings Somalia war zone into focus

BBC News - Losing glasses brings Somalia war zone into focus

By Mark Doyle
A different side to Somalia is discovered - one of mango plantations and bustling markets, as well as a country devastated by two decades of conflict - after losing a pair of spectacles.
This is the story about how I mislaid my spectacles on a battlefield in central Somalia.
But it's also about how I learnt something new to me - that many parts of Somalia are very beautiful.
There are green fertile plains and there are soaring mountains.
I got to see these parts of Somalia - and yes, I can see without my reading glasses - through the bullet-proof windows of an armoured personnel carrier.
My journey there was under the protection of African Union troops who are fighting a full-scale war against highly motivated, radical Islamists of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab army.
I call them an army because I think the usual description of them as "insurgents" or "guerrillas" is inadequate.
Al-Shabab - which means, roughly, "The Youth" - controls more territory than any other al-Qaeda-linked group anywhere in the world.
It sometimes acts like an army, using defensive World War One-style trenches, for example.
It has tactics, it has mortars - this is no ragtag movement.
I know because, in the two weeks I spent with them, the African Union soldiers were attacked every single day by al-Shabab - who use roadside bombs, snipers, or co-ordinated military advances.
One morning, for example, I saw the immediate aftermath of an attack on an African Union base.
I touched the flattened grass and carefully spaced out the firing positions the al-Shabab men had crouched down in just hours earlier.
I bent down to the ground to count the empty bullet cartridges that had spewed out of their rifles - they were shiny and brand new.
This is a war that involves over 17,000 African Union troops, including armoured battalions with enormous Soviet-era T55 tanks, marines off the coast and drones in the sky.
The soldiers, from countries like Uganda and Sierra Leone, are dug in behind earthwork ramparts in strings of fortified outposts.
The foreign soldiers are there because the government and army of Somalia are too weak, on their own, to face al-Shabab. That's the war.
But did you know that there are also orange groves in Somalia? That there are mango plantations, rivers, well-watered fields and bustling markets.
I didn't - not really, because I've never seen these things before - with, or without, my glasses.
Journalists are not usually lucky enough, as I was, to spend two whole weeks driving around Somalia.
But on this trip, I travelled for hundreds of miles through south and central Somalia and saw some of the real life in between the fighting. I saw farms, rivers and canals - I saw vast herds of camels and goats. There are forests, fruit trees and quarries.
This war is partly about Islamist ideology, but it is also about winning control of these very real assets and sometimes very beautiful, fertile countryside.
But back to my glasses. I mentioned that I'd lost them to an officer from the Ugandan army who was accompanying me - more to make conversation, really, than out of any hope of finding them.
But the officer started making calls to his colleagues on his mobile, tracing our route back down the road.
I must admit I thought all that was just for show. But a few days later, to my absolute astonishment, this officer said he had located my glasses... on the battlefield where I had leant down to count the al-Shabab bullets.
My glasses then made a circuitous journey home. They travelled first in an armoured personnel carrier heading for the Ugandan military headquarters in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
They were not broken even when this vehicle was hit by another roadside bomb.
Then they were taken in another armoured car from the Ugandan military base to the Somali president's office, where a friend of mine works. He happened to be due to travel to the UK.
There was then a quick hop from Mogadishu to Nairobi, a rather longer flight to London, and my glasses were finally returned to me. My friend handed them over, here, at BBC Broadcasting House. They were slightly bent, but nothing a little twisting couldn't resolve.
My journey with the African Union forces has put a number of things in to sharper focus.
The first is that this is a terrible, widespread war. But Somalia is not just a war zone parts of it are very, very beautiful.
And finally, if you ever lose your glasses on a battlefield, all I can say is never lose sight of hope.

