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Friday, February 28, 2014

BBC News - Somali community in Wales: Well-integrated or not?

BBC News - Somali community in Wales: Well-integrated or not?



Net UK migration increased to 212,000 in the year to September 2013, pushing it further away from the Conservatives' target of less than 100,000.

For over 100 years, there has been a vibrant Somali community in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.

BBC's Alex Jakana visited them to find out how well they have integrated into their adopted country after more than a century living there.

Somali youth to mentor their peers with Gawker funds

Somali youth to mentor their peers with Gawker funds

Abdulrahman Elmi is leading a group of young Canadian-Somali leaders to mentor north Etobicoke youth away from the pull of drugs, gangs and dropping out of school.
It is urgent and important work made possible through a $46,000 share of U.S.-based website Gawker’s $200,000 crowd-sourced money from its online “Crackstarter” campaign to buy the now-infamous video in which Mayor Rob Ford allegedly smokes crack cocaine from a glass pipe.
The Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke was one of four Ontario organizations that got a split of the money, which it is using to operate a two-year youth leadership program aimed at steering high school, and especially elementary, students toward college and university and away from drugs and gangs.
“A lot of kids need the positive role model,” said Elmi, 23, a York University environmental management graduate. “We can take something negative and turn it into a positive. Change the issues of drugs and gangs and violence and offer role models and leadership and put a name on it and be proud of it.”
Many of the leader-mentors are university graduates or enrolled in university.
“Kids will think, ‘if they can do it, I can do it too.’ Growing up in a priority neighbourhood, you can go to university and work or you can take the easy way out,” said Elmi, who was hired in December as the program’s co-ordinator.
Elmi acknowledges ‘the easy way out’ refers to a life of drugs, and potentially gangs.
The mentoring program is expected to enrol as many as 40 kids ages nine to 16 with as many as a dozen older youth mentors.
Three nights a week after school, kids will get homework help, can discuss life challenges, and engage in activities they enjoy, whether basketball, soccer or art for example. The hours will change in the summer.
While the program is geared to Canadian-Somali children, it is open to kids of all ethnic backgrounds.
APPLICATIONS BEING ACCEPTED
Scheduled to start in April, the program is currently accepting applications from parents to enrol their pre-teens and teens. It is also accepting donations to help with program costs. Call the association at 416-742-4601 for more information.
Murder is no stranger to the Canadian-Somali communities in Ontario and Alberta. Victims have been young men born in Canada to families, often a single mother, who fled Somali’s civil war.
Last June, police raided homes in Etobicoke, Windsor and Alberta seizing guns, drugs and cash as part of a year-long investigation called Project Traveller. Many of the 60 or so men arrested were from a cluster of high-rise buildings on Dixon Road in north Etobicoke known as Little Mogadishu.
Elmi said the program offers the opportunity to create a positive out of the unflattering light cast on the Canadian-Somali community after the video and Project Traveller arrests.
“It gives kids someone to talk to if they have problems,” Elmi said. “They can ask us, ‘what should I do’. There will be lighter moments, like basketball and activities outside. We want them to feel comfortable. If they’re not having an easy time at home, we want them to feel this is their home.”
Mohamoud, 20, called the program an “investment” in area youth.
The program offers an opportunity to help grow youths’ self-esteem, suggested Hanad Jibril, 20.
“All these kids see the environment they live in. They think people have forgotten about them, that people have better lives than them. Now we can tell them, ‘people care about you, too.’” Jibril said.
Osman Ali founded the Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke 26 years ago in response to language and cultural barriers then facing the local Somali community, often women and children who fled Somali’s deadly 1991 civil war.
“I have a passion for it. It was the first Somali organization in Canada,” said Ali, the organization’s executive director.
In recent years, Ali has knocked on the doors of all three levels of government, and submitted numerous applications to grow the agency’s youth programs.
But no money came – until Gawker.
“Isn’t it ironic?” asked Ali, recently retired from his career as an electronic engineer with Bell Canada. “A blogger in the United States of America based in New York looks at our application, the needs of the community here, the issues with drugs and drop-outs especially the boys, and is sympathetic to us and gives us money.
“Where is our own government — all levels of government?”
Ali said he is excited and encouraged to hand the reins over to his young leaders to help the youngest generation of Canadian-Somalis and other local children in need.
“Now you see the youth taking over. They’re doing the job,” he said of his young mentors. “They make my life very easy. They just need a little coaching sometimes. I’m so proud of them.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Experts raise alarm over lack of advancement of written Somali language - Sabahionline.com

Experts raise alarm over lack of advancement of written Somali language - Sabahionline.com

Somali language experts are calling on educational institutions and the government to help expand the use of the written language, as many schools in the country do not use an official language curriculum.
The current Somali alphabet is based on a Latin script adapted by Shire Jama Ahmed. It was chosen among 18 competing scripts as Somalia's official script in 1972.
Immediately after its adoption, the government of Mohamed Siad Barre began an aggressive literacy campaign to teach citizens the new alphabet and promote its widespread use.
But more than 40 years later, language and education experts say the Somali language has suffered considerable setbacks in its written form due to the collapse of the government, subsequent decades of war and the downfall of institutions of higher education using Somali for instruction.
There is no fear that the spoken language will become extinct since the number of Somali speakers is increasing throughout East Africa, said Professor Mustafa Abdullahi Feynus, a researcher and member of the Intergovernmental Academy of Somali Language (AGA) who teaches media and journalism studies at Mogadishu University.
The challenge, he said, is in the proliferation of the written language because it is has not been the official language of school instruction since the civil war, and because there has not been sufficient development of books to teach students fundamentals such as grammar and spelling since then.
"No one is producing the educational tools of the Somali language. Therefore, the number of children learning [how to properly write] Somali will be very small," he told Sabahi. "The books should have been developed because academic books are renewed once every five years in the rest of the world."
In addition, he said, schools in Somalia do not have an advanced language curriculum.
After the collapse of Somalia's central government in 1991, thousands of private schools emerged to fill the gap left by the decimated state-owned schools, however a lack of oversight and a standard curriculum has resulted in disparities in the quality of education.
A national Somali language curriculum and more academic institutions that conduct research and build on the work done in the 1970s and 1980s to develop Somali language standards -- such as updating Somali dictionaries with the correct use and spelling of technical and science vocabulary -- are needed to expand and solidify the standard use of the written language, Feynus said.
He said the Regional Somali Language Academy, which was opened in Djibouti last June, is one organisation that is doing such work.

Developing the Somali language

Pen International's Somali Centre, which promotes reading and writing in Somali and organises literary programmes, held an event at Mogadishu's Amira Hotel on February 20th, one day before International Mother Language Day, to raise awareness and celebrate the history of the Somali language and script.
The event hosted linguistic scholars and other people who are interested expanding the use of written Somali.
Somali Pen Chairman Abdinasir Moalim Yusuf told Sabahi they are making great efforts to strengthen the Somali language.
"Somali Pen used the event of the International Mother Language Day for intellectual discussions, a book show and trainings for creative people such as journalists, poets, writers and artists while rewarding the individuals and organisations that take part in spreading the language," he said.
Ahmed Mohamed Dhiisow, a Somali writer and editor of Mogadishu-based Hamar newspaper who attended the event, said young journalists grossly violate the rules of writing, making the language hard to understand.
"They do not get trainings on the rules of writing. Also, some websites do not have editors and the person who writes the story is the one who uploads it onto the site," Dhiisow told Sabahi. "It happens that Somali journalists take trainings in other languages that they are interested in, but each person uses the Somali language as he pleases."
Amin Yusuf Khasare, a veteran journalist, writer and editor of the website SomaliTalk, had the same criticism and said the country was dealing with a lack of literate people.
"The many newspapers that used to get published have been displaced by [radio stations], which transmit news on the airwaves as they please without looking at the rules [of the language] and grammar," he told Sabahi.
"The airwaves of Mogadishu have about 30 radio stations compared to only three newspapers that get published," he said. "This has lowered writing and reading skills."
For his part, Yusuf said Pen International's Somali Centre is working to engage all Somalis in restoring the proper use of the written language.
"We want everyone to do their part in advancing the Somali language," he told Sabahi. "Our goal is to provide training to all people who are activists on matters related to language. We are also planning competitions related on how to improve the language."

Mystery shrouds 'Captain Phillips' ship deaths | NEWS.GNOM.ES

Mystery shrouds 'Captain Phillips' ship deaths | NEWS.GNOM.ES



STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Questions surround deaths of former Navy SEALs working as security officers
  • Their bodies were found in a cabin with syringe and traces of heroin
  • Police say cause of death was “respiratory failure”
  • Bodily fluid samples will be analyzed further
(CNN) — The container ship Maersk Alabama has seen a lot of drama.
It was attacked in 2009 by four armed Somali pirates, who took the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, hostage on a lifeboat. That gripping tale came to Hollywood in the form of the 2013 film “Captain Phillips.”
The ship survived another pirate attack in 2009 and yet another attempt to board the vessel in 2011.
And now: Two former Navy SEALs, hired as security officers on the 500-foot vessel, were found dead aboard.



