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Friday, October 31, 2014

Ashura of Muharram - A Shia and Sunni Muslim Observance | IqraSense.com

Ashura of Muharram - A Shia and Sunni Muslim Observance | IqraSense.com

Assalamu-Alaikum and Greetings !
Ashura of Muharram
With Ashura at our doorsteps, this is a reminder for you to fast the two days of Ashura on the 9th and 10th of Muharram (or 10th and 11th of Muharram 1436 AH). Per Makkah calendar, 9th and 10th of Muharram correspond to Sunday and Monday, 2nd and 3rd of November, 2014.
Another point to note for the month of Muharram is the authentic hadith by the prophet mentioned in Sahih Muslim (hadith # 1163) where he (s.a.w.s.) says, "The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allaah Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night."
Do let others know about this so they, too, can fast on the two days of Muharram as instructed to us by our prophet (sa.w.s.)

10th of Muharram (the day of Ashura / Ashoora) is observed as an important day by both Sunni and Shia Muslims – however, for different reasons.
Most scholars believe that Ashura is named as such because of “tenth” of Muharram (ten is translated as “Ashara” in the Arabic language)
Sunni Muslims look at Ashura as a day of “respect and gratitude” (for Prophet Moosa and his nation), while Shia Muslims believe that day to be a day of mourning and sorrow. The following is an explanation of the difference.

Sunni Muslims

Based on the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (saws), Sunni Muslims celebrate Ashura as the day when Prophet Moses (Moosa) fasted on that day because Allah saved the Israelites from their enemy in Egypt. One of the many Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) that attests to that is in Bukhari that states:
Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1865) from Ibn ‘Abbaas, who said: The Prophet (saws) came to Madinah and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashoora. He said, “What is this?” They said, “This is a good day, this is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy and Moosa fasted on this day.” He (the Prophet Muhammad) said, “We are closer to Moosa (Prophet Moses) than you.”
So he (the Prophet Muhammad) fasted on this day and told the people to fast.
There are many other versions of this Hadith in the books of “Muslim” and “Bukhari”.
According to a version narrated by Muslim,
This is a great day when Allah saved Moosa (Moses) and his people and drowned Pharaoh and his people.”
Sunni Muslims celebrate Ashura by fasting on that day. Usually, Sunni Muslims are recommended to fast on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
Al-Shaafa’i and his companions, Ahmad, Ishaaq and others said: It is mustahabb [recommended] to fast both the ninth and the tenth, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fasted the tenth and intended to fast the ninth. Based on this, there are different ways of fasting ‘Ashoora’, the least of which is to fast the tenth only, but it is better to fast the ninth as well. The more one fasts in Muharram, the better. (islamqa.info)
In Jewish tradition, this festival is celebrated as the Passover, which is their way to commemorate their liberation over 3,300 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt that was ruled by the Pharaohs, and their freedom under the leadership of Prophet Moses. It commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in the Hebrew Bible especially in the Book of Exodus, in which the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Other Ahadith on the subject are the following:
The prophet observed the fast on Ashuraa (the 10th of Muharram), and ordered (Muslims) to fast on that day. (Agreed upon Hadith i.e. Bukhari & Muslim).
Narrated by Abi Katada: The prophet was asked about fasting on ‘Ashuraa’ (the 10th of Muharram), he said: “it expiates the previous year (for sins).” (Sahih Muslim)
It was proven from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that the best fasting after Ramadan is fasting in the month of Muharram. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allah Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.” Narrated by Muslim, 1163.

Shia Muslims Observance

Shia Muslims observance of Ashura is different altogether. They observe Ashura as the day of martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala. Shia Muslims, therefore, consider this a day of sorrow and observe it as such by refraining from music, listening to sorrowful poetic recitations, wearing mourning attire, and refraining from all joyous events (e.g. weddings) that in anyway distract them from the sorrowful remembrance of that day.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rebuilding Somalia - People & Power - Al Jazeera English

Rebuilding Somalia - People & Power - Al Jazeera English

In September 2014, we were invited by the president's office to come and film in Somalia. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is heading up the latest in a series of short-lived administrations since the country's descent into chaos that followed the fall of the Siad Barre dictatorship in 1989.

In order to build peace MP's were selected by elders to represent the different clans and when the government came to power two years ago, it was greeted by a wave of euphoria. It was a recognition of realpolitik: after two decades of conflict, order and a new administration could only be build by compromise.
Now it is high time for the central government to build the federal state and to extend its reach outside Mogadishu. Both, the president and the prime minister have been travelling across the country to speed up the creation of new, regional states. Without a national army and with African Union peacekeeping forces limited in scope the federal state can only be created by building alliances with local power brokers, even if that means brokering a compromise between national and regional clan interests.

Madobe, a former al-Shabab leader who changed sides and came to power with the backing of Kenyan forces operating inside Somalia, is now the leader of the Jubaland Interim Administration. With much international backing the goal is to hold a regional Jubaland reconciliation conference to bring together the opposing clans and to make the new administration truly representative.

As we start following the president on a series of meetings with elders and warlords from Kismayo we begin to understand how perilous this situation is. Our first encounter is with former warlord Ahmed Madobe, now in charge of Jubaland, one of Somalia's newest regional states.
This is far from easy. Back in Mogadishu we meet Barre Hiraale in the presidential office, another warlord, also from the Kismayo region who is opposed to Madobe.
Over the last years, Hiraale's fighters had repeatedly clashed with Madobe's forces and only a week earlier Hiraale given himself up and conceded defeat. Now he is negotiating with the president the conditions under which he hopes to join the Jubaland reconciliation, strong official post is likely to bring him into the fold, too small an offer will turn him into a spoiler.
Jubaland is one of the most advanced new, federal Somali states but the reality is that not all clans have come on board and al-Shabab is still very present. According to the Kenyan army nearly 200 al-Shabab fighters have been killed in the four weeks since our filming creating a possible vacuum that a new and representative representation needs to fill if it is to last.
But not all clans have come on board and attacks in Kismayo are still frequent. Ultimately, both the lasting defeat of al-Shabab and the integration of the remaining clans will depend on the ability of the central administration to present itself as transparent and willing to devolve power.
But therein lies yet another problem, transparency seems a long way off. At Mogadishu airport, we meet representatives of a Turkish construction company tasked with building the new terminal. Development aid given to Somalia by Turkey, and contracts granted in the other direction have given rise to a debate about the 'special relationship' between the two countries. After the president's inspection of the new terminal we headed to Mogadishu seaport to meet protesting workers. The contract to modernise the seaport had been given to Turkish company but was rejected by MP's for lack of transparency.
Over the past two years, UN investigators have repeatedly criticised the government for striking up secret contracts and cooperation agreements. This has led to a review of major international contracts by the the newly installed Finance Governance Committee, a watchdog with an IMF and World Bank presence.
Back at the airport we were witness to yet another - but unplanned - encounter. It was small but revealing: The president and the prime minister collided over the use the airport VIP lounge for meetings with a visiting US delegation. Both men assured us that their relationship is cordial but the clash over the recent cabinet reshuffle and the position of the justice minister makes this all but questionable.
After 25 years of warlord rule and a brief reign of al-Shabab, we saw a government that feels pressured to reward its allies in order to build relationships that move the country forward whilst struggling to also remain accountable. In the absence of any alternatives, both Somali citizens and the international community are willing to lend support. But patience is wearing thin. If it is not seen to be transparent, clean and independent this once hopeful government could run the risk of taking the country back to the brink.

UAE female students sign up for national service - Al Arabiya News

UAE female students sign up for national service - Al Arabiya News

Female students in the UAE were seen applying to join the country’s national service during an Armed Forces pavilion in Abu Dhabi this week, Gulf News reported on Wednesday.
While national service is optional for Emirati women, the decision to enroll is supported with benefits from the state, “including priority for jobs in government institutions and private businesses, marriage grants, housing plots and scholarships,” Gulf News reported citing a draft law.
“The most significant accomplishment towards gender equality in the UAE, and even in the region, is most visible through women’s participation in the military. Emirati women expressed a great desire for preparation in defending this country this year,” Azza Jasem, a trainer at a military school in Abu Dhabi, told the newspaper.
Earlier this year, the UAE issued a law making military service compulsory for Emirati men in a move highlighting the Gulf state’s concern over unrest in the region.
The law applies to all males between the ages of 18 and 30 and in good medical health. Men who have a high school degree or its equivalent will serve nine months, while those who do not have a high school diploma will serve for two years, state news agency WAM reported.

