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Thursday, May 28, 2015

UN Report: How Kenya invited and hosted Somali pirates | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

UN Report: How Kenya invited and hosted Somali pirates | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

Questions abound over who in Kenya benefited from billions of shillings laundered by two Somali men jailed in Belgium over extortion and supporting sea piracy. The latest United Nations Monitoring Report on Somalia and Eritrea depicts Kenya as a gangsters’ paradise where officials can easily be misled by blue collar criminals to allow high crimes, including money laundering, to thrive and morph into legitimate-looking business. It suggests that millions or billions of shillings from Somalia’s piracy industry have entered Kenya’s airline, car import, fishing and energy sectors and could be supporting crimes such as arms trafficking, and that many Kenyan businessmen still operate financial links with proceeds of crime and suspects described as lords of Somalia’s sea piracy.
Mohamed Abdi Hassan, alias Afweyne, and Mohamed Abdullahi Moalim Aden, alias Tiiceey, who have had businesses in Kenya, are cooling their heels in a Belgian jail following their arrest on October 12, 2013, for facilitating piracy. Belgian police detained them when they arrived in Brussels and placed them under investigation for the hijacking of Belgian vessel Pompeii in 2009 but it is not clear if the Kenyan authorities ever investigated the two for any crimes. Invested billions See also: Al Shabaab attacks soldiers in south Somalia, 24 dead Now the UN report claims that after purporting to renounce piracy about five years ago, the two men invested billions in an airline — Central Air Aviation — which operates from Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Bishkek in Kyrgzystan and Somalia.
These are the three nations where the two men enjoyed what is described as an “environment of impunity” that allowed them to invest in new forms of business and launder profits in airlines, renewable energy technology and other sectors. After investing in the khat trade, Afweyne is said to have sanctioned or been involved in 24 sea hijackings until 2012, when he made millions of US dollars and decided to invest in other businesses. This led to the establishment of Central Air Aviation in partnership with Tiiceey and several Kenyan Somali businessmen. “Between 2012 and 2014, Central Air was found to be operating multiple aircraft with several airline companies in Kenya and Kyrgyzstan, and had established offices throughout Somalia,” says the report.
The report alleges further that “Tiiceey financially benefitted from Afweyne’s piracy by supplying his piracy network with communication devices and facilitating hostage releases, ransom payments, negotiations and other arrangements. “The prevailing climate of impunity enabled Afweyne to invest the proceeds he had illegally accumulated during the past decade in the newly-established airline Central Air, and it enabled others to partner with him unhindered.” Between 2012 and the time of writing the report, Afweyne was preparing to buy an aircraft from Ukraine’s Defence ministry and had leased planes from five Kenyan private airlines operating from Wilson Airport.
The report says that Afweyne’s arrest did not deter his alleged money laundering or the criminal ways of his sons and friends, because Central Air Aviation continues to operate from Kenya and other places. It is also said that following his detention, his accomplices plotted to kidnap a Belgian to be used as a bargaining tool. The UN report published in October last year for the UN Security Council documents claims that Afweyne and Tiiceey sanctioned a large-scale criminal empire that involved activities such as money laundering, killing, extortion and plunder with the support of a massive criminal network of brokers, government officials, pirates and other outlaws in Kenya and Somalia.
Tiiceey’s activities are more relevant to Kenya because the report says that besides operating bank accounts in Kenya, he was contracted by the Kenyan authorities to negotiate with pirates who hijacked the Ukrainian flag ship Mv Faina laden with 33 T-72 tanks imported by the Kenyan military in September 2008. Foreign media claimed the Kenyan authorities imported the tanks for the Government of South Sudan, which the Kenyan administration denied. Yesterday, former Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka told The Standard on Sunday that he does not know Tiiceey or Afweyne or have information about their alleged activities in Kenya. He also said the Foreign Affairs ministry was not involved in the negotiations for the release of MV Faina.
“I am not aware that any negotiations [for the release of MV Faina] took place concerning the consignment or whether a ransom was paid,” says Onyonka who adds that the matter was a top secret mission conducted by “other departments of state other than the Foreign Affairs ministry within the strictest confidence in government.”
According to Onyonka the military is best placed to respond to the questions arising over the matter. When we spoke to Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho on Tuesday, he said he had not read the UN report. Apart from Mv Faina, Tiiceey is said to have negotiated in about seven other hostage/kidnap situations from the safety of a restaurant in Nairob, where Kenyan authorities allegedly allowed him free reign and even wrote a letter acknowledging his role as a negotiator with pirates and kidnappers. One of these alleged negotiations featured Judith Tebutt, the British woman kidnapped from a hotel in Lamu on September 11, 2011, and set free after a ransom of between $800,000 (about Sh78 million) and $1.1 million (Sh107 million) was paid. From this, Tiiceey is said to have made $20,000 (Sh1.9 million). Kenyan authorities are said not to have known he was behind sea attacks and piracy/hijackings.
Source: Standard Media

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Who was Somali suicide bomber Luul Dahir? - BBC News

Who was Somali suicide bomber Luul Dahir? - BBC News

She was, by almost all accounts, a rather wonderful woman - smart, helpful, and engaging - and a familiar presence behind the old-fashioned wooden reception counter in the Central Hotel's spacious lobby in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
"We made a really good connection. She was very attentive, and was doing her job very well. One government minister I knew was ready to offer her a job," said a European official who sometimes stayed at the hotel in order to meet the many Somali politicians who had made it their home. He asked for his name not to be used for security reasons.
"She was a nice person, really talented," confirmed the hotel manager and co-owner, Ahmed Ismail Hussein, of Luul Dahir, the Somali woman in her mid-30s whom he had hired four months earlier.

'She exploded here'

"She had six young children, and everyone was sympathetic and supportive. But after all, to me she was not a nice person. She was a horrible person when you consider what she did," he said.
On 20 February, a car bomb was driven inside the hotel's heavily guarded courtyard during Friday prayers.
Somali government soldiers walk around a destroyed car at the site of car bomb blast in front of the Makka Al Mukarrama Hotel in Mogadishu, on March 15, 2014. 
Car bombs have become a common sight in the streets of Mogadishu
Dozens of men, including ministers and a deputy prime minister, were praying in the hotel mosque.
Somehow, the mosque wall managed to absorb most of the blast, and for minutes afterwards, dazed survivors wandered around the courtyard.
This was the moment Luul Dahir chose to make her move.
The manager had noticed earlier that morning that she seemed tired, and tearful - and had asked her if she wanted to take a day or two off.
"She was looking down - I told her: 'Please, take leave.' She was not willing to go," he said.
Underneath her black chador she had strapped a belt packed with explosives.
"She exploded here, this black spot. She was looking for the deputy prime minister, asking: 'Where is my uncle?' He was not really her uncle but she wanted to make sure he dies," said Mr Hussein, showing me around the scarred courtyard.
Others remember hearing her scream - trying, they thought subsequently, to attract a crowd around her.
Mr Hussein suspects there might have been a scuffle - that the minister's bodyguards even fired shots at Ms Dahir.
But she managed to detonate her bomb.
"I believe not less than 40 people were killed here", said Mr Hussein. Official figures suggest about half that number.