Seychelles police say the autopsy found the cause of death to be “respiratory failure, with suspicion of myocardial infarction (heart attack).” The presence of a syringe and traces of heroin in the cabin have led to a suspicion of drug use, police said.
More than a week after their bodies were discovered, many questions surround the deaths of Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, both 44 years old. Why did they die together? How did the drugs and syringe get into their cabin? What series of events contributed to their deaths?
Such questions are made more mysterious by friends, family and others who knew the men and told the New York Times that after their years in the military, they had readjusted well to civilian life.
The night before their bodies were discovered, the men went to two bars, followed by two casinos, the New York Times reported, in Port of Victoria, Seychelles. New York Times reporter Ian Urbina told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin that according to staff where the men are said to have been on that night out, Reynolds and Kennedy were “outgoing” and “having a great time” and drank tequila shots and vodka with sailors from New Zealand.
“The two (former) Navy SEALs ended up closing that (second) casino and were politely asked to go at the end of the evening,” Urbina said.
Surveillance images indicate that they met two women in the hall in front of the second casino and “walked down a dark corridor” with them, Urbina said.
A colleague who had gone to check in with one of the men in a cabin found them at 4:30 p.m. February 18, Seychelles police said.
“It’s bizarre. Of course, it’s a shock. They’re all great guys,” said Tom Rothrauff, president of Trident Group, a Virginia-based maritime security services firm that employed them. “I’m absolutely clueless as to what happened.”
Although substance abuse is a known problem among veterans, acquaintances of Reynolds’ and Kennedy’s told the New York Times they were shocked at the idea that either man had used heroin.
“The description of the two men from friends and family was in stark contrast to what sounded like a pretty hard partying night,” Urbina said.
A neighbor of Reynolds’, Monika Connelly, told the Times that the Reynoldses did not drink alcohol. Another neighbor, Paul Bell, called them “church people.”
Both Reynolds and Kennedy had children and “seemed to be family men,” Urbina said.
Bodily fluid samples from the two men are being sent to Mauritius for further analysis “to establish if they had consumed a substance which may have induced these events,” Seychelles police said in a statement.
Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Frederick, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said the service was investigating the deaths, as required by American law. But he said the deaths “do not appear to be criminal in nature, related to vessel operations, the material condition of the ship or their duties as security personnel.”
The ship arrived in the Seychelles on February 16 with a 24-man crew. It was expected to leave two days later.
The Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, has one of the highest rates of injection drug use in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (PDF), with 2.3% of the population engaging in this behavior.
Kevin N. Speers, a senior director for Maersk Line, said in a statement that the security contractors boarded the vessel January 29 and that their deaths were “not related to vessel operations or their duties as security personnel.”
The Maersk Alabama is “persistently in high-risk areas since she provides feeder service to the east coast of Africa,” Speers said in a statement.
“Contracted security is part of anti-piracy protection plans to safeguard crews and vessels,” Speers said.
But according to The New York Times, Reynolds and Kennedy told friends that on the open sea, the real enemy is boredom.
Autopsy: Men on Maersk had respiratory failure, suspected heart attacks
CNN’s Michael Martinez, Saad Abedine, Khushbu Shah, Tom Cohen and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

American fugitive arrested at border; was on Toronto’s most wanted list | Metro

American fugitive arrested at border; was on Toronto’s most wanted list | Metro


A Somali man wanted for two counts of rape and a single charge of sodomy in the United States was arrested by U.S. customs officers in Niagara Falls on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Abdinasir Abdi, 27, a citizen of Somalia and permanent resident of the United States, was arrested while trying to enter the United States on foot at the Rainbow Bridge.
He was wanted by the St. Louis Police Department and was also listed as one of 10 people on the Toronto Police Fugitive Squad’s most wanted list.

Somali government and UN sign co-operative pact

Somali government and UN sign co-operative pact

The federal government of Somalia on Wednesday signed a cooperative deal to strengthen bilateral ties between the United Nations and the federal government of Somalia.

Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud attended the signing of the agreement which was signed for Somalia by the Foreign Minister Abdirahman Duale Beyle, while UN Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, signed on the behalf of the United Nations.

“I would like to thank members of the committees from the UN and the Somali government—this agreement will help consolidate the cooperation between Somalia and the United Nations and we are very proud of it,” President Hassan Sheik Mahmoud told the media after the agreement was signed in a ceremony at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.
The Somali President also noted that the federal government of Somalia was fully committed to implementing the pact which he termed as a ’base’ for a greater UN-Somalia cooperation.
The Foreign Minister Abdurahman Duale Beyle said that lawyers from both sides have worked on this agreement which clearly maps out the roles and responsibilities adding that both parties are satisfied with this agreement.
Email:islow@hiiraan.com

Suicide car bomb kills at least 10 in Somali capital | Top News | Reuters

Suicide car bomb kills at least 10 in Somali capital | Top News | Reuters

An Islamist militant suicide bomber drove a car into a Mogadishu cafe frequented by members of the security forces on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and blowing the place to bits.
Al Shabaab said it had carried out the attack, which followed an assault by its fighters on the president's palace in the Somali capital last week.
"Today's blast was part of our operations in Mogadishu and we shall continue," said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operations spokesman.He said the attack had targeted security personnel who were sitting in the tea shop, killed 11 of them and wounded 15 others.Police said at least 10 people died at the tea shop, which is popular with security personnel as it is near their compound."A bomber swerved his car bomb into a tea shop where national security men were sitting and blew up," Police Colonel Abdikadir Hussein told Reuters. "The tea shop was completely destroyed."Although Al Shabaab was driven out of the capital and other major centers in the past two years, it still controls swathes of the countryside and mostly smaller towns. It has continued to wage a bombing campaign in Mogadishu, harming government efforts to exert control over areas it governs.Somalia, which is slowly emerging from two decades of conflict and anarchy, is struggling to rebuild its national security forces. For now, the government still largely relies on an African peacekeeping force, AMISOM.Somalia's African neighbors and Western nations worry that the space still controlled by al Qaeda-aligned al Shabaab provides a launch pad for broader operations. The group staged a raid on a Nairobi shopping mall last year, killing 67 people.AMISOM has just been reinforced with Ethiopian troops, taking it to about 22,000 soldiers, and is expected to launch a new campaign against al Shabaab strongholds soon.Driving al Shabaab out of its strongholds could improve aid access in a nation where 3 million people require humanitarian assistance and a third are in dire need. But U.N. officials worry an offensive now could disrupt the planting season and so hurt harvests in Somalia, which suffered a famine 2011.Al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab ruled most of southern Somalia from 2006 until 2011 when forces from other African nations sent by the African Union drove them out of Mogadishu and then expelled them from most urban centers.(Additional reporting by Abdirahman Hussein; Writing by George Obulutsa and Edmund Blair,; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

King County Pioneers New Practice For Refugee Mental Health | KUOW News and Information

King County Pioneers New Practice For Refugee Mental Health | KUOW News and Information