UAE official warns of potential for IS-Shabab link - US News

UAE official warns of potential for IS-Shabab link - US News

The United Arab Emirates' top diplomat warned Wednesday that the Islamic State group could team up with Islamic militants in Somalia, saying that more should be done to prepare for such a threat.
The Islamic State group that now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria — also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh — and the Somali militant Islamic group al-Shabab share a common pedigree in that they both have had links to al-Qaida. They frequently use similar tactics such as explosives-laden cars, suicide bombers and attacks on civilians.
They operate independently for now, but the Emirati foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, suggested that could change.
"What really scares us now is what we see from Daesh, and are we going to see in the future any sort of collaboration between different terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Shabab?" Sheik Abdullah said in an address at the opening of a conference focused on counter-piracy in Somalia.
"I think we should start to ask ourselves: how ready we are as countries, companies and international organizations in facing these big threats," he added.
Sheik Abdullah did not cite any specific intelligence pointing to active collaboration between the groups, but there has been speculation that the Somali rebels would shift their allegiance from al-Qaida to the Islamic State group.
The Emirates is a Western-allied, seven-state federation that includes the Gulf shipping and commercial hub of Dubai and the oil-rich capital, Abu Dhabi. It is home to a sizable Somali expatriate population and is among the most prominent Arab allies taking part in U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group.
Al-Shabab last month named a new leader, Ahmad Umar, and reaffirmed its alignment with al-Qaida after its longtime head, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a U.S. airstrike 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
The Islamic State group itself began as an Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaida, but it was kicked out of the terror network earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Somali security forces arrest suspected Al-Shabaab collaborators, seize weapons

The Somali security forces on Monday conducted house to house search operations in Mogadishu, arresting dozens of people accused of working with Al-Shabaab and seizing quantities of weapons stored in secret houses used by Al-Shabaab in the capital.
The spokesman of the cabinet, Ridwan Hajji Abdiweli said 140 militias and nine senior Al-Shabaab fighters accused of holding illegal firearms have been arrested in the operation.
Abdiweli said that the security forces will continue the operation to disarm militias carrying unregistered weapons that could be used in the city.
Abdiweli added that the Al-Shabaab militias disharmonize security during the night time and hide in their houses during the daytime, but he said that the security operation will continue to undermine their activities.

UN Secretary-General and World Bank Group President arrive in Mogadishu, pledge support for regional peace, security and development | Le Béninois.net

UN Secretary-General and World Bank Group President arrive in Mogadishu, pledge support for regional peace, security and development | Le Béninois.net

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, arrived in Mogadishu to pledge support for Somalia’s transition and for efforts to strengthen security and development across the wider Horn of Africa region.
The joint high level visit comes at an important time for Somalia which continues to make significant security gains against the Al-Shabaab insurgency, and is pushing forward essential political reforms with the goal of holding national elections in 2016. The delegation also includes Islamic Development Bank President Ahmad Mohamed Ali and senior representatives of the African Development Bank, the African Union, and the European Union.
“The UN, World Bank Group and indeed the international community as a whole are committed to helping the Somali people. Somalia is on the right track and I am confident that its people will rise to the challenges its country still faces. We are here to tell Somalis that they are not alone and that we will redouble our efforts to help them protect the gains made in recent years,” Ban Ki-moon said.
Somalia faces political, security, development and humanitarian challenges from its over two decades of conflict, but recent advances, including the creation of regional administrations in close cooperation with the Federal Government, are encouraging. Building a more stable Somalia will ensure greater security and economic prosperity across the Horn of Africa.
Somalia’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities, including the displaced, returnees, women and youth need to be included in the process of peacebuilding and statebuilding. Continued political unity will be essential for Somalia to meet its goals for democratic transformation.
“Somalia’s transition is a unique opportunity for the nation and the wider Horn of Africa region to improve the livelihoods of the people by engaging them in productive economic activities,” said Kim. “Political stability and human security are important pre-requisites for reducing extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity for the Somali people.”
The United Nations and the World Bank, in cooperation with other partners, are committed to accelerate their programmes on the ground to support Somalia’s political, security and development goals, as set out in Somalia’s “New Deal” Compact agreed last year. The peacebuilding process and the scaling up of international assistance will require inclusive and transparent efforts by all.
The government and its partners also need to find a more sustainable solution to the frequent drought and famines, which have left the majority of the population poor and vulnerable. Access of the poor and marginalized to economic opportunities is a key priority. In this context, the Secretary-General also called for international partners to help meet the funding gap for humanitarian assistance to Somalia. Over 3 million people in the country are in need of assistance, while the humanitarian appeal for 2014 remains only 34% funded.
The high level delegation will meet with Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud to discuss the country’s transition and its critical importance to human security and economic prospects in the region. They will also meet with Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, Speaker of the Federal Parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari, senior Government officials and representatives of Somalia’s civil society.
The trip marks the Secretary-General’s second visit to Somalia – he previously visited in December 2011 – and the first visit for the World Bank President. The Bank has stepped up its engagement in Somalia in recent years, evidence of the country’s ongoing transformation after a generation of conflict.

SOURCE 
UNITED NATIONS

SOMALIA: EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS: Banki Moon and World Bank President to pay a historical visit to Mogadishu Tomorrow, Adden Adde Airport operations halted | RBC Radio

SOMALIA: EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS: Banki Moon and World Bank President to pay a historical visit to Mogadishu Tomorrow, Adden Adde Airport operations halted | RBC Radio

United Nations Secretary General Banki Moon leading a high level delegation including world Bank President Jim Yong Kim are scheduled to land Somali Capital’s highly guarded  Adden Adde international Airport In Mogadishu on Wednesday.
Exclusive reports obtained by RBC Radio indicates that the operations of Adden Adde International airport are halted for a complete lock down where preparations to welcome the United Nations and World heads are underway in the airport.
This delegation led by Banki Moon, United Nations Secretary General is expected to hold meeting with top Somali federal government leaders.
Banki Moon is also expected to hold meeting with Somali President Hassan Shiekh Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Shiekh Ahmed amid deep political dispute between the president and the Prime Minister.
This will be a historical visit of United Nations Secretary General Banki Moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to Mogadishu, The Somali capital that had suffered the utmost of the nation’s over two decades of upheaval.

Risking Life to Run for Presidency in Somalia - Record

Risking Life to Run for Presidency in Somalia - Record

She is quite, warm and usually carries herself with a smile. From her looks, one’s first guess would be that she is a model. Well she was once a model as a young woman, but has spent most of her adult life working with the United Nations in various countries. And now, Fadumo Dayib, 42, a Master in Public Administration student at Harvard Kennedy School is eying Somalia’s presidency.
It is hard to tell from afar that this sweet spoken lady is built for what would obviously be a tough battle for presidency in the insecure Somalia. But sitting down with her for an interview, it is clear not even the possibility of assassination would stop her from running.
“I understand the challenges that are attached to this. Wherever you are in the world if you are aspiring to run for political office, as a woman, you will face the same challenges.
“In Somalia, because of the instability, those challenges could be a bit harsher which means that you could actually lose your life. But I am not worried about that,” explained Dayib.
Now a mother of 4, Dayib has lived both in and outside Somalia. She has ever lived as a refugee in Kenya, and later sought asylum in Finland where she is now a citizen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boat migrants in EU's hands as Italy weighs future of rescues - Yahoo News

Boat migrants in EU's hands as Italy weighs future of rescues - Yahoo News

The EU will launch a patrol mission in the Mediterranean on Saturday amid warnings the number of boat migrant deaths could rise with Italy mulling pulling the plug on its own rescue mission.

