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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Al-Shabaab attacks Mogadishu prison | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Al-Shabaab attacks Mogadishu prison | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Militants from Al-Shabaab militant group have staged a daring attack on a prison in Mogadishu with several casualties reported in the ensuing clashes with prison guards, eyewitnesses and security sources said Sunday.
A group of Al-Shabaab militants attacked Godka Jili'ow prison where several Al-Shabaab detainees are being held, the sources said.
The militants detonated several explosive-laden cars before trying to break into the prison amid heavy fighting with the prison guards, they added.
Casualties have been reported, but their number is yet to be known.
Somalia, a long-troubled Horn of Africa country, has remained in the grip of violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The battered country had appeared to inch closer to stability with the intervention of African Union troops tasked with combatting Al-Shabaab militant group.
Yet, the group still remains active in several parts of the country, waging a relentless campaign of attacks against government officials and security sites, which left hundreds dead.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Troops 'liberate' Islamist stronghold in Somalia offensive - Yahoo News

Troops 'liberate' Islamist stronghold in Somalia offensive - Yahoo News

African Union forces claimed to have liberated a former Shebab stronghold in Somalia on Saturday as part of a joint offensive with government troops aimed at capturing key ports from the Islamist fighters.
The AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said it had captured the town of Bulomarer, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
The town was the scene of an attempted raid by French commandos in January 2013 to free a secret agent being held hostage.
The bid failed and resulted in the death of two French soldiers and the hostage.
The new offensive is aimed at capturing key ports from the extremist group in an effort to cut off one of its main revenue sources.
"Operation Indian Ocean started late last night... The enemy is fleeing and the forces are making successful advances so far," said Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, the governor of southern Somalia's Lower Shabelle region.
Witnesses reported hearing booms from heavy shelling and seeing convoys of tanks and armoured vehicles southwest of Mogadishu.
AMISOM and Somali government troops were also seen on roads towards Barawe, the last major port held by the hardline gunmen on Somalia's Indian Ocean coast.
"The operations will not stop until the Al-Qaeda militants are eliminated," Nur added.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab are still a powerful and dangerous force but have lost a string of towns to the 22,000-strong AU force.
Deployed in Somalia in 2007, AMISOM has made a series of advances in the past three years, but the launch Saturday of a new offensive targets the Shebab's lucrative charcoal trade.

- Hunger and drought -

In previous offensives by AU troops, Shebab fighters have fled in advance of the main column but later returned to stage guerrilla-style attacks.
Shebab fighters continue to launch attacks even in the heart of Mogadishu, including recent brazen commando raids on the presidential palace and parliament.
Ali Mohamed, who lives close to the Bulomarer, reported hearing "heavy shelling", while another resident, Hussein Mumin, described seeing military convoys including "several tanks."
Somalia's government in a statement claimed Shebab fighters were "fleeing in the face of advancing Somali and AMISOM forces," adding that Barawe was the "next objective".
The southern port of Barawe is now one of the few major settlements under their control, and is vital to Shebab finances, as the main hub of a multi-million dollar charcoal trade.
Charcoal, which is mainly exported to Gulf nations, generates at least $25 million (19 million euros) a year for the Shebab, according to UN estimates.
The Shebab are fighting to topple Somalia's internationally-backed government, and regularly launch attacks against state targets, as well as in neighbouring countries that contribute to the AU force.
The fighting comes as the United Nations and aid workers warn that large areas of Somalia are struggling with dire hunger and drought, three years after famine killed more than a quarter of a million people.
Somalia's government, selected in a UN-backed process in 2012, was widely hailed as offering the best chance in decades to repair the war-ravaged country.
But the return of extreme hunger, accusations of corruption and continued Shebab attacks in even the most heavily defended zones have cast a shadow over the government's record.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Somalia sues Kenya at top UN court over maritime border - International Court of Justice News Today

Somalia took its maritime border dispute with Kenya to the United Nations' top court on Thursday, which could decide the fate of potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves off east Africa.

The dispute has been simmering for years, keeping investors away because of the lack of legal clarity over who owns potential offshore oil and gas reserves.

The internationally-backed government in Mogadishu is seeking to claw back authority over Somalia's territorial waters, including the area bordering Kenya that is potentially rich in oil and gas deposits.

Kenya, which has had troops in southern Somalia since 2011, first as an invading force and then as part of an African Union peacekeeping force, lays claim to a triangle of water stretching for more than 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles) that Mogadishu also claims.

Nairobi has already awarded exploration contracts to international firms despite the legal uncertainty.

"Somalia requests the court 'to determine, on the basis of international law, the complete course of the single maritime boundary dividing all the maritime areas appertaining to Somalia and to Kenya in the Indian Ocean'," the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said in a statement.

Somalia, which lies to the north of Kenya, wants the maritime border to continue along the line of the land border, to the southeast.

Kenya however wants the sea border to go in a straight line east, giving it more sea territory.

Both countries have recognised the court's jurisdiction, the ICJ said, a prerequisite for cases there to continue.

"Diplomatic negotiations, in which their respective views have been fully exchanged, have failed to resolve this disagreement," the ICJ quoted Somalia as saying in its application.

Kenya's large military presence in Somalia is part of the African Union force supporting the country's fragile government.

Cases at the Hague-based court can take years.

Established in 1945, the ICJ is the UN's highest judicial body and the only one of five principal UN bodies not located in New York.

BBC News - Norway: Mohammed most common men's name in Oslo

BBC News - Norway: Mohammed most common men's name in Oslo

"It is very exciting," Jorgen Ouren of Statistics Norway tells The Local news website. A recent count of the city's population showed more than 4,800 men and boys in the city are called Mohammed, beating out other popular names like Jan and Per. Although Mohammed - with various spellings - has been the favourite name for baby boys in Oslo for the past four years, this is the first time it has also topped the men's list.
And it's not only in Norway that the name is gaining ground. The UK's Office for National Statistics says Mohammed was the most common name parents gave to baby boys in England and Wales in 2013.
Norwegian Muslims made up around 150,000 of Norway's 4.5 million people in 2012, the website On Islam says, mainly from Pakistani, Somali, Iraqi and Moroccan backgrounds. But Norway also has Europe's largest anti-Islam organisation, called Stop Islamization of Norway. It was set up in 2008 and is thought to have more than 3,000 members.
Outside the Norwegian capital, Filip is the most popular name for newborn boys, while Emma is the favourite for girls.

FBI probes Islamic State recruiting in Minneapolis

FBI probes Islamic State recruiting in Minneapolis

The FBI's Minneapolis bureau is looking into reports that a second American citizen from the area was killed fighting with the Islamic State as it works to find out whether the group is actively recruiting Muslims in the Twin Cities region.
"That's something we are looking into," Kyle Loven, division counsel for the FBI in Minneapolis, said when asked about Abdirahmaan Muhumed, 29, who Fox News reported was killed in the same battle as another American from the Twin Cities area. Earlier this week, the State Department confirmed that Douglas McAuthur McCain died fighting with the Islamic State.
"We're aware of media reporting and social-media activity that a second American citizen has been killed in Syria. We don't have any details to confirm," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday about Muhumed.
The FBI is also urgently trying to determine if there are Islamic State members on the ground in Minneapolis seeking to recruit men to join the militants in Iraq and Syria.
"If there are (recruiters) on the ground here ... we want to hold these people to account," Loven said.
In recent years, the office has made several arrests of people suspected of recruiting about two dozen young Somali-Americans to travel to Somalia to fight for Al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate. At least three of those recruits died while carrying out suicide bombings targeting African Union troops in Somalia in 2009 and 2011.
While those travelers had family connections to Somalia, the new crop has no such connection to Syria, Loven said.
With its flashy propaganda videos and growing presence on social media, the Islamic State has been able to recruit at least 100 people from the United States, including some Minnesotans.
"We have been privy to some videos which have directly targeted youths here in Minneapolis, and the quality of the videos have improved extensively," Loven said.
Loven said the targeted messages are working: An estimated 20-25 Minnesotans left to fight for Al Shabaab, and a handful have left to join the Islamic State, including McCain.
FBI agents are trying to understand the logistics of how those recruited are traveling abroad and being funded, Loven said, and talking to community members to determine who is most susceptible to such radicalization.
"Typically, travelers seem to be disaffected, isolated, withdrawn," he said. "So we're asking for assistance within the (Somali) community to identify those who may have those characteristics and may be most vulnerable to the messaging of radicalization."
Thousands of foreign fighters from at least 50 countries have traveled to fight in Syria, according to State Department. Islamic State militants have attracted fighters from at least two dozen countries, according to terrorism experts.
While Jihadist propaganda plays a role, the Somali refugee community in the Twin Cities has been especially vulnerable to radical recruitment.
That's in part because of difficulties experienced by Somalis who were pushed out of their country with little of the preparation of typical immigrants, and who sometimes find themselves unable to adapt, and with access to radical ideologies, says Ahmed Samatar, a Somali-American professor of international political economics at Macalester College in St. Paul.
Most Somali-Americans are concerned with day-to-day life, their careers and their children's welfare, but "there are those who might slip and find it difficult and alienating and can't make it," Samatar said. "They become marginal, and this warrior life becomes how some try to de-marginalize themselves and become somebody, part of some new group."
Terrorist recruiters who claim to be fighting for a greater cause can make such young people "feel they are making a new kind of history," Samatar said.
Countering such recruitment should start in "places of worship, mosques in this case," he said.
These "ought to be places that inculcate ideas of citizenship, civic responsibility," he said. "The imam should continue to communicate the importance of the antithesis of this warrior culture."
Mosques should develop a sense of civic duty "rather than ideas of alienation," he said.
Muhumed — who fathered nine children with three women in the Minneapolis area before finding religion and joining Islamic State militants in Syria — described his religious motivations through Facebook, according to a profile about him published by Minneapolis Public Radio in June.
In January, Muhumed posted a photograph of himself on Facebook with a Quran in one hand and a rifle in the other. In a post, he wrote that the militant group is "trying to bring back the khilaafa," a reference to an Islamic empire, and that "Allah loves those who fight for his cause," according to the radio station.
When friends and family urged him to return to the United States, he wrote: "Family is not gonna save me frm (sic) hell fire because muslims are getting kill(ed) and if i just sit here i will be ask(ed) in the (hereafter)."
Contributing: KARE-11 TV in Minneapolis.

Somali man convicted of stealing tourist’s handbag -

Somali man convicted of stealing tourist’s handbag -

Abdirisaq Dahir Diheye, a 23-year old Somali man currently residing at the Marsa Open Centre, was this afternoon sentenced to one year imprisonment suspended for two years after he admitted to stealing a handbag in Paceville .

The incident occurred in the early hours of this morning, when the accused committed the snatch-and-grab theft from a Swiss woman.

The handbag contained the victim’s iPhone and Swiss Francs, together with her travel documents and passport.

Inspector Elton Taliana told the court that the Police, in responding to what was thought to be an unconnected report of vandalism in the area, arrested the accused who was also found to be in possession of the mobile phone and money.

The accused, represented by legal aid lawyer Marc Anthony Mifsud Cutajar and was assisted by an interpreter, admitted to the theft. He claimed that he was not aware of the whereabouts of the documents.

After giving the accused a period to reflect on his guilty plea, the court asked the accused whether he had sufficient time to consider his plea, whether he understood the charges and the penalties involved and whether he wished to reaffirm his guilty plea. The accused answered in the affirmative to the questions.

The victim of the snatch-and-grab, who was due to end her holiday in Malta today, was assisted by the Swiss consulate who made arrangements for her travel documentation.

Delivering judgment, Magistrate Giovanni Grixti sentenced the man to one year imprisonment suspended for two years.

Somali Community Leaders in Minn: Jihadists Recruiting Using 'Same Methods as Gangs' - Fox Nation

Somali Community Leaders in Minn: Jihadists Recruiting Using 'Same Methods as Gangs' - Fox Nation


Omar Jamal:  Why isn’t US law enforcement preventing American teens from being radicalized?  (TRT: 16)
OMAR JAMAL: It defies logic, how this is happening under the nose of the law enforcement agency.  What’s going on here?  As we speak right now, young kids, probably at the airport somewhere in this country, (are) going to join ISIS.  What happened?
Omar Jamal: The leaders of my community need to condemn radical Islam.  (TRT: 20)
OMAR JAMAL:  The only way to do something about it is to appeal, and I’m asking this, the majority of the Muslim- American citizens, the leadership of my community, the Muslim community, not only in Minneapolis, but in California, in New York, in DC, to come out in one voice to come out and condemn these tactics.

GEESKA AFRIKA ONLINE The Horn of Africa Intelligence News Group » Somalia: Impact of New Turkey, New System, New Governance

The Horn of Africa Intelligence News » Somalia: Impact of New Turkey, New System, New Governance

Turkey’s Somalia Policy Aims to Ease Regional Tensions. A systemic impact in a small group or through an international institution: “We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King
The incoming prime minister’s approach is based on four assumptions. First, he believes that the “era of nationalism” will come to an end in the Middle East and a new crop of religiously conservative leaders will emerge. Second, these new religiously conservative leaders will look to Turkey — and more specifically, to the A.K.P. — as a source of political inspiration. Third, wider religious conservatism will allow Turkey to expand its influence via its shared religious identity with like-minded states. And fourth, the West, especially America, has an interest in preventing democratic change in the region.
President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared last week that his choice, backed by the AK Party organization, would be to support the candidacy of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu as his successor, the new leader of the party. The first extraordinary congress of the AK Party gathered yesterday in a festive atmosphere and endorsed the president-elect’s choice. Davutoğlu has been elected as the chairman of the party which will open wide the road to premiership, once Prime Minister Erdoğan becomes president. The composition of the new cabinet of ministers, which is expected to be announced on Friday, will be announced shortly after and then the vote of confidence in the Parliament will take place. No doubt the new government will be a strong team in charge of implementing the president-elect’s strategy and vision. President-elect Erdoğan made a long farewell speech, deeply sentimental in places, underlining that in his new capacity as president he would remain close to the political life and monitor the implementation of the strategies he designed.
What are the main features of this strategy: first and foremost, a new Constitution, to be prepared by the AK Party in the post-2015 parliamentary elections period, to replace the straitjacket imposed by the coup of 1980, which is anti-democratic and obsolete. Second would be the “resolution” process, which remains one of the major achievements of the president-elect and its finalization to reassure all segments of society remains imperative. Thirdly, the struggle against organizations and guilds which are trying to impose a “state within the state” regime on the system will be addressed. Certainly, the overall objective remains the long run, which is by 2023 – the centennial of the Republic – Turkey will be among the top 10 world economies. President-elect Erdoğan has underlined in his speech that he would also closely survey investment policies, which he sees as an inseparable part of the new governance.
President-elect Erdoğan will be much better positioned, with his new mandate, to oversee and support the reconciliation process and to solve once and for all the Kurdish problem. He will finally be in a position of arbitration, in his capacity of a directly-elected president, he will also be in charge of mediating, if need be, between parties involved and supporting the whole process. The outcome of the Kurdish issue and the reconciliation process will, on the other hand, open new perspectives for a new constitution to be devised. Leaders before Erdoğan, like the late Turgut Özal or former President Süleyman Demirel, have tried to solve the Kurdish problem by recognizing the “Kurdish reality.” Despite having democratic legitimacy and mandates, the tutelage system of the old Turkish regime, mainly through the armed forces, did not allow them to continue in that vein. All their attempts have been sabotaged, with the awful results we fully comprehend only now.
What is in fact meant by the “new Turkey, new era” slogan is exactly this: Turkish society has had enough tutors who were seemingly in charge of forging “solutions” to the problems. It wants to solve its problems by itself, which is the true meaning of this directly-elected presidential system. Not only does it refuse existing tutelage systems, but it also prevents new tutelage systems replacing the old ones by mainly installing a leadership directly responsible for voter and controllable by voters. Without understanding this deep transformation of the society, political struggle in Turkey becomes unintelligible for the observer. The main divide remains between forces supporting this evolution and those opposing it. There is also the latent danger of seeing anti-democratic forces to sabotage this transformation. The current political situation still remains under threat by obscure forces whose moves can be unpredictable and detrimental to democracy. That shows all of us how delicate and hazardous the democratic transitions within Turkish society are.

Minnesota dad-of-nine Abdirahmaan Muhumed killed fighting for ISIS in Syria: report - NY Daily News

Minnesota dad-of-nine Abdirahmaan Muhumed killed fighting for ISIS in Syria: report - NY Daily News

Abdirahmaan Muhumed was killed in the Syrian ISIS battle that left Douglas McCain dead, sources say. The U.S. State Department has not confirmed his death, but said it is looking into a report that a second American was killed over the weekend after it identified Douglas McAuthur McCain, who was also raised in the Midwest before he joined Islamic State militants overseas.

The second homegrown terrorist killed in Syria over the weekend is a Minnesota dad-of-nine, a report says.
Abdirahmaan Muhumed, identified earlier this year as an ISIS-recruited, homegrown terrorist, apparently died in terrorist-on-terrorist clashes over the weekend, sources told KMSP-TV. He was killed in the same ISIS battle as Douglas McAuthur McCain, who the State Department identified Tuesday.
The U.S. has not publically confirmed Muhumed's death, but the TV station reported officials have notified his family. On Wednesday, the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was "looking into" a report that a second American was killed in the fighting.
It's not clear when the 29-year-old Somali-American traveled to Syria to join ISIS fighters. In recent months, the terrorist group has heavily recruited foreign Muslims to join the group in the Middle East.
Muhumed had been married several times and had nine children, Minnesota Public Radio reported in June
His friend Abdinasir Mohamed said his shift to radicalism was "very unpredictable."
"It was really hard for me to believe because the guy seemed he was busy with his own life, trying to make it," he told the radio station. "And (for) him to leave his family and kids, and just go to the other side of the world, that was really surprising to me.
It's unclear if Muhumed knew McCain, who attended high school in Minneapolis.
McCain lived in California before he traveled to Syria earlier this year. The 33-year-old was a devout Muslim and an aspiring rapper. His body was identified on the Syrian battle field by his American passport and his neck tattoos.
Minnesota has a large Somali population. Abdi Bihi, a leader in the local Somali community, told the TV station that ISIS has approached men in the Twin Cities for recruitment. Recently, the terrorist group has targeted women, too.
"They are brainwashing them to marry them off to jihadists," he said. "They call them to help out as nurses, help out the wounded — but the real catch is they will be sexually exploited."

United States monitors Somali immigrants in Minneapolis | Diplomat News Network

United States monitors Somali immigrants in Minneapolis | Diplomat News Network

In recent years, Minnesota has become a place where terrorist organizations recruit young people to fight jihad.
The Twin Cities has the largest population in the country of Somalis living outside East Africa. That alone makes this area a target for terrorist organizations and their recruiting efforts.
Groups like ISIS and al-Shabaab are preying on those who feel left out or disconnected from their community.
“Recruitment is still ongoing,” said community activist Omar Jamal. “We are dealing with it almost every day.”
Terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab and ISIS are using tactics that are drawing vulnerable young people to their ranks.
“They target impressionable young kids,” Jamal said, “confused high school drop outs.”
And the recruitment isn’t only done through online videos.
“They seem to have a much more effective public relations with these kids,” Jamal said. “They using all social media.”
Mohamed Farah runs Ka Joog, an organization designed to keep young people away from terrorist groups or gangs. He says that the radicalization process isn’t done over-night.
Farah said there are many underlying issues — high unemployment, lack of education and mentors — that lead to young people to feel lost and wanting more.
“They are missing something in their life, and they’re willing to do anything they can to fill that gap, and it happens to be al-Shabaab, it happens to be ISIS,” Farah said.
And these groups are not just targeting Somali Americans. Terrorists are looking for anyone who rejects Western ideology or those who feel the American Dream is not within their reach.
Terrorist group recruiters do not see race, they see opportunity, Farah said.
He said his organization cannot protect young people alone. Farah believes parents need to monitor their child’s social media activities, and talk with them about recruiters in the community.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dangerous drug or harmless herb? Europe cuts Ethiopia’s khat

Dangerous drug or harmless herb? Europe cuts Ethiopia’s khat

For a town seen as a key trading centre for khat, a plant that is banned in many countries, Ethiopia’s Awaday can seem pretty drowsy and laid-back.

As the sun sets on the small eastern town, farmers and brokers of the amphetamine shrub rouse from an afternoon slumber to cut deals in the bustling market, one of the busiest centres of international trade for the leaves.
Khat, a multi-million dollar business for countries across the Horn of Africa and in Yemen, consists of the succulent purple-stemmed leaves and shoots of a bush whose scientific name is Catha edulis.
Chewing it for hours produces a mild buzz.
But Britain in June classified khat as an illegal drug, closing the last market in Europe in the wake of a similar ban by the Netherlands in January.
For the thousands of farmers and traders here in Awaday, 525 kilometres (325 miles) east of the Ethiopian capital, the ban has already had a severe impact.
Previously the plant was Ethiopia’s fourth largest export, earning more than $270 million (205 million euros) in 2012-13.
“All of the people, they are in big trouble, even the man who brings from the farm to the market, and the guy who buys from here to export,” said exporter Mustafa Yuye.
“For most of the people here, their living is by khat, they don’t have other jobs,” he added, speaking after an early morning shift at the manic market, where several tonnes of the herb change hands each day.
“In trouble without work”
For first-time chewers, the bitter leaves — stuffed in a squash ball-sized bulge in the cheek for several hours — offer little more than a sour taste, a sore jaw and the sensation that one has drunk several pots of coffee.
The UN World Health Organization says the plant causes irritability, insomnia and lethargy.
More experienced chewers describe a meditative, almost trance-like state, where one’s sense of time slips away. The user may sit still for hours, yet remain alert to conversation or reading matter.
While debates about khat’s effects on health go on, around 20 million people across the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula chew the plant every day.
In Ethiopia, where khat is intertwined with ancient traditions — Muslim clerics chewed it to help them study the Qur’an – the shrub is legal.
Crops are now sold to neighbouring nations, especially Somalia and across the Red Sea to Yemen.
Khat must be chewed fresh because its potency fades within hours.
After frantic trading, drivers pile bundles into airplanes or pickup trucks, dashing along dirt tracks at breakneck speeds for wider distribution.
Before the ban, Mustafa sent more than three tonnes a month to the Horn of Africa diaspora in Britain, but he is now restricted to supplying domestic and regional markets.
Prices have tumbled. “Our money is getting less,” Mustafa said, and farmers in Kenya share similar concerns.
Brokers like Mustafa can earn up to $30 (22 euros) per kilo (2.2 pounds) in the top markets, but as little as $5 (three euros) for the same quantity of low-grade khat in regional markets, according to local traders.
Redundant khat broker Tofiq Mohammed said the whole town of Awaday will be hit by the ban. He used to sell two tonnes to Britain a month but has now stopped working.
“From the farmer to the traders, we are in trouble without work,” he said.
“Social addiction”
Some farmers had switched to khat from crops like coffee or maize, because khat can be harvested year-round and previously fetched stable prices at the market.
Kadija Yusuf, surrounded by her chest-high bushes, says she preferred khat farming since it needs less water than coffee.
“There was not enough water, so I started growing khat,” Kadija said. “If they don’t allow us to export… we will stop this and return to coffee.”
Her earnings were low — about $38 (28 euros) in a good month — and she worries that her income will now drop further.
With prices falling it is cheaper to chew, but critics say that for those hooked on the leaves, the habit squanders their cash and time.
“When you chew khat you focus, you read a lot,” said Adil Ahemmed, sitting on the floor surrounded by friends and piles of khat stalks, while coffee beans roasted over a flame.
But he calls chewing a “social addiction”, and admits it is draining his money.
He spends about six euros a day on the plant, about 90 percent of his earnings as a computer technician.
“Economically it damages us,” Adil said, his cheek packed with leaves, swollen like a hamster. “That’s the biggest problem, especially for youth.”

Literature in a land with no alphabet | National News - WPTZ Home

Literature in a land with no alphabet | National News - WPTZ Home

In 1856, British explorer Richard Burton described Somalia as a nation of poets. It may seem an unlikely moniker for a country that has since become defined by piracy, state collapse, and the many horrors unleashed by Al-Shabaab -- the Islamic extremists who control much of the country.
But, much has changed since then. Despite appearances, the country used to be one of East Africa's most dynamic artistic enclaves, and much of the region's cultural activity took place in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, the internationally unrecognized state that broke away from Somalia in 1991.
"Hargeisa used to be the cultural hub for the Somali republic. There was a beautiful Chinese-built theater; also the main public library, at one time the biggest in Somalia," recalls Jama Muse Jama, who six years ago founded the Hargeisa Book Fair.
The theater and library, like much of Hargeisa, was flattened during the civil war that preceded Somalia's collapse and Somaliland's declaration of independence. Now, Jama is hoping to restore some of what his country lost.
"If at the end of the fair, we have one more reader, we have succeeded," he says.
The fair, which takes place during a week in August (this year's ended August 13), has become one of the most anticipated literary events in East Africa. Part book expo, part cultural festival (poets, musicians and dancers are as popular as the author panels), the fair attracts a variety of local literary legends like Hadraawi, widely considered the most famous living Somali poet.
Outside, the hundreds in attendance throng around stalls selling new books published by the likes of the Redsea Online Publishing/Ponte Invisible -- a publishing company run by Jama -- and second-hand tomes, all to meet demand in this literature-hungry city.
The city's dedication to the written word is particularly poignant, given that the Somali language didn't even have its own written alphabet until 1972. That year, Somali President Mohammed Siad Barre introduced a standard written version of the Somali language using Latin script.
The Barre regime's move -- driven by a 5% literacy rate (according to the United Nations) -- represented a new approach beyond the oral poetic tradition.
"Government workers were given three months to learn. Anyone who failed was fired," recalls Said Salah Ahmed, an author, playwright and teacher of Somali at the University of Minnesota, who was a school principal at the time.
As the campaign stretched from the cities to the towns to the smallest villages, he says teaching took place "wherever -- under trees, under walls, wherever there was shade."
Jama also considers that period fondly.
"It was one of the best things that happened in Somali society," he says.
While the first books to be published in the new language were mostly textbooks, there was also a smattering of European classics, with "Animal Farm," "Gulliver's Travels," and even Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends And Influence People" appearing on book shelves, according to Liban Ahmad, a Somali writer and teacher based in London.
The period also brought on new forms of Somali literature, alongside poetry.
"Modern trends started to emerge, including original fiction works," recalls Mohamoud Shiekh Dalmar, who was working with the Somali Broadcasting Service.
According to the UN, the Somali literacy rates climbed to 55% by the mid-1970s. Such progress wasn't sustainable though, as civil war and drought ultimately split the country. By 1990, literacy rates fell to 24%. Jama recalls books being burned at his school library. The official excuse given, he says, was that they fostered colonial sentiment, but he reasons that it was because they underlined Somaliland's separateness.
"It had been a flowering. But everything was killed," he says.
Still, in the Somali diaspora aboad, a handful of authors, like Saleh and Dalmar, did their best to uphold the literary traditions. Now, with the help of writing and photography workshops held at the book fair, a new generation of young Somali writers will hopefully pick up the tradition.
Saleh points out that new books are again being translated into Somali.
Jama himself remains dedicated to his path: using the occasion of the 2014 fair to launch a new, permanent, European Union-funded cultural centre in Hargeisa. Somaliland's capital may yet reclaim its cultural-hub status. All it takes is a little imagination, which Jama has in spades.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summary executions in Somalia | Human Rights Watch

Summary executions in Somalia | Human Rights Watch

Somalia's military court sentenced three men to death on July 30 for alleged membership in the armed Islamist group Al-Shaabab and involvement in attacks in Mogadishu, the capital. Four days later, the Somali media posted to Twitter photographs of their limp, hooded bodies tied to poles.

Such rapid executions once again call into question the quality of justice in Somalia's military courts. The government should try civilians before civilian courts, respect the presumption of innocence, ensure that confessions are not extracted under duress, and allow defendants adequate time for appeals. Sadly, Somalia's new military court chairman, Col Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, has boasted of flagrant violations of these requirements under international law. He recently told the media that his court was waging a "new war against terrorists." Under international law, the death penalty is permitted only after a rigorous judicial process - a fair trial in which the defendant has adequate time to prepare a defence and appeal the sentence, among other requirements.

In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing how Somalia's military court proceedings "fall short of international fair trial standards". Relatives of defendants and independent observers have very limited access to the hearings, allowing the court to operate without oversight. A central concern was the speed at which death sentences have been carried out. HRW opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment. That concern is even greater given the due process concerns we identified with the military court.

Unfortunately, these practises appear to have been getting worse in recent months.

Thirteen executions have taken place in Mogadishu in 2014, nine been carried out just since July. Eleven of those executed were not members of the Somali armed forces; the majority accused of being Al-Shabaab members or fighters. A man accused of carrying out an attack on Maka al-Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu in November 2013 was sentenced and executed within just over two weeks in July. 

Carrying out death sentences so rapidly prevents defendants from filing an appeal. It also makes it less likely that the president will be able to review the case for a possible pardon or commutation.  

The military court has tried defendants for a broad range of crimes not within its jurisdiction, notably common crimes against civilians.

Turyare told the media that parents of Al-Shabaab suspects will be arrested and he claimed some were already in detention. "It is failure to exercise responsibility of parent-ship. It is your responsibility as father or mother to report to the police that your children are missing or went to terrorist group," he said. Arresting families of suspects is a form of collective punishment that is contrary to fundamental principles of justice.

In its recent decisions, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has called on countries to prohibit trials of civilians before military courts and to restrict the cases appearing before these courts to military offences committed by military personnel. Somalia should comply with these decisions by transferring civilian cases to civilian courts, rather than cementing an abusive practise.

Even the outdated Somali military law doesn't grant the court such powers. Turyare claimed that trying Al-Shabaab suspects under the military penal code is justified, but HRW's assessment of the code found the legal basis for the trial of civilians in the military court, including Al-Shabaab members not taking part in hostilities, to be doubtful.

Defendants are also often held in facilities run by Somalia's national intelligence agency, notorious for mistreatment during interrogations. Turyare told the media that those recently executed had "confessed". International human rights law and Somalia's provisional constitution state that no one can be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt. This basic standard helps to protect defendants from being coerced or tortured into confessing.

The state-run Somali National Television has contributed to undermining the defendants' chances of a fair trial by broadcasting interviews with them during their detention and trial, describing their alleged involvement in attacks. This shows governmental disregard for the presumption of innocence.

Amid these swift executions, Somalia has called on Kenya to extradite to Mogadishu an alleged Al-Shabaab journalist who is reportedly under arrest in Kenya. While Kenya still has the death penalty on its books, it has not executed anyone in decades, and should not return anyone to Somalia who surely will not receive a fair trial.

The Somali government should reform its courts before making requests for extradition. The president should impose a moratorium on the death penalty, and his government should work to ensure that all national courts, civilian and military, respect fair trial standards. Without serious improvements in the quality of trials, the injustices of the past will continue.

As one Somali defence lawyer told me: "I believe that all human beings, including Al-Shabaab suspects, have the right to fair trial." Wise words that the head of the military court and the Somali authorities should hear if they hope to rebuild people's trust in their justice system.

Author: Laetitia Bader is an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.  

Somali paradise flower chewers savour low-price bliss after UK ban | Reuters

Somali paradise flower chewers savour low-price bliss after UK ban | Reuters

"The president has arrived, the president has arrived," chant youths in Mogadishu's Beerta Khaatka market, as armed men in trucks mounted with machine guns escort lorries with horns blaring through the throng.
The joking salutation is not for Somalia's president, but hails a national institution nonetheless: white sacks brimming with leafy sprouts of khat, the narcotic shrub chewed across the Horn of Africa and Yemen in a tradition dating back centuries.
The ubiquitous sight of young men with rifles slung over their shoulders and green stalks of khat dangling from their mouths is emblematic of the Somalia of recent decades, where marauding Islamist rebels and warlords bent on carving out personal fiefdoms have fomented a culture of guns and violence.
Grown on plantations in the highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia, tonnes of khat, or qat, dubbed "the flower of paradise" by its users, are flown daily into Mogadishu airport, to be distributed from there in convoys of lorries to markets across Somalia.
Britain, whose large ethnic Somali community sustained a lucrative demand for the leaves, banned khat from July as an illegal drug. This prohibition jolted the khat market, creating a supply glut in Somalia and pushing down prices, to the delight of the many connoisseurs of its amphetamine-like high.
"Those who exported to London have now made Mogadishu their khat hub," said Dahir Kassim, an accountant for a wholesale khat trader in Somalia's rubble-strewn capital where women under umbrella stands sell khat bundles wrapped in banana leaves.
The price of the cheap Laari khat popular in the impoverished country has halved to about $10 per kilogram since Britain outlawed the stimulant. A kilogram of "Special" or "London" khat has also gone down to about $18 from $30.
Before the UK ban, 27-year-old mason's assistant Mohamed Khalif could only afford to chew once a week. "Now I chew daily and my problems are over," said Khalif, blissfully.
The daily arrival of the khat trucks galvanises markets, sending female traders scrambling for the sacks of stems and leaves, whose potency wanes within a few days of plucking.
Other street vendors take advantage of the hubub to try to sell soft drinks and cigarettes.

"I bought my own houses from khat sales," said 55-year-old wholesale seller Seinab Ali in Mogadishu, distributing bundles of wrapped leaves to local traders.
But khat exporters in Kenya, a former British colony where the cash crop bolsters the local economy, say the UK ban has slashed their profits from sales to Somalia.
"Britain has made our khat business useless," said Nur Elmi, a khat trader in Kenyan capital Nairobi from where shipments to Somalia have almost doubled after Britain's ban.
"They cannot afford to buy it all (in Somalia), so we sell it at throwaway prices," he said.
The British decision to classify khat an illegal class-C drug was surrounded by heated debate, with critics saying it would create a lucrative clandestine market and even alienate immigrant youths, driving them into crime or Islamist extremism.
Home Secretary Theresa May had argued in backing the ban that it would help prevent Britain from becoming a hub for the trade, which was already banned in the United States and several European countries. She also cited evidence that khat had been linked to "low attainment and family breakdowns".
While defenders of khat-chewing hail it as a time-honoured social tradition comparable to drinking coffee, detractors say it shares part of the blame for the violent and destructive chaos suffered by Somalia for the last 20 years.
Somalia's cash-strapped government seldom collects health statistics. The spike in use is a concern but officials are too busy battling Islamist al Shabaab rebels and rebuilding Somalia's state institutions to dedicate much attention to it, said the Mogadishu mayor's spokesman Ali Mohamud.
"Somali people are wasting money, time and energy on khat," he said. "Khat has only advantaged those who grow it."
A 2006 World Health Organisation report on khat said it can increase blood pressure, insomnia, anorexia, constipation, irritability, migraines and also impair sexual potency in men.
Even many of those who make a living from the khat trade recognise that its consumption can be harmful.
"Khat is good for mothers who sell it but for those who consume it is a disaster. Day and night I pray to God so that my children do not chew khat," said wholesaler Ali.
Many Somali women point to wrecked marriages and abandoned children as testimony to the dangers of excessive use of khat.
"Men who chew are not good," said Maryan Mohamed, who said she had been married 13 times. "They chew alongside their hungry children."

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Gwynne Dyer: Italy rescuing asylum seekers, but where is the EU? | Georgia Straight, Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly

Gwynne Dyer: Italy rescuing asylum seekers, but where is the EU? | Georgia Straight, Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly

The last time “Mare Nostrum”(Latin for “Our Sea”) was used as a political slogan in Italy, Mussolini’s fascists were claiming dominance over the entire Mediterranean.
This time it’s different. It’s the name of the operation the Italian navy is running to save asylum seekers from drowning on the dangerous voyage in open boats from North Africa to Italy.
In a seaworthy vessel with a working engine and a reliable compass, it’s a 10-hour crossing and not very dangerous at all.
In a leaky, massively overcrowded wreck that was scavenged somewhere along the North African coast by the people smugglers and sent off to Italy after a few rudimentary repairs, it can be a death sentence.
An estimated 20,000 people went down with their boats before reaching Italy in the past 10 years.
The most recent victims, on August 23, barely made it one kilometre off the Libyan coast before their boat sank, leaving 170 people in the water. The Italian navy does not operate in Libyan territorial waters, and the Libyan coast guard station near Qarabouli, east of Tripoli, has no ships of its own. The coast guards borrowed a couple of fishing boats, but only 16 people were still alive by the time they got there.
The boats usually founder in international waters, however, and then it’s the Italian navy’s job. Operation Mare Nostrum began in October 2013, and since then over 80,000 people have been pulled from these sea-going death traps (though most were not actually sinking at the time) and safely landed in Italy.
Last weekend, the Italian navy rescued almost 4,000 more.
This policy honours Italy’s humanitarian traditions—but since all the people who are saved claim political asylum on coming ashore, setting in motion a legal process that can last for years, the Italian navy is actually increasing Italy’s problem as the first port of call for over half the undocumented immigrants entering the European Union.
Most of them have a good case for claiming asylum: a large majority of the people reaching Italy are refugees from war and tyranny in Syria, Eritrea, and Somalia, with smaller number from various West African countries. Nor do they really want to stay in Italy, which is going through a prolonged economic crisis and has very high unemployment. They would rather move on to more prosperous EU countries further north.
But international law says that refugees must claim asylum in the first safe haven they reach, and in the case of the EU that is almost bound to be Italy, because it is so near to Africa and because the post-Gaddafi chaos in Libya means that there is no control over boats leaving the Libyan coast.
Italy is now getting more than half of the EU’s entire refugee flow— probably well over 100,000 this year—and all of those people must stay in Italy. It’s expensive, it’s politically poisonous, and the country’s facilities for looking after these refugees are being overwhelmed. Yet Italy’s’s EU partners seem quite content to leave Italy to bear the burden all by itself.
With almost all of the Fertile Crescent now in a state of war, and new flows of refugees starting as a result of the fighting in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, the numbers are going up fast.
Five Italian warships are dedicated full-time to Operation Mare Nostrum, and on many occasions in the past few months they have picked up more than 1,000 people in one day. This situation cannot last.
Italy has made no threats to stop the rescues and let the refugees drown. “We do not want a sea of death,” said Rear-Admiral Michele Saponaro, who runs the operation from the naval command centre.
But Rome is losing patience with its do-nothing EU “partners”, and there is another way to address Italy’s problem.
The Schengen Treaty does not include Britain and Ireland, which opted out, and four new EU members have not yet complied with its terms—but 22 of the EU’s 28 members allow free movement across their borders for legal residents of all the Schengen countries. This includes Italy, of course.
So in theory, if Italy just gives the asylum seekers an ID card and a document saying they have permanent residence, then they’ll leave for greener pastures.
“We’ll just let them go,” said Interior Minister Angelino Alfano last May. “We want to clearly say to the EU that they either patrol the Mediterranean border with us or we will send all those who ask for asylum in Italy where they really want to go: that is, the rest of Europe, because they don't want to stay in Italy.”
A previous Italian government briefly made the same threat back in 2011 and then the rift was papered over, but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s new government seems to mean business. Italy not only wants its partners to contribute money and ships to Operation Mare Nostrum; it also wants them to share the job of looking after the refugees and not leave them all in Italy.
The EU is famously bad at making hard choices, but it’s finally going to have to face up to this one.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Piracy is a symptom of Somalia chaos | The National

Piracy is a symptom of Somalia chaos | The National

Piracy has fallen out of the headlines recently as the number of attempted hijackings has dropped. Back in 2009 and 2010, there were incidents weekly or even daily. Now, as The National’s report yesterday pointed out, there have been only a handful of attempts this year.

The change is mainly due to increased policing and vigilance. Ships now have armed guards and, in areas known to attract pirates such as the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, extra precautions are taken, such as increasing the ship’s speed and keeping a close eye on any vessels approaching or following. The European Union, which has its own anti-piracy force, has also conducted operations against pirate strongholds in Somalia.
But there is little room for complacency. As Mohammed Bisthamy, one of the 11 crew of the hijacked MV Albedo, who spent four years in captivity, told this newspaper, pirates are merely biding their time. They are patient and can wait for a few years until the ship owners get tired of the cost of extra guards and leave their ships defenceless.
Patient, yes. But also desperate. Because behind the criminality of piracy in Somalia lies the context of the nearly complete collapse of a country. Somalia has not been a functioning state across its entire territory since the early 1990s. For years, it has been wracked by conflict, creating widespread poverty and desperation.
It is out of that crucible that piracy emerged. It is merely a symptom of the disintegration of the country as a whole.
Therefore, without fixing the root causes of the problem, piracy is bound to come back, again and again. Indeed, there is sufficient time to fix the problem, there simply needs to be political will. If pirates are willing to lay low for several years before resurfacing, then surely, in that time, the international community can tackle the source of the instability in the country. That is particularly important for this region, both because of shipping and because of historical cultural and trade ties to Somalia.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

UN : must end child soldiers’ recruitment in Somalia | Diplomat News Network

UN : must end child soldiers’ recruitment in Somalia | Diplomat News Network

The UN envoy for children and armed conflict has called on Somalia to end and prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, as well as the killing and maiming of children.
Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary- General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict, also urged the government to fully implement the two Action Plans it signed in 2012 to end the use of children by government forces.
“Somalia faces many challenges but making its army child free is possible and I am encouraged that the Somali Federal Government has committed to it,” Zerrougui said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Saturday after concluding a four-day visit to Somalia.
Zerrougui who also visited Nairobi for two days said all the necessary measures enclosed in the action plans should be put in place and implemented.
“Crucial to that process is the need to have the legal framework in which progress will happen,” she said.
The Action Plan outlines steps to be taken by the Somalia authorities to ensure a child-free national army.
According to the UN, full compliance with the Action Plan will result in the Government of Somalia being removed from the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties who recruit and use children.
Under the pact, the Horn of Africa nation commits to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed forces.
The UN will support the reintegration of all children released from the forces, and the government will criminalize the recruitment and use of children through national legislation.
Zerrougui noted the Somali government has committed to expedite the ratification of the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its additional protocols in this symbolic year of the 25th anniversary of the CRC.
The country is one of the seven countries involved in the Campaign “Children Not Soldiers”, launched by the SRSG and UNICEF in March 2014 to end the recruitment and use of children by government forces by 2016.
Zerrougui has said a significant number of children affected by armed conflict live on the African continent.
The UN envoy, who visited UNICEF-supported reintegration center, saw how ground work done by the UN and its partners can help children reclaim their lives after months or years in armed forces and armed groups.
“Meaningful reintegration must be a priority and appropriate resources must be invested in these programs that are essential to build a stronger, more peaceful Somalia, governed by the rule of law,” Zerrougui said.
“And it is important for the UN and all partners to be creative where it is needed to overcome the specific challenges found in the Somalia context.”
Zerrougui called upon the Somali government to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of grave violations committed against children.
She also reiterated the UN’s commitment to continue its support to Somalia and to the children of Somalia.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Somali child soldiers 'punished' in foreign-funded camps: UN - Yahoo News

Somali child soldiers 'punished' in foreign-funded camps: UN - Yahoo News

Former child soldiers in war-torn Somalia are being held in prison conditions in foreign-funded camps, "punishing" rather than rehabilitating them, the top UN children's envoy said Thursday.
Leila Zerrougui, UN envoy for children and armed conflict, said former child soldiers -- who foreign donors were funding to rehabilitate their return to society -- were effectively being locked up without trial and denied visits from their family.
"They are held in detention without due process," she told reporters in Kenya after a four-day visit to Somalia.
While some centres were treating children well, others were little more than prisons, she said. Some children were assessed to pose little threat to wider society.
Centres must follow "international standards dedicated to rehabilitating and reintegrating them into the society, rather than punishing them," she said.
She singled out the Serendi Rehabilitation Centre in the capital Mogadishu -- part funded by the Norwegian government -- where 55 children including those who once fought for the Islamist Shehab were being held.
Children there were trained in new skills but are blocked from leaving, denied family visits, and have no access to any legal process to challenge their detention, she said.
"It is not a rehabilitation centre, it's detention centre, there's no doubt about it," she added.
"Children cannot leave it, even adults or children cannot leave it freely."
War-torn Somalia is awash with guns after more than two decades of conflict, with a 22,000-strong African Union force battling alongside government troops against the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab.

UN spends millions on security programs for terror-afflicted Somalia without overseeing results, study says | Fox News

UN spends millions on security programs for terror-afflicted Somalia without overseeing results, study says | Fox News

The United Nations Development Program, the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty agency, spent tens of millions to make terrorism-battered Somalia safer, but never verified that the work was done, or even that its government partners had the capacity to do their jobs,  according to a scathing  internal auditors’ report.
According to the United Nations Development Program’s project website, about $25 million was spent in 2013 on the audited projects mentioned in the organization’s internal report—roughly  half the $59 million spent on UNDP programs and management in Somalia that year.
The project website shows the work as being mostly centered in the capital of Mogadishu and intended to provide “coordination and support to Somali security sectors,” develop an “efficient, effective, professional civilian police service” and “policy and law making processes,” as well as a “community security” projects aimed at reducing “armed violence.”
In a brutal counterpoint to those activities, in June 2013, radical Islamic Al-Shabaab militants struck  the main U.N. compound in Mogadishu, killing eight local and international security staffers, and forcing other U.N. staffers to remain in Kenya, where U.N. operations for Somalia have centered for years, in fear for their lives.
The report, prepared by UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigations, or OAI, was based an examination this past spring of UNDP’s Somalia country office in Kenya—the hub of coordination for some 20 U.N. agencies—which maintains senior management offshoots in Mogadishu and outlying Somalian centers. The OAI probe aimed at assessing “the adequacy and effectiveness” of UNDP leadership, coordination and management in Somalia during the preceding year.
What the auditors found  in examining the office’s operations were financial records in disarray,  a tangled skein of bureaucratic  lines of authority , special boards intended to oversee the accomplishment of projects meeting sporadically or never, and project reports that were “either poorly written or not prepared at all.”
Some of the financial accounting lapses that the auditors noted seemed especially egregious. In one case, $3 million had been spent by UNDP’s top official, known as the Resident Coordinator, for “support to U.N. coordination.”
According to the audit, the support is supposed to provide for “analysis, planning, tracking and reporting” on the use of resources. In 2013, the auditors noted,  no report was filed on how the coordination money was spent.
In other words, the money that was supposed to be spent on tracking how UNDP spent the rest of its money apparently wasn’t tracked.
Overall,  the auditors noted, many  other spending records had not been set up in UNDP’s global financing tracking system—and when they were entered, were sometimes set up so that expenses couldn’t be tallied.
In one case, the auditors noted $6.6 million had been handed over to government partners  as “grants” for projects rather than “advances,” meaning UNDP “could not track how such advances were expensed and how accountability for those funds was discharged.”
When it came to actual project oversight, the auditors rated UNDP’s lapses as even worse than its financial pecadillos:  they were labeled as “high (critical) priority,” for fixing,  meaning that “failure to take action could result in major negative consequences for UNDP.”
Chief among them was a lack of “capacity assessment,” meaning a tough and detailed evaluation of the ability of UNDP’s partners in Somalia, which included both central and regional governments,  actually to carry out the projects assigned to them, as well as “account and report for the funds provided by UNDP.”
Instead, the watchdogs reported, UNDP assessed future capacity on “earlier experience in working the with prospective partner.” As a result, the auditors said, UNDP was in no position to take timely action to “mitigate risks of irregularities” or of potential fraud.
And, in fact, the auditors noted, “several cases of alleged fraud by implementing partners” were already under investigation by OAI while UNDP’s haphazard management progressed through 2013. In response to questions from Fox News, a UNDP spokesman confirmed that the fraud cases involved Somali government partners of the U.N. organization.
What the office did best, according to the auditors, was raise money and track donor contributions  for U.N. projects: a total of  $213 million out of $220 million called for in UNDP’s 2011-2015 Country Program Document (CPD) for Somalia.
(Ironically enough, the CPD itself notes that “UNDP Somalia commits to continue to improve its accountabilities through enhanced monitoring and evaluation, thereby ensuring a more effective oversight, especially where accessibility remains a challenge.”)
In explanation of the situation, a UNDP spokesman noted an unquestionable truth: that “Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for international development, with ongoing and specific threats to U.N. and other international development and humanitarian personnel.”
Many projects, he noted, “are in insecure places and verification missions are contingent on the insecurity level in that area and threats to staff.”
As a result, UNDP operations were “constrained by extremely restricted travel, heightened security risks and access restrictions within Mogadishu and South Central Somalia”—all reasons, by implication, for the lack of oversight.
That explanation glided over the fact that many of those conditions were known in advance, and outlined in the country program document UNDP had ostensibly been following since 2011.
Among many other things, that CPD called for creation of a special program monitoring unit and “a more astute focus on improved results-based management and result reporting,” because “insecurity is likely to remain a significant obstacle” to direct contact in the then-future.
The auditor-watchdogs put it more bluntly.   Adequate oversight and management are even more essential, they observed , “particularly in high risk operating environments like Somalia.”
Despite its explanations, UNDP now apparently agrees. The organization’s spokesman told Fox News that the Kenya office  “is now rolling out arrangements for third-party monitoring in order to address this and provide additional field verification if UNDP staff cannot travel to these areas.” In other words, someone else will do it.
For other problems the auditors discovered, however, UNDP apparently still has a way to go.  The management says thatas of 2014, all new project documents are reviewed and cleared in line with corporate guidelines” that were ignored in the past.
The deadline for clean-up of the previous mess is the end of December, 2014.
Meantime, European donor nations, the U.N. and Somalia’s government in September 2013 announced a new Somali Compact, marking “a new beginning for a sovereign, secure, democratic, united and federal Somalia at peace with itself and the world.”
The aim of the compact is to assist a Somali government elected in 2012 to restore “the Somali people’s trust in the state and its ability to protect and serve their basic needs for inclusive politics, security, justice, an economic foundation and revenue and services, in full respect of human rights”
UNDP’s spokesman told Fox News that in the wake of the new Somali Compact, “it is also a time for international development partners to change the way we do business” in Somalia, and give more room to Somalis themselves to take over “in a way that was not possible during the previous long period of state collapse.”
To that end, the Western nations involved in the compact have pledged roughly $2.4 billion additional dollars to the still shaky Somali government to build up “core public sector capacities”—much like the efforts, in many cases, that UNDP was apparently not supervising adequately.

Friday, August 22, 2014

UNHCR TRACKS | A Lifetime of Waiting

UNHCR TRACKS | A Lifetime of Waiting
Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, is just 100 kilometres from the Somali border. For Sarah, it might as well be a million.
Like so many others living here, she was born a refugee and raised in the camp after her mother fled war-torn Somalia a quarter of a century ago. In her tent, which she shares with her husband, Mohammed, she is still living out of the suitcases that her mother first arrived with. Sarah has become a wife and now a mother without ever stepping foot outside the camp.
Her baby daughter, Somaya, is the second generation of her family to have been born in exile. Although Sarah has never visited her home country, she hopes to go there one day. “I feel like I am Somali,” she says, rocking her child tenderly. “My parents are Somali. I believe that someday Somalia will be peaceful and I will go there.”
Today, over 1 million Somalis remain displaced outside their country. With the crisis well into its third decade, UNHCR launched a Global Initiative on Somali Refugees last year in a bid to find solutions. Through meetings and ongoing dialogues, the initiative has been bringing together senior policy makers from affected States, members of the Somali diaspora and civil society leaders from across the region as well as scholars, business leaders, UN officials, donors and other development actors.
The aim is to stimulate a bolder, more creative search for solutions for this remarkably diverse population. For some, that could mean returning home one day to rebuild their nation.
“Now we are all educated,” says Sarah, proudly. “We have knowledge in all different areas. I think when we go back to Somalia we will develop the country, one way or another.”

UNHCR 'gives impetus' to Somali refugees' initiative, 21 August 2014

UNHCR 'gives impetus' to Somali refugees' initiative, 21 August 2014

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday launched an initiative to give impetus to its Global Initiative on Somali Refugees (GISR).

Launched in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the new drive, titled the "Addis Ababa Commitment towards Somali Refugees," was launched during a meeting between UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres and government ministers from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen, which together host nearly one million Somali refugees.

"We, as key stakeholders, express appreciation to the High Commissioner for having launched the GISR to catalyze fresh impetus for durable solutions for Somali refugees," read a statement issued after the meeting.

According to the statement, participants expressed gratitude to host countries "for the solidarity and hospitality extended to Somali refugees for decades."

It added: "We absolutely reaffirm our commitment to maintain asylum and international protection for Somali refugees and to intensify the search for durable solutions for them."

Guterres said the UNHCR was working with the international community to respond to the needs of Somali refugees.

"Refugee response in East Africa is severely underfunded," he said, adding that his agency would do everything possible to raise additional funding.

He went on to say that the UNHCR was "very strong in repatriating and supporting refugees."

Somalia has remained in the grip of political violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

The troubled country recently appeared to inch closer to stability with the intervention of African Union troops tasked with combating Somalia's Al-Shabaab militant group.

According to UNCHR figures, more than 1.1 million Somalis remain internally displaced, while another one million live in neighboring countries.

Islamic State 'Beyond Anything We've Seen,' Hagel Says : The Two-Way : NPR

Islamic State 'Beyond Anything We've Seen,' Hagel Says : The Two-Way : NPR

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel describes a failed U.S. mission into northern Syria earlier this summer to rescue Americans believed held there — including a journalist who was executed earlier this week — as "flawless" despite not recovering the hostages.
"This was a flawless operation, but the hostages weren't there," Hagel told journalists at a Pentagon briefing with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Dempsey, asked if he thought the hostages were ever at the targeted location in northern Syria, said simply: "I do."
Among the captives the U.S. hoped to free was freelance journalist James Foley, who was beheaded on Tuesday by his captors, members of the al-Qaida inspired group Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Hagel defended a decision by the Pentagon to release information about the classified rescue mission in July, which involved radar-evading helicopters and ground components, saying that "a number of news outlets already knew about it."
He said a high-level decision was made that as long as specific methods of the operation were not revealed, it was OK to discuss it in general terms.
Even with U.S. airstrikes directed against Islamic State militants, Hagel said he expects the terrorist organization to "regroup and stage an offensive," adding that U.S. military efforts in Iraq are not over.
The defense secretary said the U.S. was continuing to provide military assistance and direct military support to Iraq's Kurdish militias, known collectively as the peshmerga: "Overall, these operations have stalled ISIL footing," he said.
Hagel described the challenge of the Islamic State as a "whole new dynamic."
He said the group was "as sophisticated and well-funded as any organization we've seen.
"Oh, this is beyond anything we've seen," he said emphatically in response to a question as to whether the Islamic State represented a "9/11-level threat" to the U.S.
Hagel said the U.S. needs to "take a cold steely look" at the group "and get ready."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Crisis in Somalia Is Deepening as Attacks Linked to the Extremist Group al-Shabaab in the Capital - Crossmap Christian News | World

The Crisis in Somalia Is Deepening as Attacks Linked to the Extremist Group al-Shabaab in the Capital - Crossmap Christian News | World

The crisis in Somalia is deepening as attacks linked to the extremist group al-Shabaab in the capital, Mogadishu, continued this month, highlighting once more the country's desperate need for prayer.
On Aug 8, al-Shabaab militants killed a member of parliament, Aden Madeer, in Mogadishu, blocking his car and riddling it with bullets. Madeer, who was chairman of the parliamentary finance committee, is the fifth legislator to be killed in less than four months.
Al-Shabaab, which advocates the strict Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, is fighting against the government to create an Islamic state. They claim to have killed Mr. Madeer because he brought "Christian enemies" to Somalia, a reference mainly directed at African Union forces. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al-Shabaab's military operations, said the rebels would kill lawmakers "one by one" if they continued to back President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's government.
Local media outlet Horseed reported that Amison (African Union) and Somali National Army troops received a tip-off that led to the capture of an assortment of heavy weapons and ammunition belonging to al-Shabaab on Sunday in Mogadishu. The Amison force commander, Lt. Gen. Silas Ntigurirwa, noted that some of the weaponry captured, which was already assembled and loaded for use, could have been used to cause extensive harm to the Somali people. They said the capture is a good sign that, "very soon [Somalia] will get peace and security".
On the same day, at least three women died and seven others were injured when a bomb planted at a busy market in the capital was detonated remotely. Though no one has claimed responsibility, most assume that al-Shabaab orchestrated the attack. The victims were working as city cleaners.
The government sent a strong message to al-Shabaab on Aug 10, when it executed three al-Shabaab members convicted in military court of killing civilians in a series of recent attacks. According to Reuters, the men, who were hooded and tied to poles with their hands behind their backs, were executed by firing squad in a Mogadishu field while a crowd looked on. Though critics point out that international human rights standards largely prohibit trials of civilians before military courts, Somali authorities and judiciary have justified trials of suspected al-Shabaab operatives on the grounds that the regular courts are unprotected and vulnerable to attack.
"These are worrying reports. Somalia needs stability, but it cannot be at the cost of sound legal process. We continue to pray that the young and fragile government of Somalia succeeds in bringing stability to this nation while upholding human rights. Moreover, we pray for the Body of Christ in Somalia on whom the continued instability is taking its toll. We are encouraged to hear testimonies of sustained faith and boldness in sharing the gospel despite the dangers, but realize that they desperately need our prayers to persist," commented Open Doors' Regional Director for Africa.
Somalia is 2nd on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List. Life is extremely difficult for Christians who worship Christ almost entirely in secret. A Christian wrote to an Open Doors partner recently, "We are experiencing horrible things here every day. People became numb because they witness lives being taken every day. That is why I think I feel numb, as well. Therefore, I need you prayers so that the Lord may rescue my life from this evil...I am struggling, and it appears that I live in hell on earth so I need your prayers...I wish I could just stand inside a church and cry out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Hardened by decades of bloodshed, some feel that the value of human life in Somalia has become very low. As long as the wholesale destruction of the most important resource-people-continues, growth, stability and prosperity will be crippled for this nation. A Somali Christian said it well: "I feel sad when I see armed children being taught how to kill. Please pray for these young people so that God might bring them into His Kingdom. The only solution for them would be to [hear the gospel]. God himself came to His people and lived among them. This teaches us many things. First, God loves sinners without despising them, and secondly, he is an omnipotent God for whom nothing is impossible."
The Christian testimony is almost universally rejected in this country, but there are those who still share the gospel whenever there is an opportunity. A Somali Christian told a partner recently that he has regular contact with camel herders who gather at night to socialize. They often heard him listening to radio programs, including one that focuses on sharing the gospel. The herders began listening to these programs with him. When the Christian had to move on, they asked him to leave the radio for them. He set it to the gospel station, and left it with them. He later heard that the herders listen to the radio every night. "Those camel herders are illiterate...Nevertheless, they are drinking from the spring of [life]. "I am not afraid of death because Christ is my life and death would be a benefit for me...still, I believe that I can share the gospel with many people; therefore, I need your prayers."

GEESKA AFRIKA ONLINE The Horn of Africa Intelligence News Group » Somali: AMISOM combat troops to Leave Somalia by End of 2016

GEESKA AFRIKA ONLINE  » Somali: AMISOM combat troops to Leave Somalia by End of 2016

The End of AMISOM mission roadmap in Somalia. According to Wanyoto, the process of Somalia becoming autonomous is almost achievable and that the only roadblock is the complete “flush out of Al-Shabaab” from the sea.
“Going by the current projections, we are almost certain that we shall see take off in 2016 and according to our roadmap, AMISOM would be leaving Somalia in 2016. The target is achievable. So, as we clean out Al-Shabaab, we have the mandate to build capacity and this is a process we have embarked on,” she said.
The AMISOM, a peace keeping mission operated by the African Union would be leaving Somalia in 2016, according to the latest assessment by stakeholders.
Lydia Wanyoto, the Acting Special Envoy of the African Union to Somalia and Eng. Sheik Sayid Ahmed Dahir, the Somalia ambassador to Uganda say that the roadmap of 2016 would be adhered to and that by that time the federal Government would have developed capacity to independently run the affairs of the war-torn state.
Sayid Ahmed said that Somalia is on the right path and thanked regional Governments, especially Uganda for ensuring that the conflict is subdued.
“Somalia will have no more conflict in the coming years; and with the help our friendly countries, we are now ready to take full control. We welcome the capacity building trainings that our partners are conducting and I urge our countrymen to enforce what they have studied for the betterment of our country,” he said.
The envoys were commenting on the AMISOM deployment in Somalia during the international humanitarian law training on Wednesday at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort hotel yesterday where over 30 officers from Somalia National Army were equipped with techniques on how to handle civilians.
In 2013, the United Nation Security Council extended the mandate of AMISOM to 2016. In preparation to leave Somalia in 2016, Wanyoto said that AMISOM has embarked on the third phase of training the national army with modern professional army strategies, especially changing their mindset from conflict-occupied to be more mindful of the human rights.
These efforts are part of preparations for the 2016 general elections in Somalia. Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Ethiopia are the AMISOM troop contributing countries.
However, before the training started yesterday the thirty Somalia soldiers staged a brief protest demanding the organizers of the training to sort out their challenges related to travel, accommodation and other allowances.
The soldiers briefly engaged the Somalia ambassador to Uganda in a two-hour closed meeting demanding that before he leaves the training, he should first sort out their demands.
Later, Wanyoto and Sheik Sayid Ahmed told New Vision that the soldiers had “administrative” problems that they wanted addressed urgently.
“There were administrative issues that we have resolved. Some faced challenges during their travel from Nairobi to Kampala. Their history is that of conflict, they are very sensitive people and dealing with them is not business as usual but we know how to handle them,” she said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa's Deadliest Radicals

By Peter Dörrie
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks.
More than any other actor involved in the two-decade-old Somali conflict, al-Shabab has demonstrated its ability to adapt. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities. As perhaps the most important spoiler on Somalia's way toward peace, al-Shabab's current situation warrants an assessment.
The Growth of a Radical Movement
The “Mujahedeen Youth Movement” emerged from the ashes of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a federation of Sharia courts that tried to fill the void left by the total collapse of the Somali state in the 1990s. In June 2005, the ICU took control of much of southern Somalia, raising alarm in Western capitals as well as in neighboring countries like Ethiopia.
By providing a basic legal framework and social services, the ICU succeeded in creating domestic support for its political and religious agenda. It was in this period that al-Shabab was recognized as the ICU’s youth wing, even though the group had existed since 2003.
The ICU’s reign over southern Somalia lasted only a few months. A U.S.-backed invasion of 14,000 Ethiopian troops forced its leaders into exile in December 2006. The more determined and radical al-Shabab cadres stayed behind in Somalia, taking over the ICU’s remaining organization in rural Somalia. At the same time a military campaign against Ethiopian troops as well as those of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) began.
After the Ethiopian retreat in 2009, al-Shabab was able to extend its area of influence. The TFG stayed alive only thanks to the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM. Its power didn't extend beyond a few square miles in the center of Mogadishu. In much of the rest of southern Somalia, al-Shabab was able to establish itself as the de facto government.
In 2011 AMISOM and the TFG undertook a concerted offensive that pushed al-Shabab out of many important towns. They were soon joined by Kenyan troops in the south and redeployed Ethiopian forces, putting further pressure on al-Shabab and ushering in a new elected Somali government elected year later. Meanwhile, al-Shabab underwent a phase of internal conflict. Weakened by territorial losses, the group was predicted by many observers to be near its demise.
But al-Shabab has emerged from its crisis and has regained the initiative. Today the group is not only the greatest threat to the existence of the fledgling Somali government. It has also committed high-profile terror attacks against targets in Kenya and Uganda.
As Abdi Aynte, the director of Somalia's first think tank, the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, puts it, "After years of being in decline, now we are seeing the organization essentially coming back to life."
The Structure of al-Shabab
The incredible resilience of al-Shabab is explained at least in part by its leadership and structure. The group is governed by a central Elders Council, the Shura, headed by the Amir Ahmed Godane. The Shura brings together al-Shabab’s top leadership, including military commanders, civil administrators and religious scholars.
Local versions of the Shura also exist in those areas where al-Shabab has territorial control. These institutions incorporate local authorities and clan representatives, headed by the wali, an al-Shabab-appointed governor. They are autonomous from the group's top leadership, within certain limits.
Al-Shabab features a complete set of institutions. The Shura oversees several ministries tasked with military affairs, social services and civil administration. Its armed forces operate with considerable autonomy on the local level but still retain coherence and discipline. Several parallel services exist: Hisbah units, responsible for community policing and manning checkpoints; Zakawat troops tasked with collecting local taxes; and Jabhad forces that serve as mobile units conducting conventional mobile military operations. There is also the Amniyat, al-Shabab’s feared intelligence service, which handles clandestine operations and intelligence gathering.
Somalia’s local politics are complex and characterized by ever-changing clan alliances. More than anyone else, al-Shabab has succeeded in establishing a system of governance that is able to handle this.
But this shouldn’t obscure the brutal determination the movement employs to achieve its political and military objectives. Al-Shabab is currently emerging from a phase of internal conflict. After suffering military losses at the hands of AMISOM, the Amir Godane faced severe criticism from some of his top deputies. The internal opposition included the most prominent foreign fighter, Omar Hammami, a U.S. citizen. As a result, Godane allegedly developed a more authoritarian leadership style, refusing to assemble the Shura to discuss the internal disputes.
In 2013, tensions escalated. Godane’s faction moved swiftly and decisively, killing Hammami. Several other internal rivals were also either killed or purged from al-Shabab's ranks. From this conflict, “Godane has emerged stronger in terms of his leadership,” says Cedric Barnes, the International Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa director. Information collected by the United Nations indicates that Godane has also strengthened his direct control of the Amniyat intelligence branch. In its 2013 report, the U.N.’s Panel of Experts on Somalia came to the conclusion that the internal conflict had no impact on al-Shabab’s ability to conduct military operations.
“Al-Shabab is a political organization, despite all the Islamist aura around it,” says Barnes. “The fact that there are disputes within the leadership is not unusual. Al-Shabab should not be seen as exceptionally divided.” The Swedish Life & Peace Institute even credits al-Shabab with “a degree of ideological consistency and indoctrination” far beyond that of other Somali factions.
Indeed, al-Shabab is the only faction in Somalia’s political landscape with a clear and, for the most part, consistent political agenda. The group’s members see Somalia as being in existential crisis, under attack and colonized by neighboring countries.
In a 2014 report, the Life & Peace Institute quotes one sheikh of al-Shabab as saying, “The country has descended into a sphere of darkness. The country is colonized. The Somali people have become very weak and confused.”
Another sheikh sees the renunciation of Islam as the main problem: “The problems began in the time when the Somali people refused to practice Sharia, when women went outside uncovered, when injustice and corruption became something normal and individual rights were not respected.”
The Global War on Terror
An important framework for al-Shabab's ideology is the U.S.-led war on terror, which is portrayed as unjust, hypocritical and directed against Muslims in general.
For al-Shabab, the consequences are clear. To improve the situation for the Somali people, a theocracy based on al-Shabab's interpretation of the Sharia must be established, and the invaders must be destroyed. “Their ultimate aim,” says Barnes, “is to establish a new caliphate,” encompassing all Muslims in all parts of the world and ruled according to the principles set forth by the Quran, Sharia and Sunnah, the practices taught by the Prophet Muhammad.
Currently al-Shabab concentrates on the local and to some extent regional dimensions of this fight. Of particular importance is Daawa, the preaching and ideological indoctrination of Muslims in the region. Al-Shabab perceives itself as a government in waiting. Several experts interviewed by World Politics Review said the group would play “the long game,” seeking to weather any setbacks in order to outlast its enemies.
In this context, it is important to point out that al-Shabab is not without local support for its agenda. Its firm stance against outside intervention resonates well with Somalia’s prevailing nationalist sentiment. The group also involves itself in clan politics, weighing in on local conflicts. “It would be wrong to say that al-Shabab is popular,” says Barnes, “but what it does is align itself to issues that have pertinence to Somali people, and therefore it gets support.”
The group’s ties with other Jihadist organizations are superficial at best. While being part of the al-Qaida network, al-Shabab’s contacts with “al-Qaida central” are only institutional, with little interaction on the operational level.
In Africa, contacts between al-Shabab and groups like Boko Haram, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the Allied Democratic Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo exist. But there are few indications that these extend beyond occasional training missions. Its closest ties are with the al-Hijra network in Kenya, which is also the country where al-Shabab has been most active outside Somalia.
How al-Shabab is Financed
Another important aspect of al-Shabab’s resilience is its lavish financing. The group has set up a robust system to acquire the funds necessary to continue its fight and secure local support.
The most important source of income for al-Shabab is taxation. “Al-Shabab demands money from transport and businesses in the areas it governs,” says Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, the owner of a shop in Mogadishu’s infamous Bakara market, the country's main commercial center, which Al-Shabab controlled until 2011. The group justifies these taxes with the religious duty of Muslims to give Zakat, or alms.
There is no standardized way to calculate Zakat, and rates can vary between 2.5 percent and 20 percent, depending on the type of product or income. There is also little available information on the size of the economy in al-Shabab-controlled areas. This makes estimating the group’s income difficult.
One source of income has been well documented: the production and export of charcoal from southern Somalia. In 2013, the U.N. Monitoring Group estimated that Somalia exported 24 million sacks of charcoal, up from 11 million sacks in 2011. This represents an international market value of between $360 million and $384 million. The trade is completely illegal due to an U.N. embargo.
Not all this profit goes to al-Shabab, but the group is involved in all stages of the charcoal trade. It suffered a setback when it lost control of southern Somalia's main port, Kismayo, to Kenyan troops in 2011. But it continues to control the smaller port of Barawe and several others, as well as important roadblocks and production centers in the hinterland. The U.N. Monitoring Group estimates that al-Shabab made between $1.2 million and $2 million per month from taxing charcoal exports from Barawe alone in 2013. It further generated between $675,000 and $1.5 million at the Buulo Xaaji checkpoint close to the Kenyan border.
This profitable trade wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation and involvement of a wide range of actors. Some of these are ironically the professed enemies of al-Shabab. Kenyan troops control the port of Kismayo, but their intervention may have even increased al-Shabab’s income. Kenyan business interests lobbied their government to ignore the U.N. ban on the charcoal trade. Most of the charcoal produced in Somalia is exported to countries in the Persian Gulf and Middle East. The business networks that enable al-Shabab to trade charcoal intersect with those it uses to procure weapons and launder money. “By having networks and shell companies involved in the charcoal trade,” states the 2014 Environmental Crime Crisis report, “militias or terrorist groups can ensure an income independent of military success on the battlefield, enabling them to regroup and resurface again and again after apparent military defeat.” For al-Shabab, this has certainly been the case.
Other sources of income include the levying of taxes from aid organizations. This goes hand in hand with the regulation of NGO activities in areas controlled by al-Shabab, as the group enforces strict rules of engagement for humanitarian organizations. It has banned various organizations outright. Others ceased operation to avoid conflict with U.S. anti-terror financing laws.
Al-Shabab is also known to run extortion rackets against Somali companies. The most prominent case is that of the remittance company Dahabshiil, which reportedly was forced to make $1 million annual payments. Some business owners contribute voluntarily to al-Shabab’s cause, and voluntary private contributions also come from Somalis abroad. It is difficult to estimate the sums involved, but the U.N. has detailed at least one case of voluntary remittances to al-Shabab worth $100,000.
Al-Shabab can likely at least match the Somali federal government's 2013 budget of $110 million. At the same time, al-Shabab has been able to reduce its costs after vacating several large towns in the face of a combined government and AMISOM offensive. This has helped al-Shabab to keep up military pressure on AMISOM, the federal government and other potential adversaries.
Al-Shabab’s Military Capabilities
Despite its territorial losses, the group still controls vast areas in southern Somalia, and the military effort to defeat al-Shabab is currently a stalemate, says Stig Jarle Hansen, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and author of the 2013 book “Al Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group, 2005-2012.” “Al-Shabab’s conventional capacity is not good enough to defeat AMISOM in open battle”, he argues, “but I don’t think that AMISOM can defeat al-Shabab wholly either, because AMISOM can’t secure the countryside. They are simply not large enough.”
Al-Shabab’s conventional equipment is standard for an African insurgent group. Kalashnikov-type assault rifles abound, as do rocket-propelled grenades and large-caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft guns mounted on pickup trucks. In propaganda videos the group has shown fighters carrying MANPADS shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. But these weapons are either not operational or the group lacks the training to deploy them, and frequent raids by Kenyan aircraft on al-Shabab installations go completely unopposed. There is some limited use of mortars and sniper rifles, but they are either deployed ineffectively or only in a limited geographical area, indicating a severe lack of training on these platforms.
Taking a page from insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Shabab has developed considerable proficiency in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), refining its capacity to produce and deploy them to deadly effect. IEDs are used especially in ambush situations, where they are deployed against vehicles, followed by small-arms and heavy-weapons fire. Al-Shabab is now able to manufacture and deploy IEDs that are effective against armored vehicles, challenging one of AMISOM’s main military advantages.
In its 2013 report, the U.N. estimates that al-Shabab has 5,000 men under arms, a figure that Hansen thinks is too high. But he agrees that the fighting force has retained its operational readiness even after several key military defeats over the past three years.
This is in part because the group is able to replenish its pool of fighters. In contrast to the government, it pays its forces regularly, with wages ranging from $100-$500 per month, depending upon clan affiliation and rank. This makes the group a financially attractive option for recruits. Al-Shabab also provides assistance to veterans and families of its “martyrs.”
Another factor in al-Shabab’s recruitment success is its effective propaganda and alignment with common Somali grievances. “Ethiopia and Kenya,” two countries that have deployed troops under the AMISOM mandate, “are not very popular here,” explains Aynte. “Their presence is a continuous source of recruitment for al-Shabab, because there is a large majority of Somali people who view Ethiopian and Kenyan troops in Somalia as colonizers and aggressors.”
The group encourages clan elders to support the recruitment process, sometimes paying more than $100 for supplying fresh fighters. The U.N. has also documented cases of forcible abductions of child soldiers. This usually happens when communities resist voluntary recruitment.
Training consists of three months of basic training at locations close to the recruitment areas. Specialized training, for instance in IED production or guerrilla warfare, is offered to selected recruits based on military needs. The Amniyat, which combines the roles of intelligence service and special forces, has its own separate recruitment and training processes. These include courses in intelligence collection and targeted assassinations. All recruits are also subjected to thorough ideological indoctrination.
As for military strategy and tactics, according to Aynte, “al-Shabab is realistic about its ability and its capacity to regain control of large parts of the country including the capital. They clearly don’t have the capacity to do that.” Instead, the group employs a quite successful strategy of “overstretching” its enemies.
Al-Shabab avoids open engagements with AMISOM, relinquishing control over key population centers if attacked. This leaves its military forces intact, including hidden weapons caches that it leaves behind. It then proceeds to cut off the towns “liberated” by AMISOM from the hinterland, harassing troops moving in and out of them as well as stopping all commerce and trade. As a result, prices for food items and other necessities increase. Federal government troops that are supposed to uphold law and order often display unprofessional behavior. Overall, this strategy denies the population any “post-liberation” benefits and often skews public opinion against al-Shabab’s enemies. It also forces AMISOM to commit considerable forces to holding territory, without allowing it to deal important losses to al-Shabab.
“The situation is really ‘out of the frying pan into a fire,’” says Hassan Aden Issack, a 23-year-old shop owner from Hudur, a town that was liberated by AMISOM in March. “People can’t get food, clean water and health care since al-Shabab began blocking the city this year. Food prices are high here. . . . Life is hard, and people began to die from lack of food and water.”
At the same time terror attacks, especially in Mogadishu, have surged. This is the domain of the Amniyat, which has proven its deadly effectiveness at this type of operation. It conducts targeted assassinations and suicide missions almost on a daily basis, including against high-value targets like the presidential palace.
“The use of terror,” explains Hansen, “is very strategic. Terror is probably more important for them now. It gains them attention, and it shows they are alive without deploying a lot of forces.” It also undermines the credibility of the Somali government. All Somalis interviewed by World Politics Review judged the government based on its capacity to provide security.
“Over the past year and a half we have seen a sharp increase in the number of attacks, high-profile attacks,” says Aynte. “I’m forced to avoid certain neighborhoods. My movement is very limited. And every time I’m traveling outside this compound where I live and work, there is a security escort with me.”
Yahya H. Ibrahim, president of the Somali International University in Mogadishu, agrees. “Every time before you go from your home,” he says, “you have to look at the two sides of your gate. You change your route to work every day.”
The experience of violence is immediate and real for locals. In an interview with World Politics Review, Mogadishu resident Aden Muhayden Salad says he experienced several al-Shabab attacks. “The latest was a suicide attack by al-Shabab against a government building this year. I was driving near the government building attacked by the militants with a car bomb and guns. I got out of my car and took cover in a nearby complex. When I came out I saw dead bodies and body parts lying on the ground.”
This type of “Mumbai-style” attack, which sees fighters attacking a building with bombs and firearms, has become a signature operation for al-Shabab. The most infamous example was the attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya. “It is a kind of suicide mission, they don’t plan to leave,” says Hansen. “They hold and kill as many as they can inside the building.”
None of the experts and locals interviewed by World Politics Review for this article thinks that a defeat of al-Shabab in the short term is realistic. They all agree that to achieve this goal, a military approach won’t suffice. “It’s about inclusive politics,” says Matt Bryden, a former coordinator of the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia, “both in the capital Mogadishu and in the emerging federal states.” Bryden makes clear that al-Shabab has never succeeded because of its own strength, but because of the weakness of its enemies.
Barnes agrees. “At the moment . . . the alternatives are no better” than al-Shabab, he says. Neither the federal government, nor the local clans and regional administrations can offer the Somali people security and a reliable framework. Instead of focusing too much on military solutions, he says, “more attention should be paid to the social context, why al-Shabab is so firmly rooted in Somalia.” For Western governments, this should include an honest assessment of their own involvement and allies in Somalia over the last decades.