On a recent afternoon, about a dozen Somali women talk in spurts as they weave 4-inch metal needles through a basket.
It doesn't look like therapy, but in a way, it is.
Washington state is one of the top entry points for new refugees coming to the U.S. For many newcomers, the trauma from their home countries follows them here. Many struggle with nightmares, depression or PTSD. And they often suffer alone.
Some service providers in King County have developed new ways to help refugees overcome mental health issues. And the work has gained international attention.
Connecting To A New Community
Farhiya Mohamed leads a weaving group at a nonprofit in SeaTac where women make baskets and other decorations out of palm leaves brought all the way from Somalia. “Very soft ones, we make it into like floor mats,” Mohamed said as she demonstrated the technique.
Mohamed said all the women in this group fled Somalia’s brutal civil war. They’ve seen bombings, shootings and violence against their families. Mohamed saw these things, too. "Yes, I remember because they came to our house,” she said. “They beat my father, my cousin, my sister. I remember they almost shot her.”
Mohamed recounted these events matter-of-factly. Then, without flinching, adds that the good thing is those men did not rape her or her sisters, as was common.
Awo Mohamed has come to this group since it started two years ago. Farhiya Mohamed interpreted for her. “I forgot about weaving stuff," Awo Mohamed said. "I used to do it before, but when I came to the refugee camp, I stopped doing it.”
Awo Mohamed said the group helps her connect with a new community in America and deal with her memories from Somalia.
"Before, by myself, I was thinking a lot and then my memory is not right," she said. "But now my memory gets back because I come with the women here and then I start talking with them. So, now I’m getting much, much better."
Activities For Healing
Beth Farmer is a program director with Lutheran Community Services and has an office just upstairs from the weaving group. “Having an activity that’s meaningful and joyful, that’s an amazing thing to healing people,” Farmer said.
Gatherings like this help people avoid isolation, depression and a possible crisis down the road, she explained.
Until recently, Farmer said it was often only when crisis hit that a refugee’s mental health issues would surface. "They had lost their jobs, they were being evicted, they had attempted suicide," she said.
Local agencies want to get to people sooner.
When new refugees arrive in the U.S. they get a mandatory health exam. It’s supposed to cover mental health, too, but Farmer said that rarely happens. Physicians don’t have time. Or they don’t have a good, cross-cultural way to assess people who have no translation for terms like “mental health” or “depression.”
The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement lays out guidelines to assess mental health. Officials there declined a recorded interview. But in a written statement, they acknowledge there’s no verification that the assessments get done.
‘Too Many Thoughts’
Three years ago, Farmer led efforts to create a tool that more physicians would want to use. Farmer riffles through a drawer stuffed with case files for recently arrived refugees.
"These are all positives of people we’ve reached out to since the beginning of the project," she said. They all were screened for mental health, almost upon arrival. That’s a sea change from a few years ago.
Farmer worked with partner organizations and Public Health - Seattle & King County to develop a new system. They came up with a 15-question survey that was simple, effective and culturally correct, crafting the questions carefully. Farmer read one of them: "Are you having too much thinking or too many thoughts?"
If that phrase sounds familiar it's because that's how Awo Mohamed put it when she was talking during the group. Saying they have too many thoughts is a way many cultures express worry.
King County now uses this tool to screen all new refugees. It's shown that one out of every three people shows signs of significant distress from PTSD, depression or other issues.
"We just shook our heads the whole first year," Farmer said. "We would just think, 'Oh my god, what would this person have done? If they – what would they have done?'"
Among those referred to mental health treatment, Farmer said up to 70 percent follow through, depending on the language or type of case. To her, that’s a huge success rate since mental health tends to carry a big stigma among refugees. To many, it just means “crazy.”
Plans are underway to roll out the tool statewide. It’s also used in 50 sites across the country, and Farmer has had interest in the tool from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Germany, Canada and Australia.
In King County, the screenings have revealed a growing need to help torture victims. That’s sparked some new services paid for with a federal grant.
But perhaps one of the most meaningful ways Farmer sees success is with the refugees who walk into her office every day. Just like the Somali women weaving baskets, Farmer’s relieved to see more refugees seek out support on their own terms, before a crisis hits.
She described a recent knock on her door. "They came in with one my cards that looked all beaten up and folded like eight times and they just kind of slid it to me and they said, 'I was told to come with you, that I could get some help,'" Farmer said.
Group portrait of the weaving circle

IRIN Africa | Greater efforts needed to curb sexual violence in Mogadishu | Somalia | Gender Issues | Refugees/IDPs

IRIN Africa | Greater efforts needed to curb sexual violence in Mogadishu | Somalia | Gender Issues | Refugees/IDPs

Sexual and gender-based violence is a major issue in Somalia, especially for internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in south and central Somalia. A Mogadishu-based NGO working to protect women and children, Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC), has recorded more than 2,000 survivors of sexual violence in Mogadishu since it was set up in July 2012.

People in IDP camps are most vulnerable because they do not have proper shelter or security, according to Fatima Ibrahim of SSWC. “Perpetrators can easily get access to IDP camps, and rape even in the presence of husbands and children,” she told IRIN.

Many sexual violence cases occur in the city districts of Hodan and Deyniile, the organization says.

Deyniile had been a proposed site to relocate IDPs living in Mogadishu, but the plan was put on hold in July 2013, due to the government’s weak control of the area and security concerns.

“Very high numbers of incidents of sexual violence have been reported consistently particularly in IDP camps and settlements in Mogadishu and surrounding areas,” said the Somali Federal Government, in a joint communiqué with the UN in May 2013. “There exists a deep culture of silence and fear regarding crimes of sexual violence, which significantly impacts on reporting and response.”

There were 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Mogadishu in the first half of 2013, according to The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Something very concrete and not impossible to do would be for the government to start ensuring that at least the basic and the big IDP camps in Mogadishu have a basic police presence,” said Laetitia Bader, an Africa researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW).

An HRW report released on 13 February called on the government to take strong action to better protect women and children in those parts of the country over which it has control.

“It was clear from our research that rape is an everyday fact of life for many women and girls in Mogadishu,” said Samer Muscati, women’s rights researcher at HRW and a co-author of the report, speaking at the launch of the study in Nairobi.

“Impunity is the norm”

Access to justice is also a major impediment. “Accountability for sexual violence in Somalia is almost non-existent; impunity is the norm,” said Muscati. “After years of armed conflict the formal justice system is weak; women are reluctant to file complaints because of social taboos [and] women have a legitimate fear of reprisals.”

In January 2013, a woman who alleged she had been raped, and the journalist who interviewed her, were both arrested and sentenced. In November, two other journalists, one the victim of alleged rape, were arrested and charged with defamation.

“In the south we are concerned about the fact that women alleging rape and journalists who have reported on this, have been jailed,” Ed Pomfret, Somalia campaigns and policy manager for Oxfam, told IRIN. “Women need to have access to sympathetic courts and police to ensure that perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence are tried fairly and brought to justice.”

HRW also documented cases where women claimed that the police were unhelpful. “We’ve heard of the police saying, go and look for the perpetrators yourself. We’ve heard of cases of the police saying `if you cannot identify the perpetrators, well, we can’t do anything about this’,” said Bader. “This first encounter with the authorities is absolutely critical and I think there’s a lot of work to be doing there.”

New law

“The Penal Code criminalizes rape, but considers it a crime against morals rather than against the person. As a result many women do not trust the system,” noted a March UN report on sexual violence in conflict.

The government is in the process of writing into law a National Gender Policy. But Muscati argues that this initial draft “did not address violence in a meaningful way”.

Still, he believes the document could have a big impact. “The policy could set a historic precedent if it includes violence against women as a key priority,” but, he cautioned, “the sense I have is that this is not a priority of the government.”

The problem is not confined to the south.

“In the north there is a limited system of monitoring and reporting supported by the Human Rights Commission, which needs more support and development,” Pomfret told IRIN.

“The Somaliland acting attorney-general announced recently that traditional forms of justice should not supersede the civil and criminal court system. But we are still waiting to see if this actually has an effect… There are different systems in different parts of Somalia but across the board access to justice is still too limited.”

The withdrawal of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from Somalia in 2013 due to security concerns has not made things any easier. “Survivors and local service providers identified the MSF facilities as the best known of the few completely free clinics where local organizations could refer victims of sexual violence,” the HRW report noted, adding that this had left a big gap in service delivery.

New Television Show Uplifts the Image of Somali-Canadians in Mainstream Media!

New Television Show Uplifts the Image of Somali-Canadians in Mainstream Media!

A new television program featuring Somali-Canadians in a new light will debut every Saturday starting March 1st from 10:30am to 11:00am CHIN on City.
Integration - Building a New Cultural Identity is a weekly half-hour television program showcasing the Somali-Canadian experience.  Canada is home to approximately 200,000 Somalis and nearly 100,000 live in Toronto.  80% of Somali-Canadians are under the age of 30 and these Somali Millennials are an emerging community who are highly educated, skilled and integrated into the Canadian fabric.
Integration will be an instrumental vehicle for government agencies, community organizations and advertisers to effectively reach this new emerging community.  This show will help to sensitize mainstream viewers on different aspects of the Somali way of life. 
The debut show on Saturday, March 1st, will give viewers first-hand experience from a mother who lost her son to gun violence, engaging discussions from Somali-Canadian youth about their challenges in society and an interview with Toronto Police Chief, William Blair.
Cameraworks Productions International, a full-service and fully-equipped television and video production facility and Cultural Integration Agency have partnered to create this new format for cultural community programming. 

Hodan Nalayeh, President of Cultural Integration Agency and Host explains: “Somali-Canadians have suffered from negative news images in the media. Integration will bridge the gap for Somali-Canadians as they grow and integrate into Canadian Society.  Integration will also set a new standard for quality produced cultural programming.” 
ABOUT THE HOST: Hodan Nalayeh was born in Somalia and as a young child immigrated to Canada with her family. Her media background includes radio and television, including American Idol.  Nalayeh went on to develop a unique concept for a cultural television show - Integration.
ABOUT CULTURAL INTEGRATION AGENCY: Cultural Integration Agency is a full-service media company specializing in the development, production, marketing and distribution of multicultural programs.