To complicate matters further, Britain said Tuesday it won't support the planned EU search and rescue operation, arguing it will create an unintended "pull factor" for more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossings,
The combined efforts of the Italian navy and coast guard have saved over 150,000 men, women and children attempting the perilous crossing from the coasts of North Africa this year so far.
But with the introduction of EU border agency Frontex's "Triton" mission, it is not clear whether Italy's "Mare Nostrum" rescue mission -- a large-scale deployment launched a year ago after two deadly shipwrecks -- will be scaled back or closed down entirely.
"Mare Nostrum is being wound up. There will be a formal decision during one of the next cabinet meetings," Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said recently.
But Alfano has also insisted the two operations are "totally distinct", as Triton will remain within European territorial waters, while Mare Nostrum rescues people in floundering boats and overcrowded dinghies from the Strait of Sicily to the coast of Libya.
Interior Ministry Undersecretary Domenico Manzione this month said Mare Nostrum "will continue until further notice. For now, nothing changes."
Aid agencies have warned the number of deaths in the Mediterranean -- which have topped 3,300 so far this year -- may rise if Italy cuts the chord.
A total of 32 boats have taken part in the Mare Nostrum mission, supported by two submarines as well as planes and helicopters, according to navy figures.
On average, a total of 900 men and women are manning the decks daily and pick up an average of 400 people every 24 hours -- tripling the number of arrivals in 2013. Their work has also led to the arrest of 351 human traffickers since the mission began.
Half of those rescued are asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea, the rest come from Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories or Somalia.
- Shifting the burden -
Despite winning high praise from the UN's refugee agency, Mare Nostrum has drawn criticism both at home and in Europe from those who say it is ferrying in immigrants rather than dissuading them from coming.
The planned EU operation will do the same thing, creating "an unintended pull factor, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths," according to British foreign office minister Joyce Anelay.
London's position is to focus on "countries of origin and transit" and tackle people smugglers instead, she added.
Policing the coast also comes at a monetary cost and the Italian government, struggling to stave off a third recession in six years, is increasingly unwilling to shell out the 9.0 million euros ($11.4 million) a month needed.
Triton's budget is more modest, coming in at 3.0 million euros a month, with eight European Union countries pledging planes and boats for the operation.
Other countries will send teams to help Italy with the new arrivals -- in particular with registering fingerprints, amid concerns Italy is letting too many migrants slip through the net and make it to other countries, shifting the burden to other national asylum seeker systems.
The majority of would-be refugees do not want to stay in Italy. The country registered 26,620 requests for asylum in 2013 -- just 6.0 percent of the number of requests made across the European Union.
In the same period, 125,000 requests were made in Germany, 65,000 in France and 55,000 in Sweden.
Catholic charity Caritas, Save the Children and the UNHCR have all insisted that, with a lack of commitment in Europe to finding legal ways for asylum seekers to escape their homelands, Italy cannot simply stop saving boat migrants.
In a bid to reassure critics, on October 16 Alfano said that "even after Mare Nostrum winds up, Italy will continue search and rescue missions at sea."

Somali Speaker of Parliament in Baidoa for federalism talks | Diplomat News Network

Somali Speaker of Parliament in Baidoa for federalism talks | Diplomat News Network

The speaker of Somali Federal Parliament Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari is in Baidoa for the establishment of administration for the new regional state of south western Somalia.
Professor Jawari is expected to take part in the drafting of a new constitution which will guide the new regional state government including how to elect a new regional state president and his cabinet.
He is also set to attend the closing ceremony of a reconciliation meeting in Baidoa which brought together elders from the area for the last one month.
Contingents from Somali national army and AMISOM troops from Ethiopian military have heightened the security of the city as delegates converge for the important meeting.

BBC News - Lack of support for Cardiff users claim after khat ban

BBC News - Lack of support for Cardiff users claim after khat ban

Not enough support is being provided to users of a banned substance called khat, members of Cardiff's Somali community have said.
The plant, popular in Somali and Yemeni communities, has a stimulant effect when chewed, but it can lead to mental health issues.
It was criminalised as a class C drug by the UK government in June.
Cardiff and Vale health board said it was still in the process of rolling out support for users.
line
What is khat?
  • A leafy plant native to Kenya which has a stimulant effect when chewed
  • Khat is traditionally used by members of the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities
  • It makes people happy and talkative but can cause insomnia and temporary confusion
  • Chewed for a few hours it leaves users with a feeling of calm, described by some as "blissed out"
  • The drug could make pre-existing mental health problems worse and it can provoke feelings of anxiety and aggression
Source: Talk to Frank

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Twin Cities band Taleex raises voices for Somali pride | Star Tribune

Twin Cities band Taleex raises voices for Somali pride | Star Tribune

Something beyond the typical Halloween festivities will occur Friday night at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

There will be costumes of a sort — flowing robes on the women, uniform shirts and ties on the men. But when the Taleex Band raises its voices for some Somali music that blends tradition and modernity, the result will be the opposite of scary.
“The message and the melody are both very important in our music,” said Farhan Hussein, one of many singers in the lineup. “It is about love and caring and how you treat others. Our most popular songs are about the equality of love.”
One of only a few Somali music ensembles in the United States, the Taleex Band usually comprises nine or 10 vocalists, divided almost equally along gender lines, backed by a three-piece band. But Friday’s gig — which is free and open to the public — is an especially ambitious affair. While it typically plays just a handful of songs for a wedding or to welcome a visiting dignitary, the band will perform two 45-minute sets, augmented by three or four jazz musicians from nearby Augsburg College.
The Cedar concert will culminate a weeklong slate of activities that is part of an arts residency for the band at Augsburg. All of it is under the aegis of a project called Midnimo, the Somali word for unity. Sponsored by a $200,000 grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Midnimo will enable the Cedar and Augsburg to host five Somali musical acts from around the world — Taleex is the first, and the only local, ensemble — over the next two years to foster cross-cultural understanding.
“Six organizations around the globe, partnering with colleges and universities, were given grants to connect millennials to Islamic cultures,” said Fadumo Ibrahim, the Cedar’s Somali cultural liaison. “All the other ones are theater organizations — we are the only one doing musical performance. Many Augsburg students, as well as those in the surrounding community, aren’t familiar with how Somali Muslim culture is different from Muslim culture among the Palestinians or Iraqis or Malaysians.”
Taleex Band is actually a confederation of various singers who once performed individually. Ahmed Gaashaanle, who came to this country as a teenager around the turn of the century, ostensibly founded the group by persuading others to unite around him and his resourceful cohorts, including oud player Ahmed Omar and songwriter Maxamed Guun.
“Ahmed would see these people at weddings and parties where they played, and said everyone can make more money if they work together, with a songwriter who could create new songs with them,” explained Ibrahim, who also helped translate a recent interview with Taleex members.
YouTube videos show the group rousing crowds to clap and dance, led by spare, lilting rhythms and vocal harmonies providing counterpoint to a succession of singers, each taking a chorus. “Rehearsals help us decide on the singing,” Hussein said. “It might be two males, and then we decide it would be better with a man and a woman.”
The extended length of the Halloween concert will enable more individual singing performances, which has kept Guun busy writing material, with vocalist Farah Ali serving as his primary co-composer.
Near the end of a group interview following a recent rehearsal, the band members were asked if there was anything they wanted to add. Gaashaanle, the founder, said it was important to know that Taleex is named after the Dervish military fortifications that were a crucial defense during Somalia’s battles with the British and Italian colonialists in the early 20th century.
Then Omar, slightly older than the other members, unfolded his laptop and brought up a YouTube clip of a solo recording he had made: the Somalia national anthem on oud.
“Most of the countries who play oud use seven strings. In Somalia, we use a five-string oud,” he said, his voice full of pride. He’ll be playing those strings Friday.

Somali President refuses PM’s reshuffle

Somali President refuses PM’s reshuffle

 The president of the federal republic of Somalia released a press statement rejecting the cabinet reshuffle undertaken earlier today by the Prime minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed. The president encouraged in his statement that the people of Somalia and their leaders in government should always follow the provisional constitution and the law of the land when making decisions.

 In his statement president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that it was most unfortunate that at a time of governmental engagement in planning for national elections and the creation of rule of law, the Prime Minister made important decisions without any consultation. These important decisions, the President made clear, have the potential to derail the governmental progress and partnership working within the administration and public institutions.