'Shortcut to paradise'

al-Shabaab militants 
Al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks in Somalia in recent years
The al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. More details about Luul Dahir soon emerged.
She had recently returned from Holland, where she had lived since childhood as a member of Somalia's huge diaspora.
She had applied for jobs at a number of prominent hotels in Mogadishu. In her letter to the Jazzier Palace hotel, she had described herself as:
"A dynamic professional who strives for excellence in all assigned tasks. I have good customer service skills. I consistently approach work with energy. I am a team player."
Her hobbies included "reading new novels" and "learning new things." Her application was rejected.
Ms Dahir's late husband, named as Abdi Salan, had been involved in another al-Shabab suicide attack, one year earlier, on Mogadishu's heavily guarded government compound, Villa Somalia.
Somehow, none of this had come to light before the attack. Indeed, it is alleged that several senior security officials had befriended Ms Dahir at the hotel.
Somali government soldiers walk around a destroyed car at the site of car bomb blast in front of the Makka Al Mukarrama Hotel in Mogadishu, on 15 March, 2014. 
A number of Mogadishu's popular hotels have been targeted by car bombers in recent years
"I believe these guys, al-Shabab, use weak people - people with difficulties. They tell them this is a short cut to go to paradise," said Mr Hussein, who had also returned to Somalia recently after 24 years in Sheffield, England.
"Later I learned that [Luul Dahir] had problems with her sight. Her husband was dead. I heard he was another suicide bomber," he said.
"She had six young children and was struggling... So I think her mentality was turned... she had been told: 'Paradise is waiting for you. Your husband is waiting for you'," he added.
The Central Hotel bomb was by no means a one-off. Mogadishu's political elites have been targeted in a series of recent hotel attacks - several involving members of the diaspora.
"People keep asking: 'Why do the diaspora come back to kill themselves and kill others?'
"They say we cannot trust the diaspora because they're blowing themselves up. It's very hard now to get confidence and trust from others," said women's rights campaigner Ifrah Ahmed.
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map showing who controls which parts of Somalia
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Two days after we visited the Central Hotel, a car bomb exploded on the street outside, killing diners lunching at a popular restaurant.
The manager, Mr Hussein, replayed the explosion for us on the hotel's CCTV.
"They've parked right opposite our door. That young boy... will be among the dead very soon. That's the one.... You can see the car burning there," he said quietly, describing the scene unfolding on the screen.
"I'm very pessimistic. It needs a sea of change to happen here. The government is doing absolutely zero. They're just going... around and around, fighting among themselves," he said.
Since the second bombing, which broke most of the hotel's windows - only just replaced after February's attack - Mr Hussein is actively considering a return to Britain.
"Two years ago property was booming, there was a lot of activity. But since then 80% of the diaspora went back because of the deteriorating security situation," Mr Hussein told me.
"Only a few like me are still here, and I cannot go back easily because I invested a lot of work and money. But I don't know how long I can stand on my feet... I may go back to the UK," he said.
Ms Dahir's actions continue to haunt him, and many others who encountered her in the days leading up to February's attack.
The anonymous European official, who had been so struck by her enthusiasm, now remembers a seemingly throwaway comment she made - as they discussed security at the hotel - which has now come to have much more sinister undertones.
"She said - and I think this is word for word - 'It's not the number of guards on the outside. It's who gets inside that will make it unsafe.' That was on the Wednesday before that attack," he said.

Young Somali soccer players find fun in fitness, learn soccer skills playing on girls-only team

Young Somali soccer players find fun in fitness, learn soccer skills playing on girls-only team

When Hanan Warsame first started the Toronto Girls Soccer Association (TGSA) six months ago, her young charges could hardly do a lap of the Kipling Collegiate gym without collapsing in heaps – but what a difference half a year makes.
These days, the girls on Warsame’s fledgling year-round soccer team – the vast majority of whom hail from north Etobicoke’s Somali Muslim community – can’t seem to get enough exercise.
“I’ve learned how to do kick-ups, how to pass, and how to score,” 10-year-old Mariam enthused at a recent TGSA practice, shortly before running off to join her teammates for an intense session of running and dribbling drills. “I’ve also learned how to keep the ball up in the air and do headers. It’s cool.”
Mariam and her teammates weren’t always so enthusiastic about soccer, though – especially the running part.
“It was really challenging in the beginning. It was very shocking for me to see these girls not be able to run more than two minutes without asking for a water break – and it wasn’t even just one or two of them, it was, like, 95 per cent if them,” said Warsame of the 25 girls aged five to 13 who play on the TGSA team for two hours every Tuesday and Saturday evening.
“But now these girls, they can run, because I pushed them and pushed them and pushed them. They hated me for it at first, but now they love it and they want to keep on running.”
Born in Somalia, 25-year-old Warsame was raised by her soccer fanatic father alongside an equally soccer-loving older brother in the Netherlands. So it wasn’t surprising when, by age four, she too had taken up the sport with a vengeance.
“I was always playing soccer, always had a ball playing on the streets outside, to the point I was playing four times a week on two different teams,” the Dixon Road area resident said during a break from a recent TGSA practice at Kipling Collegiate.
After a short hiatus from the sport during her university days, Warsame moved to Toronto two years ago and soon began volunteer coaching a young boys’ soccer team. It was while overseeing those boys that she said she began to take notice of her players’ sisters sitting bored on the sidelines – many of them looking like they wished they could be out there playing, too.
And so, soon after, TGSA was born out of Warsame’s desire to instill in young Somali girls – who she said are too often left sitting on the bench – the same love of sport that she grew up with.
“In our culture, girls are often not the priority, so I thought why should I wait,” said Warsame, noting that she had TGSA registered as a not-for-profit organization last May, and then began seeking out volunteers and sponsorships to help make her dream girls team a reality.
One of the first people Warsame approached to sponsor TGSA was well-known Somali broadcaster Hodan Nalayeh, whose Integration TV program was recently picked up by Feva TV and will now be broadcast across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean and parts of Africa.
Nalayeh was “very supportive” of the idea of empowering her young female soccer players Warsame said and readily agreed to sponsor of TGSA’s uniforms – which Warsame said consists of ‘Integration TV’ emblazoned long-sleeved team jersey and pants, in accordance with parents’ wishes that their daughters be modestly dressed.
“I was blessed that I was able to get my show on the air, so when Hanan came to me (about sponsoring TGSA), I thought it was a great opportunity to pass my blessings on to someone else and help make her dream come true,” said Nalayeh, while watching the girls on the team run through drills wearing their Integration TV jerseys.
“I think the best feeling, for me, is seeing the confidence these girls show running around. They seem happier from the first time they started coming until now – it’s a big difference. It’s almost like their spirit changed, because, you know, with exercise, you get more endorphins,” Nalayeh added.
“I’m hoping that this year we can add more girls, because let’s face it, young Somali girls have a high obesity rate. We need to get them thinking about exercise and valuing activity, and not just sitting at home all day.”
In order to expand TGSA from its current roster of about 25 players, Warsame said she’s hoping to recruit more dedicated volunteers like Nasra Mahamed, a team mother who helps co-ordinate everything, and Abdirasak Mohamed, a former soccer player back in Somalia who is now helping out with some of the coaching duties.
“(The girls) started from zero, from scratch. Some of them didn’t even know how to kick a ball, but they’re making improvements,” Mohamed said of the progress he’s seen in the girls – including his daughter Mariam. “We run a lot, we do stretches, we show them how to drive the ball, and we teach them shooting and controlling the ball...There’s a lot of opportunities with being a soccer player, and we’re hoping, one day, some of these girls could get a scholarship.”
In order to expand TGSA, Warsame said she’s hoping for the support of local businesses and sponsors willing to offer the financial support necessary to help the team secure more player uniforms, more gym time, and an outdoor field for the summer season.
“Our next step is to get more girls involved, but to do that we need more coaches and more sponsors,” she said, noting that the team isn’t exclusive to the Somali community, but is open to girls of all different backgrounds. “We just want to keep motivating these girls to keep going and stay active. The most important thing is for the girls to have fun.”