50,000 Somali kids at risk: UN, gov't ask for help - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

50,000 Somali kids at risk: UN, gov't ask for help - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Somalia's 2011 famine is over. Militants have been pushed out of Mogadishu. Political progress is being made. And yet the U.N. and Somali government are pleading with international donors to help a country they say is still in crisis.
Aid groups, pressed to respond to emergency situations in Somalia in recent years, have not been able to put the time or resources into building the country's systems, the U.N's aid chief for Somalia said Tuesday.
Many in the country remain in dire circumstances.
"We have 50,000 children at the doorstep of death," because of severe malnourishment, Philippe Lazzarini said.
International donors, squeezed by the continuing crisis in Syria and new emergencies in South Sudan and Central African Republic, have given less money to Somalia.
Donors also have continuing concerns about the theft and corruption of aid money in a country with less effective government oversight of money.
Lazzarini argues that Somalia's health indicators are even more dire than those in South Sudan or the Central African Republic, two nations getting more headlines in recent months. Somalia, he said, suffers from an aid-giving bias from donors because it has been suffering for so long. In addition, if donor funds drop off now, it could undermine the fledgling state building process, he said.
"While the situation is in no way comparable to the famine, we are still in a situation comparable to just before the famine. We need to be sure people can absorb future shock," Lazzarini said. "The work is half done. If we stop now the gains will be lost."
The U.N. is asking for $933 million for its 2014 Somalia aid operations. It says 2.9 million people need life-saving assistance.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, meanwhile, told journalists on Monday that Somalia needs to see donors who pledged $2.4 billion in assistance at a conference in Brussels last year make good on those promises.
"Our people were given high hopes that must be delivered on the ground," the president said.
Mohamud's government faces donor doubts, however, because of persistent corruption. A report by the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea this month accused the government of diverting arms meant for the military to private militias and even an al-Shabab commander who could help Mohamud consolidate power in his home region. The monitoring group in the past has also detailed allegations of corruption inside government ministries.
Lazzarini said he expects a certain portion of food aid to be stolen in Somalia, but that a great majority of it still reaches those in need.
Those $2.4 billion in pledges were made in hopes of maintaining Somalia's general positive trajectory. Despite the allegations of corruption and mismanagement, Mogadishu is in a far better situation today than it was five years ago, when al-Shabab militants controlled most of the city.
African Union troops are planning an offensive in coming weeks in hopes of taking even more territory from the al-Qaida-linked militants. About 60 percent of the population living in south-central Somalia is under the control of al-Shabab, or about 3.5 million people, Lazzarini said.
One concern the U.N. has is that the offensive could take place during planting season in a region known as the country's food basket. "And it might have an impact on the next harvest," Lazzarini said.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Somalia: A winter of discontent for Somalia's beleaguered president - Norwegian Council for Africa

Somalia: A winter of discontent for Somalia's beleaguered president - Norwegian Council for Africa

Mark Twain one said, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as you please." When news of his demise spread like wildfire, Twain astutely remarked, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
Last week, Somali President Hassan S. Mohamoud had his Mark Twain moment. When Turkey sent a special plane to take Mohamoud to Istanbul, the Somali Government spokesman told the mass media the president was having a medical check-up.
Several Somali websites reported that the president was suffering from a stress-related condition and he had been placed in intensive care; others even floated the bizarre idea that he had actually died.
After several days of silence, President Mohamoud gave a five-minute interview to Radio Mogadishu. He was furious he had been reported dead or was in intensive care.
He contradicted his spokesman and stated he had come to Turkey to visit his wife and children. And yes, he'd had a medical check-up and the results were great.
A simple question about his health that required a simple answer morphed into a tirade against his rivals that lasted several minutes. "These rumors and innuendos are the work of the enemies of the Somali people," he warned.
"In fact, these gossip-mongers are supporters of Al-Shabaab." To emphasize his fitness, the president asserted, "I am 100% healthy," six times in five minutes. Repetition of the word "healthy" was accompanied by a dire threat to his enemies. "I ordered the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security to investigate the people behind these false reports," he added.
For the president, this has been a winter of discontent.
First, the West has all but abandoned his government. Last year, his government was heralded as the best option for ending Somalia's two decades of chaos and anarchy.
Western donors met in Brussels and pledged $2.5 billion to help the country rebuild itself from the ashes of ruin. British Prime Minister David Cameron convened an international conference in London to help Mohamoud and his government. Mohamoud also got a warm welcome in Washington, Rome, Tokyo, and other capitals.
Last July, the Somali government suffered a setback when the United Nations Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea accused it of systemic corruption.
The report concluded that 80% of aid given to the regime was missing, and the Somali Central Bank had become a "slush fund," for the country's officials.
The bank's governor was forced out and replaced by Yusur Abrar, a former Citigroup vice president. Then, the shocker came when Abrar herself resigned from her post after only seven weeks in office.
She accused top government officials of graft and of pressuring her to open an account in Dubai so that funds from the Gulf States could be funneled through it instead of being deposited in the central bank.
It was embarrassing for the government that Abrar submitted her resignation in the UAE where she felt safer after assassination threats against her in Mogadishu.
Her resignation was so damaging to Mohamoud's reputation that Western donors withheld all aid to Somalia. Mogadishu has yet to receive a penny from the $2.5 billion pledged by these Western donors.
Second, Turkey, the only government that had been transparently providing cash aid ($4.5 million a month) directly to the Somali Government cut its aid in late December, 2013.
When a Turkish official was asked if aid would be resumed, he said, "We have no such plans at this stage. It is not our agenda." Fortunately for Mohamoud, his government is still getting millions of dollars from Qatar and other Gulf States, monies whose size and frequency have never been revealed.
Third, Al-Shabaab has intensified its bombings in Mogadishu, especially of the presidential compound. These terror acts are unprecedented in their ferocity and frequency.
The lack of safety in the capital is a manifestation of the regime's inability to reign in the terror group. Recently, James Clapper, the American Director of National Intelligence, accused Mohamoud of being weak and for heading a regime marred by chronic political infighting.
To add insult to injury, a confidential report by the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea, that was leaked to Reuters this month, accused the Somali government of diversion of arms to Al-Shabaab.
"A key adviser to the president, from his Abgaal sub-clan, has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to Al-Shabaab leader Yusuf Isse Kabatukade who is also Abgaal," the report stated. These were weapons the government purchased as part of the partial lifting of the UN arms embargo last year.
This is not the first time Mohamoud has been accused of having ties with Al-Shabaab. Last August, in an interview with a Somali channel, former prime minister and current parliamentarian Ali Khalif Galeyr accused Mohamoud of being in cahoots with Al-Shabaab.
According to Galeyr, PM David Cameron of Britain had withdrawn an invitation to Mohamoud to attend the G-8 summit when the ties between Somali officials and Al-Shabaab leaders were uncovered.
The reports of Mohamoud's ill health are indeed exaggerated. However, what is not in doubt is his growing isolation from the international community, especially Western donors and Turkey, a country that has been a stalwart supporter of Mogadishu.
Mohamoud might claim to be as fit as a fiddle, but his government today is ailing with endemic problems of corruption, lack of financial resources, serious security matters, and poor leadership.
*Hassan M. Abukar is a political analyst.

Monday, February 24, 2014

BBC News - Egypt interim government resigns unexpectedly

BBC News - Egypt interim government resigns unexpectedly

Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi has unexpectedly announced the resignation of his government.
Mr Beblawi said the decision was taken "in light of the current situation the country is going through".
It comes amid a series of strikes, including one by public sector workers and rubbish collectors, and an acute shortage of cooking gas.
Mr Beblawi was appointed in July after the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi following mass protests.
Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed and thousands of others detained in a crackdown by the security forces on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement to which Mr Morsi belongs.
Militants based in the Sinai peninsula have meanwhile stepped up attacks on government, police and military personnel, killing hundreds.
'Difficult responsibility'
Mr Beblawi did not give a clear reason for the cabinet's resignation in his televised address.
He acknowledged that Egypt had witnessed a sharp rise in strikes, but said no government in the world could have fulfilled all the demands of its people in such a short period of time.
"The cabinet has over the past six or seven months shouldered a very difficult responsibility... in most cases the results were good."
"The country is facing huge dangers. It is time we stood together to protect it and help it get out of this narrow tunnel," he added.
"This is neither the time for demands by public workers nor the time for personal interests, but the time for us to put our country's interests above all others."
Mr Beblawi also noted that his government had completed the first part of the road-map outlined by the interim authorities by holding a referendum on a new constitution in January.
Government spokesman Hani Saleh told the AFP news agency that there was a "feeling that new blood is needed".
"Egypt is moving forward. This decision will not affect foreign relations or internal stability," he added.
Mr Beblawi has been criticised in local media for his perceived indecisiveness and inability to deal with the country's economic woes.
The state-run newspaper al-Ahram said Mr Beblawi had been asked to stay on as prime minister until a successor was named. It cited unnamed sources as saying that would be the Housing Minister, Ibrahim Mihlib.
The cabinet's decision to submit its resignation to interim President Adly Mansour was made after a 30-minute meeting on Monday attended by Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, defence minister and first deputy prime minister.
The field marshal is widely expected to announce soon that he will step down from both posts and run for president.
According to the new constitution approved in January, an election must take place by mid-April. Correspondents say Field Marshal Sisi would be likely to win, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals.