 The president stated that he put up with bad decisions in the past from the PM which affected his government and directly violated the constitution among the first of which was the demotion and promotion of Ministers without any consultation with himself by the Prime Minister. The President also complained of the Prime Minister previously promoting officers in the armed forces and demoting or relieving them of their duty in a way which was unconstitutional without his approval. 

After the above mentioned past incidents centred on acting without consultation, the PM today wrongfully reshuffled the cabinet without, again, consulting the President continued the press statement. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud boldly stated in his statement that, with an intention of protecting and preserving the national law, he decided that the PM’s reshuffle today was illegal and all Ministers should return to their prior duties before it. In addition, the president instructed all members of the armed forces and civil servants to continue with their daily duties without any interruption.
President Hassan Sheikh highlighted the importance of partnership, listening and discussion as facilitating Somalia’s success today. The President presented in his statement his priorities for the nation as being the creation of a national constitution, regional and federal administrations and the strengthening of democracy through fair and free elections in 2016 as was his original mandate when he was first elected.
 President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud concluded by highlighting the current government successes against Al-Shabab in the rebuilding and strengthening of both national and regional public institutions. He further stated that he is hoping for a successful outcome in the important upcoming Copenhagen Somali Summit.  
Whilst many that were approached for interview for this article anonymously agreed that tonight was a “difficult night for both politicians, the public and the international community,” most felt that without a firm, clear and enforceable national constitution, this problem between the President and PM that has hampered Somali politics in recent history will just repeat itself again.

Interview: Nuruddin Farah, Author Of 'Hiding In Plain Sight' : NPR

Interview: Nuruddin Farah, Author Of 'Hiding In Plain Sight' : NPR

Nuruddin Farah's novel Hiding in Plain Sight centers around Bella, a Somali living in Rome, who has become a famed fashion photographer. Her beloved half-brother Aar, a UN official, is murdered by extremists in Mogadishu and leaves behind two teenagers who are Bella's niece and nephew.

Bella's a globetrotter, with tightly scheduled lovers and global obligations, but she feels drawn into their lives despite the opposition of Valerie — the mother who gave birth to the youngsters but left the family and doesn't know them.

Farah, a Somali-born author of 11 previous novels, talks with NPR's Scott Simon about his homeland and his biggest challenge as a writer.Interview Highlights

On parallels between the novel and his own life

It feels almost everything that happens in Somalia is either part of my life directly or indirectly. ... What happened in this particular case is that I had done the first draft of a novel — submitted it to my publishers — when something very similar to what happened to the character Aar happened to my sister: [she was] killed in Afghanistan in a Kabul restaurant on January 19, 2014.

On the challenges of writing and loss

I go to Somalia a great deal, perhaps, in part, to feed my imagination and also to be in touch with the experiences that other Somalis go through on a daily basis. But, in terms of writing as a writer, there's always a daily challenge when one goes into one's studio to write. And the bravest thing, I think, for a writer is to face an empty page. Almost everything else is less challenging until it comes to ... someone close to you — as close as Basra was to me — fall[ing] a victim to terrorism.

On writing about Bella's photography

I actually have very little understanding of how photography works — or had very little understanding. But I had to train myself and I had to read lots and lots of books. And then, after that, had to train myself, buy a camera, and go digital/analog and do all these things.

On the power dynamic between a photographer and his or her subject

Just as there is a power structure between the novelist and the subject the novelist is writing about — it's the novelist who decides who gets the power of speech. So, whoever puts their finger on the button that ultimately decides what happens with the camera is the one who has the power. And anyone sitting outside of that power zone is turned into a subject. So, I could see parallel between the novelist's writing, and therefore, deciding, ultimately, the destiny of his or her characters — in the same way that the photographer decides what position to take, what light to use.

On whether he could live in Somalia

Mogadishu has stopped being a cosmopolitan city; it was a cosmopolitan city many years ago — one of the most celebrated cosmopolitan cities. I can imagine living in Somalia, but Somalia has to change. I have changed and therefore Somalia must change. And that would be the case if: one, there was peace. Two, if I could live anonymously — which is not possible all the time, but it could be. And then, [three], if there are book shops and cultural stuff that one can do and get involved in. There is no such thing now. Civil war dominates everything in one's everyday life in Somalia, which is quite tragic.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Somali PM reshuffle targets President’s “allies”

Somali PM reshuffle targets President’s “allies”

Today, the Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has undertaken the long anticipated first cabinet reshuffle of his tenure.  The Prime Minister announced the reshuffle in a signed decree released early this morning.

Among the biggest changes in cabinet responsibilities was the shifting of Farah Abdulqadir, a key ally of the Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, from the key post of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to, now, the Ministry of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry. He has been replaced by Salim Aliyow Ibrow who until this morning was in charge of Mr. Abdulqadir’s new portfolio.
Somali political commentators and analyst argued that the reshuffle highlights the increasingly apparent rift between the President and the Prime Minister which until recently, has been played down by both camps.
“It is obvious that the Prime Minister is targeting the President’s allies and I think this will not end well for him if it continues,” said a political analyst that did not want to be named.
“Whether the Prime Minister will finish his term or not I am not sure but he has fired a canon in the direction of the President and we can expect the President to retaliate in the near future,” said a former MP now turned adviser to the international community. “Who the victim will be is easy to speculate.”
The office of the Prime Minister and President have yet to comment on the reshuffle but there is clear consensus among Somali political analysts and MP’s that if this rift between the two most powerful executive office’s continues, the Somali people and their development path will be affected.
Below are the list of newly appointed Minister’s today in the reshuffle:
1) Salim Aliyow Ibrow appointed to Ministry Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
2 ) Farah Sheikh Abduqadir  appointed to the Ministry of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry.
3) Mahad Mohamed Salad appointed to Deputy Minister of Planning.
4) Abdirahman Abdi Mohamed appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
5) Buri Mohamed Hamza appointed to State Minister of  Finance
6) Abdullahi Mohamed Nur appointed to State Minster of Foreign Affairs
7) Abdullahi Sheikh Ali (Qalocow) appointed to Deputy Minister of Finance
8) Fahmo Ahmed Nur appointed to Deputy Minister of Commerce
HOL will keep you updated on all the political updates on this story as it happens.


