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Friday, January 31, 2014

United Nations News Centre - Amid escalating tensions, UN’s Somalia envoy urges calm in Baidoa

United Nations News Centre - Amid escalating tensions, UN’s Somalia envoy urges calm in Baidoa

The top United Nations envoy in Somalia today voiced his concern over escalating tensions in Baidoa surrounding a federal State-building conference, calling for calm and dialogue by all parties as they address legitimate concerns.
“It is important that all parties remain calm, committed to dialogue and support reconciliation efforts,” Nicholas Kay said in a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Mr. Kay, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNSOM, called on traditional leaders, politicians and all stakeholders to play a “constructive and reconciliatory” role amid the ongoing process to form a federal state in the region. “Nobody should risk taking steps that spoil peace- and state-building processes,” he stated. “I recognise the need for all stakeholders to meet without delay in Baidoa to address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of all parties.” UNSOM said it is working closely with local partners, the Federal Government, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and others to reinvigorate peaceful talks and reconciliation efforts. The continuing process of forming regional administrations is “critical” to the development of a federal system in Somalia, although it remains a difficult proposition, according to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Time is of essence,” he wrote in a report last month to the Security Council on the situation in the Horn of Africa nation. “I call upon the Federal Government to redouble its efforts to continue to reach out to the regions and to conclude the constitutional review process as expeditiously as possible, including the formation of federal states,” he stated, adding that the UN stands ready to support Somalia in this endeavour. Established in June 2013, UNSOM is mandated by the Security Council to offer expertise in areas ranging from the political process to disarmament to help create and galvanize an environment in which stabilization and peacebuilding can proceed.

Kenyan troops to leave the Somali town of Kismayo - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Kenyan troops to leave the Somali town of Kismayo - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Most Kenyan troops will soon leave the port city of Kismayo which they took control of more than a year ago after ousting al-Qaida-linked militants, a Kenyan military spokesman said Friday
The Kenyan army command will leave Kismayo "soon," said Col. Willy Wesonga. Sierra Leonean troops will replace Kenyan forces that will move to the Gedo region, he said. Only small Kenyan units will remain in Kismayo, Wesonga said.
The announcement comes as Kenyan forces are accused of misconduct including of backing one Somali militia against others in Kismayo, an issue that led the Mogadishu-based Somali government to demand a more neutral force in Kismayo.
Kenya is one of several African countries that have troops in Somalia, as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia or AMISOM, which is backing the country's weak government against an onslaught by the Islamic extremists of al-Shababs.
Kenyan troops in Kismayo were accused mid-last year of backing one militia, the Raskamboni brigade, against others in deadly fighting there. The Raskamboni brigade -which helped Kenya to push al-Shabab militants out of Kismayo in 2012 -is led by Ahmed Madobe, a Somali warlord who has established a local administration in Kismayo that is independent of the central government. Madobe is a key power broker around Kismayo, although he is not backed by the federal government in Mogadishu.
Kismayo is important for Kenya, which seeks a friendly buffer zone near its border with Somalia - one of the main reasons it sent troops to Somalia in late 2011 to fight the rebels of al-Shabab, Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida. The rival militias appear to be interested in the economic engine of Kismayo. Its port generates a reliably large income and has been the export point of Somali-made charcoal that the United Nations has deemed illegal.

Displaced twice: Syria’s Somali people seek shelter in Turkey Anadolu Agency

Displaced twice: Syria’s Somali people seek shelter in Turkey Anadolu Agency

The Syrian conflict has displaced millions - over half a million alone have fled to Turkey, but the war has taken its toll on other nationalities who made Syria their home.  A community of around ten thousand Somalis who went to Syria 25 years ago, after escaping the civil war which turned the African country into a failed state for twenty years, have now become refugees a second time in a generation.
Fatima Muhammed Abd, in her 60s, is one of thousand or so registered Somali refugees from Syria living in Ankara, according to Turkish aid agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), who say that the real number is more likey to be around three times higher.
Mother of four, Abd now lives in a three-room 'gecekondu', a shanty house in a low-income neighborhood on the outskirts of Ankara,  - with her three sons, in their twenties.
"We were living in Syria since 2004 and everything was all right until the uprising turned into a bloody conflict two years ago,” Abd tells an Anadolu Agency reporter who visited the family in their home in the neighbourhood of Altındag.
Syria was her home for ten years, her family were settled and her son had a good job at the Somali embassy in Damascus.
Recalling her experience in Syria before the family fled eight months ago Abd says:  "After the conflict erupted, the conditions in Syria became really bad. There were no jobs, no schools and even no bread. Nobody's life is safe there any more."
She says only one of her sons is working and he is supporting the whole family of ten. Her son works as a translator from Arabic to Turkish. They survive on his salary and also get food from Turkish charities to survive.
He is also supporting his sister, Abd's thirty-five year old daughter, Hirda Awil Jama, - who also fled Syria eight months ago - and lives on the first floor of the same building with her six children – all under eight. "My husband lost his job in Syria and fled to back Somalia. I am on my own with my six children in Turkey, depending on handouts from huminatirian foundations and local comminity," says Jama.
Habibullah Orhan, a local businessman, provides daily aid to Somali refugees living in Ankara.  Abd says he is like a son to her. “He looks after us. We all depend on his and other neighbors’ aid,” she adds.
Orhan says two of his tenants are from Somalia and one from Syria, and he lets them live there free of charge.
Orhan says he is not the only person to help the Somalis in Ankara - who he estimates are made up of around four hundred families, "local people provide aid to them. The council also gives them coal once in every three months. They all live in very bed conditions, totally depending on handouts.”
Another Somali refugee Abdurrahman Husein, 22, lives in the same neighborhood in a bare two-roomed flat with his younger brother and a relative. “I was studying theology in one of Damascus universities, but I had to leave everything behind and move toTurkey a year ago” says Abdurrahman.
If he is lucky he can get a cash-in-hand job that will pay him enough to cover the monthly rent of 170 lira.  “I don’t have a regular job. Whenever the boss calls me I go to work in the furniture shop. Sometimes he doesn’t call for weeks,”  says Abdurrahman.
He only makes 200 lira a week if he is lucky enough to find work.
Abdurrahman’s younger brother Ahmad Hamid, 17, is studying Turkish in a language school. “He doesn’t have a job. So, I have to look after him too” says Abdurrahman.
“Our parents live back home in Somali, also in poor conditions,” he says.
Abdurrahman, who speaks fluent Turkish, says there are about 150 Somali families living in the immediate neighborhood. "The Syrian conflict turned my life upside-down, and now I have to rebuild my life here in Turkey" he adds.
Syria’s nearly three-year-old armed conflict has killed more than 130,000 people since the uprising began in March 2011 and forced millions from their homes, according to figures from the United Nations.
In a small three-roomed flat, another refugee, mother of three teenagers, Jamila Mohammad lives with eight people - her own mother in her seventies, her three children and three relatives one of whom is disabled.
First they fled Somalia in late 1990s, they fed again from Syria to Turkey two years ago .
“I had a job in Syria and my children were going to school. Now, we totally depend on humanitarian aid from our Turkish neighbours and humanitarian charities. I have to pay 150 lira rent per month for the flat. It is quite hard to make a living here since I don't have a work,” she says.  
She explains that one of her relatives living with them, Abdullah Hassan, is unable to walk. She says they have to look after him too.
Hassan says: “When I was working illegally in Saudi Arabia, I was hit by a car. Since then, I am not able to walk. Saudi authorities deported my wife and me. We had no place to turn but Turkey.
Hassan’s wife, Maryam Ahmed, says the rules on immigrants in Saudi Arabia are too strict. “I appreciate that Turkey allowed us to live here as a refugee,” she says.
Some of their relatives still live back in Saudi Arabia and help them, she says: “But it is not enough to make a living.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