Lewiston police officials hope to hire Somali officers - San Antonio Express-News

Lewiston police officials hope to hire Somali officers - San Antonio Express-News

Police leaders in southern Maine are talking with members of the city's large Somali population about future openings in law enforcement.
Chief Michael Bussiere of the Lewiston Police Department visited schools in the area and discovered many Somali boys listed law enforcement as their dream job, the Sun-Journal (http://bit.ly/1Ajgvga) reported. Speaking to parents Thursday at the B Street Community Center, he told them as much as 20 percent of the department will be eligible for retirement in the next three to four years.
"We want to have a police department that represents the diversity of the community we serve," he said.
Candidates have to be at least 21 and graduate with a high school diploma, but they prefer two- to four-year degrees and military service.
Officers are given background checks before they're hired, and candidates are assessed with rigorous fitness tests and a lie detector test. They must also meet with a psychologist to make sure they're physically and emotionally capable of doing the work.
When asked if the uniform was mandatory, Community Resource Officer Joe Philippon said the traditional loose clothing of Somali women was unsafe for the job. Officers are identified by their uniforms so they must look similar.
"When officers all go out there, they all look the same; they all dress the same," Bussiere said.
The group talked about visiting jails, riding along with officers and touring the police station to learn more.

What it’s like to be a Somali refugee in Kenya

What it’s like to be a Somali refugee in Kenya

Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees have fled Al-Shabab across the border. But in Kenya, they face racial profiling, police searches and the constant threat of repatriation.
Mohamed Haji Hasan fled his home in Mogadishu four years ago, after the Islamist group Al-Shabab came to the office of the television station where he worked. They confiscated equipment and gave staff a stark choice: join us, or die. For a while he stayed on, lying low, but the text message threats became more frequent; the news of colleagues being shot dead too hard to ignore. He fled to Kenya, the neighbouring country, and sought asylum.
When I met him last year, he was living in the capital city Nairobi and working as a journalist for a Somali-language radio station. But all was not well. “I came here to get free, to get life. But everything has changed. The Kenyan government says that Al Shabab elements are present in Eastleigh [a Somali slum in Nairobi], the same element we ran away from. We don’t know where else to go.”
There is no doubt that Al-Shabab is active in Kenya. Perhaps the most high profile incident was the three day siege of the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, which left more than 175 people dead. More recently, in April this year, gunmen stormed the Garissa University College, not far from Kenya’s border with Somalia, and killed 147 students.
These horrendous attacks shocked Kenya and the world. They have had far-reaching implications – not least on Kenya’s large population of Somali refugees. After the Westgate attack, a crackdown began. Thousands of Somalis were rounded up, arrested, and some even deported to Mogadishu. After the Garissa attack, the situation has been little better. President Uhuru Kenyatta threatened to expel all Somali refugees from the country within three months. He vowed to close Dadaab, which as one of the world’s largest and oldest refugee camps is home to more than 350,000 Somalis. Government officials said that Dadaab was a breeding ground for Al-Shabab. Meanwhile, Eastleigh was, yet again, subject to an intense search operation.
For the residents of Eastleigh, this is nothing new. When I met Mohamed in May last year, he said he had been searched 8 times that month alone. His colleague, Said Hassan Anteno, who had lived in Kenya for five years, had a similar story to tell. “Sometimes you can’t get to work freely because of the checkpoints. It used to be a business hub, but now it’s a military frontline. Police intimidation is part of our daily life. When they see Somali person, they assume that you are illegal. I have paid a lot of money in bribes. They don’t accept that I am legal, even though I have a refugee card. They say it’s fake and demand money.”
Under pressure from the UN, Kenyatta has now pulled back from the threat of forced repatriations for Somalis, some of whom have lived in Kenya for decades. But Somali refugees are still under enormous pressure. According to Refugees International, the two initiatives – a clamp down on Dadaab and the security operation in Nairobi – has opened the door to increased levels of “abuse, extortion, and harassment of refugees by the Kenyan police”. This affects every aspect of life; Somali residents describe being unable to board buses if they have large bags, as they are deemed a security threat. As Said and Mohamed described, police regularly stop them and demand ID, and then ask for bribes. Houses in Somali areas are raided at all times of day or night.
This crackdown, which according to most analysts and anecdotal reports is based more on racial profiling than any meaningful intelligence, has also affected Kenyan citizens of Somali descent. Abdirisak Osman was born in Nairobi to Somali parents, and has a Kenyan passport. “I was born and bred in Kenya. I’m a Kenyan, but just because of my look, my appearance, I get the same treatment, even if I produce my ID or speak Swahili. It’s profiling the Somalis. How can I be patriotic when I am treated like this?”
All of these men, like many other Somali refugees in Nairobi and elsewhere in Kenya, have the legal right to be in the country, yet find themselves vilified by the media and harassed by the police. “Eastleigh has become a hunting zone,” said Abdirisak. “Every predator is coming here to seek bribes.”
This harsh treatment comes despite the fact that security experts say that there is no evidence linking either Dadaab or refugees more generally to Al-Shabab. “This is collective punishment,” said Mohamed. Kenya is home to rising religious tension and longstanding ethnic rivalries; it is against this backdrop that the vilification of Somalis has become so prevalent. It is difficult to see the continued scapegoating of this community as anything other than a government desperate to detract attention from its inability to protect citizens by scapegoating the other.
“We Somalis are the most victimised people in this world,” Said told me last year. “Al-Shabab, they kill us, back home and here. At the same time, we are being accused of being Al-Shabab. We want to stay here, but it’s tough. Kenya was Plan A, but I think we need to find Plan B, because we cannot live like this. We cannot survive.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

EU steps up engagement in support of Somali culture | MENAFN.COM

EU steps up engagement in support of Somali culture | MENAFN.COM
 
On the occasion of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development the EU Delegation to Somalia wants to reiterate its commitment to strengthen Somali efforts to rebuild cultural heritage.

Indeed moving out of conflict is not just about rebuilding infrastructure & security which is important.
It's a broader process whereby communities reflect on how their identity and heritage brings them together and how it can help them to thrive as a society.
It enables communities to heal the scars of war and to create spaces for dialogue exchanges and tolerance.

The EU has been a steadfast supporter of Somali culture by publishing with Unesco a "Scoping Study on the Somali Culture Sector" and by supporting cultural centres in Hargeisa and Mogadishu.
Moreover on May 7th the EU Delegation has gathered the "Friends of Somali Culture" a wide range of Somali culture actors who will now reflect on how the international community can contribute to the revival of the Somali culture. On the World day for Cultural Diversity culture brings the Somali people together.
About APO(African Press Organization)
APO is the sole press release wire in Africa, and the global leader in media relations related to Africa. With headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, APO owns a media database of over 50,000 contacts and the main Africa-related news online community.APO offers a complete range of media relations tools such as press release wire and monitoring services -Africa Wire-, online press conferences, interactive webcasts, media interactions, strategic advice, public diplomacy, government relations, and events promotion and management.APO provides free services to African journalists, innovative communications products to communication agencies, companies, governments, and supports many international institutions and NGOs in their strategic communications.
 


 



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Somalia Listed as Worst Country for Maternal Health

Somalia Listed as Worst Country for Maternal Health

The British aid group Save the Children ranks Somalia as the worst country on Earth for being a mother. The ranking is based on statistics for maternal health, child mortality, education and women’s income in Somalia.

Nearly 25 years of instability has seen Somalia’s health institutions collapse but the government and international partners hope to soon change this narrative.
Fadumo Abdulkadir lost her child shortly before birth. She is among the millions of women in Somalia who remain at great risk during childbirth.