Britain's Battle to End Female Genital Mutilation | VICE News

Britain's Battle to End Female Genital Mutilation | VICE News

British girls suspected to be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) will have their passports confiscated so they cannot be taken out of the country, the UK government announced shortly after releasing its first statistics regarding the frequency of FGM in the country, both coinciding with recent efforts within Britain to curb the practice.
The UK's publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) figures released last week indicate that more than 1,700 women and girls treated by the service since April had previously undergone FGM, including 467 new cases in September alone. While UNICEF estimates that the global rates of FGM are three times lower than they were 30 years ago, the World Health Organization estimate that seven girls still have their genitals cut or mutilated every minute globally, and as many as 140 million girls are currently living with the results of the procedure.
At its most extreme, FGM involves cutting off the clitoris and labia, then stitching the vagina almost closed. Traditional practitioners who lack any formal medical training often perform the procedure. They work without anesthetic, using crude instruments such as knives, scissors, and razor blades. The results can include infection, infertility, and excruciating pain. Most girls put through it are age 12 or younger.
New prosecutions bring scrutiny to female genital cutting. Read more here.
FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but an estimated 137,000 survivors, born in countries where the practice is common, live in England and Wales as permanent residents, according to a study released by Equality Now and City University in July.
As the issue persists, campaigners have been working to halt the practice all over the UK. In Bethnal Green, east London, Kayd Somali Arts and Culture Festival is currently holding a week of events under the theme 'imagination," and scheduled among poetry readings and writing workshops was a conference on FGM.
After bowing their heads for a minute's silence in memory of "leader of the global movement" Efua Dorkenoo, the speakers began. Instead of talking, they played video after video in an attempt to describe a procedure that they didn't want to put into words. FGM is still a taboo topic of discussion.
One of the organizers of the event, Saynab Mahamud, 35, came to the UK from Somalia as a refugee when she was 19. Somalia has the highest incidence rate of FGM in the world, with 97.9 percent of women and girls living in the country subjected to the procedure, according to the WHO.
"This is an issue affecting women, and like a lot of issues affecting women, it's not discussed," Mahamud told VICE News, explaining that there is a societal prohibition around talking about the subject. "If men are suffering, things happen. This is because of sexism, patriarchy, institutionalized ways of being."
"FGM is about women's genitalia. No one wants to discuss women's genitalia," she said.
Refugees in Kenya are being forced back to war-torn Somalia. Read more here.
For Somali's immigrating to the UK, often fleeing violence that has been ravaging the country for more than two decades, according to Mahamud the transition is not easy.
"Britain is hostile when you arrive and can't speak the language. We're visibly black, we're visibly refugees, we're Muslim, we can't speak the language. We deal with racism, Islamophobia, poverty, limited access to resources," she said.
According to Mahamud, shock can make the new immigrants cling to long-standing traditions. "When people come into a different culture that is less conservative they hold on to theirs tighter because they're worried about being overtaken by the culture that is dominant. [With FGM] this is also something that is linked to virginity. Older people become worried that the young people are more at risk because of their arrival in a much more sexualized society, and think that [FGM] might discourage them."
While the law can dissuade those considering performing FGM on their children, Mahamud said real deterrence won't happen without investment, discussion, and education at the grassroots level. According to her, many older women don't realize that their health problems are related with FGM.
"They think that all women suffer from the complaints that they do," she said. "But when you get a doctor who will ask them do they have certain symptoms, they'll respond: 'yes, I have that, yes I have that.'"
Lisa Zimmerman, a teacher in the City Academy Bristol, became involved in FGM campaigning after an attempt to take 12 students on a horse-riding trip was halted by the revelation that 11 had been undergone FGM. Since then she has worked with after-school groups to discuss and campaign against the procedure. She said school is the best place to communicate with students, because outside there is a very different power dynamic.
Zimmerman said that real change may take a generation, and must be instigated by the young. "We've had amazing moments, like a mother breaking down and apologizing for doing it to her daughters. Girls have empowered their mothers to stand up to gender-based violence. Young people are definitely the catalysts for change," she said.
One of her students, Fahma Mohamed, 18, launched a petition in February calling for more information about FGM to be taught in schools. It attracted 230,000 signatures, and gained the backing of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, along with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai.
"[People] need to realize that this is child abuse, and there are consequences. If you are caught you will be put into jail. They can't think the laws change because they send their daughters abroad, so I definitely think that this is a good position," Mohamed told VICE News.
In Newham, a borough in east London, the UK's first local authority-funded FGM prevention service, facility has been running since March, but so far has received just six referrals, according to project manager Eleanor Tomlinson.
The facility aims to be a one-stop shop for affected women: helping them access specialist healthcare, talk about their experiences, and supporting them with making police reports if they choose to do so. The impact that the facility is having will be monitored. In the meantime, the facility is involved in training professionals — 480 so far — and running community events and a steering group.
"The hardest part is just spreading the word and getting out to the right communities," Newham Councillor Ellie Robinson told VICE News.
They have been granted funding for the first four years and while Robinson expects that initially progress will be slow she said it should pick up as its reputation spreads.
"We're in constant contact, so if they're not meeting their targets it probably won't come as a surprise. We definitely wouldn't cut their funding after the first year, we'd reassess how we were running it and how best to run it," Robinson said.
Robinson said that it's important for other councils to assess whether there's a need for similar services. She said that when dealing with an issue as "abhorrent" as this, "we can't just eradicate it in Newham. It has to be on a national scale."
Back at the Somali Week conference, Sarita Bingeman, the executive director of Justice for FGM Victims UK, said it was hypocritical that Britain "spends resources preventing human rights abuses abroad, but doesn't invest the same means into doing so here" for fear of "offending culture and traditions, being branded racist, and sometimes sheer ignorance."
But the very name of Bingeman's organization highlights one of the key disconnects between activists campaigning to stamp out this practice, and those who come from a culture where it has traditionally been accepted.
Outside the conference room, organizer Mahamud mentioned how wary she is of talking to the media because of the negative and unfair way they often portray Somalis. One example of this, she said, is the language used in relation to FGM.
She said that while female genital mutilation is a terrible thing, she wants it to be clear that "Somali women don't see themselves as victims. We never use that term. Somali women are powerful."

U.S. State Dept. Updates Somalia Travel Warning, Oct. 24, 2014

U.S. State Dept. Updates Somalia Travel Warning, Oct. 24, 2014

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Somalia. This replaces the Travel Warning dated February 7, 2014, to update information on security concerns.
There is at this time no U.S. Embassy or other formal U.S. diplomatic presence in Somalia.  Consequently, the U.S. government is not in a position to assist or effectively provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.  In light of this and continuous security threats, the U.S. government recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.
The security situation inside Somalia remains unstable and dangerous.  Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and other non-military targets.  Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia.  In addition, there is a particular threat to foreigners in places where large crowds gather and westerners frequent, including airports, government buildings, and shopping areas.  Inter-clan and inter-factional fighting can flare up with little or no warning.  This type of violence has resulted in the deaths of Somali nationals and the displacement of more than one million people.
While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora.  In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.
Al-Shabaab-planned assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia.  On May 24, 2014, al-Shabaab stormed Somalia's Parliament and killed at least 10 security officers in a bomb and gun assault.  On April 7, 2014, two staff members associated with the United Nations were assassinated at the Galkayo airport.  On
April 21 and 22, 2014, al-Shabaab attacked a member of parliament in Mogadishu.  In February 2014, al-Shabaab carried out a bombing followed by a suicide gunman attack against the presidential place which left 16 dead.  On February 21, 2014, al-Shabaab conducted an attack against Villa Somalia resulting in several casualties.  On February 13, 2014, al-Shabaab detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device targeting a United Nations convoy in close proximity to the Mogadishu International Airport entrance.  On January 1, 2014, al-Shabaab carried out a bombing against a popular Mogadishu hotel.  Kidnappings remain a daily threat in Mogadishu and elsewhere in addition to larger assaults, assassinations, and grenade attacks.  Beyond the high profile attacks noted above, al-Shabaab has also claimed responsibility for other regional terrorist attacks.
Pirates and other criminals have specifically targeted and kidnapped foreigners working in Somalia.  In January 2012, a U.S. citizen was kidnapped while on work related travel in Somalia and in October 2011, a U.S. citizen aid worker living in Somalia was also kidnapped.  In both cases, as well as in recent kidnappings of other westerners, the victims took precautionary measures by hiring local security personnel, but those hired to protect them may have played a role in the abductions.  A strong familiarity with Somalia and/or extensive prior travel to the region does not reduce travel risk.  U.S. citizens contemplating travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, are advised to obtain kidnap and recovery insurance, as well as medical evacuation insurance, prior to travel.
Additionally, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid sailing close to the coast of Somalia as attacks have occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast in international waters.  Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure by pirates and having their crews held for ransom in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.  Somali pirates captured and killed four U.S. citizens aboard their boat on February 22, 2011.  If transit around the Horn of Africa is necessary, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, maintain good communications contact at all times, and follow the guidance provided by the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA).  You should consult the Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.
U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Somalia despite this Travel Warning are strongly urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information and be included in our emergency communication system.  Travelers to Somalia should enroll with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.  U.S. citizens traveling by sea to the area of high threat are urged to inform MSC-HOA by emailing POSTMASTER@MSCHOA.ORG, with the subject line 'Yacht Vessel Movement.'  The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (254)(20) 363-6000; after-hours emergencies (254)(20) 363-6170.  The mailing address is P.O. Box 606 Village Market 00621, Nairobi, Kenya.
U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Somalia, the Worldwide Caution, and the International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet.  Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
Source: state.gov

About the month of Muharram (Sacred Islamic Month) | IqraSense.com

About the month of Muharram (Sacred Islamic Month) | IqraSense.com

Assalamu-Alaikum and Greetings !
This year, October 25th, 2014 marks the first day of the new Islamic year 1436 Hijri and the first day of the month of Muharram. The month of Muharram is one of the four sacred months of Allah as narrated to us by the prophet (S.A.W.S.). Read the short post at the link below about the other sacred months and the importance of fasting in this blessed month.
Read the message below and share it with others as well.