allAfrica.com: Somalia: Human Rights Record Mixed in Somalia, Report Says

allAfrica.com: Somalia: Human Rights Record Mixed in Somalia, Report Says

Although the new Somali government has publicly committed to protecting citizens from human rights abuses, insecurity and lack of capacity have undermined these efforts, according to the 2014 Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report.
All parties to Somalia's long-running armed conflict were responsible for serious violations of international law, including indiscriminate attacks, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests and detention, the January 21st report says.
Al-Shabaab maintains control of much of southern Somalia, where the militant group "continues to forcibly recruit adults and children, administer arbitrary justice, and restrict basic rights," according to the report.
"Al-Shabaab has committed targeted killings, beheadings and executions, particularly of individuals it accused of spying," the report said.
The report noted a few particularly high-profile attacks in the capital -- such as the suicide commando attack on the Mogadishu court complex in April that left at least 29 civilians dead, the suicide attack on the United Nations compound in June that killed at least eight people and the September 7th attack on the Village restaurant that killed at least 30 people and wounded 50.
Nonetheless, al-Shabaab is not the only party at fault for human rights violations in Somalia.
"Those fighting against al-Shabaab -- a combination of Somali government armed forces, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Ethiopian government troops and allied militias -- have also committed abuses," the report says.
The report cites an example from February, when Somali government forces arrested a woman who alleged rape and the journalist who interviewed her. The judiciary convicted the pair of "tarnishing state institutions", but they were eventually acquitted after widespread international criticism of the case.
In addition, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work, and "impunity for these killings prevails", the report said.
Protecting displaced persons, women, journalists
Fartun Ibrahim, a member of the Mogadishu-based Peace and Human Rights Network (PHRN), said the human rights violations documented in the HRW report were an ongoing problem in Somalia.
"Women are among the people who face the most problems when it comes to human rights violations," she told Sabahi. "They suffer rapes and torture and are targeted because of the clans they are from, which are minority clans that have little power within Somalia. Combating this issue will require a huge awareness campaign and meetings to address it."
As a way to combat human rights abuses that happen in Mogadishu, PHRN launched an FM station called Xurmo Community Radio.
"On Xurmo Community Radio, we broadcast awareness programmes that address the violations against women and the rights of a person who suffers violations," she said. "The women who face violations come to us and we give them advice."
Ibrahim said that Somalia's leaders talk a lot about their intentions to address human rights violations against women, but there is nothing tangible that has yet been done.
She said she would like to see the government's promises to address violations against women fulfilled, and called on the authorities to stop being hasty in jailing women who claim to be raped before verifying the matter.
Minister of Women and Human Rights Khadijo Mohamed Diriye told Sabahi that human rights violations would be the first issue her ministry tackles.
She said Somalia is still recovering from nearly two decades of conflict, but the government is working on improving human rights and it will launch awareness campaigns and programmes to educate the public.
"Many people do not know much about human rights, so it is better that they understand their rights," she said.
She also said the government would not go after journalists who report on rape cases, as was the case before.
For his part, Abdullahi Hassan Shirwa, director of Mogadishu-based organisation Somali Peace Line, also criticised the government for its lack of follow-through on its promises to improve the human rights situation for internally displaced persons and women in particular.
"Tens of thousands of displaced people remain in dire conditions in Mogadishu and are subjected to rape, forced evictions and clan-based discrimination at the hands of government forces, allied militia and private individuals including camp managers known as 'gatekeepers'," the HRW report said, adding that the gatekeepers and militias have also diverted and stolen food aid from the camps.
"We can see that nothing much has come from the many promises because the [human rights abuses] are still there, and as long as the problems exist, it is necessary to expedite efforts to remove them," Shirwa told Sabahi. "It is my opinion that the efforts to address these issues have not met their goal and are far from adequate. Therefore, the government agencies concerned must take special responsibility for this."
He said the problems facing journalists, women and internally displaced people are issues that also concern the entire population.
Access to justice
Amina Mohamed, 24, who studied business and administration at Mogadishu University, attributed the continuation of human rights violations in Somalia to the fact that people do not have access to a fair judicial system.
"Every society is led to progress by justice and fairness and I believe that the violations that are taking place in Somalia against people, and even animals, should not be tolerated," she told Sabahi.
"I do not know of any place in the world where the judicial system allows a woman who has claimed to be the victim of rape to be subjected to jail and torture," she said. "I would say that we are still lacking leaders who will take action to address that issue."
Hawl Wadag resident Ismahan Salah, 21, said the government should not be the only one blamed for the rape issue. Rather, the entire public has to realise that each citizen bears responsibility to do something about it.
"The victims being raped are Somali women, the journalist who is jailed is a Somali man and the person accused of rape is a Somali, so it makes no sense to deflect the blame for human rights violations in Somalia," she told Sabahi.
"I believe we should all face it from one side because there are many people who are known to have committed violations, yet they are supported and viewed as people who are worthy of prestige and honour among the public. Nothing will [change] while that exists."

Asylum-seekers' real stories revealed | The Australian

Asylum-seekers' real stories revealed | The Australian

TWO Somalis at the centre of grave allegations against the Australian navy in recent turn-back operations admit their burns were sustained during clashes with the sailors, who in one case had been forced to prevent asylum-seekers scuttling their boat. 
 
The ABC last week reported claims by asylum-seekers that they were "beaten" by navy personnel "and told to hold on to parts of a hot engine on a boat being towed back to Indonesia".

The government and Defence have vehemently rejected claims the asylum-seekers were mistreated. And the new accounts of the incidents provided to The Australian yesterday, which suggest the injuries happened during scuffles, cast further doubt on the claims of deliberate abuse.
It has also emerged that the person who made the most serious claims to the ABC was not on board the boat where the alleged abuse took place.
Ninety-two people in two boats were forced back to Rote Island, southwest of Kupang in Indonesia's eastern archipelago - on December 19 and January 6.
Eighteen-year-old Mohamed Abdirashid, whose boat was forced back to Indonesia on December 19, said yesterday his arm injury happened as the asylum-seekers continued to "quarrel" with the sailors.
"I told (a sailor) at the time - I was angry - I said, 'Don't touch me again'," he said. "He caught me like this and threw me into the engine. "When I (fell on to) the pump, I said: 'F. . k you!' He said, 'Lay down, lay down, lay down'. I laid down. They handcuffed me."
Bowby Nooris, 20, who was among a boatload of 47 asylum-seekers returned to Indonesia on January 6, said his burned hand happened because the sailors aboard that boat had used "teargas" to quell a protest. Temporarily blinded, Bowby said, he stumbled against the hot machinery and burned his right hand.
About eight days earlier, when the group was first located by the navy, on an island they say was in sight of Darwin, Bowby said the asylum-seekers struggled and protested against being forced back on to their fishing boat.
"There was a big fight at the time between (asylum-seekers trying to) destroy the boat and the (navy) members, those who were on boat," he said.
The chief of Kupang police, who concluded an investigation without resolving the allegations, said last week seven people were burned seriously enough to require hospital treatment.
The Australian spoke to two of those injured asylum-seekers yesterday, mostly through the Kupang returnees' self-appointed spokesman Sharmarke Abdullah Ahmad, a 25-year-old Somali business and English student who made the most serious allegations aired on the ABC.
Those three and Abdi Karim Mubarak, who witnessed events on the December 19 boat, say they are prepared to give their evidence to Australian investigators.
"We know the people who (have) done these kind of incidents, we know their names and we know their ships, we know them by physical appearance" said Abdi, a 36-year-old former seaman, speaking through Sharmarke, who has good English.
Abdi and Sharmarke say they can identify the three navy vessels that pushed back the December 19 boat - by the numbers on their hulls, 88, 83 and 154 - and some RAN members involved. Two sailors from ship 154 "made physical abuses to us". Sharmarke said the captain of No 88 "was rather a good man".
"He claimed, 'It's not up to me, this decision is up to government' and we just waited for the answer from the government as he said."
Last night Immigration Minister Scott Morrison cast further doubt on the asylum-seekers' allegations.
"After first claiming they were tortured, the individuals have now changed their story and are making further unsubstantiated claims against our navy and Customs and Border Protection Service, alleging inappropriate use of force," he said.
"Australians can make up their own minds who they wish to believe. I accept the assurances of our navy and our Customs and Border Protection Service, who routinely put their own lives at risk to protect our borders and save those who try to breach them. I know and trust that our navy and Customs and Border Protection Service act in accordance with their training and would only use force where necessary and appropriate to deal with threatening and non-compliant behaviour.
"There are clear rules and guidelines to govern their behaviour and use of force and they are well trained to act in accordance with these rules. I'll back their professionalism and integrity over the self serving claims of those unhappy that they were denied what the people smugglers promised them."
The asylum-seekers were interviewed yesterday by The Australian and the ABC, which has been at the centre of the domestic controversy over the navy mistreatment allegations.
The four raised some fresh matters, such as alleged use of "teargas" on the January 6 boat - which appears to have been pepper spray - and additional descriptions of the RAN vessels and personnel involved. The interviews failed to yield any corroboration for allegations RAN personnel deliberately burned some asylum-seekers by making them "hold on to a hot engine pipe".
On the alleged use of pepper spray, a spokesman for Mr Morrison said last night Border Protection Command personnel were trained in the use of "personal defensive equipment" and medical assistance was provided if required to anyone overcome by their use.
"The equipment is used, for example, to bring people under control when they are engaged in non-compliant, threatening behaviour to other passengers or crew," the spokesman said. "The government rejects any suggestion that such devices have been used in a manner that was not compliant with standard procedures and training. Any such claim is baseless."
Sharmarke, who was responsible for publicising the most serious allegations about the events on the January 6 boat, was a passenger on the December 19 boat. Yesterday, he seemed unclear about the precise nature of the allegations. Speaking about two other asylum-seekers who had jumped overboard, he claimed at one point that sailors "just physically beat and then forced them to hold the (engine) pipe".
Those men have been transferred to Tanjung Pinang immigration detention centre; Sharmarke conceded later he had no direct knowledge of the claimed incident, which happened on the January 6 boat.
The "hold(ing) on to a hot engine pipe" claim was aired on ABC radio's January 22 AM program, together with an introduction that "new footage appears to back asylum-seekers' claims of mistreatment by the Australian navy".
Additional reporting: Paul Maley, Telly Nathalia