In its latest report, "State of World Mothers," the aid group Save The Children has ranked Somalia at the bottom among the countries surveyed.
According to the United Nations Children's Agency UNICEF, maternal mortality rates for Somalia are among the highest in the world. One out of every ten Somali children dies before seeing its first birthday.
Somalia's Deputy Minister of Health, Osman Mohamed Abdi, said the government hopes to change the situation.
“Somalia is among the worst countries in the world for a mother. But the Ministry of Health with support from international partners like UNFPA will work hard to ensure that help is delivered to Somali mothers at the regional, district and village level," said Abdi.
It is believed that one out of every 12 women in Somalia dies due to pregnancy-related causes. Only nine percent of pregnant women in the country have access to skilled birth attendants.

The U.N. says the world has a massive midwife shortage, and says this is particularly dangerous for countries in crisis.
Recently, 23 new midwives graduated in Mogadishu at a ceremony that coincided with the International Day of the Midwife.

Both the Somali government and U.N. agencies see this as a positive step even though it does not come anywhere close to meeting the country's needs.

These new graduates will be deployed across the country to help women during childbirth and attend to their complications before and after the delivery.  Grace Kyeyune is with the United Nations Population Fund.
“These 23 can only serve 2,300 women. But there are more women needing their support than before. We don’t want to get to a situation whereby we are saying it’s always too late. We know very well how many women are dying right now as we speak here because of giving life," said Kyeyune.
Conflict and poverty in Somalia have forced many of the country’s displaced women to give birth in makeshift camps.

With limited assistance during pregnancy and birth, there are likely to be more cases of death in childbirth. But Somali authorities say they're determined to take action to improve the situation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

​Councillor Muna Cali 'proud' to be first Somali woman elected to Northampton council | Northampton Herald & Post

​Councillor Muna Cali 'proud' to be first Somali woman elected to Northampton council | Northampton Herald & Post

A councillor made history this month by becoming the first Somali women to be elected to Northampton Borough Council.
Councillor Muna Cali was elected in Castle Ward in this year's local election with 1,753 votes. She now represents the area with fellow Labour councillors Danielle Stone and Enam Haque.
Whilst 'very proud' of her Somali heritage, she said she will be working on behalf of all communities in Castle Ward.
Muna Cali, Labour councillor for Castle Ward, said: "I'm delighted to be elected to Castle Ward and of course I'm proud to be the first Councillor of Somali origin to serve on Northampton Borough Council.
"I will work hard for all people and communities in Castle Ward. The town centre is a great place to live but there are many challenges as well, such as the redevelopment of many sites and some persistent problems of anti-social behaviour."
Cllr Danielle Stone, Leader of the Labour Group, said "Muna is a terrific asset to the team and she will play an important role over the coming four years. She is certainly talented and a quick learner."

United Nations News Centre - World must not ‘squander’ opportunity in Somalia, UN envoy tells Security Council

United Nations News Centre - World must not ‘squander’ opportunity in Somalia, UN envoy tells Security Council

While it is too soon to celebrate definitive success in Somalia, and while the situation remains challenging, progress is being made and the international community would be missing a strategic opportunity if it failed to realize how much is being achieved, the top United Nations in the country told the Security Council today.
“When I spoke to you in February, I was both excited and worried about the year ahead. The last few months have highlighted the progress and the challenges,” said Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) as briefed Council members this morning. “The world should not squander this opportunity. We need to reinforce success with increased engagement and resources in the coming months.” Mr. Kay said momentum had been regained on efforts to achieve political progress, pointing to work by federal, regional and local leaders, parliamentarians, and people from all walks of life to build a State through dialogue and reconciliation, and top-level commitment to deliver Somalia’s Vision 2016 plan, as well as commitment to several other important targets the Government set. “The prevailing environment of mistrust accumulated over 25 years makes the task difficult and painstaking,” he said. “But it must continue, and deserves our sustained support.” He expressed concerns about a lack of progress on the constitutional review process and about the timetable for elections in Somaliland, which were due next month, while the National Independent Electoral Commission would work in a compressed timeline to discharge its duties, albeit with the support and advice of the UN. The UN would also work with the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and European Union member States on forming Interim Regional Administrations that ensure inclusivity for women, minorities and youth. The mandate of UNSOM remained highly relevant and it would evolve as progress on federalism proceeded, with, for example, work in the country’s regions becoming increasingly important. On the economic front, Mr. Kay said he was encouraged by work to support implementation of the New Deal Somali Compact, including approval of seven projects worth $100 million within the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund. However, only 10 per cent of funds pledged through the Compact architecture were committed and Somalia’s financial system remained high risk. Nonetheless, steps were being taken within the New Deal framework to ensure robust oversight of overall governance. “There is still a long way to go,” he said, “but I am pleased to report that a Treasury Single Account is now in place, creating a single channel for national revenues and payments.” He drew attention to an “alarming” humanitarian situation, stressing the need for “constant attention” to the issue in the form of adequate funding as well as continuous upgrades to our analytical and forecasting capabilities and systems. “One third into the year, the Humanitarian Appeal is only 12 per cent funded, having received only $100 million of the $863 million needed.” He said. “The situation could be further compounded by a poor rainy season, the closure of the Somali remittance operators and an escalating conflict in Yemen. As of 14 May Somalia has received 6,949 arrivals since 27 March. The vast majority – around 92 per cent – are Somali nationals of whom many have refugee status in Yemen.” Noting the need for progress on human rights, he said Somalia would take part this year in the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, stressing his concerns about a marked recent increase in executions and death sentences, despite commitment to a moratorium, as well as continued presence of threats and intimidation to journalists. The security of around 1,400 UN staff in Somalia was a priority, he said, particularly in the context of an attack in Garowe on 20 April, which killed four UNICEF staff and three Somali guards. He thanked the Council for supporting expansion of the UN Guard Unit, especially important since the Mission established offices in Mogadishu city. “This is the first time a Security Council mandated mission has operated from outside the airport zone since 1995,” he said. “With so much at stake between now and 2016, we can expect Al-Shabaab to do everything it can to derail the political process. Renewing the joint Somali and AU offensive against Al Shabaab is an urgent priority.” Maman S. Sidikou Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, also stressed the importance of such action, underlining the fact that the recent joint AU-UN peacekeeping benchmarking mission had highlighted the need to maintain the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troop surge until the end of 2016 at least, with that date also cited as the earliest at which a UN peacekeeping force could be deployed. Successes in recent AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) joint offensives opened up space for stabilization efforts in recovered areas but continued asymmetric warfare tactics by Al Shabaab undermined the force’s effectiveness and with it the population’s confidence. Force enablers and multipliers, such as helicopters, authorized under UN Security Council resolution 2124 (2013) were lacking and reduced the agility and flexibility needed to counter Al Shabaab’s tactics. Mr. Sidikou also addressed the AU’s report on allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by AMISOM soldiers, noting that two of the allegations made were proven and that the investigation made several observations and recommendations to strengthen existing mechanisms to address abuse. He pointed to specific actions taken in response, including development of a Whistle-blower’s policy expected to be passed by the AU’s policy organs this year, as well as preparation of a draft Annex to the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the AU Commission and the troop and police contributing countries aiming to make responses to any future allegations more robust. “We will continue to respect the dignity of all Somali women and girls and to uphold the religious and cultural values of Somalia as AMISOM continues to implement its mandate to restore peace and stability in the country.” Mr. Sidikou said. “[I] reiterate AMISOM’s leadership commitment to enforcing the AU’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lessons for Mediterranean? Euro force hunting Somali pirates | Zee News

Lessons for Mediterranean? Euro force hunting Somali pirates | Zee News

The hulking P-3C Orion aircraft prepares to take off from a military base in the Horn of African nation of Djibouti, on the latest mission hunting pirates off Somalia`s coast.
 
