Pontus Marine LTD- Leader of fishing industry in Somaliland

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Somalia president accuses Eritrea of arming Islamists


Somalia president accuses Eritrea of arming Islamists
By Emmanuel Goujon
MOGADISHU (AFP) — Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Wednesday accused Eritrea of arming hardline Islamists fighting to oust his government, a day after his own palace came under a barrage of mortar shells.
(Photo: Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed)
It was the first time he directly blamed the small African nation since the eruption early this month of some of the heaviest fighting against his four-months-old government.
"We know for sure that the majority of the weapons in the hands of the insurgents are coming from Eritrea," he told reporters at his targeted residence.
"Eritrea is very much involved here... We know that Eritrean officers come here and bring money in cash."
Sharif said that in the past the officers would send money via Nairobi or Dubai, but "now they come directly with cash."
The hardline Islamists, believed to be propped up by hundreds of foreign jihadists, want to impose a stricter Sharia law in the lawless country.
Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke said there were up to 400 foreign fighters while Sharif said the majority of them are from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We still understand that the influx of Al-Qaeda members continues and you can imagine how the situation will be if they take over," said Sharif.
According to Sharif, Asmara's intention in backing the radical Islamists was to create a base to train units to wage guerrilla war against its arch-foe Ethiopia.
"Since there is a war and tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Eritrea needs a place where Ethiopian opposition groups could be trained," he said. Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been tense since a devastating border war in the late 1990s in which some 80,000 people died.
Eritrea was vehemently opposed to the deployment of Ethiopian troops in Somalia in late 2006.
Asked whether he backed a re-deployment of Ethiopian troops in the face of the renewed attacks, Sharif said "absolutely not."
"We would like our country to remain independent," he added.
Residents in a Somalia border town with Ethiopia recently said they saw Ethiopian troops there, but Sharif said authorities had discussed the matter "and they have agreed that Ethiopian troops will remain inside their border."
The United States and African Union have accused Eritrea of fuelling the violence in Somalia, a charge Eritrea denies. African countries have called for the imposition of United Nations sanctions on Asmara.
Islamist fighters opposed to Sharif launched the latest onslaught on May 7, vowing to topple his Western-backed government.
More than 200 people have been killed and some 62,000 Mogadishu residents have fled the clashes in the past 20 days. Sharif has been holed up in his presidential compound under the protection of AU peacekeepers.
Islamists insurgents on Wednesday warned that prolonging the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia would only worsen the crisis, a day after the UN decided on extending its tenure.
"We clearly say that extending the mandate of the foreign forces means extending violence and hostility in the Muslim country of Somalia," said Sheikh Ali Mohamoud, a spokesman for Shebab Islamists.
"To those deployed in Somalia, you are the ones that are trapped and dying here every day, but not those taking wines in New York. We warn you not to be here for the Mujahedeen fire."
The AU mission, deployed in March 2007, counts more than 4,300 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers and is charged with protecting strategic sites in the capital such as the presidency, the port and the airport.
But it is not allowed to fight alongside government forces and is authorised to retaliate only in the case of a direct attack.
Sharif's government, which has been confined to parts of the capital, took up power in January after a UN-sponsored reconciliation process.
The Shebab, a homegrown radical group whose leaders are suspected of links to Al-Qaeda, and the Hezb al-Islamiya armed group loyal to hardline opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys have been battling the government.
A country of around 10 million, Somalia has had no effective central authority since former president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, setting off a bloody cycle of clashes.

UN Extends African Peacekeepers' Somalia Mandate

UN Extends African Peacekeepers' Somalia Mandate
By VOA News
26 May 2009
The United Nations Security Council has extended the mandate of African Union peacekeepers helping the Somali government.
In a resolution adopted unanimously on Tuesday, the Security Council agreed to extend the mandate by eight months, to December 31 of this year.
Britain's ambassador to the Council, John Sawers, said the measure endorses what he called a far-reaching support package for the AU force, amounting to several hundred million dollars over the coming year.
The AU mission consists of about 4,000 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi, who are helping the Somali government in its fight against militant Islamist insurgents.
African Union leaders have urged the U.N. to assume control of the force. But Sawers said Tuesday there has been no movement on that issue.
He said Security Council members believe the current AU force is the "right arrangement."
However, he added that the council will watch the situation in Somalia closely, and will give whatever support it can to President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The U.N. refugee agency on Tuesday said a total of 67,000 Somalis have fled the capital, Mogadishu, since May 8, when the insurgent groups began a series of attacks on the government.
The agency said most of the uprooted are heading to camps along the Afooye corridor, southwest of Mogadishu.

Suicide Bombing in Somalia Raises Concerns About Foreign Support

Suicide Bombing in Somalia Raises Concerns About Foreign Support
By Alisha Ryu
Nairobi
26 May 2009
Sunday's suicide car bombing at a military camp in the Somali capital is raising alarm about how much foreign support the radical al-Shabab group may be receiving in its ongoing war against Somalia's U.N.-backed government. An explosion at an alleged al-Shabab safe house in Mogadishu nine days ago may offer some clues.
According to the Puntland-based website Garowe Online, the explosion that shook the Daynile district on the outskirts of Mogadishu on May 17 was the result of one or more bombs detonating prematurely on vehicles being prepared to be used in suicide car bombings.
Quoting unnamed sources, Garowe Online says the blast killed at least 17 people, including four foreigners. There are also unconfirmed reports that al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was wounded while meeting senior al-Shabab commanders inside the house. Garowe Online sources said faulty wiring caused the explosion.
Residents in Daynile say al-Shabab fighters sealed off the area, making confirmation of the story difficult.
Somali sources tell VOA an increasing number of foreigners from Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya, among others, have been arriving in Somalia in recent months on chartered planes, landing at an airstrip near Mogadishu. The unconfirmed reports say some of the foreigners came by road from neighboring Kenya, crossing the poorly-guarded border into al-Shabab held territories in southern Somalia.
The sources say many come to Somalia not to fight, but to work as instructors at more than half a dozen training camps set up by al-Shabab in Lower and Middle Jubba and the Lower Shabelle regions. There, young Somali boys, often recruited at gunpoint, are usually given three months of combat and terrorism training.
Despite support from Islamist factions and the presence of more than 4,000 African Union troops, the Somali government controls only a small area of the capital. Al-Shabab, listed by the United States as a terrorist organization for having links to al-Qaida, controls most of southern and central Somalia, including two large seaports and several airstrips.
On Monday, Somalia's moderate Islamist President Sharif Sheik Ahmed openly acknowledged his government lacked power and resources to stop the flow of foreigners into the country.
The Somali leader says the country is being invaded by foreign fighters, who work for the interests of other countries and whose main purpose is to keep Somalia in chaos. He says the government is calling for the international community and the Somali people to defend the freedom, honor and the nationhood of Somalia.
On Monday, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide car bombing the day before, which killed nearly a dozen people including the bomber and six government soldiers. Government officials said the attack was carried out by a foreigner, but al-Shabab says the suicide bomber was a Somali from Mogadishu.
Last week, Somalia's security minister Omar Hashi told reporters that foreigners have been spotted fighting in pitched battles against government forces in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab's commander in the Banadir region, where Mogadishu is located, confirmed the report.

Top Islamist insurgent commander gunned down in Somalia

Top Islamist insurgent commander gunned down in Somalia
2009-05-30
MOGADISHU, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Unknown gunmen overnight killed a senior insurgent commander who recently defected from the Somali government side to join the armed opposition groups in the war-wrecked Somalia, insurgent officials said.
Abelkadir Hassan Abu Qatatow was shot dead by men armed with pistols as he walked in a street in the south of Mogadishu, stronghold of the insurgent fighters.
Qatatow, who belonged to the pro-government Islamist faction, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), last week defected to the armed opposition group of Hezbul Islam (Islamic Party) led by the radical Islamist leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
"We are deeply saddened by the brutal killing of the commander who was played major part in the struggle to liberate the country and defeat its enemy," Sheikh Hassan Mahdi, spokesman for Hezbul Islam, told reporters.
Abdiresak Qaylow, spokesman for the pro-government ICU faction, described killing of the commander as barbaric, accusing the armed Islamist opposition groups of killing the commander.
The death of Qatatow comes as Somali government forces and insurgent fighters have been battling for the control of the Somali capital Mogadishu. Hundreds have either been killed or injured in the clashes while tens of thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in camps for the internally displaced people (IDP) on the outskirts of Mogadishu.
Insurgent forces control much of south and center of Somalia including nearly two-thirds of Mogadishu while Somali government forces backed by nearly 4,300 peacekeepers control parts of the capital and the central Somali town of Beledweyn.
Somalia, a country of nine million, has been immersed in civil conflict since the overthrow of the late ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Somalia: one week in hell – inside the city the world forgot

Somalia: one week in hell – inside the city the world forgot
Mogadishu's best barometer of ­violence is the little blackboard on which Dr Taher Mahmoud daily records the number of patients in his hospital. For the last 20 years the tall surgeon with huge hands has been operating on the victims of the city's civil war.
"It's good times now," he told me when we met a few weeks ago. "We are only getting four to six gunshot casualties a day. That's very good." He pointed at the blackboard covered with his neat white handwriting: it recorded that 86 patients were undergoing treatment. "During the Ethiopian war [2007-08] we had 300 in this hospital."
Reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was not prepared for what he found in the Somali capital