Charges: Mpls. Man Severely Assaulted 18-Month-Old Child « CBS Minnesota

Charges: Mpls. Man Severely Assaulted 18-Month-Old Child « CBS Minnesota

A 23-year-old Minneapolis man is in custody after severely assaulting an 18-month-old child and a woman last week, according to Minneapolis Police.
On the evening of Jan. 25, police officers responded to the report of a domestic assault in progress on the 5700 block of Sander Drive. While responding, officers were notified of a “serious threat” to the toddler at the same location.
When officers arrived, they made contact with a man who resisted officers’ attempts to get into the residence. Once inside, officers located the young girl with severe injuries. The mother of the victim was also located and had also suffered assault injuries.
The young victim was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center and is currently in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with facial injuries, a severely fractured skull, bleeding on the brain and a severe brain injury.
The suspect, identified as Hussein Osman Birre, was arrested after the incident. Police say that as Birre was being taken from the home, he said, “She’s an angel. She’s an angel now.”
Birre was taken to the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center and now faces a felony count of first-degree assault and a misdemeanor count of domestic assault.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Somali community protests over lesbian adoption (From This Is Local London)

Somali community protests over lesbian adoption (From This Is Local London)

More than 50 women from the Somali community took to the streets outside Harrow Civic Centre to protest against an adoption decision they say goes against their religious beliefs.
The women gathered outside Harrow Borough Council's offices in Station Road as the child put up for adoption was due to go to its new family today.
According to the group, the child was due to be adopted by a lesbian couple, which protesters say is against their religious beliefs.
They say the mother and child’s religious beliefs and ethnicity have been ignored by placing the child in the home of the couple.
Protesters say the toddler was taken into care by social services just over a year and a half ago due to the mother's health issues and was put up for adoption in last year.
They are calling for the council to delay the adoption to reconsider the move.
A Harrow Council spokesman said: “Adoption decisions are taken after lengthy and extremely thorough consideration of what is in the child’s best interests and we always strive to identify the best parents possible, and ensure a child is placed as early in life as possible. These are always difficult decisions.
“We have met Somali community representatives in this case and are happy to talk through their concerns.
“In addition the Somali community has offered to work with us on raising the profile of fostering and adoption in their community.”

Former Moonlight Magic bar is still a legal problem for St. Paul | Star Tribune

Former Moonlight Magic bar is still a legal problem for St. Paul | Star Tribune

More than three years after the troublesome Moonlight Magic bar was shut down for good, the vacant building in Frogtown continues to cause legal problems for the city of St. Paul.
The city says the 124-year-old commercial building at 601 Western Av. is hazardous and needs to be demolished. But a Minneapolis couple who bought the building in 2012 say the city is blocking their effort to open a wedding venue in the building because it does not want a Somali business in the neighborhood.
The couple, Ameena Samatar and Alex Jerome, say they did everything the city asked of them, including providing proof of financial ability, submitting work plans and repair bids, but the city still voted to demolish the building in December 2012. Then the couple stopped the action by filing a lawsuit.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear their case to determine if the city can move forward with the demolition. On Jan. 9, the couple filed a separate lawsuit in federal court, claiming discrimination.
“They don’t want the Somali community to be in the building,” Samatar said.
City officials declined to comment on the allegations. But Assistant City Attorney Virginia Palmer said in court documents that the couple’s discrimination claims are “absurd.” Palmer wrote that the city tried to work with Samatar and Jerome for four months, but the couple did not present an acceptable plan to repair the building and correct all deficiencies and did not show they had access to adequate funding.
The two-story brick building, which was built in 1890 and sits across the street from a school, has historically been trouble for the city. Liquor violations, shootings and a beating death outside the Moonlight Magic bar prompted the city to revoke its liquor license in 2010. Jerome and Samatar paid a bank $49,000 for the property in July 2012. Jerome said he was aware that the building had been categorized as a public nuisance, but because he had experience with buying vacant properties, he believed getting the building to code would be relatively simple. They envisioned a wedding hall on the top floor, and the first floor would be an ethnic grocery store or dollar store.
“We work hard as new Americans, and we are not fools. This is our third property,” said Jerome, who owns residential properties in Brooklyn Park and Minneapolis. “We understand this, and I knew exactly what I was getting into.”
The city held a legislative hearing on what to do about the vacant building in August 2012. The city claims in court documents that it did not know Samatar owned the building until she appeared at the hearing.
According to the couple’s lawsuit, the hearing officer, Marcia Moermond, said “this is a joke” when she realized the new owner was Samatar, who was dressed in a Muslim hijab. But the city says in a court filing that Moermond was referring to the fact that Samatar lived in Minneapolis and made a “dismissive comment about Minneapolis, which she then said was a joke.”
The couple said the city made it impossible for them to restore the building because it kept adding to the list of required repairs and changes. In its court filings, the city acknowledges that its estimate of the repairs rose, but only after code inspectors found more problems in the building.
Samatar said they were able to show about $197,800 in available funds, but they were deemed inadequate because some of the funds came from Samatar’s sister.
Samatar said she and her husband decided to fight the city on the demolition because they feel the city is “trashing our money.”
When asked how much the case is costing the city, City Attorney Sara Grewing said: “We are handling this appeal entirely in house, so there are no additional costs to the taxpayers beyond the printing of the brief, which would be a few hundred dollars at most.”
Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028

Edmonton recognizes artists with diversity and trust fund awards (with video)

Edmonton recognizes artists with diversity and trust fund awards (with video)