The month of Muharram is the first month of the Arabic year, and it is one of the four sacred months of Allah. Allah says in the Quran:
islam on About the month of Muharram (Sacred Islamic Month)
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar)….” [Quran, Surah Al-Tawbah 9:36]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The division of time has turned to its original form which was current the day Allah created the heavens and earth. The year consists of twelve months of which four are sacred: three consecutive months, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jumada and Sha’baan.” [Hadith mentioned in al-Bukhaari (3167) and Muslim (1679) as narrated from Abu Bakrah (may Allah be pleased with him)]
islam on About the month of Muharram (Sacred Islamic Month)
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allah Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.” Narrated by Muslim, 1163.
It was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not fast any month in full apart from Ramadan, so this hadith is to be understood as meaning that it is it is encouraged to fast a lot in the month of Muharram, not to fast the whole month.
— End

UN Authorizes Ship Inspections for Somali Charcoal - ABC News

UN Authorizes Ship Inspections for Somali Charcoal - ABC News

The U.N. Security Council authorized the inspection of ships suspected of carrying highly prized charcoal from Somalia on Friday in a stepped-up effort to enforce a ban on charcoal exports and cut off a lucrative source of funding for the al-Qaida linked extremist group al-Shabab.
The council approved the British-drafted resolution by a vote of 13-0 with Jordan abstaining because of concerns about possible abuses in stopping ships "in one of the most sensitive regions of the world," and Russia abstaining because of objections to unspecified claims in the text.
The resolution also extends until Nov. 30, 2015 the mandate of the African Union force in Somalia and the partial suspension of an arms embargo that allows the delivery of military equipment to develop the country's security forces.
The key provision authorizes U.N. member states to inspect ships suspected of illegally carrying charcoal or weapons in Somali territorial waters and on the high seas off its coast and in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. It requires the Somali government be notified of inspections and to inform Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who will then notify all 193 U.N. member states.
Charcoal from Somalia is prized in Gulf nations: Made from acacia trees, it's slow burning and gives a sweet aroma to the region's beloved grilled meats and to tobacco burned in waterpipes.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said that since the council banned charcoal exports from Somalia in February 2012 the trade in charcoal from the Horn of Africa nation has actually increased.
He said the U.N. expert group monitoring sanctions against Somalia estimates that al-Shabab kept up to one-third of the $250 million from the annual charcoal trade.
"This funding stream for al-Shabab allows them to continue wreaking their misery on the long-suffering people of Somalia, and it has to stop," Lyall Grant said.
He said adoption of the resolution "shows the council is determined to take practical steps in response to tackling the threats from terrorism."
U.S. deputy ambassador David Pressman said the resolution targets "many of the most serious causes of instability and insecurity in Somalia."
Somalia has been trying to rebuild after establishing its first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging the impoverished nation into chaos. Al-Shabab rebels were ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 and have been pushed out of other key cities but they are not yet defeated and the government remains weak.
While renewing the partial lifting of the arms embargo, the Security Council criticized the Somali government for failing to notify the committee monitoring sanctions of deliveries of weapons and military equipment as required. It also noted "with concern" reports of diversion of arms and ammunition and expressed disappointment that the government hasn't started marking and registering weapons.
In February, U.N. experts monitoring the partial lifting of the arms embargo accused the government of "high level and systematic abuses" which have allowed weapons and ammunition to get into the hands of clan leaders, warlords and al-Qaida-linked militants.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Somalia says reviewing oil deals U.N. says lack transparency

Somalia said it was reviewing several oil and gas deals that U.N. investigators say lack transparency and risk hindering development of the country's energy industry.
Energy firms are cautiously eyeing Somalia's long coastline, an untapped frontier on the east African seaboard that has become an exploration hot spot after big gas finds in Mozambique and Tanzania. Somalia's southern neighbour Kenya has found oil.
The Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), an eight-member panel of investigators that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions, said Mogadishu had signed a series of contracts and cooperation agreements that "highlighted transparency and accountability issues" in state petroleum institutions.
In a report, the monitors said such deals were "likely to exacerbate legal tensions and ownership disputes and stunt the transparent development of Somalia's oil and gas sectors".
Mohamed Keynan, director of communication in the president's office, said Somalia was reviewing several contracts with the help of the Financial Governance Committee (FGC), comprising three Somali members and three donors, including representatives from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
"The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) will take appropriate action, based on the advice of the FGC," Keynan said in a statement sent to Reuters. "However, it is wrong to assume that all contracts in place with the FGS are in some way flawed."
About a dozen companies, including oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, the year a conflict erupted that tore the nation apart for the next two decades, involving clans and Islamist militants.
The breakaway territory of Somaliland, semi-autonomous Puntland and other regional authorities in the fractured nation have granted their own licences for some of the same blocks.
Western diplomats have said the government's limited capacity and experience in negotiating often complex energy and other deals could mean Somalia received a poor return. Donors have also been unnerved by earlier U.N. reports that cited cases of government corruption, charges Mogadishu denies.

EFFORTS APPRECIATED
In the latest report, U.N. monitors said a deal with London-based Soma Oil and Gas had "never been made public, nor was it approved by the Federal Parliament of Somalia".
Lawmakers have in the past challenged contracts that they said parliament had not been given the chance to scrutinise.
Soma Oil said "the broad terms" of the deal were made public and said it had invested about $37 million on a programme to gather and digitalise old seismic information and collect new offshore data.
The firm, chaired by former senior British politician Michael Howard, said it was not operating in disputed regions but was focusing on deep water areas offshore. It said its work had encouraged other firms to discuss restarting activities.
"The efforts of companies such as Soma Oil and Gas are both essential and greatly appreciated," said Keynan, adding Somalia was recovering from war and could not do such work itself.
The monitors said the federal government was in talks with firms such as Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp and BP , to revive contracts which were put under force majeure in 1991 when the civil war broke out.
They said "such negotiations are premature and could spark conflict, especially since they have not been conducted in consultation with regional authorities who may be affected".
Shell said it had no comment on such political issues, and BP denied it was in talks with Mogadishu on blocks where it declared force majeure in 1991. Exxon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Petroleum Minister Daud Mohamed Omar said on Monday that Somalia wanted oil output to start in six years. (Additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Nairobi; editing by Edith Honan and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
Source: Reuters

Somalia's South-Western State Panel Completes Draft Constitution

Somalia's South-Western State Panel Completes Draft Constitution

A Somali government-chartered committee charged with forming a three-region South-western State has completed the draft of an interim constitution, committee spokesperson Mohamed Hassan Fiqi said Tuesday (October 21st).
The committee will present the draft constitution to local traditional elders for approval this week, Somalia's Goobjoog News reported.
Elders from Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle, which make up South-western State, are in Baidoa for discussions and debate on the interim constitution.
The government has appointed Minister of Youth and Sports Khalid Omar Ali and Deputy Minister for National Security Ibrahim Yarow Issaq to assist in the regional state formation process.
The state formation committee has been at work since its appointment in July.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Somali port poised for facelift with Turkish help | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Somali port poised for facelift with Turkish help | Africa | Worldbulletin News

Albayrak aims to build four new berths and repair others, bringing the number of working berths to 10.