Link to this audio
Few respites in this most ravaged of cities last long, and within days of our conversation the relative calm had given way to a more familiar story: running battles between the forces of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the notional president, and the more radical Islamist al-Shabaab militia. More than 200 people have been killed in these skirmishes and as many as 60,000 people have fled.
Yet the chances are you won't have heard about it: with the exception of the latest pirate drama, Somalia is the country the world forgot, a state so broken that scenes which would elsewhere dominate international news bulletins are barely noted on the foreign pages of major newspapers. Last year Foreign Policy magazine ranked Somalia as the state most at risk of total collapse, a verdict some might have considered flattering.
Yesterday I spoke to Mahmoud again. The hospital was full and around 40 patients were having to sleep under the trees outside. "We need tents to shelter the patients from rain, and medicine is running very low. If the fighting continues we will be without medicine." The number on his blackboard was 167.
Even before the latest surge in ­violence you could get a sense of the precariousness of life in Mogadishu from a quick tour of the ­hospital. In the dark, bungalow-like emergency room, five men lay on soiled, torn beds. All had abdominal gunshot wounds; plastic drip bags lay between their legs or on the floor. A man sat on a plastic chair next to his wounded brother and waved a paper fan over his head to chase away flies.
All the men had been injured a day earlier, when a pro-government Islamist militia fought a unit of the government's "proper" army for control of an intersection in the government-controlled area of the capital. "I was standing when the fighting started. I tried to hide but they shot me," one man wheezed. Across the yard in the intensive care unit, another dark bungalow packed with flies and the sick, a man waved a fan over the burnt-to-white flesh of his small son, caught in the fire when a grenade had been tossed into their house during a clash between two rival gangs.
A mother looking after another burnt child said: "We pray for peace – we have nothing but prayers. This is the best hospital in Mogadishu and we don't have electricity or running water."
Dr Mahmoud, who was appointed director last month after the previous director was shot on the way to work, nodded, adding: "We get water from a well in the yard and we have a small generator for electricity – we get the fuel from a rich Somali businessman. Everyone has left us here in Mogadishu."
The most difficult job in the world
Earlier this week the Shabaab shelled the presidential palace as they fought government forces for control of the city. A few weeks before, I sat next to Hassan Haila, the government's media coordinator, as we drove towards the palace. Every Somali politician who is not an MP or minister is a coordinator of some sort, it seems. We drove past women queueing, clattering and shouting outside a shop, one of very few open in the streets. "Look at the Somalis," he said. "After all these years of fighting, they have become like dead people walking. There is no life in their eyes."
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected president by MPs in January. He was the co-leader of the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist movement that defeated the infamous Mogadishu warlords in 2006, bringing a measure of peace to the city for the first time in almost two decades. The Islamic Courts were routed by US-backed Ethiopian forces, but remnants of the Court militias soon launched a violent, if not coherent, insurgency. When the Ethiopians pulled out earlier this year various Islamist militias fighting them took different sides, some with Ahmed's government, some against. Now Ahmed can be considered leader of Somalia only in the loosest sense of the word: when we met he controlled perhaps 40% of Mogadishu. A week later it was more like 20%. And ever since the ousting of the dictator Muhammad Siad Barre in 1991, two vast regions, Somaliland and Puntland, have cut themselves free of the war-torn south altogether.
At the entrance to the presidential compound a few "technicals" – Toyota pick-up trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them – were parked. Somali soldiers sat in the shade. Outside the president's door two Ugandan soldiers, members of the flimsy African Union force charged with keeping peace in the city, slouched on plastic chairs.
"I have the most difficult job in the world," the president said, looking exhausted. Big drops of sweat rolled down his forehead in the suffocating humidity. He fumbled with the air-conditioning remote control and handed it to an assistant. The machine hissed and a cold breeze crossed his desk. "It's different from the jobs of all other presidents of other countries," he went on. "In the beginning we want to stand on our feet. We have inherited a very bad reputation from our predecessors [presidents] because of 20 years of internal fighting and disagreement. The economy is non-existent, state institutions are non-existent, essential services are non-existent."
It was cold now and Ahmed ordered his assistant to switch off the air- conditioning. "You can say that the idea of a state is non-existent in Somalia. We have to teach people what a state is."
Many of Ahmed's ministers and advisers huddled for safety in the Sohafi hotel, although the 17 bullet holes in my door did not promote a sense of security. In the courtyard I heard different accounts of why Somalia's Islamists had turned on each other. "They are fighting because they come from two different Islamic schools," explained one seasoned Somali journalist. "The president is from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Shabaab are Salafis."
"Nonsense," guffawed an Islamic commander. He was an ally of the president who fought the Ethiopians alongside the Islamic Courts but had good connections with the Shabaab. "We are all Salafis. The difference is between the ideologues, the young people with principles, the Shabaab on one side, and the people who see where is the maslaha [the interest of the nation] and are willing to compromise. I agree with the Shabaab that we should fight a jihad on principle but the maslaha says that we should compromise and use the opportunity we have now to build a state."
Another Somali official with a thick American accent from long years of asylum in the US told me: "It's very simple – it's about who gets to be the president. There is no ideological difference. It's all about who gets what share of the pie. Everyone wants to become a president in Somalia."
A Ugandan officer in the presidential compound offered his own jaundiced assessment: "Look. The best thing the Somalis know how to do is to kill other Somalis."
All we have is religion
On a searingly hot day that saw the first clouds of the monsoon gathering, parliament was convened to debate the imposition of sharia law. One of the main demands of the Shabaab movement has been the imposition of sharia, which has also been backed by the Islamic Courts.
Ali Hassan, a police officer sipping tea with his men outside his station, told me that imposing sharia meant progress "in the absence of law". He said that like the rest of the force, he hadn't been paid a salary for the past 18 months. "This month was good. They gave us some wheat, sugar, tea and canned food."
A warehouse that was once a garage for the Mogadishu police force had been converted to house the parliament. Hundreds of plastic chairs were lined up for the 275 members. Coloured paper decoration criss-crossed the ceiling and balloons and advertisements for mobile phone companies hung from the walls.
After the parliament voted to introduce sharia I went back to visit the police officer. He shrugged and smiled when I told him about the debate. "We have always used sharia in our work," he said, handing me a cup of murky tea. "When the whole state is collapsing all that we have is our religion."
He told me he had joined the army in 1970 and then the police just before the collapse of Mogadishu 20 years ago. He had been wearing the same beige uniform ever since. "You are trying to impose law but where is the law when everyone is fighting? When the Ethiopians came those same Islamists that are in the government attacked us every day. They said we were supporting the invaders. In one day 15 shells fell on our police station. Now they are the government hopefully things will be better."
First we establish order
In a Mogadishu courtyard one afternoon I watched sharia justice in action. The judge sat in front of a broken glass table decorated with red plastic flowers, a big folder and piles of papers spread on his lap. In neat Arabic handwriting he recorded the statements of the two adversaries sitting in front of him. A man in his 40s was accusing a teenage boy of stealing his son's bicycle. The case had been running for two weeks.
"This how we establish sharia," the judge told me. "First we establish order and judgment in the middle of the chaos of war and destruction. When we started back in 1996 we were not a political movement. We started as judges to bring justice, then we became a political movement and then we became military." We crossed the basketball pitch of the compound that was once an army college. A lone boot sat in the middle of the pitch. The judge went on: "You know, sharia is fearing God and establishing religion. It's not about chopping hands off. First we establish security and then impose the rulings. It's the fear and hunger and chaos. If I cut the hands of hundreds of thieves I will not bring justice. Feed the hungry first and then punish them if they steal."
Life without a state
Two decades of garbage have been piled into the streets of the Hamrawaine area in Mogadishu. The piles have decomposed into mounds of earth and plastic, the earth giving life to cacti and shrubs through which small rivers of sewage trickle. Goats climb the walls of destroyed houses. Mogadishu resembles a city hit by a nuclear blast. Shattered walls peppered with millions of bullet holes, are all that is left of the city's Italian colonial architecture and communist monuments.
One of the mysteries is how the city's residents survive in the absence of any meaningful economy. "Somalis have a very strong social support network," a young government employee explained. "If you work with the government or in the market you support at least 10 people of your family, and your neighbours. The people who live outside [the country] send money, and if there is a rich Somali and he doesn't support the poor, he will be despised, and no one would marry his daughters."
After 20 years people had become used to life without a functioning state, explained one businessman with interests in fuel, mobile telephones and food. "Businessmen learned to do their work without a government. In the port the shipment is downloaded just as if there was a government – only you are the government, so if you have a ship you have to bring your men and your guards and do your work. Amongst the businessmen everything is run through trust – for example, when we need to buy fuel 20 merchants put money together, send it to Dubai, and our Somali friends send us a fuel tanker. Every merchant has his own militia and men who protect his interests. We do business with the government and the Shabaab. Our friends in Dubai are envious of us because we live without a state and we can do trade everywhere without control."
In Rome Street, down from the market, an old man sat in his shop half buried by piles of yellow newspapers and old magazines. Behind him on the wall were pictures of Mogadishu when it was still a functioning city 20 years ago. He poked his head between two ancient typewriters, a huge grin on his face, and declared, in beautiful Arabic: "This is very good time in Mogadishu. Look, it's so late and we can stay in our shops." It was 4pm and across the street a man swept the floors of the dentist's with a broken broom.
Changing sides
Back at the presidential compound I met one of the young commanders of the Islamic Courts, Jami'a, who was on Ahmed's side. A thin 22-year-old dressed in stonewashed jeans and a faded white shirt, he sat flanked by two new Chinese fans. Like soldiers, the fans moved their heads, first to the left and then to the right, with mechanical precision.
Like all the young Somali fighters, Jami'a was born out of the chaos of two decades of civil war. "When I was in high school our area was controlled by two warlords, Mousa Yaljo and Omar Fenish. It was a very difficult time. Sometimes we went to school in buses and sometimes because of the fighting we had to walk. Their soldiers would steal everything, even our shoes."
Jami'a told me how he he had learned the Qur'an at university, then joined the Islamists battling Mogadishu's warlords. After the warlords, he fought the Ethiopians. Later he took me to the frontline. We drove in two Toyota Land Cruisers along Factory Road in south Mogadishu, to our east a wasteland of shrubs and swamps where the Shabaab positions were.
We walked through the grounds of the burnt-out ministry of defence, where young, frail and underfed fighters, in tattered clothes and broken sandals, sat under trees or on broken ammunition boxes. There was a look on their faces that I had seen before in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan. They carried guns and wrapped themselves with bandoliers of bullets but their faces gave them away: they were scared. Their enemy was somewhere across the fields, Islamists like them, heads wrapped by kuffiyas like them, holding Kalashnikovs like them, tired and underfed like them.
A week later the Factory Road frontline fell to the Shabaab, when most of the commanders I met switched sides and decided to fight with the opposition. A tiny, barely noticed footnote in the tragedy of Somalia.
guardian.co.uk

Interpol Takes Aim at Somali Pirates

May 29, 2009
Interpol Takes Aim at Somali Pirates
By DOREEN CARVAJAL
New York Times
PARIS — While warships pursue pirates around the Horn of Africa, the secretary general of Interpol, Ron Noble, is pressing for a new global alliance of criminal investigators to hunt the bandits by examining the money trail of multimillion-dollar ransoms.
On Friday, Mr. Noble, the first American to head the international policing organization in Lyon, will promote the creation of a special criminal task force at a Group of Eight meeting of justice ministers who are gathering for a two-day conference in Rome to debate strategies to fight international organized crime.
Piracy “is a classic, classic transnational crime problem occurring on the high seas,” Mr. Noble said in an interview. “We’ve got organized criminals targeting victims, taking them hostage and using extortion to get money. And what’s happening now is that the world has focused on a military response.”
Mr. Noble said that it made sense to dispatch naval conveys to confront pirates off the coast of Somalia, but that “what doesn’t make sense — what I can’t understand — is to release these people after detaining them and let them go back and try again.”
Piracy is on the agenda of the meeting amid rising concerns about the threat to the region’s major shipping routes. Anti-piracy conferences are also taking place this week in London and Egypt to examine the 114 attempted attacks on ships this year in the Gulf of Aden that resulted in 29 hijackings and the kidnappings of 478 sailors.
NATO, the European Union, China, India, Russia and the United States have dispatched warships to the area on anti-piracy patrols. But ships of the NATO fleet, like the Canadian frigate the Winnipeg, usually chase the boats, seize firearms and ladders and then release the crews.
Mr. Noble said he wanted to form a task force in Africa of investigators and prosecutors from a number of countries to create a data base of photographs and DNA and fingerprint records to keep track of suspects.
As it is now, he said, data collection is done on a piecemeal basis. What was needed, he said, was a method to collate information about identities and alliances.
“There is the whole question of corruption on shipping lines,” Mr. Noble said. “How do you think these pirates are able to find the ships to attack? Obviously they have inside information. Obviously there are conversations that are going on, or e-mails that are being exchanged. And you find their modus operandi by debriefing people you arrest.”
As a model approach, he cited the cooperation of investigators from more than 16 countries who gathered to share information about a gang of thieves — the Pink Panthers — that was robbing jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Mr. Noble credits the sharing of information across borders with the arrests of some of the thieves — a system that could be partially adapted for Somalia, which is comparatively lawless.
“Right now there are pirates in jail and others have been arrested and let go,” he said. “But there is no central repository to collect that information and no system for exchanging information.”
There are now seven Somalis on Interpol’s most-wanted list of criminal suspects — the “red notice.” None is accused of piracy.
“There’s no way these criminals can get the money, travel the high seas with the money, offload the money, spend the money without law enforcement being able to find out how it works and taking them down,” Mr. Noble said. “These guys are not rocket scientists.”
Russia and the Netherlands have been pressing for more — the creation of an international tribunal that could prosecute suspected pirates.
France, the United States and the Netherlands are holding Somalis accused of attacks on shipping. But those legal efforts have caused an uproar in the Netherlands: One of the five men facing trial there has expressed satisfaction with such jailhouse comforts as a television and toilet and has asked to bring his family to the Netherlands upon his release.
Mr. Noble said that such tribunals are expensive and that the nations pursuing the pirates should try to set up a legal system in Kenya next door.

From the Archives: SNM's fighters out of their old Ethiopian sanctuaries.

SNM's fighters out of their old Ethiopian sanctuaries.
From the archive
Not a nice way to come home
Jul 9th 1988
From The Economist print edition
THREE months ago it all made beautiful sense. Reeling from secessionist victories in the provinces of Tigre and Eritrea, the Ethiopian government offered next-door Somalia an attractive deal. The Ethiopians said they would end a decade of border skirmishing between the two countries by returning two captured Somali villages and ending their support for the rebel fighters of the Somali National Movement (SNM), whom Ethiopia had previously armed and protected. The Somalis reciprocated by declaring that they would no longer support rebels inside Ethiopia. The relieved Ethiopians transferred troops to more desperate fronts, and booted the SNM's fighters out of their old Ethiopian sanctuaries.
But if Somalia's president Siad Barre thought he had got a bargain, he was quickly disabused. The SNM, deprived of its comfortable camps across the border in Ethiopia, decided to come home fighting. Within two months of the border agreement its guerrillas were engaged in the largest insurgency Somalia has faced since it gained independence in 1960. At the end of May, while Somalia's president and defence minister were attending a conference of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa, the rebels captured the northern provincial capital of Hargeysa and the town of Burao, and attacked the garrison near the port of Berbera, where the Americans have naval facilities.
Somalia responded by moving troops from the south and bombing Hargeysa and Burao. But its claim to have recaptured the two towns is qualified by foreigners in the area. They say that the guerrillas, with 5,000 or so men under arms, are holding out in pockets inside the town as well as in nearby villages, and still control some stretches of main road. Berbera is said to be "calm but anxious". Many people—some estimates go as high as 10,000—have been killed in the fighting.
President Barre abolished tribalism in 1970, but that is mostly what the civil war is about. The SNM is a movement of the Isaq, a clan of northern cattle-herders and traders, who feel that the Somali government in Mogadishu discriminates against them. The president, on his father's side, is from the Darod clan, which the Isaq complain monopolises political power. On his mother's side, he is from Ogaden, a clan with whom the Isaq have been in dispute ever since the Dervish rebellion against the British early this century.
The SNM is not a separatist movement: it simply wants to get rid of the president. Some non-Isaq Somalis view the rebellion with modest enthusiasm because they frown on the resolute way President Barre has centralised authority in his own person and family. His half-brother is the new finance minister; his son-in-law the military commander of Hargeysa; his son the general in charge of the garrison in Mogadishu. His war against Ethiopia in 1977-78 kept the country briefly united around a dream of Greater Somalia, which would have incorporated the ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden. But the Somalis lost, and 800,000 impoverished Ogaden refugees stayed in Somalia, adding to the country's economic burdens.
President Barre abandoned the previous Soviet-style economy in the early 1980s in favour of IMF-inspired free-market reforms. Decontrol of foodgrains led to a production boom which helped Somalia through the worst of the drought that brought famine in Ethiopia. Prosperity would be a useful ally in the battle against the rebels. But the IMF stopped lending to the country in 1986 when it failed to service its debts. Now price controls have returned, and food shortages with them: the foreign-currency auctions that used to keep the exchange rate realistic have been abolished.
The Somalis are still talking to the IMF. An unexpected 44% devaluation at the end of June suggests that the war has at last panicked the government into trying to sort out the country's finances. President Barre may hope that, without Ethiopian backing, the rebellion in the north will eventually fade. But there are plenty of wealthy Isaq traders in the Arabian peninsula who could willingly provide the rebels with weapons; Somalia's coast is vast and unpatrollable. And the president seems intent on fanning his country's tribal animosities. According to Amnesty International, hundreds of Isaq businessmen have been arrested and tortured by police in Mogadishu in the past month alone.

Ethiopia: Amnesty International Report 2009

Ethiopia: Amnesty International Report 2009
Head of state Girma Wolde-Giorgis
Head of government Meles Zenawi
Death penalty retentionist
Population 85.2 million
Life expectancy 51.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 151/136 per 1,000
Adult literacy 35.9 per cent
Restrictions on humanitarian assistance to the Somali Region (known as the Ogaden) continued. The government engaged in sporadic armed conflict against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and both forces perpetrated human rights abuses against civilians. Ethiopian troops fighting insurgents in Somalia in support of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) committed human rights abuses and were reported to have committed war crimes. Security forces arrested members of the Oromo ethnic group in Addis Ababa and in the Oromo Region towards the end of the year. Independent journalists continued to face harassment and arrest. A number of political prisoners were believed to remain in detention and opposition party leader Birtukan Mideksa, who was pardoned in 2007, was rearrested. A draft law restricting the activities of Ethiopian and international organizations working on human rights was expected to be passed by parliament in 2009. Ethiopia remained one of the world’s poorest countries with some 6.4 million people suffering acute food insecurity, including 1.9 million in the Somali Region.
Background
The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission completed its mandate in October, despite Ethiopia failing to implement its ruling, and the UN Security Council withdrew the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in the wake of Eritrean obstruction of its operations along the Eritrea/Ethiopia border.
Thousands of Ethiopian armed forces remained in Somalia to support the TFG in armed conflict against insurgents throughout most of the year. Accusations of human rights violations committed by Ethiopian forces continued in 2008. Insurgent factions stated that they were fighting to force Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia. A phased plan for Ethiopian withdrawal was included in a peace agreement signed by the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia-Djibouti and TFG representatives in late October. Ethiopian forces began to withdraw late in the year, but had not withdrawn from Somalia completely by the end of the year.
The government faced sporadic armed conflict in the Oromo and Somali regions, with ONLF members also implicated in human rights abuses against civilians. Ethiopian opposition parties in exile remained active in Eritrea and in other countries in Africa and Europe.
"Ethiopian forces attacked the al-Hidya mosque in Mogadishu killing 21 men..."
Divisions split the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party, leading to the emergence of new opposition parties, including the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP) led by former judge Birtukan Mideksa. She was one of more than 70 CUD leaders, journalists and civil society activists convicted, then pardoned and released in 2007.
Suicide bombers attacked Ethiopia’s trade mission in Hargeisa, Somaliland, on 29 October killing several Ethiopian and Somali civilians.
Prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners
A number of political prisoners, detained in previous years in the context of internal armed conflicts or following contested elections in 2005, remained in detention.
Bekele Jirata, General Secretary of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement party, Asefa Tefera Dibaba, a lecturer at Addis Ababa University and dozens of others from the Oromo ethnic group were arrested in Addis Ababa and parts of the Oromo Region from 30 October onwards. Some of those detained were accused of financially supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
Sultan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, an independent mediator, who was arrested in Jijiga in August 2007 reportedly to prevent him from giving evidence to a UN fact-finding mission, remained in detention. Tried for alleged involvement in two hand grenade attacks in 2007, he was sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment in May 2008.
On 15 January Birtukan Mideksa, Gizachew Shiferaw and Alemayehu Yeneneh, then senior members of the CUD, were briefly detained by police after holding party meetings in southern Ethiopia. Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested on 28 December after she issued a public statement regarding the negotiations that led to her 2007 pardon. Her pardon was revoked and the sentence of life imprisonment reinstated.
Prisoner releases
Many released prisoners faced harassment and intimidation, with some choosing to leave the country.
Human rights defenders and lawyers Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie were released on 28 March. They had been detained since November 2005 together with hundreds of opposition parliamentarians, CUD members and journalists. Unlike their co-defendants in the trial who were pardoned and released in 2007, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie remained in detention, having refused to sign a document negotiated by local elders. They mounted a defence and were convicted by the Federal High Court of criminal incitement (although the presiding judge dissented) and sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment. When it became evident they would not be released, even after they appealed, they chose to sign the negotiated document, and were subsequently pardoned and released after serving 29 months of their sentence.
Charges of conspiring to commit “outrages against the Constitution” faced by Yalemzewd Bekele, a human rights lawyer who had been working for the European Commission in Addis Ababa, were dropped, without prejudice, before trial.
Abdirahman Mohamed Qani, chief of the Tolomoge sub-clan of the Ogaden clan in the Somali Region, was detained on 13 July after receiving a large public welcome when he returned from two years abroad. He was released on 7 October, and his relatives who had also been detained were reportedly released several days later.
CUD activist Alemayehu Mesele, who had suffered harassment since his release from prison in 2007, fled Ethiopia in early May after he was severely beaten by unknown assailants.
The editor of the Reporter newspaper Amare Aregawi was severely beaten by unknown assailants on 31 October in Addis Ababa. He had previously been detained by security officers in August.
In September, the government announced that it had released 394 prisoners and commuted one death sentence to life imprisonment to mark the Ethiopian New Year.
Freedom of expression
Independent journalists continued to face harassment and arrest.
At least 13 newspapers shut down by the government in 2005 were still closed. Independent journalists were reportedly denied licences to operate, although others did receive licences. Serkalem Fasil, Eskinder Nega and Sisay Agena, former publishers of Ethiopia’s largest circulation independent newspapers, who had been detained with CUD members, were denied licences to open two new newspapers.
In February the Supreme Court upheld a decision to dissolve the Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) and hand over its assets to a rival union formed by the government, also known as the Ethiopian Teachers Association. This action followed years of harassment and detention of union members. In December the union, under its new name, the National Teachers’ Association, had its application for registration as a professional organization rejected.
On World Press Freedom Day (3 May) Alemayehu Mahtemework, publisher of the monthly Enku, was detained and 10,000 copies of his publication impounded. He was released after five days without charge and copies of the magazine were later returned to him.
In November a Federal High Court judge convicted editor-in chief of the weekly Enbilta, Tsion Girma, of “inciting the public through false rumours” after a reporting mistake. She reportedly paid a fine and was released.
Human rights defenders
A draft Charities and Societies Proclamation was revised several times by the government in 2008, but remained threatening to the rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression.
Its provisions included severe restrictions on the amount of foreign funding Ethiopian civil society organizations working on human rights-related issues could receive from abroad (no more than 10 per cent of total revenues). It would also establish a Civil Societies Agency with sweeping authority over organizations carrying out work on human rights and conflict resolution in Ethiopia. It was expected to be passed into law by Parliament in early 2009.
Ethiopian troops in Somalia
Ethiopia maintained a significant troop presence in Somalia which supported the TFG until the end of the year. Ethiopian forces committed human rights abuses and were reported to have committed war crimes. Ethiopian forces attacked the al-Hidya mosque in Mogadishu killing 21 men, some inside the mosque, on 19 April. More than 40 children were held for some days after the mosque raid before being released .
Many attacks by Ethiopian forces in response to armed insurgents were reported to have been indiscriminate and disproportionate, often occurring in densely civilian-populated areas.
Internal armed conflict
The government continued counter-insurgency operations in the Somali Region, which increased after attacks by the ONLF on an oil installation in Obole in April 2007. These included restrictions on humanitarian aid which have had a serious impact on conflict-affected districts of the region. The government did not allow unhindered independent access for human rights monitoring.
Reports, dating back to 2007, of beatings, rape and other forms of torture, forcible conscription and extrajudicial executions in the Somali Region were investigated by a government-contracted body but not by an independent international body.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Reports of torture made by defendants in the trial of elected parliamentarian Kifle Tigeneh and others, one of several CUD trials, were not investigated.
Conditions in Kaliti prison and other detention facilities were harsh – overcrowded, unhygienic and lacking adequate medical care. Among those detained in such conditions were long-term political prisoners held without charge or trial, particularly those accused of links to the OLF.
Mulatu Aberra, a trader of the Oromo ethnic group accused of supporting the OLF, was released on 1 July on bail and fled the country. He had been arrested in November 2007 and reportedly tortured and denied medical treatment for resulting injuries while in detention.
Death penalty
While a number of death sentences were imposed by courts in 2008, no executions were reported.
In May the Federal Supreme Court overturned earlier rulings and sentenced to death former President Mengistu Haile Mariam (in exile in Zimbabwe) and 18 senior officials of his Dergue government. The prosecution had appealed against life imprisonment sentences passed in 2007, after they were convicted by the Federal High Court of genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated between 1974 and 1991.
On 6 April a court sentenced to death five military officers in absentia. They served under Mengistu Haile Mariam, and were held responsible for air raids in Hawzen, in the Tigray Region, which killed hundreds in a market in June 1980.
On 8 May a court in Tigray Region found six people guilty of a bus bombing in northern Ethiopia between Humora and Shira on 13 March and sentenced three of them to death.
On 21 May the Federal Supreme Court sentenced eight men to death for a 28 May 2007 bombing in Jijiga in the Somali Region.
On 22 May a military tribunal sentenced to death in absentia four Ethiopian pilots , who sought asylum while training in Israel in 2007.
Amnesty International reports
Ethiopia: Government Prepares Assault on Civil Society (1 July 2008)
Ethiopia: Comments on the Draft Charities and Societies Proclamation (1 October 2008) Ethiopia: Draft Law would Wreck Civil Society (14 October 2008)
Ethiopia: Arbitrary detention/torture or other ill-treatment (14 November 2008)
Routinely Targeted: Attacks on Civilians in Somalia (6 May 2008)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Somalia facing 'foreign invasion'

Somalia facing 'foreign invasion'
May 28, 2009
Somalia's president has condemned the presence of foreign fighters in his country and called for help to tackle armed opposition groups seeking to topple his government."Somalia is being invaded by foreign fighters, whose main purpose is to turn the country into an Afghanistan or an Iraq," Sharif Ahmed said on Monday.
His comments came a day after after the al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide attack in the Somali capital.
Authorities suspect the bomber, a teenage boy, was one of hundreds foreigners, from countries including Pakistan, Yemen and the United States, that the UN believes have joined Somali groups.
"We urge Somalis to defend against those groups that include foreigners, and we ask the international community to back us," Ahmed said at a news conference at his Villa Somalia residence.OverthrowAl-Shabab, in alliance with the Hizbul Islam group, has vowed to overthrow Ahmed, accusing him of being a traitor after he signed a peace deal with the interim government last year.Ahmed was previously a leader of the Islamic Courts Union, which effectively controlled much of southern and central Somalia in late 2006, and counted al-Shabab and other groups fighting the government as its allies.
The United States says that al-Shabab is linked to al-Qaeda, while Hizbul Islam is led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, another former Islamic courts leader, that Washington says has connections to al-Qaeda.Security officials say that the groups have become more sophisticated in recent months, planting improved roadside devices and carrying out suicide attacks.Al-Shabab has warned that there will be more suicide attacks against government forces in the coming days after a surge in violence this month killed almost 200 people in the capital, Mogadishu.
"I can tell you that 80 per cent of the people killed and injured are civilians who were caught in the crossfire," Mohamoud Ibrahim Garweyne, Somalia's humanitarian affairs minister, said on Monday.
"The clashes have also displaced 8,367 families, who have reached temporary camps outside the capital where their livelihoods are very precarious."The UN says that about 60,000 residents fled their homes in the capital in recent days, joining more than one million people who had already been displaced by the fighting.
"It's almost impossible for us, or even our Somalis partner organisations, to reach these people, who are likely to go without food and shelter for a long time," Roberta Russo, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, said in Nairobi.
Separately, the Reuters news agency reported that a Somali religious leader, said to have criticised al-Shabab's activities, was kidnapped from a Kenyan refugee camp on Monday.
Abdikadir Abdi was seized while sleeping outside his makeshift shelter at Ifo camp in north-eastern Kenya and was bundled into a vehicle that sped toward the Somalia border, the news agency reported.
Source:
Agencies

Amnesty: Israel repeatedly violated rules of war in Gaza

Amnesty: Israel repeatedly violated rules of war in Gaza
Mohammed Mar’i Arab News
RAMALLAH: Amnesty International has accused Israel of repeatedly violating the laws of armed conflict during the three-week Israeli forces offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009. The London-based organization said in its annual report, formally released yesterday, that 1,400 Palestinians died in the offensive — including 300 children — and that 5000 people were wounded.
The Amnesty report accuses Israeli soldiers of violating the laws of armed conflict over and over again by directly attacking civilians and civilian structures and by causing an immeasurable number of civilian casualties when attacking Palestinian fighters.
It also mentions Israel’s justification for the offensive: that it attacked Gaza to prevent war and to stop armed Palestinians from shelling cities and towns in southern Israel with rockets. The report goes on to detail that three Israeli civilians were killed during the Gaza operation, adding to seven Israeli civilians killed by home-made rockets and other Palestinian attacks launched from Gaza in 2008.
According to the Amnesty report, the sudden conflict came following a period of a year-and-a-half in which the Israeli forces imposed an uncompromising blockade on the residents of Gaza, which almost completely prevented the movement of people and goods into the Gaza Strip and led to a humanitarian crisis.
The blockade almost completely strangled economic life, the report says, claiming that even those on their deathbed were not permitted to leave the Strip for medical attention.

Military chopper crashes near Somalia

Military chopper crashes near Somalia
afrol News, 27 May
A Kenyan military helicopter patrolling the northeastern Kenya borders has crash-landed near the Kenyan-Somali border wounding four army officers, local reports have said. The helicopter, Hughes-MD500 crashed on the outskirts of Hulugo town.

The crash comes days after Somalia's transitional government accused Nairobi of aiding opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys back to Mogadishu from a self-imposed exile in Kenya.
According to Kenyan officials the incident may have been caused by mechanical problems, but Military sources however suspect Somali militias are behind the crash amid heavy fighting that continues in the Horn of Africa state.
"We suspect the chopper was brought down by unfriendly forces, which could only be the Al-Shabaab militia, currently operating in Somalia," a senior military official told local news reporters.
Mr Aweys' return has escalated tensions between anti- and pro-government forces in Somalia, forcing Kenya to officially close its border with Somali and to step up military patrols along the border.
Meanwhile, pro-government forces and Somali rebels continue their battle for control over the south-central towns of Mahaday and Jowhar, which were captured by rebels last week.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and years of fighting in the country have left some three million people, a third of the population, in dire need of humanitarian aid.

By staff writer

Somaliland : Dancing to a different tune

Hargeisa , Somaliland
Daniel Howden: Dancing to a different tune
Africa Notebook
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Hargeisa's wedding hall doesn't deal in subtlety. A concrete box with a sagging ceiling, it's decorated in flourishes of cream and pink reminiscent of icing. The heart-shaped silver thrones for the bride and groom seem to have been plucked from the top of a towering wedding cake.
The purpose of the building is to deliver glamour, at all costs, into the otherwise entirely unglamorous capital of Somaliland. Anyone waiting for the dour form of Islam being fought for further south in rump Somalia, where singing or dancing have been banned in some places, would be in for a shock.
The warm-up act for the wedding singer is a homegrown rapper dressed in smart casual and a camouflage hat. The real glamour arrives with the female guests, who sweep in in billowing, brilliant dresses and determinedly thick make-up. The men arrive separately, after the mildly narcotic khat has been chewed. The surprise is that there are no more than a handful of older people.
Blissfully, there are no speeches. A brief song and dance is followed by a feast. Then a dapper young man named Mohammed, in a sharp white suit, explains that the wedding celebrations are spread over five days. Tonight is the young people's night.
A student in Luton, who has come back to Hargeisa for the first time in 15 years, is only marginally less culturally confused than I am.
With that the real dancing begins and any notion of gender separation disappears. Mohammed appears with a female friend to dance with the foreign guest. Eager not to offend, I offer a cautious hand from a respectful distance. With an understanding smile she shimmies intimately close then at the last second dips a shoulder and gracefully spins away.
I have no idea of the rules of the Somali ballroom so smile weakly and offer the same hand. All the while thinking that acute cultural sensitivity doesn't make you a good dance partner.
A legacy of refuge
Africa is littered with the relics of misplaced colonial grandeur. Few of them have fallen on harder times than Somaliland's State House. Celebrated as Hargeisa's most beautiful building, it was originally constructed to accommodate the Queen should she have wanted to visit what was then British Somaliland. She didn't. Its grandest visitor was Prince Henry, then Duke of Gloucester, who was housed in the greatest luxury the British protectorate could afford.
The house and grounds are now put to much more immediate and less luxurious use. They shelter hundreds of Somali refugees displaced during the civil war that saw Somaliland break away from greater Somalia after 1991. The improvised refugee camp is the closest Britain has come to leaving a useful legacy here.
The Independent

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

War Traumas, Eritrean arrogance in disguise

War Traumas, Eritrean arrogance in disguise
By Isaias Afewerke
May 24, 2009
Dear Compatriots inside Eritrea as well as abroad
Distinguished Participants and Guests
Allow me to extend my warmest congratulations to the entire people of Eritrea on this auspicious day. Let me also express my profound gratitude to all those who contributed to the exuberant festivities that have been going on throughout the week and that have amplified the boundless joy and pride we all feel on this special day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You may recall the observations I made on a number of issues of paramount importance in my speech during the celebrations of our independence anniversary last year. One of those issues was the question of "virtual demarcation" and the impediments and misinformation perpetrated at the time by the outgoing US Administration. All those ploys have failed and are almost forgotten now. What remains, and which does not perturb us much, is the simple matter of ascertaining our inviolable rights to the liberation of our sovereign territories that are still occupied.
In my speech last year, I also elaborated on the observations I had made previously during our independence anniversary in 2005 in regard to the prevalent international developments. As I stressed last year, the reckless policies pursued by a "special interest" group in the United States who believed that they were entrusted with a "providential mission" to shape "their own world order" had given rise to the eruption of violent conflagrations in various parts of the world. This had, in turn, entailed immense destruction, spiraling economic crises and an overall bleak trend that was fraught with dangerous consequences.
Fortunately, the dangerous trend set in motion by the "special interest group" aroused a heightened concern and sensitization of international public opinion to bolster their strong reaction and to engender a revolution of a new kind. It is against this backdrop that the American people, who were invariably affected by these reckless policies, elected Barack Obama to the White House in a testimony of their rejection of arrogance and to bring about change.

Although the broad contours of the change have been indicated, and the prevailing good will pronounced, its specific contents have not yet been clarified. The most critical questions are: how will change be effected? And, will it be at all possible?
The "special interest" groups are frantically employing the clout and influence they had, and still possess, to prevent change from occurring; to obstruct and roll back change; and above all, to mislead the new Administration and influence it to advance their interests. To this end, they have unleashed a new war by deploying all the weapons and ammunitions in their arsenal and by altering their colours, methodologies and "lobbies". Whether the goodwill of the new Administration will succeed or not will indeed be determined by the outcome of the struggle. One of the factors that will compound the challenge is the enormity of the global crisis and the formidable hurdles it poses. The theatre where this confrontation is waged is not also situated in the United States alone but in vast areas in the world as well as in several fields. These additional dimensions of the problem only accentuate the depth of its severity.
If we scrutinize the acts of the "special interest" groups in our region, they have unleashed an intensive smear campaign by peddling lies through their multiple media outlets and lobbyists. They have been very active throughout spring to stifle the policy "changes" that may be embarked by the new US Administration and in order to mislead it and derail any possible positive action. They are misconstruing the "threat of terrorism" that they deliberately fanned in the first place, as a convenient pretext and instrument of intimidation, in order to divert attention from, and prevent the resolution of, the main problems. They had refined this tool as an internalized habit for decades and the old trick is being resuscitated vigorously these days. The various acts and campaigns that they are instigating outside our region hour by hour are not different either, in substance, from the pattern described above.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On propitious occasions of our independence anniversary, it is appropriate for us to examine in depth critical international developments that may impact on our domestic and regional realities. The purpose of the exercise is to take stock of these trends and formulate policies and plans that shore up our endeavours. Trying to gauge today whether present international realities correspond with our profound desire for change is thus rooted in this perspective and practice. Our hope is that the change promised on a global scale, and especially in the United States, is genuine indeed. This is also a universally shared hope.
Hopes and aspirations are however subjective dispositions and cannot be assumed as realized unless and until they are accompanied by tangible and quantifiable changes on the ground. To give hasty and emotional judgment on the grounds of promises and trends and to raise high expectations on a process which is barely starting will also be imprudent and unrealistic. We shall not thus expect miracles or solutions on a silver platter in an unrealistic fashion. We shall follow developments with the necessary patience and caution.
To follow developments with patience and caution does not mean that we shall remain in a passive mode as bystanders with folded hands. The policy of "constructive engagement" that we have publicly announced indeed means an active, constructive, engagement. This active initiative will be direct. It will not be conducted through intermediaries and lobbyists. Furthermore, we must be wary that our sincere disposition for constructive engagement is not misconstrued and taken for granted to lead to "blackmail," or used as a bargaining chip for imposing pre-emptive conditionalities.
We shall thus continue to undertake relentless action without undue haste, and, by refining our objective reading of the developments that unfold. This approach is vital as we do not also harbour any hidden agenda or have issues that we are particularly worried about.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I shall not dwell on burning regional issues. Indeed, I know that you have been closely following recent developments whose details have also been described extensively in the media in the past days.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To closely follow and assess international developments will only help us to gauge the impact of external factors. It will not otherwise relegate the domestic situation to the back burner. Our primary task remains the identification of our domestic priorities and tasks and the carrying out of our homework.
In spite of the harvest shortfall that occurred in 2008, we shall continue to pursue the priority task of food security that we have embarked on. In this regard, we shall continue to pursue this year the policies of price subsidy as well as prudent patterns of consumption to ensure better outreach and equitable distribution. But beyond the issues of supply and distribution, and without ignoring the adequacy of rainfall which is not under our control, we shall redouble our efforts for agricultural development by subsidizing and rationalizing the supply of fuel. The new and extensive agricultural projects we had sought to develop this year in the Northern and Southern Red Sea Administrative Zones have been shelved due to input constraints and the re-arrangement of priorities. Nonetheless, we intend to undertake the necessary preparations this year in order to ensure the full implementation of these projects in 2010.
The development of our marine resources is another task that must be pursued in parallel with our agricultural development projects. We shall consequently improve the modest achievements of last year aimed at increasing supply of fish to the domestic market, and undertake the necessary preparations in order to increase the annual harvest as well as expand the marketing outlets towards the end of this year.
In conjunction with the planned and ongoing agricultural development projects for the promotion of food security, we intend to install supply of electricity in most areas of the Gash Barka, Southern Red Sea and Northern Red Sea Administrative Zones. These grids will start in the most important centers and expand and become interconnected with time. The supply of potable water will go in tandem with these projects. All these projects, important as they are, mainly depend on thermal energy with its attendant, rather high, cost implications. The new approach is thus mainly hinged on the phased introduction and expansion of solar and wind sources of energy.
On infrastructural projects, we shall mainly focus this year on implementing the most critical projects as a matter of priority. We will further proceed to complete preparations for those bigger projects that cannot be implemented this year due to various constraints.
There are evidently other important sectors that have not been put on the first category in terms of time-bound prioritization. Our educational programmes aimed at producing skilled and productive manpower and that will have tangible contributions in the effective implementation of all the projects described above, as well as, our health programmmes that have been rendering relatively excellent services, shall be expanded both in quantitative and qualitative terms as priorities that cannot be shelved.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to thank the Eritrean Armed Forces who have made memorable contributions to the achievements we have gleaned in the past 18 years of independence in all sectors and fronts, the Eritrean people inside the country as well as those who reside abroad, all the Ministries and Administrative Zones, the social associations, various companies as well as our friends and partners. At the present time, the challenges we face are less than the opportunities available. We must therefore increase our efforts and pace to a forward march.
May we be blessed with a good rainy season!
Glory to our Martyrs!
Victory to the Masses!
Medeshi comment:
( Like many of his followers , the guy needs psychiatric treatment for war traumas . And will he surrender the Somali passport that he has been using for the guerrilla war period?. What an unfaithful dummy like most of his followers that have suffocated the good people of Eritrea !!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Brief history of Tyrant Isaias Afewerki


Medeshi May 25, 2009
Brief history of Tyrant Isaias AfewerkiIsaias Afewerki
President of EritreaIncumbent
Assumed office 24 May 1993Preceded by
Position establishedBorn
2 February 1946 (1946-02-02) (age 63)Asmara, EritreaPolitical party
People's Front for Democracy and JusticeSpouse
Saba Haile
Signature
Isaias Afewerki (Tigrinya: ኢሳያስ ኣፈወርቂ; born 2 February 1946), is the first and current President of Eritrea, attaining that status after Eritrean independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Prior to that, he was the leader of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, an armed movement determined to secure Eritrean independence. Afewerki's rule has been characterized by an emphasis on Eritrean self-reliance.
Guerrilla experienceHe joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1966 and in the following year he was sent to china to recieve military training. Four years later he was appointed a commander. Eventually he split from ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front) and joined a small group of combatants which became known as the Eritrean People's Liberation Front(EPLF). Soon he allied himself with another two groups that had splintered from the ELF: PLF1, led by Osman Saleh Sabbe, and a group known as Obel. In 1982 he split from Sabbe after the latter signed a unity agreement with the ELF (the Khartoum Agreement).
Leader of independist movementIsaias Afewerki was the leader of the EPLF, which eventually won Eritrea its independence from Ethiopia. In April 1993 a United Nations-supervised referendum on independence was held, and the following month Eritrea was declared independent. The EPLF renamed itself the People's Front for Democracy and Justice in February 1994 as part of its transformation into Eritrea's ruling political movement.The PFDJ is the only legal political entity in Eritrea. It is nominally Marxist, but is often considered African socialist and holds itself open to nationalists of any political affiliation. There is some debate as to whether PFDJ is a true political party or whether it is a broad governing association in transition.
After Independence
After Eritrean independence was achieved de facto in 1991 and de jure in 1993 after a referendum, Isaias became the first head of state. During the first years of his administration the institutions of governance began to be rebuilt. This included a top to bottom restructuring of the structures of governance from providing for an elected local judicial system to expanding the educational system to as many regions as possible.
(Cousin Meles has very close contact with Isais at the expense of the Ethiopian people and both have been refugees in Somalia and have used Somali passports to travel around many countries)
The Eritrean constitution was ratified in 1997 by a constituent assembly but never fully ratified by the National Assembly.
Criticism
External relations

The once-firm friendship with the new Ethiopian government however deteriorated into a fierce border and economic dispute that turned into the deadly Eritrean-Ethiopian War 1998 - 2000. Armed conflict claimed more than 150,000 lives and ended with the signing of the Algiers Agreement on December 12, 2000. In 2002, in an effort to mitigate the effects of the prolonged stalemate with Ethiopia, the President's Administration created the Wefri Warsay Yika'alo. It is a comprehensive, revolutionary, national economic rehabilitation and development program in the aftermath of the destructive war with Ethiopia. Due to his frustration with the stalemated peace process with Ethiopia, the President of Eritrea wrote a series of Eleven Letters to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Despite signing the Algiers Agreement, Ethiopia refused to accept all details of the boundary proscribed by the international boundary commission. The tense relations with Ethiopia have led to regional instability due to Ethiopia's lack of acceptance of the Algiers agreement it had signed.
His government has also been condemned for allegedly arming and financing the insurgency in Somalia; the United States is considering labeling Eritrea a "State Sponsor of Terrorism," however, many experts on the topic have shied from this assertion, stating that "If there is one country where the fighting of extremists and terrorists was a priority when it mattered, it was Eritrea." This accusation has also been labeled a reckless move by others.


Under his rule, Eritrea has had one of the worst rates of press freedom in the world, and since 2007, the worst.
Afewerki ranked No. 8 on Parade Magazine's 2009 World's Worst Dictators list, behind Ayatollah Khamenei (Iran) and ahead of Muammar al-Qaddafi (Libya).Isaias quotes- Isaias Afewerki-
"What is a free press? There is no free press anywhere. It's not in England; it's not in the United States. We'd like to know what free press is in the first place."There is no victory without its people, no development without its people, who triumphed decisively through their national unity."
"Democracy is very important. Democracy meaning allowing majority or population to participate in the politics of every country. That is part of the software that we need to develop. But it should not polarize society."
"Sometimes when you have large population it becomes a liability. People speak about big populations. But they underestimate the fact that it is not numbers. It is not only the productivity of the population in one country that matters; it is also the quality of the productivity."
"Even when we are disappointed, we have to fight this war for peace and we have no other choice of brokers. The brokers are there, whether we like them or not. Whether we are happy or disappointed with what they are doing, we have to live with that to finally give peace a chance."
Soure: Medeshi

Chasing the Somali piracy money trail


Medeshi May 25, 2009

Chasing the Somali piracy money trail
By Mary Harper BBC News
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has made many people very rich.
A new economy has developed both within Somalia and further afield, as security companies, lawyers and negotiators reap huge profits from their involvement.
( Hands up if you want ransom money - but the spoils spread further than pirates )
But finding out what happens to the money delivered as ransom payments is doubly difficult, first because piracy is a transnational crime, and second because Somalia is a country without rules, regulations or a functioning government.
There have been various reports that piracy in Somalia is attracting big-time criminals from all over the world; that it is being orchestrated from London; that the ship owners themselves are involved.

But little evidence has been provided to back up these claims.
It has also been reported that much of the estimated $80m (£50m) paid out in ransoms so far this year has been laundered by organised syndicates in Dubai and other Gulf states.
“ [The hijackers] are often teenagers, who certainly don't end up with all the money ” Andrew Mwangura Seafarers' Assistance Programme
But this has been strenuously denied by officials in the Gulf, and people working in maritime intelligence say they have no real proof that the money laundering or any other large scale international crime is happening.
"There's been a lot of inventive reporting on very slim evidence," says Christopher Ledger, chairman of the maritime security company Idarat.
"What happens to the money is exceedingly opaque, partly because of the way Somalis communicate with each other, and also because of the impenetrable way their finance system works."
Established security experts have also suggested that some of those cashing in on the new growth industry of Somali piracy are exaggerating its international criminal dimensions in order to drum up business for themselves.
The experts say that with a decreasing demand for private security and intelligence in places like Iraq, some companies and newly-formed "piracy consultants" are trying to sell Somalia as the new frontier for their operations, basing much of their information on speculation rather than fact.
In a sense, Somalis do not need to launder the money they make from piracy because their unique financial system operates on trust and honour, bypassing banks and other financial institutions.
Verbal transactions
As the system - known as "hawala" - often does not involve documentation, with most transactions done verbally, there is no paper trail.
This makes it almost impossible to find out what happens to money made from ransom payments or any other transaction in Somalia.
The fact that most ransoms are paid in cash means they simply disappear into the Somali community, rather than ending up in banks or other financial bodies.
Although hawala companies in the West and the Arab world have become more regulated in recent years, it is very difficult to track the money once it gets to Somalia.
It has been possible to find out something about how the ransom money is distributed.
One thing is clear: the small groups of pirates who take to sea in speedboats to hijack huge ships do not get all the money.
"They are the foot soldiers," says Andrew Mwangura, who heads the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme and negotiates frequently with pirates.
"They are young men, often teenagers, and they certainly don't end up with all the money."
'Compensation' scheme
Pirates interviewed by the BBC have been reluctant to say exactly how much money they make from a successful hijacking, but reports indicate they make tens of thousands of dollars rather than millions.
This is because piracy has developed into a mini-economy, employing hundreds of people in north-eastern and central Somalia, all of whom need their share of the ransom.
Although there is no universal set of rules, a UN report based on information gathered from pirates based in the north-eastern village of Eyl, reveals some interesting information about how the ransom spoils are divided:
• Maritime militia, pirates involved in actual hijacking - 30%
• Ground militia (armed groups who control the territory where the pirates are based) - 10%
• Local community (elders and local officials) - 10%
• Financier - 20%
• Sponsor - 30%
The UN report found the payments are shared virtually equally between the maritime militia, although the first pirate to board the ship gets a double share or a vehicle.
And compensation is paid to the family of any pirate killed during the operation.
The breakdown shows how ransom money trickles down to many sections of Somali society.
Government officials and the armed groups that control different parts of the country all get their share too.
Yemen link
Some analysts - such as the Kenyan-based security consultant Bruno Schiemsky - say pirates have given as much as 50% of their revenue to the Islamist al-Shabab militia in the areas it controls.
However, al-Shabab has stated that it opposes piracy.
There have been consistent reports that officials in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland - the heartland of Somali piracy - have been getting cuts.
Several officials, including a deputy chief of police, have been sacked for involvement in piracy.
With so many people receiving a share of the ransom payments - which average between $1m to $3m (£1.9m) - Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, of Dryad Maritime Intelligence, says Somali piracy is unlikely to attract the involvement of major international crime syndicates.
"When you look at the way ransoms are distributed, there's simply not enough money for big time gangs to be interested," he says.
However, if piracy continues to grow, there's a possibility that it will start to attract major criminal elements.
Maritime security expert Christopher Ledger says: "It's similar to the South American drugs trade in the 1970s, which started off as a relatively small-time operation, and grew into a huge global crime."
One country that does seem to be involved in Somali piracy is Yemen.
Maritime security experts say the 'mother ships' from which pirate attacks are launched are often refuelled, resupplied and even armed in Yemen.
A UN report said: "Members of the Harardhere pirate group have been linked to the trafficking of arms from Yemen to (the Somali towns of) Harardhere and Hobyo, which have long been two of the main points of entry for arms shipments destined for armed opposition groups in Somalia and Ethiopia."
It's likely that the truth about all the money made from piracy will never be uncovered.
What is clear is that several elements in Somali society are benefiting, and that piracy will remain an attractive career option as long as the country remains without central authority.
But it is wrong to transfer theories about money laundering and international crime onto Somali piracy.
The problem is unique, the country is unique, and speculation will lead to misguided policies which are likely to prolong the dangers facing any ship that sails along the long unruly coast of Somalia.
When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.
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Story from BBC NEWS:

Somali gunmen 'renounce piracy'

Medeshi may 25, 2009
Somali gunmen 'renounce piracy'
Around 200 Somali pirates are reported to have renounced piracy at a meeting in northern Somalia.
(See map of how piracy is affecting the region and countries around the world )
Members of the group met local leaders and Somali expatriates in Eyl, in the autonomous region of Puntland, and promised to halt their activities.
Pirate representative Abshir Abdullah told the BBC he urged other groups to free ships in return for amnesty.
Pirates have been coming under pressure from local leaders, who have accused them of corrupting their communities.
Somalia has been without a stable government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish.

The problem worsened in the first months of 2009 despite patrols by foreign navies.
Last week, Somalia's interim government asked for international help to set up a national coastguard to help tackle piracy, and protect fishermen from illegal foreign fishing boats and to prevent dumping of toxic materials.
“ I'm aware now these acts are wrong in Islamic teachings ” Pirate chief Abshir Abdullah
Mr Abdullah, a well-known pirate chief in Puntland, says his group is not holding any ships at present and the authorities have agreed to give them amnesty for previous hijackings.
"I see myself as someone who has been saved from bad deeds," he told the BBC's Somali Service.
"I understand the wrong things that I was involved in and I'm aware now these acts are wrong in Islamic teachings.
Mr Abdullah says he has agreed to work with local leaders to get other pirates to give up what can be a lucrative life on the high seas.
"I will advice those who want to go to sea, they must not do it and I hope they will stop it as we have agreed.
"The ones who are holding ships now, I would call them to release them and they ought not to do it again."
Meanwhile, a Nato warship in the Gulf of Aden has intercepted two boats carrying suspected pirates and has disarmed them, AP news agency reports.
A Canadian frigate chased the two boats and eventually boarded them.
Nato says it found a large amount of firearms and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as equipment such as hook ladders.
The suspected pirates were released after the equipment was confiscated.
When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.
Scroll to the right for a story about the Philippines, which supplies many of the world's mariners.
You can zoom in for more detail by using the "+" or "-" signs on the upper left hand side.

High food prices despite good rains in Djibouti


High food prices despite good rains in Djibouti
NAIROBI, 25 May 2009 (IRIN) - Most poor households in Djibouti still cannot afford sufficient food, despite an improvement in food security due to rains in the coastal belt and large-scale distribution of aid, an early warning agency stated.
(Photo: Livestock sales have also increased due to improved animal health)
The price of imported rice, the main staple for poor households, increased by 6 percent in April, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net), said in its May food security update.
It noted that the UN Children's Agency (UNICEF) was concerned about high levels of acute malnutrition, particularly in peri-urban areas around Djibouti City and in the northwest pastoral zone. Admissions to feeding centres rose from 7,302 to 18,417 children between December 2007 and December 2008.
Generally, milk production, the main income source for people living in the southeast roadside pastoral subzone, was abundant due to recent rains in the coastal areas. Livestock sales have also increased due to improved animal health.
However, with the hot season in late May, pastoralists in southeastern zones are likely to move herds back to coastal areas in search of pasture and water, resulting in overgrazing and competition for limited pasture.

Kidnapped journalists in Somalia plead for help

Medeshi May 25, 2009
Kidnapped journalists in Somalia plead for help
MOGADISHU (AFP) — A Canadian reporter and an Australian photographer who have been held hostage in Somalia for nine months said they are in poor health and have sought greater help from their governments to secure their release.
Freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout and photographer Nigel Brennan spoke to an AFP correspondent in Mogadishu by phone for five minutes on Sunday from an undisclosed location.
The call was obtained after weeks of efforts to establish contact with the hostages, who appeared to be reading or reciting a statement, possibly under duress. There was no independent confirmation of their identities.
"I have been sick for months. Unless my government, the people of Canada, all my family and friends can get one million dollars, I will die here, OK that is certain," Lindhout said, sobbing and sounding very distressed.
She urged the Canadian government to give more help to her family's attempts to secure her release after 274 days in detention with Brennan. The pair were abducted while on a freelance assignment.
The call was made through an intermediary, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the kidnappers.
"Anyone who is concerned about their situation should contribute to their release, otherwise they will suffering even more," said the man, who gave his name as Adan Nur.
A Somali journalist and two drivers who were captured with Lindhout and Brennan were released on January 16.

Germany Doubtful of French Plan to Train Somali Troops


Medeshi May 25, 2009
Germany Doubtful of French Plan to Train Somali Troops
As pirates off Somalia continue to hijack ships, take hostages and collect massive ransoms, governments are scrambling to find a way to fight back. France has proposed training Somali troops, but Germany doubts that the soldiers' loyalty can be guaranteed.
As Somali pirates continue to hamper seaborne trade off the Horn of Africa, France is calling on its EU partners to provide the funding, expertise and logistical assistance needed to train Somali forces to fight pirates based along the country's coastline. But Germany has its doubts as to whether such soldiers can be kept from joining the pirates or the numerous warlords ruling over the fractured country.
AP
Is training Somali soldiers enough to stop the piracy scourge?France broached the idea at a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers in Brussels last week. According to the French plan, French soldiers would train around 500 Somali security forces in Djibouti, where France has its largest foreign military base. These soldiers would then go on to train 5,500 of their compatriots.
The call comes not long after a donors' conference organized by the European Union and UN in late April in Brussels, where international donors pledged more than $250 million (€178 million) to help strengthen Somali security forces in their fight against both pirates and militant Islamic forces.
Although German representatives backed the French plan in theory, they first want the EU to check on the plan's feasibility. Somalia has had no stable government since 1991, when warlords overthrew the country's long-time dictatorship, and the current government is threatened by Islamic militants and only has a firm grip over certain parts of Mogadishu, the capital city.
In particular, the German government is worried that the Somali government would be unable to pay its own security forces -- or even keep them under control. Likewise, German military forces worry that Somali forces trained and armed with EU-supplied weapons might cross over and join the pirates -- and further complicate the fight. They point to instances in Afghanistan where police officers trained by German forces have crossed over to enemy lines and to the fact that Somali soldiers already trained by EU forces have been accused of major crimes and human rights offenses.
Increasing Worries
As of Friday, pirates had attacked more than 80 ships in the Gulf of Aden in 2009 alone and hijacked 29 of them. In 2008, the International Maritime Bureau recorded 111 pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa, a dramatic increase over the previous year.
DER SPIEGEL
Pirates based mainly in the Puntland region of Somalia continue to hold more than a dozen vessels and several hundred crew members. Such hijackings are, as a rule, levereged into sizable ransoms with pirates bringing in an estimated $30 million in 2008 alone.
Over a dozen countries have dispatched ships to the waters off the Horn of Africa to help combat the pirates. The EU mission is also considering whether it should expand its naval anti-piracy operations to cover the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, where pirate activities have increased recently.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been particularly vocal about fighting piracy. On Tuesday, he will be in United Arab Emirates to inaugurate a new French naval base in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to help international efforts to combat piracy and safeguard key shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf.
Is A Coast Guard Enough?
What is being done with the ransom money the pirates collect is also of much concern to foreign governments. At an international piracy conference held last week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Abdul Wahid Mohamad, the director of Puntland's fisheries ministry, warned that the number of Somali pirates -- which he put at more than 1,000 -- was increasing in size and power. "There are growing indications that wealthier pirates ... may become new warlords and create extremist organizations," Mohamad said, according to the AP. He went on to urge the creation of a Somali coast guard "to prevent pirate boats before they go into deep sea."
Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (6 Photos)Others have suggested that another way to combat piracy is to revive the country's fishing industry, which has been decimated by civil war and foreign trawlers illegally fishing Somali waters. "The answer is neither at sea or military but on land," Capt. Christophe Pipolo, a security adviser for France's Foreign Ministry, told conference attendees.
Yet another suggestion involves the ships targeted by the pirates themselves. Last Thursday, the head of Liberty Maritime Corp., a New York-based company whose ship was recently attacked by pirates while transporting humanitarian aid to Africa, urged the US Congress to either place armed personnel on US ships or loosen restrictions that prevent them from arming themselves. "In our view, small embarked security teams are a more effective deterrent than patrolling the entire million square miles of ocean that are affected," Philip Shapiro told the House of Representative's Transportation subcommittee, the AP reported.
jtw -- with wire reports

Mogadishu Battle Draws in Foreign Powers


Medeshi May 25, 2009
Mogadishu Battle Draws in Foreign Powers
In early May, insurgent fighters from the hard-line Al-Shabab Islamic group, pictured, launched a major offensive in Mogadishu, aimed at overthrowing the new, U.S.- and U.N.-backed coalition government of moderate Islamist Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. As tens of thousands of refugees fled the city, Al Shabab closed in on the presidential palace, where Ahmed and his lieutenants were fortified behind an African-Union peacekeeping force, equipped with tanks and mortars.
U.N. envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah called the attack a “coup attempt.” He said that Al-Shabab leader Hassan Dahir Aweys “came to take power and topple a legitimate regime.” Al Shabab’s coup attempt has split one of Somalia’s other large Islamist groups. Part of Hizbul Islam sided with Aweys, but another Hizbul-Islam faction — with 200 fighters and a dozen gun-armed trucks — joined Ahmed.
The fighting has also drawn in foreign elements on both sides. Somalis from the Diaspora in the U.S., Great Britain and continental Europe sneaked into Somalia to fight with Al Shabab, while Eritrea reportedly supplied plane-loads of small arms and munitions to the hard-line Islamists. Osama Bin Laden has publicly encouraged Al Shabab to assassinate Ahmed and destroy his government. It’s unclear whether the foreign fighters are formally aligned with Al Qaeda, or simply “freelancing” on Al Shabab’s behalf.
Ahmed counts powerful backers of his own. Ethiopia, which in the late 1990s fought a bloody border war with Eritrea, reportedly deployed troops across the Somali border to help secure key towns. Turkey promised millions of dollars to boost the Somali government’s security forces, and the A.U. called on the U.N. to denounce Eritrean meddling, and establish port blockades and a no-fly zone to prevent arms shipments reaching Al Shabab.
Somalia hasn’t had a functional government since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a repressive dictatorship. The resulting chaos has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and given rise to a thriving underground economy of banditry and piracy.
Al Shabab’s failed assault on Ahmed’s presidential palace shifted the battle’s initiative to the government. With U.S., U.N. and A.U. diplomatic, financial and military support, Ahmed’s forces counter-attacked last week. “We are talking about two things, a military operation and a political process proceeding side by side,” Somali Foreign Minister Muhammad Abdullahi Omar said. “We are confident that we will control not only the city, but also the area around it. The public opinion and society totally support the government and its political program on the ground.”
But the fighting is far from over, and the death toll continues to mount. Reportedly hundreds have died, including three Somali journalists caught in the crossfire. On Friday, Radio Shabelle reporter Abdirisak Warsameh Mohamed was shot and killed in Bakara Market, a perennial battleground in Mogadishu. His body lay in the road for 45 minutes before colleagues could retrieve it.
Omar said he sees little chance for negotiation. “Sheikh Aweys said he will not talk to, will not recognize, and will not deal with the government. That is his decision and his statement. He said they will fight, and this is what he is doing.”
Ahmed’s ascension in January was widely praised, in Somalia and abroad, as the country’s best chance for peace in two decades. A moderate Islamists in an increasingly religious country, Ahmed and his supporters broke the tradition of strictly clan-based rule. The recent fighting might seem to undermine confidence in Ahmed’s regime. On the other hand, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the coup attempt only highlights Al Shabab’s “desperation.”
Somali press reports speculated that U.S. troops based in neighboring Djibouti were “on standby” to intervene on Ahmed’s behalf, but the U.S. State Department denied this. The next day, an explosion at an Al-Shabab “safe-house” killed a top insurgent officer. Some observers believe the blast was an accident; others speculate it was the result of an American drone attack. U.S. warships and aircraft have launched several raids on suspected extremists inside Somalia since 2007.