Somali Pirates Hijacked Zero Boats This Year » RYOT News

Somali Pirates Hijacked Zero Boats This Year » RYOT News

Piracy remains a concern for ships that pass the Horn of Africa, although where piracy was once rampant in the Indian Ocean, the number of incidents have declined since 2011.
While the topic of piracy grips the public imagination — the success of the film “Captain Phillips” bears witness to this — not one single vessel was hijacked in the Indian Ocean this year, according to the United States Office of Naval Intelligence.
This is the fourth annual decline in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia. The Independent reported that there were 46 hijackings in 2009 (the year the Maersk Alabama, the subject of the film Captain Phillips, was seized by Somali pirates), 47 hijackings in 2010, 14 in 2012 and none in 2013.
According to Quartz, pirate attacks are at the lowest level since 2006 because of an increased presence of international navies in and around the Indian Ocean; onshore al-Shabaab militants who have shifted tactics to guerrilla warfare; and vigilance among vessel owners, who have rerouted and fortified ships to combat piracy.
But let’s backtrack a bit and consider why Somali piracy started in the first place?
Amber Lyon reported on RYOT that Somali piracy started because “foreign companies are illegally over-fishing Somali waters and dumping large quantities of nuclear and hazardous waste off of Somalia’s coast.”
Although pirates have still attacked vessels off the Horn of Africa, only nine vessels were attacked, four of which were in the final two months of this year. No vessel was successfully hijacked by pirates.
Ships that pass by the west coast of Africa have been less fortunate this year, as 31 ships were attacked by pirates and nine of them were seized in the Gulf of Guinea.

At least eight killed by bomb blast in Somali capital | Top News | Reuters

At least eight killed by bomb blast in Somali capital | Top News | Reuters

At least eight people were killed in Mogadishu on Friday when a remotely controlled bomb exploded in a busy restaurant in the Somali capital, police official and witnesses said.
Police suspect al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab of planting the bomb, which went off in the notoriously insecure Dayniile district where, police say, al Shabaab militants often hide.
Al Shabaab did not immediately claim responsibility."The remotely controlled bomb targeted government forces. Eight people died, including three soldiers," Major Kadar Mohamed, a senior police officer told Reuters.The rebels were pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by African Union peacekeeping troops but over the past year al Shabaab has carried out several large scale attacks on high profile targets, denting gradual security improvements in Mogadishu."I could see several motionless people lying in the scene," Said Fatuma Hassan, a mother of three who was near the bomb blast. "The whole place was ruined and stained with blood."(Reporting by Abdirahman Hussein and Abdi Sheikh Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum

The Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum

The Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum, 1516 East Lake Street, at Midtown Global Market, is the only Somali heritage museum in North America. Founder and curator Osman Ali wanted to remind Somali youth where and what they came from.

"It is important for them to learn what their ancestors were doing a long time ago," said Ali. The founder also said Minnesotans can benefit from the museum. "I want them to learn about the new community of Minnesota."

The museum serves as a permanent home to more than 700 traditional artifacts from the continent of Somalia. There have been two exhibits at the museum: "Water and Milk Vessels" and "Women's Work," the current exhibit which features a simulation of a Somali hut. Outreach Coordinator Sarah Larsson said it gives the museum visitor a sense of the "traditional home" in Somali.

While the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum is building their staff and volunteer team, regular hours will not being until 2014. However, currently, private tours for individuals, families and groups of 10 or more can be scheduled. All tours are guided by a cultural expert. These tours are available in three languages: Somali, Arabic, and English.

For more information about the museum, contact Ali at (612) 998-1166 or visit the website at To schedule a private tour, call (612) 234-1625. The entrance fee for individual is $11; for adults and children (5-12) and seniors (60+) is $8. For groups of 10 or more people, adult tickets are $9 and children and seniors are $7.

Yasmin Warsame is a Somali model and activist | News | Fans Share

Yasmin Warsame is a Somali model and activist | News | Fans Share
Yasmine Warsame is a Canadian model who was originally born in Mogadishu, Somalia. During the early 1990s when she was fifteen years old she relocated to Canada with her family in order to avoid the civil strife and unrest that was taking place in Somalia during that time. After she became a famous model, Warsame uses her celebrity status as a means to speak out for the Somali people and to improve their plight.
The Somali Youth Coalition is an organization that is based in Toronto and it works to alleviate negative social and economic conditions that affect Somali youth. Warsame is a member of this organization and she also personally speaks out for Somali people at home and abroad. As a matter of fact this talented and beautiful young model travels to her native land from time to time to personally lend a hand at improving the living conditions of her fellow countrymen.