Equiped with surveillance cameras, the German military aircraft will head along Somalia`s long desert coastline searching for "suspicious activity" and the tell-tale signs of pirates.
The nine-hour flight is a key part of the European Union anti-piracy fleet, known as Operation Atalanta, that is fighting piracy on one of the world`s most important and busiest shipping channels, through the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
The success of Atalanta in combatting Somali piracy has led to it becoming the model for a proposed EU mission to fight people smugglers in the Mediterranean.
"What we`re look for is all kind of equipment that could be used for piracy attacks," said flight-lieutenant Jens P, sitting at radar screens inside the aircraft cabin.
"Those are very fast moving boats, weapons, ladders -- anything that is not usually used for fishing activities," he said.
Atalanta has four warships and two aircraft, rotating between 10 nations, and has patrolled off the Horn of Africa since 2008, tasked with protecting merchant ships including the cargo vessel carrying aid for the war-torn region.
Pirate hijackings peaked four years ago but have since fallen to almost zero.
Over 30,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year between Arabia and Africa, Bab al-Mandeb straits into the Red Sea and Suez Canal.As waves of desperate people attempt the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe, Atalanta has become the model on which some in the EU would like to base an international military response.
The controversial plan envisages naval patrols with a mandate to destroy boats used by Libyan people smugglers, something that Atalanta aircraft have occasionally done in Somalia. The plan has been criticised by Libya and some UN officials.
"The calculus in the Mediterranean is far more complicated," UN special envoy on migration Peter Sutherland told the Security Council last week.
He warned that "innocent refugees, including many children" might be caught "in the line of fire".
In the Horn of Africa, members of the EU force are proud of their mission`s success, but warn that any scaling back could see the pirates return.
"The successes are more tactical than strategic in nature -- the economy of piracy has not been eradicated," said EU ambassador to Djibouti, Joseph Silva, who called for extension of the force when its mandate ends next year.
"If Atalanta were to stop completely, I think we would see soon enough resurgence of piracy," he said.
At the height of the crisis in 2011, Somali pirates were responsible for the hijacking of 28 vessels and 237 incidents, with attacks launched as far as 3,655 kilometres (2,277 miles) from the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean.
Seized vessels included supertankers transporting close to two million barrels of crude oil, and a Ukranian cargo ship loaded with weapons and tanks.
A raft of measures taken by the shipping sector has also contributed to the decline of piracy: the presence of armed guards on board, the use of barbed wire, an increase in navigation speeds, navigating as far away from the coast as possible.
During piracy`s worst year`s NATO and a US-led task force also guarded the seas and these international patrols have been key to bringing Somali piracy almost to a halt.
Last year attacks slumped to only two, while no major attack has been reported in 2015, although some 30 sailors are still held hostage.
"Piracy has gone down dramatically since 2012. That has a lot to do with Atalanta efforts and the military assets deployed," said Lieutenant Thomas Szczepanski, in charge of flight operations for the German section of the mission.
As well as the European force, international naval patrols from China, Japan, India the United States and Russia have also protected shipping and fought off pirate vessels.But the monitoring continues. After the German aircrew returns to base in Djibouti, a Spanish aircraft takes over for the next mission.
European force chief, Swedish Admiral Jonas Haggren, remains cautious about saying Somali piracy is over.
"We cannot say that piracy has disappeared -- it is contained, but the piracy networks are still intact," said Haggren.
Somalia`s weak government -- propped up by a 22,000-strong African Union army -- does not control the key areas where pirates operate, largely along the northern coast in the autonomous Puntland region.
"We make friendly approaches, we have smaller boats in the area talking to local fishermen, gaining information -- and we also at the same time deter and disrupt piracy," Haggren said in an interview aboard the force`s headquarters vessel, the Dutch warship Johande Witt.
AFP

Somali fined, conditionally discharged after urinating against bus shelter - MaltaToday.com.mt

Somali fined, conditionally discharged after urinating against bus shelter - MaltaToday.com.mt

A court has fined a Somali man after he was arrested for answering the call of nature in public near a bus stop in St. Andrews.

30-year-old Jibril Ismail Jibril, who lives in Gozo, had caught the early ferry to Malta without taking a bathroom break. He had told police that he could not hold it in and decided to alight the bus to relieve himself.

But Jibril chose his spot poorly, electing to relieve himself against a bus shelter whilst passengers were boarding. Bystanders called the police who promptly arrested him.

The accused, who appeared in court with his arm in a sling and assisted by a translator, pleaded guilty and promised the court that he would never do it again, describing it as a one-off.

Barely suppressing a smile, Magistrate Audrey Demicoli told Jibril that she hoped he was now aware of what not to do if he felt the call of nature in a public place again. The court imposed a fine of €100 and conditionally discharged him for 12 months.

Inspector Trevor Micallef prosecuted. Lawyer Noel Bartolo was legal aid for the accused.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Housing Apartheid, American Style - NYTimes.com

Housing Apartheid, American Style - NYTimes.com

The riots that erupted in Baltimore last month were reminiscent of those that consumed cities all over the country during the 1960s. This rage and unrest was thoroughly explained five decades ago by President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report was released in 1968 — the year that the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. touched off riots in 125 cities — and contains the most candid indictment of racism and segregation seen in such a document, before or since.

The commission told white Americans what black citizens already knew: that the country was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.” It linked the devastating riots that consumed Detroit and Newark in 1967 to residential segregation that had been sustained and made worse by federal policies that concentrated poor black citizens in ghettos. It also said that discrimination and segregation had become a threat to “the future of every American.”
As part of the remedy, the commission called on the government to outlaw housing discrimination in both the sale and rental markets and to “reorient” federal policy so that housing for low- and moderate-income families would be built in integrated, mixed-income neighborhoods, where residents would have better access to jobs and decent schools.
Soon after the King assassination, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which banned housing discrimination and required states and local governments that receive federal housing money to try to overcome historic patterns of segregation and to “affirmatively further” federal fair housing goals. But the effort was hampered from the beginning by local officials who ignored or opposed the goal of desegregation and by federal officials, including presidents, who simply declined to enforce it.
A growing body of evidence suggests that America would be a different country today had the government taken its responsibility seriously. For example, a Harvard study released earlier this month found that young children whose families had been given housing vouchers that allowed them to move to better neighborhoods were more likely to attend college — and to attend better colleges — than those whose families had not received the vouchers. The voucher group also had significantly higher incomes as adults.
But little of the promise of progressive-sounding laws was truly realized. The government’s failure to enforce the fair housing law can be seen throughout much of the country; metropolitan areas with large black populations have, in fact, remained highly segregated.
The Nixon Approach
George Romney served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Richard Nixon. He set out to dismantle segregation and what he described as a “high income white noose” formed by the suburbs that surrounded black inner cities. Under his Open Communities initiative, he instructed HUD officials to reject applications for sewer and highway projects from cities and states with segregationist policies. He believed that ending residential segregation was “essential if we are going to keep our nation from being torn apart.”
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Continue reading the main story As Nikole Hannah-Jones reported in a 2012 investigation for ProPublica, Nixon got wind of Romney’s plan and ordered John Ehrlichman, his domestic policy chief, to shut it down.
In a memo to his aides, Nixon later wrote: “I am convinced that while legal segregation is totally wrong that forced integration of housing or education is just as wrong.”
He understood the consequences of his decision: “I realize that this position will lead us to a situation in which blacks will continue to live for the most part in black neighborhoods and where there will be predominately black schools and predominately white schools.” Nixon began to ostracize Romney and eventually drove him out of his administration. Over the next several decades, presidents from both parties followed the Nixon example and declined to use federal muscle in a way that meaningfully promoted housing desegregation.
Preserving the Status Quo
Ronald Reagan was openly hostile to fair housing goals, as the sociologists Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton have shown in their book, “American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass.” The Justice Department under President Reagan challenged the ability of civil rights activists to sue for fair housing violations. The administration also conspired with the National Association of Realtors to undermine HUD’s already feeble enforcement authority.
Bill Clinton tried to bring pressure to bear on states and localities to further integration. But the bureaucracy at HUD resisted these efforts, and, as usual, the politics of the issue became treacherous.
Mr. Clinton’s second HUD secretary, Andrew Cuomo, tried in 1998 to retrace the path that George Romney had walked exactly 30 years earlier. He proposed rules that would have denied federal housing money to communities that flouted fair housing laws. This drew outrage and opposition from local governments that were accustomed to getting billions of dollars from HUD with no preconditions attached. Weakened by scandal and impeachment, Mr. Clinton lacked the political capital for a big fight over fair housing.
In the absence of strong federal leadership, the task of securing fair housing has largely fallen to housing and civil rights groups, which have routinely taken cities and counties and the federal government itself to court for failing to enforce anti-discrimination laws. Their lawsuits have changed the lives of many citizens who were once trapped in dismal neighborhoods.
The Obama administration has proposed new fair housing enforcement rules, which should be finalized soon, that make states, cities and housing agencies more accountable for furthering fair housing.
But for these rules to be meaningful, the federal government will have to restructure its own programs so that more affordable housing is built in low-poverty, high opportunity neighborhoods. Federal officials must also be willing to do what they have generally been afraid to do in the past — withhold money from communities that perpetuate housing apartheid.
Given what we now know about the pervasive harm that flows from segregation, the country needs to get on with this crucial mission.