allAfrica.com: Ethiopia: New Age Discovers Oil, Gas in Elkuran-3

allAfrica.com: Ethiopia: New Age Discovers Oil, Gas in Elkuran-3

The British Oil company prospecting for oil in the Ogaden basin, New Age, has noted oil and gas flow in its appraisal well Elkuran-3. New Age started drilling the appraisal well last October, with a targeted depth of 2,850 meters. R
eliable sources told The Reporter that a crew was drilling the well when it noted oil and gas flow at a depth of 1200 meters on February 12, 2014.
"Oil and gas shows were noted throughout the intervals," the source said. The results are similar to that of Tenneco, the American company that drilled the first exploration well in the Elkuran locality in the 1970s. "Tenneco's drilling crew encountered similar results in 1972," the source said.
A petroleum expert told The Reporter that oil and gas flow does not necessarily mean that there is a commercial deposit. "Oil and gas flows are very common in that region, especially in the Elkuran and Hilala localities. More exploration work is needed," the expert said.
Sources said the reservoirs at Elkuran-3 have low porosity and permeability and will likely require acid or fracture stimulation to produce the necessary commercial levels.
"Oil and gas-condensate was recovered from one of sample zones. At the base of the well, a flow of gas was encountered and the drilling is suspended in order to mobilize test equipment to evaluate this zone. A decision has also been taken to deepen the well to below the initial planned target depth of 2,300m, to evaluate the deeper sandstone zone which is considered to have a significant gas condensate potential," the source said.
New Age (African Global Energy) Limited works in the Ogaden basin Block 7, 8 and the Adigala concessions with its partner, Africa Oil, the Canadian oil firm. New Age engages in the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas, primarily in the African region. The company holds licenses for 13 onshore and offshore blocks in Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Kurdistan, covering an area of approximately 88,000 sq.km.
According to the company's official website, it has a portfolio of development, appraisal, and exploration assets, with 37.5 million barrels of oil equivalent of gross probable reserves, 17.1 million barrels of oil equivalent of gross contingent resources, and 702.2 million barrels of oil equivalent of gross prospective resources. New Age (African Global Energy) Limited was founded in 2007 and is based in London.

allAfrica.com: Ethiopia: 'Humanitarian Crisis' for Ogaden Living Near Ethiopia's Oil Fields

allAfrica.com: Ethiopia: 'Humanitarian Crisis' for Ogaden Living Near Ethiopia's Oil Fields

New allegations of scorched earth evictions of the Ogaden people have raised concerns that a lack of benefit sharing could escalate instability in the region and reinforce separatist tensions as foreign energy companies prepare to extract oil and gas from troubled southeastern Ethiopia.

“The resources in this region will make Ethiopia rich but will keep us impoverished. A settlement is all we can hope for to protect our claim to some of the economic advantages of our natural resources,” Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) founder Abdirahman Mahdi told IPS.

The demise of Ethiopian dictator Hailemariam Mengistu in 1994 triggered a two-decade conflict between the government of Ethiopia and the ONLF. The ONLF has been fighting for self-determination of the eight to 10 million Somali ethnic population living in the Ogaden basin within the Somali National Regional State (SNRS).

The government’s heavy paramilitary response to the insurgency has created “a humanitarian crisis throughout the Ogaden [basin] where half of the population live through famine,” said Mahdi.

Reports of forced evictions and human rights abuses in the vicinity of oil and gas fields is creating a new wave of grievances against the government in local communities.

“The army came to our community and burnt our homes and our crops. Our situation is getting worse as the military want many villages removed because of the search for gas.

“Many people in this area have been arrested. We don’t know where they are or if they are alive. Our situation is very bad,” one Ogaden man, who asked to remain anonymous, told IPS.
  • The confirmation of huge oil and gas reserves in the Ogaden basin is set to spike Ethiopia’s wealth as investment starts to pour in from foreign energy companies.
  • Gas deposits in the Ogaden basin are estimated at 2.7 trillion cubic feet over an area of 350,000 square kilometres.
  • Currently there are three oil companies finalising exploration in the area: Africa Oil (Canada), South Western Energy (Hong Kong) and GCL Poly Petroleum Investment (China).
Ethiopia has been Africa’s fastest-growing economy in recent years and could soon be an oil-producing economy. However, a government embargo on the Ogaden has severely isolated the region’s predominantly pastoralist population from Ethiopia’s development gains. Any prospect of consultation over resource extraction at this stage look slim, says Ogaden expert Professor Tobias Hagmann from the Roskilde University in Denmark.

“It is very unlikely that the local population will be consulted about local projects. They are not allowed to voice political dissent. How can they be allowed to participate in local decision-making related to development plans,” he told IPS.

Government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal told IPS that oil and gas riches “will contribute to the development of the SNRS including the Ogaden region.”

The Ethiopian government has been criticised by rights organisations for preventing NGOs from providing humanitarian aid to one of the poorest regions of Ethiopia and creating an exodus of thousands of refugees.

Amnesty International’s researcher on Ethiopia  Claire Beston told IPS that the Ethiopian government’s clampdown on the Ogaden Somali population “has severely restricted access to and within the region, including that of humanitarian agencies, and has also placed major restrictions on information coming out of the region about the true state of the humanitarian and human rights situation there.”

In December 2013 the Ogaden European Diaspora Association sent a letter to the European Union requesting that aid to Ethiopia be withheld as long as human rights abuses continue against the Ogaden.  “We are living under political and economic embargo. We demand that NGOs move freely as the humanitarian situation is critical,” Mahdi said.

Chinese oil company, GCL Poly Petroleum Investment, signed a deal with Ethiopia in November 2013 to develop gas reserves at Calub and Hilala in the Ogaden region.  A month later, the ONLF accused government militia, the Liyu police, of burning swathes of pasture belonging to communities close to Calub and Hilala gas fields.

A military clampdown in the region has made verifying such reports impossible. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in 2012 that the Liyu police had been responsible for extra-judicial killings as a form of collective punishment.

“The Liyu police had summarily executed 10 men during a three-day rampage on a series of villages. These attacks, as previous abuses that get carried out by the Ethiopian government as part of its counter-insurgency campaign, take place in a context of complete impunity,” HRW researcher Laetitia Bader told IPS.

Much needed dialogue seems to be the only way to reduce feelings of disaffection in the major Ogaden clan, the Darod, which accounts for close to half of the Somali population in Ethiopia and constitutes the backbone of the ONLF.

However, faltering peace talks between the ONLF and the Ethiopian government broke down in Kenya in September 2012 and the resumption of talks could be further delayed since the abduction of two ONLF negotiators in January by Ethiopian security in Nairobi.

“The ONLF has a valid claim about the lack of accountability of international oil companies operating in the Ogaden. Further, the major clan family in the region is very much frustrated by continuous harassment and an absence of political and civic rights,” said Hagmann.

“They support the ONLF because it is the only organised opposition. It’s not the best choice since many Ogaden don’t support the ONLF but it’s the only choice for those marginalised by government policies.”

£90m of British aid to Somalia 'helps Al Qaeda': Pressure grows to divert cash back to the UK | Mail Online

£90m of British aid to Somalia 'helps Al Qaeda': Pressure grows to divert cash back to the UK | Mail Online

  • David Cameron has approved huge handouts to the East African state
  • Money is handed over in a bid to stop country becoming next Afghanistan
  • Leaked UN report has warned of 'systematic abuses' by Somali officials
  • Government has passed weapons to Al Shabaab, group behind Kenyan mall bombings 
Britain is donating more than £90million a year to Somalia despite strong warnings that its corrupt government is arming Al Qaeda-backed terrorists.

David Cameron has approved the huge handouts to the war-torn East African country in an attempt to stop it becoming the next Afghanistan.

But a leaked United Nations report has warned of ‘high level and systematic abuses’ by Somali government officials who have passed weapons and ammunition to Al Shabaab – the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic fanatics behind last year’s Kenyan shopping mall massacre in which 67 people died.

British aid to Somalia is already channelled through charities and agencies, rather than central government, in a bid to sidestep rampant corruption among officials. A separate study revealed that many of these organisations have been forced to hand over large sums in ‘protection money’ to Al Shabaab to be allowed to work there – even during the drought and famine of 2011 when nearly 260,000 Somalis died.

And nearly £500,000 of British aid and supplies has previously been stolen by Al Shabaab militants.

The revelations last night prompted MPs to renew calls for a portion of Britain’s £11billion international aid budget be diverted to help flood victims in the West Country and the Thames Valley.

More than 290,000 people have now signed the Daily Mail’s petition urging the Government to raid the aid budget to help pay for the clean-up.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Tory MP for flood-hit Bridgwater in Somerset, told the Mail: ‘This is new evidence of what many MPs have warned about for years – that our aid money ends up in the wrong hands.

‘There are a lot of countries where we shouldn’t be sending aid because we’re not helping the locals and often the money finds its way to despicable people. We need to remember that charity begins at home. There are people in need here.’