Many models are not activists and for those who are they realize that their celebrity status prompts them to take on this role. Quite a few international models that are really successful in the west come from African territories. They give back to their native homelands as a means to help change their society.
Warsame knows that her efforts are important and that she has a great responsibility to the people of Somalia. While it is true that she doesn’t have to take on this role she knows that it is important for her to do so. Many Somali people in Canada and in her native land of Somalia are grateful to have this young lady representing them as a model and an activist.

United Nations News Centre - Somalia: UN expert urges Government to finalize human rights roadmap

United Nations News Centre - Somalia: UN expert urges Government to finalize human rights roadmap

An independent United Nations expert today urged the Somali Government to finalize and carry out a human rights roadmap endorsed by the cabinet in August.
Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia Shamsul Bari said in a news release that the roadmap defines the Government’s responsibilities and sets goals to be achieved in a short period of time. “Finalizing it would demonstrate a sincere commitment by Government to rebuild the foundation and structures of human rights in Somalia,” he stated. Mr. Bari called on the country’s new Prime Minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, and the international community to seize the opportunity to build a new Somalia where “the rule of law and the respect of human rights for all Somalis would be the norm.” The roadmap, an initiative proposed by Mr. Bari to the Somali authorities, is based on key human rights themes, each containing its own action plan to be implemented by ministries, and sets out a post-transition strategy running until 2015. Stressing that the roadmap offers “a unique opportunity” for the advancement of human rights in Somalia, Mr. Bari advised the Government to consult with regional administrations and civil society organizations throughout the country to finalize it. Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Somalia native cooks homeland favorites : Lifestyles

Somalia native cooks homeland favorites : Lifestyles

Watching Maryan Yusuf finely mince onion, cilantro and hot chiles while simultaneously translating a conversation, overseeing a batch of bread and occasionally rescuing a climbing toddler, one can’t help but think the busy mom would hold her own in any restaurant kitchen. And that’s without her seven other children around.
Yusuf started cooking at age 10 in Somalia, and even after two decades in her adopted country, American dishes haven’t replaced those from her home. “Most of the time we cook traditional food,” she said, for everyday meals as well as special religious holidays like Ramadan, the Muslim month of daytime fasting.
Most ingredients are easy to find, thanks to stores such as Global Foods Market. And while Yusuf can purchase meat at local shops too, she prefers traveling with family members to a farm an hour’s drive from the city, where they choose goats and lambs on the hoof and ensure the meat will be halal (butchered in a specific manner according to Islamic dietary guidelines).
Despite her own preferences, Yusuf is well aware she’s raising American kids, and she’s good-natured about generational differences. Her eldest daughter, 18-year-old Hodan Abdullahi, can cook Somali dishes as well, but instead of adding handfuls of this and coffee cups of that, she “acts like an American,” Yusuf joked. “She measures ingredients and counts calories.”
Mother and daughter both picked up their kitchen skills from Yusuf’s mother, Maryan Abdullah Yusuf, who lives with the family. She’s a self-described advocate for African food in general, especially Somali and Ethiopian dishes, and she’s happy to demonstrate for anyone who’s interested.
Thanks to years of practice cooking side by side, Yusuf and her mother make lunch preparations look effortless. They graciously stir up a “small” batch — 48 pieces — of cardamom-scented madhasi (sweet fried bread) and patiently explain every step along the way. Meanwhile, Yusuf whips up spicy tuna-filled samosas, promising a future lesson in perfectly wrapping and frying the crispy triangles. After tasting one, it’s hard to imagine saying no.