US and Australia banned their planes from flying over Somalia | Diplomat News Network

US and Australia banned their planes from flying over Somalia | Diplomat News Network

United States of America and Australia has issued warnings about targeting by armed militants against aircrafts passing on Somalia airspace because of the threat of terrorist and militant attacks.
But many airlines can still fly over it if they choose and it’s up to you to figure out which ones.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned all US airlines from flying over Somalia deeming it too dangerous, however many countries have not done the same.
Following the downing of MH17 over Ukrainian airspace on July 17 last year, it emerged the FAA had banned all US airlines from flying over the Crimea region citing safety concerns.
The restricted airzone was about 320kms northeast from the crash site, which was reportedly not included in the FAA warning.
It also emerged other countries issued similar warnings including Malaysia.
The International Transport Association later revealed the airspace MH17 had flown through was not subject to restrictions.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia has listed Somalia as country to avoid.
It says Aussies should not travel to the area because of the armed conflict and a high threat of kidnapping.
It says terrorist attacks in Mogadishu are frequent, and can target foreigners.
“Further attacks are likely,” it says.
Militant groups have been known to use anti-aircraft weapons which are capable targeting aircraft at higher altitudes on approach and departure.
In background information released by the FAA it says the terrorist group al-Shabaab shot down an IL-76 aircraft using MANPADS in March 2007 and conducted ground assaults against Mogadishu International Airport, the most recent of which occurred in December 2014.
“Attacks against aircraft in-flight or Somali airports can occur with little or no warning,” it says.
Three African Union peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed in the Mogadishu airport attack.
The FAA says it is this, as well as the civil unrest, that form the reasons for the ban, which was issued on May 12.

Focus report: 15 Germans fighting in Somalia for al-Shabab | News | DW.DE | 16.05.2015

Focus report: 15 Germans fighting in Somalia for al-Shabab | News | DW.DE | 16.05.2015

According to a magazine, about 15 Germans are fighting for the Somali terror militia al-Shabab. Focus reported the number after six residents of the western city of Bonn were indicted upon their return from Somalia.
Al-Shabab in Somalia
Munich-based magazine "Focus" reported on Saturday that about 15 Germans are currently fighting in Somalia alongside the Shabab terror militia. The magazine reported the number after federal prosecutors indicted six residents of the western German city of Bonn, following their return from Somalia.
According to an investigation, between 2008 and 2014 about 30 Germans traveled to the Horn of Africa to join al-Shabab, which has been accused of numerous deadly attacks in Somalia and neighboring countries such as Kenya. In April, al-Shabab managed successful high-profile attacks on a UN vehicle and Somalia's Education Ministry. The United States has classified al-Shabab as a terror organization since 2008.
"Focus" reported that five of the accused in Bonn attended a month-long al-Shabab training camp in which they learned how to use heavy firearms and hand grenades. Then, according to the magazine, they were sent to the front to fight against troops from Somalia's army. Some of them apparently planned to die in suicide bombings and had recorded farewell videos.
After a year, "Focus" reported, with al-Shabab threatened by US drone attacks - including one late last summer that killed the militia's leader - the defendants fled the group and the fighting, but were captured in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2014 and sent back to Germany, which has also tried alleged returned fighters for the "Islamic State".

Floods Displace Many Families In Middle Shabelle Region of somalia | Mareeg.com | World news | Editorial

Floods Displace Many Families In Middle Shabelle Region of somalia | Mareeg.com | World news | Editorial

The recent floods of River Shabelle in areas under Middle Shabelle region have affected hundreds of people raising fears of livelihood damage.
The water of the river increases day after day hence affecting new homes and farmlands in that region.
Among the areas affected by the floods is Jamee’o Village where many families are homeless after their houses were washed away.
One of the mothers living in that village has told local media News that her Somali traditional house was swept away by the floods.
She has called federal government NGOs and Somali traders to help the affected people in the village and to respond quickly before the situation becomes tragic.
The recent floods of River Shabelle in Middle Shabelle region destroyed large hectares of farmland and displaced hundreds of families whose houses turned into pools after the river burst its banks.

Somali gang rapist who should have been deported from UK becomes cocaine dealer | UK | News | Daily Express

Somali gang rapist who should have been deported from UK becomes cocaine dealer | UK | News | Daily Express

Father-of-one Abdulmajid Al-Amodi, 26, was convicted in 2006 of gang raping a 17-year-old student, which was filmed while the vile group laughed about "roasting pork".
He was sentenced to eight years in jail after a judge told him he behaved like an animal and that his student immigration status in Britain should be revoked.
However, instead, he was released after just four years in prison and moved back to Hull - where he had raped the teen.
He has since been living on £280 benefits a month while making drug deals in charity shops.
Today, Al-Amodi, of Woodbine Close, Hull, was back behind bars for two-and-a-half years after being found guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to supply.
Judge Mark Bury again told him he should be deported but Al-Amodi's family say they will fight his second deportation order.
The Home Office say they "are committed to deporting this individual" - but only at the end of his sentence.
Al-Amodi's elder brother, Mahasmoud, was also recommended for deportation in 2006 by the same judge from his sibling's original case, after he was convicted of attempted rape of the same girl.
The case has sparked anger among Al-Amodi's neighbour's in Hull who said he should be sent back now rather than serve his time in prison. 
Francis Jenneson, 67, said: "It beggars belief that he was not deported the first time. We have to pay for him in prison. 
"What has he been doing for the last four years? Dealing? The immigration laws are a farce. How many times does a judge have to say you should be deported before you go? 
"He openly dealt drugs in this street day and night. I knew about the rape and never understood why he was still here. 
"The poor girl he raped actually left England because of what he did. Her mother described him as a parent's worst nightmare.
"She was traumatised by what he and his friends did." 
In the latest hearing a jury of five women and seven men took less than an hour to find Al-Amodi guilty of dealing in drugs after a three-day trial at Hull Crown Court.
Judge Bury said as far as he was aware Al-Amodi is a Somali national who was recommended for deportation in 2007, a move that should be considered again.
Crown Barrister David Hall said he did not believe Al-Amodi was ever given British citizenship and added that he could not account for how the rapist had slipped through the net and was not sent back to Somalia.
In the latest trial, the jury heard how Al-Amodi was watched by two undercover police officers making three street deals before they moved to arrest him in August last year.
He had two wraps of cocaine and £33 in cash, and they found digital scales, a razor blade and cling film in his flat as well as more than 20 text messages relating to the sale of drugs on his mobile phone.
In 2006, Al-Amodi - then 18-years-old - was convicted of raping a teenage student who had gone to his flat to sleep off a hangover after a party.
She was recorded in a sick video being raped by at least two men at the flat in Goodwin Parade, Hull, in May 2005.
Despite Judge Tom Cracknell saying in the 2006 trial Al-Amodi should serve all eight years of his original sentence and should then be deported to Somalia, this did not happen.
Outside court Al-Amodi's elder brother, Mahasmoud, said his sibling had not been granted full UK citizenship because he had not passed a written immigration test.
The 27-year-old attempted rapist said they he and Abdulmajid left Somalia because of violence in the African country and they "cannot go back".
A Home Office spokesman refused to explain why Abdulmajid has remained in the UK since his prison release in 2010.
He said: "Foreign nationals who commit crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them - we have removed more than 23,000 since 2010.
"The Home office remains committed to deporting this individual from the UK."  
Non-EU nationals who are jailed for 12 months or more are routinely considered for deportation at the end of their sentence.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Somali task force seeks solutions to terror recruiting