Stewart Jackson, the Tory MP for Peterborough, said: ‘Taxpayers are willing to support overseas aid if it goes to deserving people. But when it goes to Third World kleptocrats and terrorists they will be concerned. We need a reassessment of aid when there are pressing priorities at home.’

Somalia was plunged into lawlessness after President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

However, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has said Britain is forging a ‘new and special relationship with Somalia’ and must fund it to stop it slipping back into ‘terrorism, famine and insecurity’.

The Prime Minister also hosted an international conference in London last year, in which he pledged to help the country rebuild its security forces to tackle insurgents.

Mr Cameron said: ‘If we ignore it we will be making the same mistakes that we made in Afghanistan in the 1990s. I’m not prepared to let that happen.’

A Department for International Development spokesman said: ‘This report provides absolutely no evidence that any UK funds have gone to Al Shabaab.

‘DfID works in Somalia because creating a more stable and prosperous world for the UK means tackling the causes of poverty, disease and terrorism at the root.’

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are Corruption and Tribalism Dooming Somalia’s War on al-Shabaab Extremists? | Modern Tokyo Times

Are Corruption and Tribalism Dooming Somalia’s War on al-Shabaab Extremists? | Modern Tokyo Times

An African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier keeps guard on top of an armoured vehicle in the old part of Mogadishu (Source Reuters)
After decades of conflict that have nearly destroyed the nation, Somalia now stands poised to make a final drive with international assistance to shatter the strength of radical al-Qaeda-associated Islamists in central and southern Somalia, but there are indications that Somalia’s leaders may be posing an even greater obstacle to Somalia’s successful reconstruction.
Arms Embargoes and Missing Weapons
In mid-February, the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group issued a report to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee claiming that weapons obtained by the Somali government under a temporary easing of UN arms sanctions were being sold to Somalia’s al-Shabaab extremists in what was described as “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution” (Reuters, February 13). A UN arms embargo was placed on Somalia in 1992, but in the last year the Somali government has been able to obtain once-restricted small arms and other weapons such as rocket-propelled-grenades under a partial lifting of the embargo designed to help fight al-Shabaab terrorists.
Among the observations contained in the report were the following:
  • Shipments of weapons from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda could not be accounted for.
  • The Somali government cancelled several UN inspections of armories
  • A key presidential adviser from President Hassan Shaykh Mohamud’s own Abgaal sub-clan was involved in planning weapons transfers to al-Shabaab commander Shaykh Yusuf Isse “Kabukatukade,” another member of the Abgaal.
  • A government minister from the Habr Gadir sub-clan made unauthorized weapons purchases from a Gulf state that were transferred to private locations in Mogadishu for use by a Habr Gadir clan militia.
  • The Monitoring team photographed rifles sent to Somalia’s national army for sale in the Mogadishu arms market with their serial numbers filed off (Reuters, February13; AFP, February 16).
The easing of the Somali arms embargo is scheduled to end in March. Though a final decision on its future has yet to be made, it seems likely that the easing will remain in place until a new report on arms violations is due in October. The Somali government is looking for a complete removal of the embargo, allowing it to obtain heavy weapons and sophisticated military materiel (Reuters, February 14). The Monitoring Group has recommended either the full restoration of the embargo or a heightened monitoring regime to accompany an extension of the partial easement.
Somali security officials have complained that the UN monitors have not provided them with any information regarding the alleged arms sales to al-Shabaab or the alleged activities of Abgaal and Habr Gadir insiders at the presidential palace arranging such arms sales. One security official complained that the UN allegations could not be proven without examining al-Shabaab’s arms: “If they haven’t inspected al-Shabaab’s [arms], how are they arriving at the conclusion government weapons are being sold to al-Shabaab. This is a dangerous and creative position by the UN” (Suna Times/Waagacusub.net, February 18).
The head of Somalia’s military, General Dahir Aden Elmi “Indhaqarshe” described the UN report as fabricated, false and without credibility, though he acknowledged an investigation into how al-Shabaab obtains its arms would be worthwhile, as the movement “does not get arms from the sky.” However, the Somali army commander sees darker purposes behind the work of the UN monitors: “The UN Monitoring Group want al-Shabaab to be an endless project in order to gain funds from the world while they are struggling hard to make Somalia’s government weak and nonfunctional” (Raxanreeb, February 17).
Shady Dealings and Economic Challenges
Some light was shed on the murky financial dealings of Somalia’s central government when central bank governor Yussur Abrar quit after only seven weeks on the job following repeated efforts to force her to approve dubious transactions benefiting members and friends of the government. In her resignation letter to Somali President Hassan Shaykh Mohamud, Abrar described corruption and constant government interference in Central Bank operations”
From the moment I was appointed, I have continuously been asked to sanction deals and transactions that would contradict my personal values and violate my fiduciary responsibility to the Somali people as head of the nation’s monetary authority… The message that I have received from multiple parties is that I have to be flexible, that I don’t understand the Somali way, that I cannot go against your [Mohamud’s] wishes, and that my own personal security would be at risk as a result (Suna Times, October 30, 2013).
Turkey has been the main supporter of Somali reconstruction, offering technical support, materials, medical teams, hospitals, machinery and various other means of assistance, including, apparently, lots of cash. A recent Reuters report cited various officials within the Turkish and Somali governments that Ankara had decided in December to stop its direct financial support to Mogadishu, which took the form of $4.5 million in U.S. $100 dollar bills transferred to the Somali central bank every month (Reuters, February 13). However, three days later, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the payments were in line with procedure in light of the fact Somalia has no banking services and that efforts were “underway to provide budget support to the Somali Federal Government in the year 2014” (Hurriyet, February 16). The Turkish statement did not outline what measures, if any, were taken to trace the end use of these funds, but the potential for abuse is apparent in the absence of verifiable banking and accounting procedures in Mogadishu.
Over two decades of social and political chaos mean that the challenges to Somalia’s reconstruction efforts only begin with the elimination of al-Shabaab:
  • Somalia lacks trade agreements with the West, lacks a proper certificatory regime and is not a member of the World Trade Organization, making exports difficult. The vast bulk of Somalia’s current exports consist of charcoal and livestock heading to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen.
  • Multiple currencies are in circulation, some of them worthless. Monetary control remains elusive with no new official bank-notes having been printed since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, leading to a thriving black market in currency.
  • The national government has begun signing oil and gas deals that are in conflict with deals signed by regional administrations like Puntland during the absence of an effective central government. (IRIN, February 14).
AMISOM Operations: Fighting Somalia’s War
The growing deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), now 22,000 strong, includes troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, as well as police from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
While Ethiopia has continued to mount its own independent military operations in regions of Somalia bordering Ethiopia since its general withdrawal from Somalia in 2009, lack of coordination with AMISOM tended to give al-Shabaab militants space to withdraw and operate elsewhere until Ethiopian operations were concluded. It was therefore regarded as good news when Ethiopia decided to integrate its Somali operations into the AMISOM command in January [Dalsan Radio [Mogadishu], February 18). Ethiopian forces followed their integration by deploying to Beledweyne in Hiraan Region (where they are establishing a new base) and to Baidoa in Bay Region, where they will be responsible for security operations in the Bay, Bakool and Gedo Regions (Shabelle Media Network [Mogadishu], January 28). Uganda, which has roughly 8,000 troops in Somalia, has just rotated in 1,600 fresh troops under Colonel William Bainomugisha (Xinhua, February 14).
The Somali army is about to launch new operations in cooperation with AMISOM forces to re-take Bardhere in the Juba River valley and the last major port under al-Shabaab control, Barawe, which has also acted as an important headquarters and training base for the militants since the loss of Kismayo to Kenyan troops (Garowe Online, February 11; Raxanreeb.com, February 11). If successful, this new offensive would divide Shabaab forces, significantly reduce the area under its control and eliminate the movement’s last major source of revenue. Unfortunately, rather than align for a final push against the militants, some units of the Somali Army in the Lower Shabelle region have been using their new arms to fight each other, based on clan allegiances (Shabelle Media Network, January 28; January 30; Garowe Online, January 29).
According to AMISOM spokesman Colonel Ali Aden Humad (part of the Djiboutian contingent of 960 troops deployed in Hiraan Region), the offensive will suffer from a lack of naval forces (suggesting Kenya will continue its policy of consolidating the area it has taken in southern Somalia rather than move further north) and helicopters, which AMISOM hopes will still arrive from some African Union country. Most important, however, is the failure of the Somali Army to build up a force as large as AMISOM that could not only participate in operations in a meaningful way, but also undertake important garrison and consolidation duties that must now be carried out by AMISOM forces. Colonel Humad admitted it was a mystery that the national army remained small despite years of international training programs and funding: “AMISOM trained many Somali soldiers and equipped some. So, the question is where have they gone? When we train them, we turn them over to the government. So, where do they go? Where are they kept?” (Sabahi, February 7).
Al-Shabaab Leaders Go to Ground
The continuing American drone campaign in Somalia is a major concern for al-Shabaab, which has seen several senior members targeted and killed in the last year. The movement has responded with mass arrests of suspected spies believed to help in the targeting, including a number of al-Shabaab fighters. The drone strikes have also damaged communications within al-Shabaab and restricted the movements of its leaders, with many senior members, including al-Shabaab leader Abdi Godane, believing that contact with mobile communications equipment can be tracked to target drone strikes. Like the Somali army, there is infighting within al-Shabaab, which might divide into smaller groups if Godane is killed. Having narrowly survived at least two recent attempts on his life, Godane is reported to have even grown suspicious of his own bodyguards in al-Shabaab’s Amniyat intelligence unit (Sabahi, February 7). Al-Shabaab has actually succeeded in intimidating a major Somali telecommunications provider to cut internet service in southern Somalia to prevent any type of communications with U.S. or AMISOM intelligence groups (Suna Times, February 10). Last October, the United States began deploying a number of military trainers and advisors in Somalia.
Conclusion
Despite disappearing arms and soldiers and the distractions provided by incessant clan warfare, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad says that, with international assistance, “The plan is to have al-Shabaab out of the areas that they control by the end of 2014” (Xinhua, February 19). Meanwhile, the insurgency continues to wreak havoc across parts of central and southern Somalia. New UN figures indicate that two million Somalis (of 10 million) suffer from food insecurity, with 850,000 of those “in desperate need of food.” Most of the latter have been displaced by fighting and insecurity (Independent, February 19). In recent days, al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu and its airport have been on the rise, including a February 13 suicide bomb that killed seven just outside of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde airport, which also serves as a secure base for AMISOM and foreign diplomats (Raxanreeb.com, February 13; Reuters, February 13). Eliminating the Shabaab threat will remain impossible no matter what degree of international assistance and funding is provided so long as service in national and local administrations in Somalia is seen as a means for personal self-enrichment and the furtherance of clan interests at the expense of national interests. Ultimately, the path Somalia will follow will depend not on UN assistance or AU military deployments, but rather on the interest Somalis themselves have in the national project.
Andrew McGregor is the Senior Editor of Global Terrorism Analysis and the Director of Aberfoyle International Security, a Toronto-based agency specializing in security issues related to the Islamic world.
The Jamestown Foundation information