Maryan Yusuf
Age • 38
Neighborhood • Sunset Hills
Occupation • Stay-at-home mom
Family • Husband Mohamed Hussein and children Hodan, 18, Abdullahi, 14, Abdalla, 12, Abdirahman, 10, Iqra, 7, Hussein, 6, Faysa, 3, and Aisha, 1

Somali nationals confirmed dead in South Sudan conflicts

Somali nationals confirmed dead in South Sudan conflicts

Two Somali nationals were confirmed to have perished in the armed confrontations in the world’s newest country  ‘the South Sudan’ Somalia’s foreign minister and Deputy Prime Minister Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam told reporters in Mogadishu upon arrival at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International airport on Tuesday.

Mrs. Adam returned from South Sudan, where she acted as a key member of a peace mission of foreign ministers from IGAD-member nations whose aim was to mediate between warring sides in South Sudan.
“With the help of Somali embassy in South Sudan, we have confirmed that two Somali nationals were killed during conflicts there for the past several days” the deputy prime minister told reporters upon arrival on Tuesday.
She added that at least 120 other Somalis have sought refugee into the compounds of the small UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. She praised the role of Somali diplomatic mission in Juba which she said were accomplishing their mission in the smoothest manner of diplomacy.
Meanwhile, the deputy prime minister noted that Somalia regained its full diplomatic role in the international community after more than decades of absence.

“Somalia was a key player in the world’s diplomacy and in particularly Africa---that role was missing since Somalia fell into anarchy just more than 23 years ago, but fortunately our lost publicity has returned and currently Somalia is playing its role in the world” foreign minister and deputy prime minister Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam told a press conference.
Somalia’s involvement in the process of finding a lasting solution to the renewed armed conflicts in South Sudan was seen as a ‘positive international diplomacy’ for the war-ravaged country.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Westgate Mall crackdown brings fear and anger - Features - Al Jazeera English

Westgate Mall crackdown brings fear and anger - Features - Al Jazeera English

Controversial police crackdown on 'terrorist' suspects has many concerned on Kenya's coast.

The crackdown after September's bloody Westgate Mall assault continues to reverberate throughout the coastal city of Mombasa, with suspects and their families expressing fear of Kenya's police. 

The enhanced state of surveillance of the Muslim community has caused anger and frustration, amid concern over unsolved killings of several senior figures here.

Abubakar Shariff Ahmed, best known as "Makaburi", is an influential preacher in Mombasa. The US government and UN Security Council designated Makaburi a "terrorist" in 2012.

"Abubaker Shariff Ahmed is a leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan Muslims for violent militant activity in Somalia," a Security Council statement said.

"He provides material support to extremist groups in Kenya [and elsewhere in East Africa]. Through his frequent trips to al-Shabab strongholds in Somalia, including Kismayo, he has been able to maintain strong ties with senior al-Shabab members."

Makaburi is on round-the-clock surveillance with at least two security officers stationed at his gate. He has been on trial for terrorism, violent robbery allegedly committed at a mosque and for inciting young people in Mombasa to carry out attacks. He makes mandatory visits to the police station each week.
But in an interview with Al Jazeera, Makaburi denied links to terrorism and said he fears for his family members' lives. "My family cannot stay with me. They are afraid they will be killed," he said.

Much like what happened to slain Muslim clerics Aboud Rogo and Ibrahim Omor - both killed within a year of each other - Makaburi said he fears their fate might befall him too.

Makaburi said he believes the killers of Rogo in August 2012 and Omor in October, alongside three associates, are roaming free. He also accused the government of being behind the killings.

"Nobody from my family comes and visits me because they do not know at what time the government killers will come for me. They are saddened by the way things are turning out," the father of three said.

The deaths of Rogo and Omor sparked violent protests in Mombasa. Before the killing of Rogo, security officials accused him of recruiting Kenyan youths into al-Shabab at the Musa Mosque in Majengo, a charge he denied when arraigned in court.

Makaburi said allegations that clerics in the city were radicalising and recruiting youth were false.
"What is done in Mombasa is people are being taught about their religion. In Islam, we do not have borders. All Muslims are brothers, it does not matter whether you are in Somalia or you are in Afghanistan.

"I have never seen a recruitment booth in Mombasa or any specific place where youth can go and be recruited. That is a lie," Makaburi said.

The cleric added it wasn't Muslim preachers pushing youth into violence, but the treatment they receive under Kenya's political system.   

"No justice, that is what makes the youth angry. It makes them believe democracy does not work for them. It works for the non-Muslims, not Muslims," he said.

Residents here say the police crackdown on Muslims began long before the Westgate attack, which killed more than 60 people during the 78-hour mall siege in Nairobi. Dozens of families on the coast have reported the disappearances of husbands and sons.

Rehema Lugogo's husband - Badru Bakari Mramba - vanished in November 2012 after attending the wedding of Rogo's daughter.

"Three plainclothes men came and took him. They handcuffed him. They said they were police officers. Since then, I have not seen him. Later I came to learn that all those who attended the wedding were arrested and arraigned in court three days after the incident. But my husband was not arraigned in court, and I have not seen him since then," said Lugogo, tears welling in her eyes.

Other than her husband's disappearance, the social stigma of him being linked to the Somalia-based militia al-Shabab has also hurt her family, she said.

"I have been isolated. I have lost lots of friends. We have been given a name al-Shabab, which is not ours. My children cannot mix with other children freely because they have been branded. My friends keep away from me because they think I am being followed. Police spend hours outside our place," Lugogo said.

Mombasa Police Commander Robert Kitur said police are not engaging in blanket surveillance and arbitrary arrests as alleged by Muslim leaders.

"We must have evidence to take one to court. You know these madrasas [Islamic schools] and mosques, we are not going to be there all along, but we do get information," Kitur said.

Killing terror suspects?
Human rights activists have also accused Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) of targeting, disappearing, and killing alleged terrorism suspects. ATPU receives financial support and training from the US and UK governments.

A November report - titled "We're Tired of Taking You to the Court"  - highlights 40 cases of alleged human rights abuses carried out by police since 2007.

Francis Auma of Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) told Al Jazeera the government was engaging in extra-judicial killings with impunity. 

"Counter-terrorism in Kenya is more of terrorism itself. The way the police are handling terrorism cases bring more trouble than good," Auma said. "They say there is recruitment of people going to join al-Shabab. That is fine. Their work is to investigate. People are subjected to court and trial, but they do not do that."

The police commander Kitur said terrorism trials were stagnating because witnesses were not coming forward. "People fear coming out to give us information because definitely you will be a witness in the court of law, of which they do not want. That is why we are failing," he said.

Lugogo, meanwhile, said she only hopes one day her husband's abductors will tell her if he's dead or alive.

"Living like this - someone just disappears, you do not know if they are alive or dead or sick - it is just torture not only to me, but also to the whole family." 

Follow Mohammed Yusuf on Twitter: @moyusef

Source: Al-Jazeera

Thousands killed as South Sudan slides toward civil war: UN - The Times of India

Thousands killed as South Sudan slides toward civil war: UN - The Times of India

Thousands of South Sudanese have been killed in more than a week of violence, with reports of bodies piled in mass graves, the UN said as it moved to nearly double its peacekeepers there.
Large areas of South Sudan remain out of the government's control amid fears the young nation was sliding toward civil war, though Juba said its forces had recaptured the strategically important town of Bor from rebels on Tuesday.

The UN humanitarian chief in the country, Toby Lanzer, said there was "absolutely no doubt in my mind that we're into the thousands" of dead, the first clear indication of the scale of the conflict engulfing the country.

Earlier, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said a mass grave had been found in the rebel-held town of Bentiu and cited reports of at least two more in Juba.

The grim discovery follows escalating battles between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing his rival Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked in July.

The official toll nationwide has stood at 500 dead for days, but aid workers have said the number killed was likely far higher.

Witnesses recount a wave of atrocities, including an orchestrated campaign of mass killings and rape.

In a Christmas message to the people, Kiir said that "innocent people have been wantonly killed," warning that the violence risked spiralling out of control.