A Somali performance poet, a Brazilian composer and a Ukrainian visual artist are among the winners of the 2013 Cultural Diversity in the Arts awards supporting artists from abroad who now make their home in Edmonton.
The awards of $7,500, administered by the Edmonton Arts Council, go to musicians, filmmakers, writers, actors and other artists who come to Edmonton and show a strong commitment to continuing their craft here.
Poet Ahmed Ali, a.k.a. “Ahmed Knowmadic,” is one of nine artists who snagged a prize this year. He is a Canadian poetry slam champ and co-founder of the Breath In Poetry collective.
Other winners include Tanzanian children’s book author Tololwa M. Mollel, Chilean composer Raimundo Gonzalez, Zimbabwean musician and art entrepreneur Chakanaka Zinyemba, Colombian media artist and filmmaker Lukas Zapata, Iraqi visual artist and lecturer Mahdi Neahmah, Brazilian composer André Mestre, visual artist Ljubomir Ilic, who is from the former Yugoslavia, and Ukrainian visual artist and printmaker Oksana Movchan. Movchan was the sole female winner.
The arts council also announced the six winners of its 2013 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, which also provides $7,500 to artists in an effort to encourage them to stay in this community. The winners are multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Lyle Bell, who plays in Shout Out Out Out Out, The Wet Secrets and Whitey Houston; musician and instructor Mark Davis, a founding member of roots-rock experimentalists Old Reliable and the musical force behind gothic-dance-rock duo Concealer; visual artist Brenda Malkinson; writer Mary Christa O’Keefe; actress and playwright Isabelle Rousseau and artist Jill Stanton.

Europe in ashes, Africa an oasis: TV show puts immigration in reverse - CNN.com

Europe in ashes, Africa an oasis: TV show puts immigration in reverse - CNN.com

The year is 2063. By now, all of Europe's volcanoes have come to life and erupted, spewing out thick plumes of ash into the atmosphere. Dense black clouds of dust envelop the murky sky, plunging the entire continent into total darkness. The whole of Europe lies in a pile of rubble. There is no sun here, the air is polluted, unbreathable, and chaos has descended -- to survive, one must flee south, to the only place where the sun continues to shine: Africa.
Set five decades from now, Usoni is a Kenya-based TV production that turns the issue of migration to Europe upside down. The futuristic show depicts Africa as mankind's last cradle of hope in the wake of a series of natural disasters.
Usoni follows the compelling story of Ophelia and Ulysse, a young couple who are desperately trying to escape Europe's terrible conditions and head to Africa, the land of the sun that holds the promise of a better future for them and their unborn child.
'A bold cinematic look for Africa'
Setting off from Lampedusa, the Mediterranean port serving as the gateway to the African oasis, the two protagonists embark on an arduous journey fraught with peril and sacrifice as they try to reach Lake Turkana in east Africa.
Usoni creator Marc Rigaudis, a Kenya-based French filmmaker and author, says the show is portraying the reversal of immigration trends against the backdrop of climate change and stagnant economies.
"It's put in the future just to talk and show what is happening now," says Rigaudis. "The message is very strong and universal," he adds. "It's putting the world in front of the mirror, like exposing the injustices of the world for so many centuries -- everything is very symbolic."
Reversing trends
Nothing is more symbolic than setting the story's opening scenes in Lampedusa. The small Italian island on the southern edge of Europe is a frequent destination for refugees seeking to enter EU countries. Each year, tens of thousands of people set out on crammed and rickety wooden boats to cross the rough waters of the Mediterranean Sea, fleeing poverty and conflict in search for a better life.
A new day for Nigerian cinema
Showcasing African film
The journey is dangerous and deadly shipwrecks are common -- more than 300 African migrants died last October after their ship sank off Lampedusa's shores.
"I was looking at those people crossing the sea from Africa, taking so many risks and getting killed in the process," says Rigaudis, explaining how he came up with the idea for Usoni. "If they don't get killed, they come to Europe which supposedly is going to give them a better way of life. Most of the times this is not the reality and their harassment is continuing," he adds.
"This is so unjust, when you think that Europe has made a lot of its wealth and power from places like Africa and now these people -- who are living on one of the richest continents of the world and shouldn't be poor -- have to move because the way things are being done," continues Rigaudis.
"I thought that was so unfair, and then I started thinking it would be interesting if all of a sudden this was reversed."
Changing perceptions
Rigaudis, who's written several books in the past and made films in Japan and Kenya, including a documentary about the last surviving members of the El Molo tribe in Lake Turkana, had originally developed the concept for a feature film.
But when he was appointed last year as film productions director at Nairobi's United States International University (USIU), he decided to give the topic of his film to his students to help them get working in a professional way.
Together, the experienced professor and the energetic students adapted the idea into a TV series and named it Usoni, which means "future" in Swahili. Guided by Rigaudis, the 22-member student crew filmed a 30-minute pilot episode last October and November in locations around Nairobi and Mombasa.
Cherie Lindiwe, the 21-year-old director of Usoni, says the show's concept could resonate with people across the world, not just Africans.
"It's basically a story that people could watch and then form a discussion and critique, giving them the chance to talk about the issues that really matter in the society," she says. "We want to talk to people living abroad, to people living in the West, to change their perceptions in what they think about Africa, and also to give a message of hope to Africans."
While Rigaudis is still planning to turn his idea into a feature film, dubbed "Future," he is also in discussions with Kenyan and international channels about developing it into a full series to air on TV.
One condition, he says, is that this must be an African production, if it eventually gets picked up.
"On top of everything I would like to show on this film, the message I'd want to give to the world is that we can do something like this in Africa," says Rigaudis. "I really want to have the production in Africa, with Africans, instead of having a film about Africa from outside," he adds. "We can make very beautiful films -- there is everything here to make a beautiful cinema."
The pilot episode of Usoni, which was first screened in late November at USIU, will have its premiere Monday at the Alliance Francaise, the French cultural center in Nairobi.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

UN: Somali Asylum Seekers Need International Protection

UN: Somali Asylum Seekers Need International Protection

 The U.N. refugee agency is appealing to countries not to deport Somali asylum seekers to their country of origin.  The UNHCR says the situation in southern and central Somalia remains unsafe and Somalis fleeing those areas are in need of international protection.

According to UNHCR, security in some parts of southern and central Somalia has improved.  But it says continued armed conflict and widespread human rights abuses is forcing many Somalis continue to flee the country.

Spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba says civilians are suffering greatly from the conflict between the government and al-Shabab militants.  She says southern and central Somalia remain very dangerous, and warns asylum seekers who are forcibly returned there risk persecution or serious harm.

“Monthly fatalities fluctuated between 100 and 600 people.  In June last year, fierce fighting resulted in 314 casualties in Kismayo alone.  Civilians are at risk of being killed or wounded in crossfire between government forces and al-Shabab militants as well as by bomb attacks and as bystanders in targeted attacks," she told reporters.

Lejeune-Kaba said there is a perception the situation in Somalia has stabilized because it no longer makes headline news.

She says since an internationally-backed government was established in 2012, many Somalis have returned from years abroad.  They are setting up businesses and working to revive the failed economy.

“But unfortunately, on the ground, we went from a situation where there was open warfare between the government and al-Shabab forces to now, a situation where the al-Shabab tactic is sometimes to drop a bomb and to attack,: she explained.  "So, there are incidents more than there is open war like we used to have and that puts people in danger.  And, that is why we are continuing to see Somalis leaving.”

The UNHCR reports more than 42,000 Somalis sought asylum in neighboring countries and elsewhere last year, but many are sent home.

Lejeune-Kaba says Saudi Arabia recently deported a large number of Somali asylum seekers.  Those who are forcibly sent back are not safe, she noted, especially if they are returned to territory under the control of al-Shabab.

Lejeune-Kaba adds that the militant group continues to commit gross violations of human rights. There are reports of peace activists, community leaders, clan elders and their families being killed, she says.