Three tribes take up half of all public sector jobs

Kenya: Three tribes take up half of all public sector jobs

The three most populous communities in the country hold half the civil service jobs, a report by the Public Service Commission shows.
The data shows that of the 236,231 employees on the public payroll as at June 30, 2013, the three ethnic communities accounted for 115,633 or 49 per cent of the work force.
The Kikuyu community had the highest number of employees at 52,787 accounting for 22.3 per cent of the total workforce. The Kalenjin are second with 36,069 (15.3 per cent) and the Luhya community are third with 26,777 employees, representing 11.3 per cent. The Kamba were fourth with 22,961 employees or 9.7 per cent.
The 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, the most recent to be conducted in the country by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, placed the Kikuyu community as the most populous with 6.62 million people or 17 per cent of the total population, the Luhya were second, accounting for 14 per cent of the population, while the Kalenjin represented 13 per cent of the population. The Kamba were fourth with 10 per cent of the population.
Others, according to the PSC jobs report, are the Luo community with 21,472 officers, Kisii with 16,407 officers, Meru with 14,057, Mijikenda 7,273 officers and Embu with 4,469 officers.
The Hawiyah ethnic group (a Somali clan) had the lowest representation in the service with only one officer working as a technician. The South Asian community is represented by 104 officers in government service, while the Sakuye, Murulle and El Molo had 76, 72 and 27 officers respectively, giving them the lowest representation. Seventy-one officers were not identified by community in the data.
The El Molo community, feared to be fast becoming extinct, had most of its workforce in the lower support staff category with 20 officers. The highest placed El Molo was in the technical staff category at Job Group K.
There are only two Kenyan European officers in the civil service while the Dasnach-Shangil community has 11 officers, all male.
The Gosha community has 19 officers in the public service.
The chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Prof Margaret Kobia, told the Sunday Nation that the past six years had witnessed deliberate affirmative action measures to ensure the country’s public workforce reflects the face of Kenya.
She attributed the variance to a number of factors, mainly tribalism and historical reasons.
“Some might be better exposed to public service jobs; others enjoy proximity to the public service sector; some communities were exposed to government jobs earlier, but we are putting in place measures to ensure the future does not mirror today; the 30 per cent threshold will not be achieved in a day, it is a gradual process and the coming years will definitely create a change,” Prof Kobia said.
Although it will take time to redistribute slots in the civil service to portray the true face of Kenya, Prof Kobia said the PSC has put in place strategies to ensure those being employed are representative of all tribes.
“We will be doing this to factor the representation in terms of population,” she said.
RAMPANT TRIBALISM
Prof Kobia said tribalism was not just a disease of the civil service but also in the higher learning institutions where, she added, it is a growing trend.
“Even campus politics is done along tribal lines; this should not be the case. We should go for merit as opposed to tribe, the mentality that you have a brother or father who will employ you is what we are fighting,” she said. 
In terms of gender, there are 69,334 female officers in the government workforce representing 29.4 per cent, which is slightly below the threshold of at least 30 per cent set in the Constitution. Males account for 70.6 per cent of the service workforce totalling 166,867 officers.
In the same 2009 census, men and women seemed to have struck a balance, nearly, with 19,192,458 males and 19,417,639 females.
In general, the analysis reveals that the distribution of officers currently in the service does not meet the constitutional principle that not more than two-thirds of members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.
For instance, of the total Kikuyu workforce, 19,960 were females while 32,827 were males, while the Maasai community with a total workforce of 3,449 had 630 female officers. Likewise, the Pokomo with 1,412 people on the government payroll had 365 females, while the Pokot had 413 female officers out of 2,651 and the Turkana, a total of 2,329, had  394 females.
The data reveals that officers between 31 and 40 years comprise the highest number of employees in the civil service while those in the 51-59 age bracket were the least numerous.
In some instances, the analysis found that there were more females than males. There were 57 South Asian females in the service and 47 South Asian males.
NOT ALL DOOM
Despite the variance, the report shows that at least all ethnic groups had at least one officer in the civil service.
The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database data further showed that there were 443 officers at the level of policy managers, which is the highest cadre of the service (job group S-V). Of the policy managers, 83 were younger than 50, while 360 were over 51. Senior managers who occupy job groups P, Q and R were 4,133 officers with 2,401 officers being below 50. The rest were over 51.
The technical staff who occupy job groups K to N were 55,175, with those under 50 standing at 38,109.
The middle support staff had 81,689 officers of which 62,359 were under 50 years old.
The lower support staff are the highest in the service accounting for 40.1 per cent of the total workforce. Of the 94,751 officers in this category, 84,655 were under 50.
There were 55,386 officers between 19 and 30, which translates to 23.45 per cent of the service while there were 67,369 between 31 and 40 years representing 28.52 per cent.
A total of 737 public officers are due for retirement this year after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60 years.
Of these, 558 are male. Another 12,685 officers will be retiring over the next two years.
Communities with highest number of officers
Kikuyu 52,787
Kalenjin36,069
Luhya26,777
Kamba22,961
Luo21,472
Kisii16,407
Meru14,057
Communities with lowest number of officers

Asians104
Sakuye76
Murulle72
Elmolo27
Gosha19
Kenyan European2
Hawiyah1
According to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, Kikuyu community is the most populous with 17 pc of the population, followed by the Luhya at 14 pc of population and Kalenjin accounting for 13 pc of the population.

Somalia's al Shabaab say attack meant to get president 'dead or alive' | Reuters

Somalia's al Shabaab say attack meant to get president 'dead or alive' | Reuters

Islamist militants said on Saturday their attack on the Somali president's compound, in which at least 11 people died, was an attempt to kill or abduct him.
Al Shabaab fighters blasted through a gate with a car bomb on Friday and fought a gunbattle with guards at the heavily-fortified compound known as Villa Somalia. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was unharmed in the assault.
"The main objective of attacking the palace on Friday was to assassinate the so-called Somali president or kidnap him," al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told Reuters on Saturday.
"We sent well-trained mujahideen from our special forces to bring us the president dead or alive."
In the past few weeks, the capital Mogadishu has been hit by a series of suicide bomb attacks claimed by al Shabaab, who were pushed out of the city in mid-2011 but have continued to wage a guerrilla campaign.
The strike was another reminder of the threat still posed by the rebels and how Somalia's fragile government is struggling to impose order more than two decades after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre tipped the country into chaos.
Police said the attackers wore uniforms similar to those of the presidential guards, and some wore suicide vests during the well-coordinated attack.
The chief of staff of the office of the prime minister and a former chief of intelligence were killed, along with all nine militants who staged the attack, the government said.
"In 2006, Ethiopian troops came but we chased them and by then we were weak," said Rage. "But now we are strong and determined to fight back and eliminate the Ethiopian troops."
"DEATH THROES"
President Mohamud said on Friday the attack would not stop his government's work to rebuild Somalia and called al Shabaab a "marginal group on the brink of extinction".
The president's spokesman said the rebels would be defeated.
"These are the death throes of a dying animal. Al Shabaab has been driven out of Mogadishu, Kismayo and many other areas. Our military campaign against them is going to remove them entirely," Abdirahman Yarisow told Reuters.
Somalia is preparing for a planned military offensive led by an expanded African Union peacekeeping force to drive the rebels - who want to impose a strict version of Islamic sharia law on the Horn of Africa country - out of their remaining strongholds by the end of 2014.
The offensive could push al Shabaab into the dense bush of the Lower Shabelle, a region that includes Barawe and lies between Mogadishu and the port of Kismayu to the south.
New joining the peace force from Ethiopia are expected to spearhead the offensive. Ethiopian troops have in the past been involved in similar drives against the rebels.
(Additional reporting and writing by James Macharia; editing by Andrew Roche)

Somali pirates seek Sh80mn to free 2 Kenyans | Capital News

Somali pirates seek Sh80mn to free 2 Kenyans | Capital News

Two Kenyans working for a construction company in Mogadishu, Somalia have been abducted by suspected pirates who are now demanding a ransom of Sh80 million.

The two engineers were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Hodan District before they were transferred to Harardhere 700 kilometers North of Mogadishu, according to the Seafarers Union of Kenya.
“We are yet to contact the families but we have confirmed that Somali gunmen are holding the two Kenyan engineers,” the union’s Secretary General Andrew Mwangura told reporters in Mombasa, adding “Reports indicate that the two are safe and the gunmen are demanding ransom to release them.”
He said the militia group from Habargidir region has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, after asking for the ransom.
According to Mwangura, the incident was first reported at the Malaysia piracy reporting center, but families of those abducted have not been informed.

Somali journalist seeking asylum records refugees' plight in Hong Kong | South China Morning Post

Somali journalist seeking asylum records refugees' plight in Hong Kong | South China Morning Post

When investigative journalist Maahir and his television crew went undercover into a refugee camp in East Africa to investigate allegations of soldiers raping women, it was the start of a nightmare he has yet to wake up from.
After interviewing the women the soldiers kidnapped them.
"When they found out we were journalists they seized all our gear and took us to a detention centre," Maahir said. "I was blindfolded" and endured 20 days of torture and interrogation.
He said he was given just a cup of milk and a few biscuits every day.
More than a year later, Maahir is now claiming asylum in Hong Kong and has decided to turn his camera on the city's demoralised and downtrodden refugees.
"Many people think of this city as New York - rich with golden opportunities - but it's not," the Somalian said.
"Now I am working on my own project to talk about the real life of refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong.
Armed with a digital camera, he said: "I want to share my feelings and other people's experiences because every single picture has a story to tell."
Maahir, 26, said he wanted to keep his identity hidden to protect his family back home. He believes that his captors think he is dead.
His body bears numerous scars and burns, the result, he said, of his 20 days of torture and injuries received while reporting from the front line on battles involving an Al-Qaeda supported Islamic terror cell and the military.
As a stringer for international news organisations, Maahir said local journalists would die for US$100 a day just to get the story for foreign correspondents.
He said he escaped during a skirmish between the military and militants but feared his family could be detained if he returned home.
With the help of an uncle, he paid US$20,000 to escape the country through a network of smugglers. His plan was to seek asylum in the Netherlands, but from Dubai he managed to reach Hong Kong in the belief it was a safe haven.
Confused and not knowing where he was, he fainted going through immigration at Chek Lap Kok airport.
After claiming asylum, he was detained for 107 days at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre at Tuen Mun.
"I then started another miserable life," Maahir said.
Upon his release, he was told that he could not work or enrol in higher education.
"I could not do anything. I was not really free," he said.
Maahir asked the officials: "How am I going to live here if I'm not allowed to do anything. What are my rights?
"Being at the immigration centre was better. At least you can eat, you can sleep, but here outside, it's very hard for you to eat even with social welfare food."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Al-Shabaab attack on Villa Somalia an 'act of desperation from a dying animal' - Sabahionline.com

Al-Shabaab attack on Villa Somalia an 'act of desperation from a dying animal' - Sabahionline.com

After al-Shabaab commandos carried out a suicide attack Friday (February 21st) against the heavily fortified presidential palace Villa Somalia, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged that the country's progress would "in no way be deterred" by the "enemies of peace".
The attack was timed around midday prayers, presumably to target government officials praying at the mosque inside the compound, located about 100 metres from the main gate.
An initial car bomb exploded at the perimeter of the complex, and then a group of al-Shabaab gunmen breached the Villa Somalia compound in an apparent repeat of tactics used during last year's attack on the United Nations compound.
Al-Shabaab immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Our commandos have attacked the so-called presidential palace in order to kill or arrest those who are inside," al-Shabaab military spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Musab told AFP.
"The airport, so-called presidential palace and anywhere in Somalia can be attacked as we plan," he warned, adding that the group wanted to show "that no place is safe for the apostate government".
At a press conference outside the gate where the explosion occurred, Somalia's Minister of National Security Abdikarim Hussein Guled said there were two suicide bombers and seven gunmen who were killed by security forces in the ensuing firefight.
Guled said five others were killed in the attack, including Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office Mohamud Hersi Abdulle Indha-Asse and Somali National Army General Nur Mohamed Mohamud Shirdow.

Eyewitnesses tell of chaos and fear

Asha Abdullahi Isse, who served as deputy minister of women's affairs during the administration of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and lives near the compound, told Sabahi she heard two explosions five minutes apart at around 12:30 pm.
"We were all frightened [at first] as we were not sure whether the noise was coming from -- our house or the presidential compound," she said. "Ten minutes [after the explosion] we heard heavy gunfire from what seemed to be a firefight."
She later found out that at least two of her neighbours who were walking near the compound sustained injuries from the explosions.
Yasin Kamal, 32, a university student who also lives near the compound, said that while the attack was under way everyone in his neighbourhood froze in place out of fear.
"It was hard to find out what was happening," he said, underscoring the sense of confusion and chaos that took over. "Everyone was afraid that security forces would think they were part of al-Shabaab since whenever this group carries out attacks like this they try to mix themselves with regular citizens."
"One of the soldiers killed was my maternal uncle," he said. "When the situation cooled off we were informed by some of his soldier colleagues about his death."
Abdi Haji Goobdon, a retired Radio Mogadishu journalist who was inside Villa Somalia's mosque at the time of the attack, told Sabahi the explosion occurred as they waited for the president to arrive and the imam to begin the Friday prayer.
The room was filled with government officials including ministers and top aides when a loud explosion followed by heavy gunfire was heard.
People started fleeing the area and chaos ensued, he said. As he fled, he said he saw a man shooting the building where the presidential living quarters are located.
Goobdon said he followed about twenty others outside and into the back of the building where they found refuge in a basement room. About 30 minutes later a security guard told them things were under control and escorted them out of the compound, he said.

'Terrorists have staged a failed attack'

By around 3pm, the government announced that the complex was back under full control.
"Desperate violent terrorists have staged a failed attack," Guled told reporters.
"The government killed all the [individuals] behind that attack, the situation is under control now and I urge the Somali public to stay calm and help the national security forces," he told Radio Mogadishu.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was in the compound during the attack, was not harmed.
In a message on Twitter, United Nations Special Envoy to Somali Nicholas Kay confirmed the president was unharmed and said the "attack on Villa Somalia had failed".
"The Somali people are tired of shootings, bombings and killings," he said in a statement. "It is time for a new chapter in Somalia's history and we cannot allow a slide back at this critical time."
Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Mahamat Saleh Annadif, in an AMISOM statement, said it was unconceivable to believe that people who say they are Muslims can choose a holy day in Islam to carry out this criminal act.
The official Twitter account for Villa Somalia also remained active during the attack, calling it a "media spectacular" and "another act of desperation from a dying animal".
In a statement after the attack, Mohamud sent condolences to the families of those killed and injured, and warned against "overestimating the strength of the terrorists".
The victims "include people who have dedicated their lives to making Somalia a better place and those who gave up successful careers in other countries and returned to Mogadishu to help a nation on its knees," he said.
"I would remind everyone that all our misguided enemies will achieve are short-lived media headlines, here one day and gone the next," Mohamud said. "What they will not achieve, however, is any noticeable impact on the work of our government as we seek to rebuild Somalia after decades of war."
The government will continue its mission "to continue improving security across the country, rebuilding a federal Somalia and providing the economic foundations for a more prosperous nation", the president pledged.
"An act of terrorism, however unspeakable, does not hide the truth that this is a marginal group on the brink of extinction," he said. "The military campaign we are fighting with brave Somali and AMISOM soldiers will eliminate our enemies."