"There are now people who are targeting others because of their tribal affiliation.... It will only lead to one thing and that is to turn this new nation into chaos," he added.

The unrest has taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting Kiir's Dinka tribe against Machar's Nuer.

Machar said he was ready to accept Kiir's offer of talks, following days of shuttle diplomacy by African nations and calls from Western powers for an end to the fighting.

"We want democratic, free and fair elections. We want Salva Kiir to call it a day," Machar said, listing his demands.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called both men and urged them to "accept a cessation of hostilities and begin mediated political talks," the State Department said.

Machar's promise of talks came shortly before the army stormed Bor, which Information Minister Michael Makwei called a "gift of the government of South Sudan to the people."

Bor's capture, apparently without major resistance by the rebels, relieves about 17,000 besieged civilians who fled to the UN peacekeeping compound for protection, severely stretching limited food and supplies.

UN peacekeepers had spent days bolstering fortifications ahead of the army assault, after militia gunmen last week stormed a UN compound in the Jonglei outpost of Akobo, killing two Indian soldiers and about 20 ethnic Dinka civilians sheltering there.

UN vote on extra troops
Fighting has spread to half the country's 10 states, the United Nations said, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to the countryside and others flooding UN bases seeking shelter.

Pillay's spokeswoman told AFP that a UN official had visited a mass killing site Monday in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-rich Unity state, and counted at least 34 bodies.

Rebel fighters are also reported to have committed atrocities in areas they control.

Late on Tuesday, the UN Security Council voted to send nearly 6,000 extra soldiers and police to South Sudan, nearly doubling the UNMISS force to 12,500 troops and 1,323 civilian police.

But UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who requested the reinforcements, warned the force "will not be able to protect every civilian in need in South Sudan."

"This is a political crisis which requires a peaceful, political solution," he said.

He called on the rival leaders to "save your proud and newly independent country."

The US military deployed a "platoon-sized" Marine contingent to neighbouring Uganda to protect US citizens and facilities in South Sudan and prepare for possible further evacuations of Americans, a spokesman said without specifying the number of troops involved.

Nearly 100 US troops were already on the ground in South Sudan, including a contingent reinforcing security at the American embassy.

The Pentagon also deployed a roughly 150-strong special Marine Corps unit Monday to Djibouti, along with cargo planes and helicopters.

On Saturday, a US evacuation operation had to be called off when American aircraft came under fire, with four troops wounded.

South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 and is still the youngest country in the world, born out of a bloody decades-long struggle for independence from Sudan.

It remains a fragile state with deep ethnic divisions.

Kiir has accused Machar of starting the fighting by attempting a coup, while Machar says the president has exploited tensions within the army to carry out a purge.

Italian prime minister promises better treatment of migrants

Italian prime minister promises better treatment of migrants

Prime Minister Enrico Letta pledged Monday to overhaul conditions in Italy's overcrowded refugee holding centres following outrage over a video of migrants being hosed down naked in the cold to disinfect them.
The government had already pledged to improve conditions for welcoming refugees - and received $40 million in EU pledges to do so - after more than 360 would-be refugees drowned off the southern island of Lampedusa in October.
The government was put on the defensive anew after Italian state television last week broadcast a video taken by a migrant of about a dozen men at the Lampedusa holding centre being forced to strip in the cold to be hosed down and disinfected for scabies.
Refugee advocates denounced the practice as violating the rights of the migrants and unworthy of a civilized country.
Lampedusa, a tiny strip of rock closer to Africa than the Italian mainland, is the destination of choice for smuggling operations from northern Africa and has become ground zero in the increasingly volatile debate over how Italy - and Europe as a whole - deals with waves of people fleeing war and oppression from Somalia to Syria.
Letta noted that 2013 saw a three-fold increase in the number of migrants arriving over 2012, and that its holding centres are currently overflowing with 16,000 people.
That pressure, he said, is compelling the government "to immediately get to work on a comprehensive revision of the standards of the (centres) and the way we receive migrants in its entirety."