World Bulletin/News Desk
The Somali government's grand vision for Mogadishu port under its new Turkish managers sees modern container ships replacing wooden dhows, new cranes easing the back-breaking work of porters and a surge in state revenue as traffic rises.
Outsourcing port operations to Turkey's Albayrak Group is one more sign of Somalia's slow rehabilitation, a dramatic shift from more than two decades of war when clans battled for control of Somalia's most valuable asset and let its facilities decay.
Yet the award of the 20-year contract has highlighted other challenges facing the government, which has been struggling to build public confidence after years of chaos and has been trying to reassure donors worried about corruption.
In the wake of the deal, members of parliament have accused the government of making the award without proper oversight, while labourers, fearing they will lose their jobs, have staged frequent protests.
"If you come to the Mogadishu port at the moment, you will wonder if it is a market or a port," said Abdirahman Omar Osman, an adviser to the Somali presidency, describing how porters rush to dhows and ships as they tie-up, seeking cash to help unload.
"The Turkish company will improve the infrastructure, maximize the income of the government and bring the port to international standards," he said.
An efficient port is vital for the government, as it is the state's biggest single source of revenue, and essential to building a functioning economy in a nation that is still battling an insurgency and which the West and African neighbours fear could yet tip back into anarchy.
The deal might also help change the reputation of Somalia, which has become notorious as a jumping off point for pirates preying on sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, although hijackings have dropped sharply since 2012.
But it has not been plain sailing for Albayrak, which started work last month. On several occasions, clashes between Turkish employees and Somali labourers brought work to a halt, local officials said.
Last month, three Turks were beaten and a Somali was killed during a scuffle between the labourers and the Turkish workers, according to a port official who asked not to be named.
"The government deliberately handed over the port to the Turkish company without considering our right to work and earn an income," porter Ahmed Siicow told Reuters. "Turkey wants to use its lifts instead of the thousands of porters."
JOB SECURITY
The government faces a delicate balancing act between creating a more efficient port while preserving jobs of people with few other options in one of the world's poorest nations.
"They will not lose their jobs," Ports and Marine Transport Minister Yusuf Moallim Amin told Reuters, adding more traffic could mean work for more porters.
Amin said he wanted traffic to grow from 3,000 containers a month -- which now arrives on vessels that need to have their own cranes to unload -- to 50,000 in a few years.
"Those dhows, I think they will vanish as we have more, bigger ships coming in," the minister said by telephone.
The port's current intake of $5 million a month from duties could double in a year with more traffic, the minister said. Albayrak will also improve collection of service fees, amounting to $1.2 million, of which the state gets 55 percent, he added.
Albayrak aims to build four new berths and repair others, bringing the number of working berths to 10.
More revenues would help a government that is now dependent on donor largesse. But the benefits of the port deal have not shielded the government from criticism from its lawmakers.
"Any deal that is not approved by the parliament remains null and void," legislator Dahir Amin told Reuters.
Parliament has called several hearings to discuss the deal with Albayrak, a construction company whose website indicates has only one other port enterprise.
DP World, the Dubai-based firm with port operations across the globe, also showed interest, according to a source in the United Arab Emirates and a Somali with knowledge of the award.
A spokeswoman for the Somali president said Albayrak was the only firm to make a formal expression of interest. DP World said it would not comment.
In response to the row, Albayrak said Turkish firms were fixing Mogadishu's airport and constructing schools, hospitals and mosques. "Turkey's interest, love and contribution oriented in Somalia are continuing," it said in a statement.
Turkey has emerged a crucial donor and ally since 2011, when Somalia was in the midst of a devastating famine. That year, the then Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan became the first leader from outside Africa to visit Mogadishu in nearly 20 years as he set out to build his country's status as a regional power.
TORN LOYALTIES?
The row is another headache for Somalia's government struggling to rebuild donor confidence after allegations of corruption last year, first by a U.N. monitoring group then by a central bank governor who quit after less than two months in her post. The government denied charges of graft.
Western diplomats say the government faces an understandable lack of capacity as it negotiates deals, whether the port or airport, which is now being run by Turkey's Favori.
Yet, echoing the sentiment of others, one senior Western diplomat said more scrutiny was needed. "What are commissions being paid? What is the structure of the contract?" he said.
The port deal and other support from Middle East nations also suggests the Somali government could find itself increasingly torn between regional Muslim rivals.
"The threat is the Somalis will try to play off the different Muslim interests," the diplomat said, adding this could cause splits in Somali politics and alienate donors.
The UAE, which provides support to Somalia's security forces and other aid, has been a staunch opponent of elected governments who emerged during the Arab Spring. Turkey's government of the ruling AK Party held out a hand of friendship to Middle East elected leaders.
An official in the UAE said the Gulf state's support for Somalia was aimed at rebuilding the nation and not driven by any commercial concerns. Turkey has made similar comments.

Somali officers relate to immigrant communities | mndaily.com - The Minnesota Daily

Somali officers relate to immigrant communities | mndaily.com - The Minnesota Daily


Salah Ahmed wanted to become a cop ever since he moved to the United States from Egypt.
On the other hand, Abdiwahab Ali’s interests gravitated to law enforcement after 9/11 — several years after he moved from Somalia to Minnesota in 1995. After becoming a Minneapolis Police Department officer, he went on to help establish the Somali American Police Association.
Ahmed, who is originally from Somalia, reached his goal when he graduated from the police academy last year. In addition to being an officer for the Metro Transit Police Department, he now serves as SAPA’s vice chairman.
Founded in in 2012, SAPA helps Somali-Americans, like Ahmed, find their way into police forces across the nation.
The national organization has at least 10 members — all law enforcement officers — in the Twin Cities. They are working to stop potential recruitment of Somali-Americans by terrorist groups, like al-Shabab and the Islamic State, in the city’s Cedar-Riverside and Franklin Avenue neighborhoods.
Ahmed said he has ample opportunities to talk face to face with young people in the area and recognize early warning signs of recruitment.
SAPA has been successful so far, he said, citing a recent incident in which Cedar-Riverside residents were afraid a fellow mosque-goer was trying to recruit overseas fighters, so they called police.
“The Somali community is very educated about recruitment,” Ahmed said.
Voluntary community-police communication would be impossible without a diverse police force, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said.
 “[Officers] meet probably once a month with elders from the Somali community to have an ongoing conversation about this concern we have that individuals are being recruited,” he said.
To help counteract and stop local terrorist influences, Ahmed said it’s important to have continued contact with organizations and neighborhood groups, like Mothers Against Youth Recruitment, which held an October meeting.
Harrington said multiple law enforcement agencies — including the state’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and the St. Paul Police Department — are coordinating to address the problem.
“What do you say to young people that are being told, ‘This is the right thing to do as a Muslim,’ or ‘This is the right thing to do as a Somali or as an African?’” Harrington said.
SAPA officers are role models for East African community members — especially among the youngest generations. They also have the added advantage of understanding Somali and Muslim customs, Harrington said, and are further relatable since most are near the age of those targeted by overseas organizations.
Harrington said the only way to foster trust between officers and the people they serve is to build a police department that reflects its communities.
“You don’t have to turn on the news more than a minute to see an example of what happens when there is a breakdown in that relationship between a police department and their community,” Harrington said.
With six to eight full- and part-time officers of Somali descent serving in the Metro Transit Police Department, Harrington said the department still has room for improvement — they’d like to recruit Somali women to the force.
“This is really just the beginning,” Harrington said. “I’m happy with it. I just can’t say I’m satisfied.”
According to Ali, St. Paul’s police department employs one female Somali-American, but she isn’t a sworn officer.
Minneapolis police Public Information Officer John Elder said MPD employs about a half a dozen Somali-American officers, which includes the nation’s first sergeant of Somali descent.
“Our Somali officers are really respected by the community, and … it’s a lot of fun to watch them work,” Elder said. “When they walk into a meeting, they’re like celebrities.”
He said their presence within MPD attracts esteem from both inside and outside the department.
“We’re looking for all members of the community, from all different communities, to come work for MPD,” Elder said. “We are yearning for diversity.”

Somali security forces foil suicide bombing in Mogadishu - Africa - News - StarAfrica.com

Somali security forces foil suicide bombing in Mogadishu - Africa - News - StarAfrica.com

The Somali national security forces have on Wednesday thwarted a suicide attacker in Mogadishu, officials sources said.
Mohamed Yusuf, spokesman of the Somali national security ministry said that the security forces shot dead a man wearing a suicide vest following his confrontation with them as they attempted to stop him.
Yusuf urged the people to work with the security forces, warning against any attempt to challenge them while they are carrying out their security operations.
Similarly, the security forces have seized a garage that was accused of harbouring a car laden with explosive devices that prematurely went off by itself.
Yusuf said that cars used for explosions are mainly spotted in garages in Mogadishu, cautioning that the government will confiscate any house or garage where such vehicles carrying explosives devices are parked.

How soccer survived war in Somalia | Minnesota Public Radio News

How soccer survived war in Somalia | Minnesota Public Radio News


Listen Story audio
Filmmaker J.R. Biersmith spent a year following two friends who played for the national soccer team in Somalia. He's working on a documentary that will tell the story of their dream to one day play professionally - in the face of some steep odds.
It's a story, in part, about how and why soccer has survived in Somalia even while the country has been at war. Biersmith is just wrapping up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
Biersmith joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the Somali national team, the process of filming the documentary and what he learned along the way.