Somali task force seeks solutions to terror recruiting

Members of a Twin Cities Somali community task force that is partnering with the Department of Justice say they are committed to finding solutions to combat terror recruiting.

The group was created out of a federal pilot project designed to engage youth and address what makes kids vulnerable to radical messages.

The group said Thursday it is led by Somalis and is working with the U.S. attorney - but not for the U.S. attorney.

Some community members have been skeptical and said there are problems with partnering with the federal government.

The group and the U.S. attorney have signed a memorandum that states the pilot project will not be used to conduct surveillance on the Somali community or build intelligence databases.

Another group of Somalis has formed its own task force.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

U.S. Attorney greeted with skepticism at Somali forum | Minnesota Public Radio News

U.S. Attorney greeted with skepticism at Somali forum | Minnesota Public Radio News

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger asked Somali-Americans Saturday to trust him as he works to improve conditions in their community that might help prevent young people from being radicalized.
A town hall meeting at the Phillips Community Center in south Minneapolis was the first between Luger and the Somali community since federal authorities charged six men with trying to join ISIS in Syria.
Luger received a generally polite but sometimes testy reception at the forum. But many Somalis are concerned about entrapment in light of the government's use of a paid informant in its investigation.
Increased investment in programs for Somali youth, Luger said, is critical to curbing the appeal of terrorist groups.
A program to combat extremist recruitment that focuses on expanded social services in the Somali community was developed under Luger's leadership.
"We're going to start to turn this around when every Somali teen has access to safe space, higher education, to jobs, to job training," he said.
Despite Luger's pledge, many Somalis find it hard to trust law enforcement agencies, given their experience in their homeland and concerns about FBI conduct here, meeting participant Kamal Hassan said.
"We don't trust you," Hassan told Luger. "That's why we don't consider you as partners. We need the money. But we don't want you dishing out the money."
Luger defended the FBI. "We don't set people up," he said.

On the Road to Reconstruction: Somalia looks to African neighbor Rwanda for demobilization and reintegration lessons

On the Road to Reconstruction: Somalia looks to African neighbor Rwanda for demobilization and reintegration lessons

Since the early 1990s, Somalia has experienced cycles of violence that fragmented the country, destroyed legitimate institutions, and created widespread vulnerability. However recent security gains made by the Federal Government and the African Union have brought stability and a hope that Somalia is finally turning the page on two decades of turmoil. Many observers call the transition a real break with the past, and the best opportunity for achieving lasting peace. Slowly but surely, members of the Somali diaspora are returning, and national reconstruction and reconciliation are the top priorities of the Federal Government in Mogadishu.
The processes of national reconciliation and peace building will bring a whole new set of challenges, especially given the easy access to weapons and presence of armed groups in Somalia. Guided by the Somali Compact—an overarching strategic framework for coordinating political, security, and development efforts for peace and state-building activities—the Government of Somalia is implementing the National Programme for Disengaging Combatants, which establishes a “comprehensive process through which fighters can disengage in conformity with international law and human rights and provides targeted reintegration support.”
Traditionally known as DDR — disarmament, demobilization and reintegration — these programs are implemented to help facilitate security and stability in post-conflict environments so that recovery and development can begin to take root. Given the tenuous security situation in Somalia, the government is advancing with caution and rather than implement a traditional DDR program right away, it is focusing its efforts primarily on building the capacity and the technical expertise of its institutions.
One of the ways in which Somalia is doing this is through knowledge exchanges with countries that have faced similar crises. Twenty years after a civil war and genocide, Rwanda has obtained stability and security at home, in part due a remarkably successful DDR program. In an effort to help Somalia learn from Rwanda’s experience, the World Bank initiated a “Knowledge and Experience Exchange Study Tour” enabling a delegation consisting of Somali officials from the Federal Ministry of Interior and National Security, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) to visit Rwanda and its Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC).
The Knowledge and Experience Exchange Study Tour delegation visiting the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission Headquarters in Kigali.

“It is very encouraging to see that Rwanda has implemented such a difficult program with great success. Rwanda was confronted with similar challenges to those that we face today, and we are convinced that learning from their experiences will help us,” noted Mr. Said Sudi, Director of Somalia’s National Programme for Disengaged Combatants.
The delegation embarked on a dynamic five-day workshop coupled with site visits to a number of DDR centers. Led by the RDRC, Rwanda’s agency for implementing demobilization and reintegration efforts, the study tour allowed the participants to have a bird’s eye view of Rwanda’s demobilization program.
Following a visit of several agriculture and livestock cooperatives jointly managed and worked by ex-combatants and community members, the participants were able to sit down with the former combatants themselves to understand firsthand their experiences.
Jean Bosco Rurangirwa, a disabled ex-combatant who received support through the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Project, said with the support he has received, he along with other ex-combatants and community members “have formed cooperatives and raised livestock, allowing them to develop a trade and be productive.”
“We realized that as much as these programs target individuals, it is also important to keep in mind the community aspect. Our meetings with these former combatants emphasized the need to promote social cohesion within the programs we create,” said Ms. Zahra Samatar, Somali Human Rights and Child Protection Officer.*
Over the course of the workshop in Kigali, participants discussed the key elements of demobilization and reintegration programs, explored the various stages involved in the process, and provided a space for detailed exchanges of ideas. “We assessed the National Programme for Disengaging Combatants and DDR in Somalia. We looked at gaps and challenges, and we agreed on a number of steps to be taken. Some of these are now being shared by our brothers in Rwanda,” said Mr. Ssebirumbi Kisinziggo, Senior Political Affairs Officer at the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
Discussions focused on pre-DDR activities, program planning, stakeholders, communications, raising awareness, and reinsertion, with a particular attention to vulnerable groups such as women and children, psycho-social cases, and medically disabled cases. “The experiences of other countries like Rwanda provide applicable programming lessons for vulnerable groups. We were able to witness what the program here achieved, and we heard from those who implemented the activities,” noted Mr. Farah Abdiqafar, National DDR Officer at the Rule of Law and Security Institutions Group at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
Participants identified a number of best practices that can be adapted and transferred to Somalia’s situation, and discussed the way forward for collaboration with Rwanda. In his closing remarks, Mr. Sudi expressed the delegation’s appreciation of the Rwandan government’s and the RDRC’s warm welcome and attention given to the knowledge exchange.
“The next step now involves developing a capacity-building strategy that will guide national projects and programs in collaboration with international and regional partners, so their successes can help inform our reconstruction efforts,” said Mr. Sudi.
The Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TDRP) is a multi-donor initiative established to support the return of ex-combatants to civilian life in Africa. The South-South Experience Exchange Trust Fund is a multi-donor trust fund that provides just-in-time funding for developing countries to share their knowledge and expertise to further the Bank’s knowledge sharing agenda by drawing directly upon the accumulated expertise of our partner countries.

*H.E. Zahra Samatar was appointed as the Minister of Women and Human Rights in January 2015. 

Kenya, Somalia aim to keep Rio dream alive - FIFA.com

Kenya, Somalia aim to keep Rio dream alive - FIFA.com

Success-starved Kenya need a mini-miracle on Saturday to stay in the race for a 2016 Olympic Football Tournament Rio place.
The East Africans host Botswana at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi having to score at least three goals to repair the damage inflicted by a 3-0 first-leg loss two weeks ago.
Delayed visas meant the squad reached the match venue less than four hours before the kick-off. An ill-prepared Kenya faded dramatically after half-time, conceding three goals, and striker John Nairuka was red-carded, ruling him out of the return match.
But Scotland-born Kenya coach Bobby Williamson believes his team can put the Botswana fiasco behind them and book a second-round date with Zambia. "Botswana scored three goals in 45 minutes so I am confident we can do the same in 90 minutes," he told Kenyan reporters. 
Williamson and assistant Musa Otieno say Kenyan hopes hinge heavily on striker Michael Olunga. The 21-year-old Nairobi student, a first-leg absentee because he was writing examinations, has impressed with champions Gor Mahia. "I am counting on Michael to be at his best and to score goals for us like he has been doing for Gor," said Williamson.  
Former towering centre-back Otieno added: "We really missed Michael in Botswana. Chances were created but we lacked someone to score goals. It is possible to overcome the deficit because we will not be suffering from fatigue as was the case in Botswana."
Kenyan football is experiencing an average year with the Olympic team losing 4-1 overall to Egypt in a 2015 All-Africa Games first-round qualifier. The senior national squad watched the 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea on TV after failing to make even the group phase of the qualifiers. And Gor Mahia and Sofapaka were unsuccessful at CAF club level, making early exits from the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup respectively.
Rwanda defend a 2-0 lead over Somalia on Sunday in a second leg set for Djibouti owing to on-going insecurity in Mogadishu. The match was originally scheduled for Nairobi, but Somali officials did not seek clearance from the Kenyan government.
Northern Ireland-born Rwanda coach Johnny McKinstry is optimistic ahead of the game in the tiny Horn of African state. "Somalia defended very deep in the first leg, making it difficult for us to create chances. Now they must come at us, leaving space at the back," he said. The overall winners face Uganda.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Curbing Islamist extremism: The siren song of IS | The Economist

Curbing Islamist extremism: The siren song of IS | The Economist

ON May 3rd two Muslim men with rifles attacked a security guard at a venue in Texas showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Both were shot dead before they killed anyone—they were incompetent terrorists, fortunately. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. There is no evidence that it had any direct involvement, but the gunmen may have been inspired by the global jihadist movement. One of them, Elton Simpson, was questioned by the FBI in 2010 and later convicted of lying to them. He denied that he had made plans to go to Somalia and become a jihadist, when in fact he had.
For Richard Stanek, sheriff of Hennepin County, Minnesota (which covers most of Minneapolis), the story is all too familiar. For eight years he has been searching for the “magic trick” to stop young men from joining Islamic extremists, especially in Somalia. He has been called as an expert witness before Congress and shared his insights with officials from 38 countries.
Since the 1990s more than 100,000 Somalis have come to America as refugees. Many settled in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, which today is home to around 75,000 immigrants from Somalia and their children. The Cedar-Riverside neighbourhood in the Twin Cities is sometimes called “Little Mogadishu”. After they arrived, Somalis clustered and kept to themselves; many intended to return home as soon as the civil war was over. Somali women made little effort to learn English.
Since Mr Stanek became sheriff in 2007, several dozen young Somali-American men from Minnesota have disappeared to join the Shabab, a group of Islamist fighters in Somalia linked to al-Qaeda. But “It really hit home in 2009, when Shirwa Ahmed blew himself up outside of Mogadishu,” the sheriff says. Ahmed was the first known American suicide-bomber—and a graduate of a Minneapolis high school.
Over the past two years the danger has increased, as young Somali men, and some young women, attempt to join Islamic State (IS) rather than the Shabab. Yet Mr Stanek feels more confident. His relationship with the Somali community has much improved. He has made friends with a local imam, hired Haissan Hussein to be the first Somali deputy sheriff in Minnesota, and created a six-member team to build “communities of trust” with Hennepin County’s many cultures. The team includes Abdi Mohamed, a Somali who immigrated in the 1990s, whose full-time job is to liaise with Somalis. And Minneapolis has become one of three pilot cities for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), an initiative by the Obama administration under which police try to connect with Muslim groups through local events, mentoring and youth programmes.
These closer contacts, says Mr Stanek, are the reason why federal authorities know much more about the six young Somalis from Minnesota who were arrested trying to obtain false passports and were charged on April 19th with trying to leave America to join IS. That success, he says, is proof that many of the parents of youngsters who are at risk realise that their interests are aligned with those of the police. Even so, according to Andy Luger, the top federal prosecutor in Minnesota, recruitment for terror and jihad remains a particular problem in the state.
On a sunny morning this week, Mr Mohamed, Mr Stanek’s liaison officer, walked into a Starbucks cafĂ© in Seward, another neighbourhood where many Somalis live, and was warmly greeted by an all-male Somali clientele sipping coffee. He sat down with Yusuf, who came to Minneapolis in 2003 and works in a chemistry lab as well as mentoring children after school. “One problem is the generational gap between parents and children,” says Yusuf. The culture and identity of home and the outside world don’t fit together. Another problem is absent fathers, either not around at all or working so hard to make ends meet that they are hardly ever home.
Somalis are one of the most troubled groups of immigrants. Many young Somali men are in prison; many Somalis of both sexes drop out of high school. Unemployment hovers around 21%, the highest of Minnesota’s five largest immigrant groups. More than half of Minnesota’s Somalis are poor. Many are isolated from other immigrants and even from other Muslims, who find them prickly, proud and standoffish.
No clear pattern of IS recruiting in Minnesota can be discerned. The six who were recently arrested were largely self-radicalised through the internet or lured by “peer-to-peer” recruiting: a process by which friends persuade friends to join a terrorist group, compare notes on how to raise money for a flight, and make connections with middlemen in Turkey. One of the young men, Guled Ali Omar, was the brother of a would-be jihadist who left for Somalia in 2007 and remains a fugitive.
No mastermind recruiter seems to have been at work, though Abdi Nur, a young Somali from Minneapolis who joined IS last year and is now in Syria, seems to be wooing midwestern jihadists. IS’s military success—it claims to have restored the old Caliphate—is probably its most potent recruiting tool. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born writer who was once a zealot but now campaigns for a liberal Islamic reformation, says she would probably have joined IS, had it been around when she was young and impressionable.
Somalis feel targeted both by the extremists, who lure away their children, and by non-Muslim Americans, who suspect them of terrorism, says Jaylani Hussein of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota. They are especially fearful of CVE, which they think will amount to a giant spying operation camouflaged as social services. Mr Stanek agrees that “countering violent extremism” sounds confrontational—but he would happily take the promised federal funds and expand his community-engagement team from six members to twelve.