Street and House numbers in Mogadishu

Street and House numbers in Mogadishu

Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia soon is going to have names on its streets as well as numbers on the doors of its houses, for the first time in the history of the country.  Similar plan is also expected to be implemented in the major towns of the country.
Mayor of the Somali capital Mogadishu, Mahmoud Ahmed Nur, popularly known as ‘Tarsan’ on Sunday inaugurated the program named ‘House numbering and post code system’ a project that attracted warm welcome from the capital’s inhabitants. The inhabitants of the capital welcomed the initiative.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, the Mayor said that this is an important step not only for the modernization of the postal service in the capital, but also for the security of the people and the capital, adding, “the registration of the properties in the capital has been already started.”  The Mayor asked the people of Mogadishu to give  their full cooperation to the project.
Present at the ceremony were all 17 District Commissioners in the capital, the Chairman of Somali Chamber of Commerce, Mohamoud Abdikarim Gabeyre, Members of Parliament, representatives from Women Organiation as well as the elders of Mogadishu.
The Chief of the project, Issa Mohamed Halane, said at the ceremony that the project is sponsored jointly by the Benadir Regional Administration and Somali Business Communities.  He did not mention the starting date of the project.

The capital of Somalia is estimated to have a population of nearly three million inhabitants. It has thousands of dusty Narrow Street, but few have their names engraved on the walls. Some of them bear names given by the Italians like Viale Somalia, Via Cardinale Massaia, Via Roma and some named by the Military Administration such as Via Libera, Via Tanzania, Via Makka al Mukarama, Via Moscow, Via Egypt, Via General Daud, Via Mohamud Harbi etc.
The Mayor told the gathering that some names of the streets will be change with new name. He said, for stance, the street known as Via “Heart” will be replaced by Istanbul Street. During the dictatorial Regime, very few government buildings housing officials and civil servants had numbers.
Email: islow@hiiraan.com

Somalis begin returning home - News - nation.co.ke

Somalis begin returning home - News - nation.co.ke

Thousands of Somali refugees have started returning to their country.
The refugees from Dadaab said they were returning voluntarily following a reduction of food supplies at the camp and resumption of normalcy in parts of their country following the Kenya Defence Forces intervention.
The United Nations, in turn, has scaled down rations at Dadaab refugee camp due to limited resources.
The Nation found some of the refugees arriving on donkey carts at Afmadow in the Jubbaland State after trekking from Dadaab for 12 days.
“We were encouraged to return home after many years due to signs of peace and stability after pacification of parts of Somalia by the KDF,” said Mr Ahmed Jama, who fled to Kenya in 1991 following the fall of dictator Siad Barre.
VOLUNATARY REPATRIATION
However, Mr Jama who left part of his family in Kenya as he monitors the situation in Somalia, said food rations in the camps had reduced since the Kenya Government signed a pact with the UN and Somalia administration for repatriation of refugees.
Most of the asylum seekers interviewed by the Nation said they had been in Kenya for more than 20 years and had made the country their second home.
Afmadow is one of the regions that have been liberated from Al-Shabbab militant group by the KDF under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
Last week, Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia Josphat Maikara called on the Somali federal government to hasten the repatriation of the refugees from Kenya.
He said at the Jubbaland presidential palace that the Somali Government ought to abide by the repatriation agreement.
Mr Maikara said Kenya was committed to helping ensure peace and stability in Somalia and called on the international community to support Amisom’s efforts.
Kenyan forces commander in charge of Sector II in Somalia, Brig Walter Raria, said KDF under Amisom controlled 186,000 square kilometres and had liberated 18 towns.
Plans were afoot to liberate other areas still under Al-Shabaab in Jubba valley including Jamaane, Jillib and Barare, the bread basket of Somalia.
Although Al-Shaabab had been routed, they were still able to regroup, Brig Raria said.
The Kenyan Government has been concerned that the refugee camps in northern Kenya were being used to harbour members of the militant group.
Since an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September, the government fears that Somali nationals pose a greater security threat and is shielding potential perpetrators of similar atrocities.
More than 500,000 Somali refugees in Kenya are required to return home after the tripartite agreement between the UN and the two governments.
Under the deal, the Somalis will be repatriated voluntarily over the next three years.
However, many are reluctant to return home due to security concerns.
REFUGEE TOWNS
The Somalis have sought refuge in Kenya from war and poverty.
Two of the camps they live in, Dadaab and Kakuma, are now so large they are more like towns.
Eastleigh estate in Nairobi has also been nicknamed “Little Mogadishu” because so many Somalis live there.
The refugees fled Somalia after the collapse of the central government in 1991.
Most of the refugees are however reluctant to return home as they feel the country is not yet safe.
They also think that the Somali government could not provide them with the food, healthcare and education they currently receive in the refugee camps.
Many of the refugees were born in camps and have never set foot inside their country.
A new administration for Jubbaland State was inaugurated last week in a bid by the international community to ensure peace and stability in the whole of Somalia.
Headed by President Madobe, the semi-autonomous State where the Kenya Defense Forces are located under the African Union Mission (AMISOM), has 10 Cabinet ministers.

Sundance 2014 Horror Wrap-up | News Article | FEARnet

Sundance 2014 Horror Wrap-up | News Article | FEARnet


While dramas of drum players (Whiplash) and Somali pirates (Fishing without Nets) dominated the actual awards when it ended, the 2014 edition of the Sundance Film Festival was one of the most horror-friendly major fests in a long time. Programmers didn’t just relegate horror to the beloved Midnight slots, placing films with genre themes throughout the line-up, even in the coveted U.S. Competition and Next programs. At every turn, someone was talking about a horror film in Park City, whether it was a debut like Ana-Lily Amanpour’s vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a festival regular like Adam Wingard with The Guest, or competition films Life After Beth, Jamie Marks is Dead, and Cold in July. And even with high-profile flicks like Cooties, What We Do in the Shadows, Killers, and Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, the most-buzzed midnight film was a debut, Jennifer Kent’s excellent The Babadook
Here were the biggest horror stories of Sundance 2014:
The natural inclination of a horror junkie is to check the midnight slate of programming when the Sundance schedule is announced. Last year produced the premieres of V/H/S/2 (then known as S-VHS) and Jim Mickle’s great We Are What We Are. Mickle graduated to the competition section this year with the strong Cold in July, a film that plays like a pulp fiction novel brought to life and stars Michael C. Hall, but one of the V/H/S boys was back on opening night with the world premiere of The Guest, a film that director Adam Wingard explained to me came about after watching The Terminator and Halloween back-to-back. If the hit You’re Next was Wingard playing with the legacy of Wes Craven, The Guest is his riff on the great John Carpenter, and the legendary filmmaker would be proud. A charismatic soldier (Dan Stevens) comes home to the family of one of the fallen heroes with whom he served and quickly becomes a part of the family. Of course, he can’t be trusted. With each film Wingard seems to be growing more confident as a filmmaker and he brings such energy to this piece that it’s sure to have fans when it descends from the mountain air of Park City later this year. It also features the best bar fight you’ve seen in a long time. It’s fun, twisted, and always engaging.
And yet even Wingard’s film kind of felt overshadowed a bit by Jennifer Kent’s stellar The Babadook, a film that falls into the “nothing is scarier than parenthood” genre of works like The Orphanage and The Shining. Essie Davis gave one of the best performances of this year’s fest as Amelia, a single mother to Samuel (Noah Wiseman), whose father died on the way to the hospital on the day Samuel was born. Naturally, this creates an odd blend of grief and joy in the days before Samuel’s birthday. The pair finds a book about a boogeyman named The Babadook, and, well, you can see where this is going. The book foreshadows the darkness that will descend on Amelia and Samuel. Kent tells a relatively straightforward ghost story but she does so with enough humanity and filmmaking energy to keep it entertaining, and, believe it or not, scary. There were no greater “jumps” this year than in Kent’s film, and she actually earns her scares. IFC Midnight picked this up and it will surely be one of the most critically-acclaimed horror flicks of the year.
Speaking of energy, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead has the visceral adrenalin of a Troma movie or Sam Raimi in his DIY days. Remember the first film’s set-up before the Nazi zombies went crazy? Well, forget that. This movie is all action set-piece with more uses for zombie intestines than you thought possible. It’s funny, smart, and with the driven pace of a movie like Evil Dead: Dead by Dawn, another flick that took the set-up of its predecessor and just took it well over the top. Martin Starr nearly steals the piece as the leader of the Zombie Squad, a trio of net nerds obsessed with the undead apocalypse to the point that they may be the only ones who can stop it. Crazy, bloody, and just ridiculous in the ways you want a movie about the undead SS to be, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is a blast.
If Red vs. Dead was the most (enjoyably) ridiculous horror movie of Sundance 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was the most atmospheric and moody. The title is a bit of a bait-and-switch in that you need not be nervous for this solitary female. She’s a vampire (Sheila Vand), gutting her Iranian small town of its most worthless inhabitants. She crosses paths with a James Dean wannabe named Arash (Arash Marandi) and realizes that he may be worth saving. It’s an imperfect work that sometimes feels narratively thin but it’s also one of the most visually striking horror debuts in some time, shot in gorgeous black-and-white.
Lionsgate quickly moved to grab the star-studded Cooties, which premiered at the Egyptian ten years to the night that Saw first took the world by storm. Also featuring a script co-written by Leigh Whannell (who also appears in a small role), the horror-comedy could be called Recess of the Living Dead. Wood plays a substitute teacher named Clint who gets a job at his local elementary school on the day that a bad chicken nugget turns all the wee ones into brain eaters. Other teachers are nicely filled out by Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Nasim Pedrad, Jack McBrayer, and more in a film that promises gleeful, Romero-esque insanity and only half-delivers. When it works, like when Wilson is bashing a kid’s head in with a fire extinguisher, Cooties is twisted fun.
For most fests, the films mentioned above would be more than enough to call it a good year for horror fans. It was really just the beginning. Dane Dehaan and Aubrey Plaza star in the zombie romance Life After Beth, which earned mixed reviews but praise for its fearless stars. The Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto) brought the brutal Killers to the midnight section; Jemaine Clement made his directorial debut with a bloodsucker mockumentary called What We Do in the Shadows; the “arthouse Sixth Sense” approach of Jamie Marks is Dead had some fans in competition; Finally, while it’s not traditional horror, Jeremy Saulnier’s rightfully beloved Blue Ruin contained some of the most WTF shocks of Sundance 2014. Releasing in most markets in March or April, it’s the first great Sundance 2014 horror flick you’ll probably be able to catch. It won’t be the last.

Germany slams Swedish Somali bandy team - The Local

Germany slams Swedish Somali bandy team - The Local

"I am so proud of the guys," captain Aboi Abdiirahiin told the TT news agency on Monday after the team lost to Germany by 22-1. "But I thought we'd lose by 40-0, or more." 
Borlänge municipality has helped the Somali refugees pick up their clubs, despite the rarity of ice in their home country.

"Soccer is easier," high school student Ahmed Hussein told the AFP news agency last year as his team began training for their world-cup debut. "Everyone can play football, but ice-skating... It can be learned, of course, but it requires time and patience."

Leaving war-torn Somalia as a refugee four years ago, the now 18-year-old never imagined life as a bandy player.

Bandy, in which teams of 11 players reach extreme speeds on football pitch-sized ice fields, goes back more than a century, but it has caught on in only a handful of countries. The sport is dominated by A-group nations Sweden and Russia, relegating an ice hockey superpower like Canada to the B group.

On Tuesday, the players took to the ice against Germany, but regardless of result, team captain was delighted that the team of newbies scored just one goal.
"I was so happy that we got that goal, it feels like we can play bandy now," he told TT.
It all started as an integration project, initiated by team manager Patrik Andersson early this year. He said he and his friends were out on a pub crawl when they began discussing how to work together on the challenges faced by Borlänge, an old industrial town 200 kilometres west of Stockholm.
Key among these challenges was the steady growth of the immigrant population, with the Somali community made up mostly of refugees now numbering 2,000 of a total population of 50,000.
Andersson, recounting how the idea of the bandy team gradually took form, said he thought creating bridges between coexisting cultures "would make Borlänge a good city to live in".
The vision is whole-heartedly embraced, and partly financed, by the municipal government, which sees the immigrants as an asset that can help counterbalance the gradual ageing of the town's population, according to municipal official Jan-Olof Lundberg.
"On the labour market, there won't be enough labour, so it's very good from that aspect," Lundberg told AFP. 
AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Slain Shabab Member Was in Group's Intel Unit - ABC News

Slain Shabab Member Was in Group's Intel Unit - ABC News

Masked al-Shabab fighters retrieved bits of flesh overnight from a burned-out car that had been hit by a U.S. missile and in which a member of the armed Islamic group's intelligence unit died, a commander in the group said Monday.
Sahal Iskudhuq was killed in Sunday's attack and was with al-Shabab's intelligence unit, helping choose targets for bombings and to plan attacks, a commander in the al-Qaida-linked group told The Associated Press. There was no immediate indication that Iskudhuq had been involved in planning the September attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Iskudhuq had previously been in charge of kidnappings of foreigners and ransom deals for the al-Qaida-linked insurgent group, said the al-Shabab commander, Abu Mohamed. Iskudhuq was also a trusted friend of the group's spiritual leader and top commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane.
Somali officials said they believe the missile was fired from a drone. The U.S. has carried out drone attacks in Somalia before, though not nearly as frequently as in Pakistan and a few other places. Al-Shabab would "retaliate with a bigger blow and pain against the enemy," Mohamed said.
Some al-Shabab fighters went to the scene of the missile strike in Hawai village and chanted "God is great" as they put the remains in sacks, Mohamed said. They then sped away in pickup trucks to bury the men. Mohamed, who visited the scene, said by phone that Iskudhuq's driver was also killed when a missile hit their car in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, and that the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
Two U.S. military officials confirmed there was a missile strike against a senior al-Shabab leader in Somalia on Sunday. The officials wouldn't identify the target and one of them said U.S. intelligence is still "assessing the effectiveness of the strike."
Somalia's president said the killing is "another blow" to the Islamic rebels who have been pushed back by African Union troops. President Hassan Sheik Mohamud said on Twitter late Sunday that Somalia's government is working with its partners to eliminate the al-Qaida-linked militants from Somalia.
Last week more than 4,000 troops from neighboring Ethiopia officially joined a peacekeeping force under the African Union banner, attracting immediate calls from al-Shabab for the Ethiopians to be resisted. Many Somalis resent Ethiopia's military because of alleged abuses committed during previous operations in Somalia.
Al-Shabab has been in decline in Somalia since being ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, by African Union forces in 2011, and now the group's leaders also are being targeted by missiles fired by U.S. drones that occasionally fly over the Horn of Africa nation.
Last October a U.S. military strike hit a vehicle carrying senior members of al-Shabab, killing its top explosives expert. Earlier that month, U.S. Navy SEALs had raided a coastal Somali town to take down a Kenyan al-Shabab member. The SEALs withdrew before capturing or killing their target — Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, known as Ikrima — who was identified as the lead planner of a plot by al-Shabab to attack Kenya's parliament building and the United Nations office in capital, Nairobi, in 2011 and 2012.
After being ousted from Somalia's capital by African Union forces in 2011, al-Shabab is now mostly active in Somalia's rural regions. It is still able to launch lethal attacks — often involving militants on suicide missions — in Mogadishu as well as across the border.
Neighboring Kenya, which has troops among the African Union force in Somalia, was the scene of an attack in September when gunmen attacked Nairobi's upscale Westgate Mall with guns and grenades, killing at least 67 people.

John Hoffmire: Incredible reduction in infant mortality provides reason for hope | Deseret News

Somalia: Incredible reduction in infant mortality provides reason for hope | Deseret News

Around the world, on average, 18,000 children under the age of 5 died every day in 2012. While this tragic fact is definitely cause for concern, it may also provide room for optimism. This is only half the number of under-5 deaths compared to 1990. With the global population constantly growing over the past two decades, the reduction in infant mortality provides reason for hope going forward.
This may surprise some who think that prospects for improvement are dim and progress is slow. Increasing globalization and heightened access to media outlets has kept the plight of children, as well as adults, across the globe consistently before our eyes. The education brought about by exposure to the problems is surely beneficial, but it may also create the impression that conditions are only worsening.
The improving numbers may not be surprising to those who have tracked the United Nations Millennial Development Goals since their inception in 2000. The eight goals address issues such as poverty reduction, disease prevention and education. The fourth goal focuses on infant and child mortality, aiming for a two-thirds reduction of under-5 deaths from 1990 to 2015.
Although the data show that we will likely fall short of the fourth goal's target of 2015, the improvements are nonetheless remarkable. Success stories include those that are told about Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Timor-Leste and the United Republic of Tanzania all having lowered under-5 mortality rates by two-thirds or more since 1990.
The good news continues as we note that success has been widespread. Every region except Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania has reduced under-5 mortality by more than 50 percent.
As the overall rate has declined, the largest reduction has occurred in deaths among those whose ages were from 2 months to 5 years old. In many cases, deaths occurring at these ages are largely preventable through vaccines and disease prevention made possible by access to basic health care. Since 2000, the measles vaccine has averted roughly 10 million under-5 deaths alone.
Unfortunately, Sub-Saharan Africa still witnesses the highest under-5 mortality rate at 98 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 1990, the global rate also stood at roughly one in 10, demonstrating that Sub-Saharan Africa lags current trends by roughly 20 years.
However, there is also good news to be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. The under-5 mortality rate as measured from 1990 to 1995 was reduced at an average of 0.8 percent annually, but that rate increased to 4.1 percent from 2005 to 2012.
As the eradication of under-5 mortalities advances, full resolution of the remaining problem becomes more targeted, albeit not easier.
India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China account for roughly half of under-5 deaths, with India (22 percent) and Nigeria (13 percent) together comprising more than a third.
While causes are varied, there are many that are recognizable. They include pneumonia, preterm and intraterm birth complications, diarrhea and malaria. Forty-five percent of all under-5 deaths are still attributable to malnutrition.
Credit for the progress goes to increasingly healthy and educated parents, supported by the efforts of countless NGOs, innovative companies and government organizations that fight to defend the most vulnerable of the world’s citizens.
Progress should be applauded. And although we have an immense amount of work still to accomplish, perhaps a pause to acknowledge where we have come from provides a much-needed boost of positive energy as we continue to address challenges related to the promotion of future generations’ health.

John Hoffmire teaches at SaÏd Business School at the University of Oxford. Adam Turville is an economic analyst at the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and a graduate of Brigham Young University.

Telecom operators comply with Al Shabaab order | IT News Africa- Africa's Technology News Leader

Telecom operators comply with Al Shabaab order | IT News Africa- Africa's Technology News Leader

Two weeks ago the militant group Al Shabaab ordered that telecommunications companies in Somalia immediately shut down their network of internet service. Operators in the country’s central and southern areas have now heeded the call, and discontinued their services.

Al-Shabaab has banned the use of internet through mobile handsets and fibre optic cables in Somalia (image credit:http://moonofthesouth.com)
Al-Shabaab has banned the use of internet through mobile handsets and fibre optic cables in Somalia (image credit:http://moonofthesouth.com)

Somali analyst Abdi Aynte believes that the move by Al Shabaab is probably one out of fear that the technology can be used to track their movements and top leaders. “The most important one is that they are afraid that this technology will be used to track some of their top fighters as the operations of drones permeate in the areas that al Shabaab controls in South and Central Somalia,” he said.
According to Hiraan Online news site, “residents in these areas reported missing signals even as the militia was spotted checking mobile phones for any internet connections in areas they control.” The website also reports that “Al Shabaab militants also entered telecom companies and ordered them to shut down internet provision.”
The rebel group made the announcement during a broadcast on 9 January by a radio station affiliated with the group, and in a statement issued to local media. “Any individual or company that is found not following the order will be considered to be working with the enemy and they will be dealt with in accordance Sharia law,” the statement read.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Official: U.S. airstrike in Somalia targets suspected militant leader - CNN.com

Official: U.S. airstrike in Somalia targets suspected militant leader - CNN.com

The U.S. military conducted an airstrike in southern Somalia on Sunday against a suspected militant leader, a U.S. military official told CNN.
The target was described by the official as a "senior leader" affiliated with al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia.
The United States has not yet been able to determine whether the target was killed, the official said.
Last October, the elite U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six aborted a pre-dawn raid in southern Somalia to capture Al-Shabaab leader Ikrima after an intense firefight prevented them from reliably taking him alive, a senior U.S. official told CNN at the time.
In a second raid that same weekend, members of the U.S. Army Delta Force captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda operative wanted for his alleged role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, during an operation in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
The U.S. military official said Sunday's strike involved missiles. No U.S. troops were on the ground.
Al-Shabaab, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, has a relationship with al Qaeda that goes back several years. In 2012, the two groups effectively merged, said CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.
Al-Shabaab hopes to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state but has launched attacks in other countries as well.
In 2010, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, amid crowds of soccer fans watching televised screenings of the World Cup final. The bombings left 74 people dead.
The group said at the time the attacks were retaliation for Ugandan participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM. One AMISOM goal is to support Somali government forces in cracking down on Al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab has also mounted many smaller attacks against targets in Kenya, hurling hand grenades into nightclubs, restaurants and schools. The group has also kidnapped tourists and aid workers.
The group claimed responsibility for the September siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi on September 21 that killed at least 67 people.
Al-Shabaab said the attack was retaliation for Kenya's involvement in the African Union effort against the group.
In recent months, Al-Shabaab's haven in south-central Somalia has been increasingly squeezed as Kenyan forces fight the group from the south and African Union forces come down from Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Security agencies ignored warning of terrorist attack on two occasions - News - nation.co.ke

Security agencies ignored warning of terrorist attack on two occasions - News - nation.co.ke

It is now official: security agencies ignored the warning of an impending terrorist attack two times before the horrific Westgate massacre that killed 67 people and left close to 200 others wounded.
One of the warnings was issued just 19 days to the attack on September 21 last year, and the other at the beginning of August. Shockingly, police did not move to secure the identified targets.
It is also official that GSU commandos had managed to corner the terrorists who struck at the upscale mall and that the change-over to the military bungled the operation.
These are some of the highlights of a report by two parliamentary committees which jointly investigated the mid-morning attack at the Westlands mall that left Kenya and the world in shock.
The report seen by the Sunday Nation says the attack could have been prevented had security agencies acted on intelligence information in 2012.
Chillingly, an intelligence report warned about an impending attack on Westgate exactly a year to the day of the attack. The briefing, dated September 21, 2012, said Somali militants from the al-Shabaab terror group were planning to attack the Israeli-owned mall.
“Another intelligence briefing in February 2013 warned of attacks like those that happened in Mumbai in late 2008, where the operatives storm a building with guns and grenades and probably hold hostages. It is unclear what measures were put in place to prevent the attacks,” says the report.
The warnings just before the attack were filed on August 6 and September 2.
“There was general information on the impending terror attack on all the malls and other strategic Western interests, especially in Nairobi. The information was made available to the relevant security officers in Nairobi County on August 6, 2013 and on September 2, 2013,” says the report of the Joint Committee of National Security and Defence and Foreign Relations.
The committee was co-chaired by MPs Asman Kamama and Ndung’u Gethenji, and tabled the report just before Parliament adjourned in December.
Experts who appeared before the committee said the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers should not have been deployed at the mall because the GSU Recce squad had already cornered the terrorists by the time soldiers arrived at the scene.
“Involvement of the military should be a last resort decision, especially if there is external threat to a nation’s security. The presidential directive to have the Inspector-General to take command of the Westgate Mall operation was proper. The Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces should have ordinarily consulted with the Inspector-General of Police and should have withheld the deployment of KDF,” experts told the MPs inquiring into the attack.
On Saturday, the Leader of Majority in Parliament, Mr Aden Duale, said the report will be discussed when Parliament re-opens next month.
“The report was tabled in December. We will ensure the House Business Committee gives it priority during the first few days of re-opening of Parliament. The last verdict on the report will be from the House to amend and adopt. I urge members to think about Kenya during the debate,” he said.
NEW PHENOMENON
Mr Duale, who is the Garissa Township MP, urged MPs to look at the report with Kenya’s future in mind.
“Terrorism is a new phenomenon. As a country, we must put in place measures and structures that ensure Westgate does not happen again in Kenya. That is why the House must look at this report keenly,” said Mr Duale in a telephone interview.
The report confirmed earlier claims that when the terror alerts were sounded, the police were lethargic and unresponsive.
“There was general laxity and unresponsiveness among the police over terror alerts within Nairobi,” says the report.
However, during their investigations, Gigiri police chief Vitalis Otieno told MPs that he had no prior knowledge of the attacks.
The report states that Mr Otieno discounted claims that any terrorism alerts were passed on to them.
“The OCPD informed the members that he had no such information and that when he got posted (to Gigiri) he met the management of the mall over security issues and was also taken through the mall to carry out security assessments,” says the report.
Last year, intelligence reports that were leaked to the media showed that Cabinet Secretaries Julius Rotich (Treasury), Joseph ole Lenku (Interior), Amina Mohammed (Foreign Affairs), Raychelle Omamo (Defence) and KDF chief General Julius Karangi were warned that al-Shabaab fighters were plotting an attack in Nairobi.
The parliamentary report says failure to heed the warnings resulted in the Mumbai-style attack at the mall.
The MPs say that although four terror suspects have been identified, the number of terrorists who took part in the attack remains unknown.
However, the report confirms the suspects seen on CCTV shooting shoppers as Abu Baraal, Al Sudani, Omar Naban and Khatab Al Kene.
“On Saturday, September 21, 2013, attackers believed to be about 10 or 15 (number yet to be ascertained) stormed Westgate mall and randomly started shooting. About five armed attackers burst through one of the main entrances, guns blazing, while another four entered through an underground parking lot. Explosives also went off in the building causing some floors to cave in. It is not clear who between the terrorists and the security forces set off the explosions,” says the report.
The four named suspects are believed to have died in the attack. Naban was a relative of Saleh Ali Naban, who was killed in 2009 after US commandos raided an al-Qaeda hideout in Somalia. Saleh Naban was also involved in the 1998 US embassy and Kikambala hotel bombings.
The MPs also confirmed earlier reports that the Westgate operation was bungled from the outset.
“During the siege, the Recce Company from the General Service Unit (GSU) had contained the terrorists in one corner of the Westgate mall. There was, however, poor coordination by the multiagency forces during the operation. The change-over between the Kenya Defence Forces and the police was uncoordinated, which calls for the establishment of an incident Command Control Protocol,” says the report.
The report also talks about uncoordinated reports emanating from the command centre in the aftermath of the siege.
“There was a lot of miscommunication surrounding the aftermath of the Westgate terror attack going by the reports that the terrorists might have used the underground tunnel reported in the media as the escape route,” says the report.
The report upholds claims that KDF soldiers looted businesses at the ruined shopping mall.
“There was looting of business premises within the mall. Action has already been taken on three Kenya Defence Forces soldiers, one Administration Police officer, one Anti-Terror Police Unit officer and one Fire Brigade personnel involved in the looting incident,” details the report.
KDF has flipped-flopped on this issue that soiled its standing in the public eye. When the reports first emerged, KDF denied the claims. Even Mr Kamama and Mr Gethenji defended the soldiers and Gen Karangi, dismissing the reports as false.
SPIN DOCTOR
And when CCTV clips of soldiers leaving the smouldering mall with full shopping bags were broadcast and published, KDF spin doctors claimed the soldiers were helping themselves to water after a day’s work. Under pressure from the public, KDF retreated and charged some officers in Nakuru.
The report also talks about systemic corruption in the immigration, department of refugee affairs and registration of persons. The latter is in charge of issuing identity cards.
“There is nationwide systemic failure on the part of the Immigration Services Department, Department of Refugee Affairs; and Registration of Persons Department attributed to corruption at the border control points and registration centres, mainly in Nairobi, Coast and North Eastern areas,” says the report.
However, it does not say whether the terrorists rented offices at the mall before the attack.
If adopted by the House, the report is likely to spark debate on the relationship between the various security agencies and their preparedness to defend the country.
However, the report does not pin-point individual leaders who may have failed to execute their mandate before, during or after the attack.

Somali president says his govt bought weapons from abroad

Somali president says his govt bought weapons from abroad

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheik Mahmoud has for the first time disclosed that his government bought weapons from some unspecified countries after the United Nations Security Council partially lifted the arms embargo on Somalia last year.

In an interview with VOA Somali service, president Mahmoud said that the lifting of the UN arms embargo on the country was necessary to defeat al Qaeda-linked Islamists.
“This move has helped us to equip our forces with the kind of arms they needed and we are now planning to buy other weapons in a bid to get complete military equipment for the Somali forces” President Hassan Sheik noted during a prolonged interview with VOA Somali service on Saturday.
On the 6th of March 2013, the United Nations Security council partially lifted the arms embargo imposed on Somalia on 23 January 1992 under the UN Security Council resolution 733, a move that was intended to help quell the escalation of civil wars in the country by the time.
During the interview, the president spoke about the fate of former Al Shabaab member, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys who has been in the government custody since mid last year.
“Sheik Hassan is being held in a safer place, he hasn’t yet changed his tune---the government will announce its decision about the case of Sheik Hassan after security services have completed their process of questioning him” the president said.
Sheik Aweys, a former Somali army colonel surrendered to the government in June 2013 amid worsening misunderstanding amongst the top leaders of Al Shabaab group that finally resulted in the killing of some key figures.
Email: islow@hiiraan.com

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Phone data cut after Somali militant threat

Phone data cut after Somali militant threat

Residents in parts of Somalia under militant control say at least one cellular telephone company has shut down data services in response to a threat from al-Qaida-linked extremists.
Al-Shabab gave phone companies until Friday to close down data services over fears the U.S. can tap into data and target militants.
Liban Farah, a resident in an al-Shabab-controlled area, said militants started searching phones on Saturday to see if they are receiving data. Farah said offenders are being jailed.
Several residents who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisal attacks said Hormuud shut down its data service. It's not clear if a second, smaller company did the same.
People can make calls and send text messages but cannot receive email or access the Internet.
Data is still available in government-held areas.

Cedar-Riverside raises money for Somali fire survivors

Cedar-Riverside raises money for Somali fire survivors

The Cedar-Riverside community came together on Friday night to raise money for the survivors of the New Year's Day explosion and fire.
The event was sponsored by the Cedar Cultural Center, Augsburg College and WFAI radio.
An initial $20,000 to $25,000 that was raised to assist the victims displaced from the fire has been exhausted. Organizers hoped to raise an additional $10,000 on Friday.
"In every tragedy we have a culture in Minnesota, especially in this neighborhood, where people come together," said Abdirizak Bihi, Director of the Somali Education Center and organizer of the fundraising event. "So, a lot of community members, all diverse communities will come together to share the grief and also to raise some money for the victims."
Assistant Fire Chief Cherie Penn said the fire is still under investigation and there is no official cause as of yet. Bihi said the community is waiting and hoping they will get an answer soon.
"The West Bank, Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood has a very long history of the community working together," said Michael Rossetto, Marketing Director for the Cedar Cultural Center. "You know, there's a number of local community-run businesses here, a lot of nonprofits in the neighborhood."
Bihi said he believes there are still two victims hospitalized at the Hennepin County Medical Center. He said priority "No. 1" is housing for those displaced by the blaze. The ground-floor mosque in the three-story building was damaged and services are being held at the nearby Brian Coyle Center.
Palmer's bar, which hosted some of the victims immediately after the fire, was closed for five days because of fears about the safety of the adjoining building. The bar has since reopened.
Another fundraiser for the victims is planned for Saturday night at the Seward Church.