United Nations News Centre - Sustained response to Somalia piracy requires effective State governance – UN political chief

United Nations News Centre - Sustained response to Somalia piracy requires effective State governance – UN political chief

While noting the progress made to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, the United Nations political chief today said that a sustained long-term solution must include the presence of effective Government and State institutions that provide basic services and alternative ways for people to make a living.
Briefing the Security Council on piracy off the coast of the east African nation, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman today said that this multi-pronged approach may be “a daunting, but unavoidable task, for it will enable Somalia to effectively address, and ultimately defeat, piracy.” “We should not only ask what more needs to be done to ensure that the scourge does not return, but also what kind of support could be provided to Somalia so that the country is able to respond to the threat of piracy without dependence on the countries support of international navies,” he said. The decline in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia is an opportunity to review current efforts and take a long-term perspective on how best to contain Somali piracy including by addressing underlying conditions conducive to breeding piracy, such as political instability and the lack of alternative livelihoods. “State collapse in Somalia and other political challenges lie at the root of the problem,” Feltman said, adding that this was acknowledged in relevant Security Council resolutions, including the most recent resolution 2125 (2013). Mr. Feltman also introduced to the Council the Secretary-General’s report on piracy submitted pursuant to that resolution. Since the adoption of the first Security Council resolution on the matter in June 2008, some of the most urgent responses have revolved around the “twin axes of deterring pirate attacks and prosecuting and sanctioning of pirates,” he said. Coordinated efforts by Member States, organizations and the maritime industry have caused incidents of piracy reported off the coast of Somalia to drop to their lowest levels in recent years. Indeed, the last time a large commercial vessel was hijacked was more than two years ago. However, Mr. Feltman warns, that progress is in danger of reversing without continued deterrence from the international naval presence and the self-protection measures adopted by the shipping industry. “This progress is fragile and reversible. We still see pirates attempting to attack vessels and capture them for ransom,” Mr. Feltman told the Council. State-building and inclusive governance efforts in Somalia must be led and owned by Somalis themselves, he underscored. Moreover, the international community must continue to support the Somali Government in its efforts to deliver on its commitments outlined in Vision 2016 and the Somali Compact. Meanwhile, the UN must be involved in helping strengthen the capacity of Somalia and other region countries to prosecute pirates and to sanction those convicted. “It is imperative that more nations criminalise piracy on the basis of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said, emphasizing the need to deter the financing of piracy and the laundering of ransom money. It is critical that the international community support regional efforts to implement the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy), adopted by the African Union and other regional players to enable countries in the region to better address this scourge. As it stands now, Somali pirates continue to hold 37 seafarers, which remains a matter of serious international concern. It is crucial that all efforts are made to secure and promptly release all hostages.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Minneapolis man counters online radical recruitment videos with cartoons | Star Tribune

Minneapolis man counters online radical recruitment videos with cartoons | Star Tribune

A Minneapolis convenience store manager is on a mission to undercut the formidable online recruitment operations of overseas militants.

Two years ago, Mohamed Ahmed decided to do something about the slick video pitches. At the time, he was frustrated that young men were slipping out of the United States to join Al-Shabab’s fight in Somalia, lured by messages that he says distort his Muslim faith.
So he started a website, averagemohamed.com, which features cartoons refuting these pitches in the language of what he calls “Generation Simpsons.” The father of four felt renewed urgency after recent news that a small number of Twin Cities residents have left to join the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
“It frustrates me that we are unable to take on this ideology,” he said.
Ahmed’s cartoons feature Average Mohamed, a plain-spoken man who mocks and dismisses arguments made by Al-Shabab, ISIL and Boko Haram, the group behind the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls.
Take “Flames of Hell,” a parody of the recent trailer for “Flames of War,” an almost hourlong ISIL recruitment movie chock-full of explosions and special effects.
“You’d think it’s a ‘Rambo’ film,” Ahmed said. “It’s all glory- and action-packed.”
Ahmed’s video counters with less heroic images, such as an ISIL execution of prisoners with bound hands, and a reminder of the Qur’an’s denunciation of killing innocents.
Ahmed makes his videos on the cheap, with help from an Indian animator he found online. He hopes he will find backing to bring them to a wider audience. When he heard about a planned federal program to counter youth radicalization in the Twin Cities, he e-mailed the staff of U.S. Attorney Andy Luger.
Somali community leader Omar Jamal recently showed the cartoons to his own kids and their friends. He said the videos spurred a lively discussion: What is ISIL? Why do they kill innocent people? Said Jamal, “The only way to fight an idea is with another idea.”

Three Denver girls reportedly en route to Turkey detained, sent home | Reuters

Three Denver girls reportedly en route to Turkey detained, sent home | Reuters

Three teenage girls from Denver who had been missing since last week and were reported to be traveling toTurkey were picked up in Germany and sent back home, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

Voice of America reported earlier this week that one of the girls told German authorities they were en route to Turkey, which has been considered a principal transit route for foreigners looking to fight with Islamic militants in Syria.
U.S. officials declined to say if they suspected a link between the girls and militants in the region.
A spokeswoman for the FBI's Denver office, Suzie Payne, said only that the juveniles have been reunited with their families, and that her office had helped bring them home.
German border police also confirmed that three American citizens were taken into protective custody on Sunday at Frankfurt airport at the request of their parents and the U.S. consulate, and said the Americans willingly returned to the United States.
ABC News said earlier on Tuesday that U.S. authorities believed the girls were trying to travel to Syria, which has become a magnet for foreigners seeking to join militant groups.
Voice of America, a U.S. government news outlet, reported on its website that two of the girls are sisters of ethnic Somali origin, and the third is from Sudan.
Colorado is home to a large Somali refugee population, many of whom work in meatpacking plants in northern Colorado.
U.S. officials say at least a handful of Americans, including a Michigan woman and men from Florida and Minnesota, have died in Syrian fighting over the last two years. One of the men, Moner Mohammed Abusalha, blew himself up in a suicide bombing earlier this year, they say.
U.S. and European authorities are deeply concerned about Western foreign fighters in Syria who might return to their home countries to carry out attacks.
FBI Director James Comey last month said about a dozen Americans were known to be fighting with militants in Syria, and some had already returned to the United States.
A 19-year old Colorado woman, Shannon Conley, last month pleaded guilty to charges related to her efforts to travel overseas and help Islamic State militants.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Date Set for Kenya-Somalia Boundary Case

Date Set for Kenya-Somalia Boundary Case

IT is now official that Kenya and Somalia are headed for a legal fight at the International Court of Justice regarding the maritime delimitation of the Indian Ocean.

Just days after Kenya formally responded to the suit by Somalia, the Court's President, Peter Tomka, has set a date for the initial pleadings of the high stakes case.
The Star has established that war-torn Somalia has up to July 13 next year to formally submit its claims to the huge swathe of maritime territory in dispute, considered to be rich in oil deposits and fish stocks.
“By an Order of 16 October 2014, he [the President] fixed 13 July 2015 and 27 May 2016 as the respective time limits for the filing of a Memorial by the Federal Republic of Somalia and a Counter-Memorial by the Republic of Kenya,” the Court document states.
The fixing of the dates now means that Kenya may have lost an attempt to challenge ICJ jurisdiction to hear the case. “The President of the Court made the Order having regard to the views of the Parties. The subsequent procedure has been reserved for further decision,” a Court official said.
It is unclear what was contained in Kenya's response to Somalia. ICJ Associate Information Officer Joanne Moore told the Star that “documents filed by the parties are not made public until the beginning of the hearing”.
Attorney General Githu Muigai reportedly paid a visit to the Court two weeks ago, after the ICC status conference in the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In the suit, Somalia wants the boundaries redrawn in a move that could see Kenya become a landlocked state and lose at least five oil-rich petroleum blocks.
Somalia also accuses Kenya of lack of commitment in negotiations to unlock the standoff, forcing them to seek a judicial determination.
“The inability of the parties to narrow the differences between them, and the failure of the Kenyan delegation to attend the final meeting, have made manifest the need for judicial resolution of this dispute,” a Somali source told the Star.
ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, with its seat at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands.