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Friday, June 5, 2009

Brief History of Dictator Meles Zenawi

Brief History of Dictator Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi was born in Adwa, Tigray in Northern Ethiopia, to an Ethiopian father from Adwa, Ethiopia and his mother from Adi Quala, Eritrea . He joined the Medical Faculty at the Addis Ababa University(formerly known as Haile Selassie University) where he studied for two years before interrupting his studies in 1974 to join the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray within the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF).
Photo: Meles and his wife
Rise to power
The TPLF was one of many armed groups struggling against the dictator, Colonel Lieutenant Mengistu Hailemariam. Zenawi was elected Leader of the Leadership Committee in 1979 and Leader of the Executive Committee in 1983. He is the chairperson of both the TPLF and the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since the Derg regime was overthrown in 1991. The EPRDF is an alliance of the country's four main political parties coming from the Amhara State, Oromia State, Southern Nations Nationalities & Peoples State and Tigray State. He was president of Ethiopia during the transitional period after the Derg, during which Eritrea suceded from the country and the experiment of ethnic federalism started. Then in 2000, he was elected to PM in Ethiopia's first ever multi-party elections when his ruling EPRDF party shared parliament seats with the opposition party United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). Irregularities were reported by foreign observers. Meles Zenawi is currently ranked 16th on Parade Magazine’s 2009 World’s Worst Dictator list.

Early support for EPRDF
EPRDF's victory was said to be a triumph for the thousands of Ethiopians who were killed, for the millions of Ethiopians who were victims of the country's biggest famine during the Derg regime when some estimates put up to 1.5 million deaths of Ethiopians from famine and the Red Terror. Accordingly, the big support it received from peasants and rural areas helped EPRDF maintain peace and stability. Foreign support was diverse; Western nations, as well as the Arab League, supported the EPRDF rebels against the communist Moscow-supported government (although the TPLF was at the time Marxist) at the height of the Cold War.On April 23 2009 in a letter written to the united nations commission for human rights office, the president of Genocide watch has appealed for the UN office to take the initiative to call the ICC to indict Meles Zenawi for ordering the crime of Genocide against the Anuak of Ethiopia, a tiny ethnic group found in South western Ethiopia

(Photo:Meles Zenawi (r) and Berket Simon (c) at a congress during the struggle)
Early opposition to EPRDF
There were some misconceptions that the United States helped the EPRDF rebels to get power in Ethiopia and many angry demonstrators in Addis Ababa protested against Herman Cohen, the State Department's chief of African affairs who attended a conference that demonstrators viewed as legitimizing the EPRDF. A New York Times article in 1991 said,
"Demonstrators cursing the Americans ignore two realities. The cold war is over in Africa, and Ethiopia is no longer a focus of superpower rivalry. Otherwise it would have been unthinkable for four contending Marxist groups to turn to Washington for help. The other reality is that Mr. Cohen cannot undo at the conference table what has happened on the battlefield.
Since then, Addis Ababa remained the base of the massive nationwide opposition to EPRDF, while the southern region of Ogaden remained the most active region for armed opposition forces.
Even though EPRDF's success was praised by none and there was an anti-EPRDF sentiment in all over Ethiopia the dictator continued to cling to power through brutal force. These were just the beginning of the opposition to Meles Zenawi's EPRDF party after it gained power and more strong opposition was followed.

Interim to Prime Minister
Following the defeat and exile of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, the July Convention of Nationalities was held. It was the first Ethiopian multinational convention where delegates of various nations and organizations were given fair and equal representation and observed by various international organizations including the United Nations, Organization for African Unity, European Economic Community, and the United States and the United Kingdom. Out of the 24 groups, the ones with the most number of mandates in the council were EPRDF (32), OLF(12), IFLO (3) and OILF(3.) Near the end of the year, Meles Zenawi became the Interim President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995. Meles Zenawi was then elected as Prime Minister and Dr. Negasso Gidada as President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 1995 following the first elections, that were heavily boycotted by opposition parties. International Election Observers concluded that had opposition parties contested, they could have won seats. In 2000 Meles was elected Prime Minister after national elections where the main opposition UEDF gained parliamentary seats. Meles was also elected for another term after his party, EPRDF, won the elections, while the top opposition groups, the CUD, UEDF, UEDP and OFDM, gained a lot of votes in the 2005 elections.
More than 30 other political parties participated in the election. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was elected into office after the elections, the top favorites being the EPRDF and Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). These elections have been the most contested and the most controversial in Ethiopia's short democratic history, with some opposition parties arguing that the election was stolen by the ruling party. Allegations of fraud were especially strong in the rural areas, as the opposition parties won in most urban areas, whereas the EPRDF won mostly in rural districts.
Although the aftermath of the election led to riots and demonstrations against the results, particularly in the capital, it had to be stopped by unprepared peace officers, that were killed in line of protecting the public from the chaos that was intended to change the Government unconstitutionally and by force. Some opposition parties blamed the government for the violence, even though they were tried and convicted in the court of the countries law. At the end of the demonstration, with the seven police officers 193 citizens were dead showing both the violent nature of the protesters as well as the unsuspected action of the police force. Many protesters and around 75 police officers were also injured.This led to many rounds of accusations between the government and the protesters where the Information Minister Berhan Hailu said the government was "sorry and sad", but blamed the violence on the CUD.The opposition parties have continuously accused the government of a massacre. EU election observers concluded the election failed to meet international standards for a free and fair elections while the Carter Center concluded the election was fair but with many irregularities and a lot of intimidation by both sides especially the government.Meanwhile CUD opposition members continued to accuse the ruling party of fraud. However some accusations of fraud coming from opposition parties were very strange. For instance, a day before the final count of votes in Addis Ababa, the CUD opposition party accused the ruling party of fraud and decided not to accept the result in Addis Ababa. But it ended up that the CUD party was actually refusing its own victory, since the vote count showed that the CUD won 100% of the votes in Addis Ababa. According to critics, this strange event led to speculations that the main opposition party, CUD, had already planned not to accept the result no matter what, in order to paint a bad image of Meles's ruling party, the elections and gain the support of the international community for the predestined failure of the election.
In an interview, the United States AID director repeated that the Carter Center understands that the ruling party (EPRDF) won the election and most of his peers confirm that as well. The USAID director also blamed some EU observers, accused them of bias and blamed them for favoring the opposition. He said some European observers practiced out of their jobs and went "over board in encouraging the opposition and making them think that somehow they had won the election. He concluded that American government never believed the opposition won the election.
Also an inquiry on the violence claimed the property damage caused by the rioters and protesters in Addis Ababa and other cities totaled to 4.45 million Ethiopian Birr, including 190 damaged buses and 44 cars as police officers tried to restrain the rioters. The SBS journalist, Olivia Rousset, indicated that the government used too much force to calm the rioters. She also said that the "stone-throwing rioters" tried to take the guns from the security forces.
Some EU observers have also shown their discontent at the post election violence, suggested that the police response was unproportional and blamed the government. In a rare response, Meles Zenawi said that he was disappointed that "some people have misunderstood the nature of the problem and misinterpreted it." And on the final report, the independent commission concluded that the aggressive steps taken by the police force was to "avoid large scale violence and to protect the constitution" and that the reason behind the riotings might have been the protestors' unfamiliarity with the "process of democratization" e.g., respecting election results. However, the commission also acknowledged that there were serious errors that needed to be addressed regarding the capabilities of the Ethiopian Security forces to control riots.
However, three members of the Inquiry Commission have defected and given their testimonies to members of the U.S. Congress and the International Media. The former Supreme Court Judge of the Southern Ethiopian nations and nationalities, Judge Frehiwot Samuel, who was also Chairman of the Inquiry Commission, and his Deputy, Judge Wolde-Michael Meshesha, have fled Ethiopia with a video and final report of the Commission’s findings that shows the commission deciding through eight to two vote, that the government has used excessive force and that there were grave human rights violations.Some leaders including UK's Tony Blair condemned the violence but repeated that Meles's ruling party "won the election.Other European organizations also praised the elections saying it was a "free and fair multi-party election.
So far, most of the US representatives have not changed their outlook and the US government supports the Ethiopian government in both military and aid assistance. Other analysts also described progress in Ethiopia's first multi-party parliament in history.
Meanwhile many international media outlets continued to display the post election bloodshed, followed by criticism of Meles's ruling party. At the same time, some people implied that opposition members were planning to use violence or provoke it as a means to gain power. In fact, various events were said to show that many opposition supporters, even in universities, try to provoke the police hoping that the security forces will overreact and create chaos.
About the violence U.S. state department reports said some opposition supporters were engaged in a peaceful movement to "create greater democratic space" but some opposition supporters were "demonstrating to overthrow the government" and were engaged in "violent protests. Other reaction to the election issue was condemnation of the EU election observers. An Irish committee said "the situation in Ethiopia had not been helped by inaccurate leaks from the EU election monitoring body which led the opposition to wrongly believe they had been cheated of victory.
Slightly condensed from the web by Medeshi

SOMALIA: Coping with humanitarian tragedy in Mogadishu

SOMALIA: Coping with humanitarian tragedy in Mogadishu
MOGADISHU, 5 June 2009 (IRIN) - A woman sits holding a baby in a queue at a medical clinic in Mogadishu, the violence-hit capital of Somalia, where fighting between government troops and insurgents has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
"His leg is paralysed; maybe because we don't have anything to eat," the young mother says.
(A man with his child in a Mogadishu hospital: Fighting between insurgents and government troops has resulted in deaths, injuries and displacements of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city - File photo)
More than 100 people are waiting in the burning sun. Some will be here for hours, but there is no alternative. The few hospitals in the city are overcrowded, and the remaining civilians have to go to great lengths to find help.
The clinic is run by AMISOM, the African Union peace-keeping force in Somalia.
"At least we can do something," says Joseph Asea, head of the AMISOM health clinic in Mogadishu. "We have 30 patients now, but when fighting is bad there can easily be 70."
An ambulance arrives. A boy with an improvised bandage around his elbow is carried in. The nurse takes it off to reveal a fresh gunshot wound. She treats it with disinfectant.
He is lucky to be alive; over the past few weeks, hundreds of people have died in the fighting.
The people in the clinic are relatively safe and treatment is still available. "So far, we are not able to supply the people with treatment and medicines," Asea said.
Access issues
According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, at least 96,000 people have been displaced from Mogadishu since the start of the latest fighting on 8 May.
Most are in informal camps outside the city, with hardly any access to humanitarian aid.
"The situation is deteriorating and the daily rate of displacement is increasing," said Roberta Russo, spokeswoman for UNHCR Somalia.
She said the rate of new arrivals this week from Somalia to Kenya "went from an average of 100 a day to 150-200 a day".
Russo said access was still one of the major problems faced by humanitarian agencies trying to bring relief to the displaced.
This week UNHCR had to stop distributing aid to the outskirts of Mogadishu because of the fighting and consequent insecurity on the roads.
Food and security
AMISOM patrols some of the roads to monitor security. AMISOM troops also protect the port of Mogadishu where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is dispatching much-needed food aid.
At the main berth, the cargo of MV Jaipur is being offloaded. It was hijacked by Somali pirates, but is now on duty again. From here, the food aid will be distributed across the country. Some three million people in Somalia depend on food aid.
"Without the protection of AMISOM we couldn't do this work," says Abdi Yusuf, a government police officer in the port.
The AMISOM peacekeepers also protect President Sheik Sharif Ahmed at Villa Somalia in Mogadishu, a multi-storey building in the heart of town.
"I feel very safe here," the president said, but he called for more international help for his country. "We have an influx of foreign fighters who support the insurgents. If they manage to take over, it's easy to imagine what can happen next. So we are urging the international community to do more."
A first step could be boosting AMISOM numbers. From the initially pledged 8,000 soldiers, only 3,400 were deployed by African Union countries.
"So far we could deliver the services to the people that we want to," said Maj Ba-Hoku Barigye, AMISOM spokesman. "Happily we understand that Ghana, Zambia and Malawi are close to contributing to the force."
The UN Security Council’s unanimous decision to extend the mandate of AMISOM by another eight months could provide some breathing space.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

KENYA: Clashes leave nine dead, several injured

KENYA: Clashes leave nine dead, several injured
ISIOLO, 5 June 2009 (IRIN) - At least nine people have been reported dead and several injured following a livestock raid and clashes between communities along the northern Isiolo-Samburu district border. Tension remains high in the area, with ongoing fighting, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS).
(Samburu herders and a cow killed by drought, which is fuelling tensions in the area (file photo)
"The dead include three police officers, five civilians and a police reservist," Nelly Muluka, KRCS public relations and communications officer, told IRIN. "Eleven policemen who suffered soft tissue injuries and eight others with bullet wounds were admitted to the Isiolo District Hospital."
The deaths occurred on 2 June after police officers, who had intervened following reports of a raid in Isiolo, allegedly by Turkana or Samburu raiders, were attacked. Some 815 head of cattle, 500 goats and 36 camels were reported stolen.
The deaths and loss of livestock triggered the clashes pitting the Borana and Somali communities against the Samburu and Turkana. Affected areas include Chasagafarfa, Daaba and Mulango along the outskirts of Isiolo town, said Muluka.
However, Isiolo District Commissioner, Kimani Waweru, told IRIN that five people had been killed, adding that cattle rustling and the current drought had sparked the clashes.
"We have deployed additional police officers and home guards... the raiders are also being pursued, I am confident they will be arrested and the stolen livestock recovered," said Waweru.
According to Muluka, the number of displaced remains unknown. She said KRCS was liaising with the Ministry of Health and the district commissioner and was providing vehicles to transport the injured.
Security fears
Meanwhile, transport services between Isiolo town and the affected areas has been disrupted, with operators along the neighbouring Marsabit and Moyale routes afraid of being attacked.
Mukhtar Sheikh, a resident of one of the affected areas, told IRIN in Isiolo Town that some families were camping in the open at the local Sharp trading centre.
Heads of livestock have also been abandoned by fleeing owners, he said. "The situation is bad; I left my 46 goats and eight cattle that were too weak to move, I thank Allah I survived the attack," Sheikh said.
Drought-related conflicts have worsened in pastoral regions in the recent past with dozens of people dying. Shortages of food and water brought on by the impact of climate change could escalate existing conflicts and generate others, according to experts.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Environment, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

Helping poverty stricken families in Somaliland

Helping poverty stricken families in Somaliland
"SOS Children" refers to SOS Kinderdorf worldwide
04 Jun 2009
Fatuma Osman is a social worker at the SOS Social Centre in Hargeisa, Somaliland. One day she went to visit Safia, one of the Family Strengthening Programme beneficiaries in the local market and was amazed by what she saw.
The Family Strengthening Programme team first met Safia and her family in April 2007 when assessments for the programme started. Safia lives with her six children and a grandchild all crammed in a one-roomed hut measuring approximately four by four metres, in a nearby slum area close to the SOS Children's Village. The village where Safia lives is mainly populated by low income earners or generally very poor people. Everywhere the desperate situation is visible and similar.

Safia's traditional Somali hut, which had been built for her by her late husband, leaked whenever it rained. The hut, which was patched together using old rusted milk tins, tattered clothes, sticks, pieces of card boxes and plastic paper, was in a very bad state as it needed repairs, but that was a luxury she could not afford. The position of the homestead was also dangerous as when it rained the floods would pass right in front of the compound, leaving the children vulnerable to falling into the water or catching water borne diseases as they played in it.
The children were malnourished and occasionally suffered from diarrhea caused by poor nutrition and poor hygiene. Most of the children had ringworm, visible from the wounds on their heads. Their skin also had lesions, showing that they were suffering from skin ailments. The children and their mother slept on old torn plastic carpets as they could not afford any proper beds, let alone a mattress. Water was also a big problem as Safia's oldest daughter would trek with her for miles to search for this precious commodity, only to come back with very little or sometimes none at all, having gone for many hours leaving the younger children unattended. Safia had given up all hope of having to provide for her young ones. This left her with little energy or strength to provide the basic needs for her family. She would work very hard but what she made at the end of the day was not enough to feed the hungry mouths that awaited her return.
However, life has dramatically changed for Safia and her family after she joined the SOS Family Strengthening Programme seven months ago. After meeting Safia and giving her support towards her income generation and much needed guidance in the form of self esteem, trauma counselling, business skills training and planning for her family, she proved nothing would be impossible in her quest for success. Safia is now a vibrant, talkative and confident lady who says she cannot afford to fall back in her business. She had hired men to help her repair the hut using new plastic pieces, recycled iron sheets and some nice cloths lining the inside. She said that during the recent rains it had not leaked as it usually did. The children too have benefited from Safia's hard work, as she slightly increased the size of the hut so that the children now have a better space to live in, and she has changed the direction of the hut to keep the floods away from her compound during the rainy season. In addition two of her oldest children attend school, for which Safia pays fees while the little ones attend the Quranic School waiting to be enrolled in school soon.
Safia can now afford to dress and feed her children better as she is able to make up to US$ 12 in a day. She has also purchased a mattress which the younger children sleep on. She makes a profit of about half a dollar per dress and eighty cents for every dozen bananas sold. After making all the necessary home purchases and deducting her buying price for the items she sold, Safia makes a final profit of about US$ 5 which she puts into a revolving fund. She is now able to afford the little 'extras' she once only dreamed about. In addition she has started weaving baskets to sell, during her spare time in the evenings as she watches her children play.
Every child is entitled to shelter, warmth, love and security and Safia, with the help of the SOS Family Strengthening Programme is now able to give all of that to her children. Instead of living in misery and despondency Safia now has hope for the future.

Why the World Cares More About Somalia's Pirates than its People

Friday, Jun. 05, 2009
Why the World Cares More About Somalia's Pirates than its People
By Alex Perry / Cape Town
(Photo:Somali girl waits to be registered by the United Nations High Commission of Refugees at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab in Kenya's northeastern province)
A warning this week from the British aid group Oxfam that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia is the worst in Africa is not new. Last year, the U.N. called the situation in the Horn of Africa nation the world's worst. But Oxfam's is a much-needed reminder of the scale of the catastrophe. One million Somalis are refugees. Two million need food. For most of these, malnutrition rates are beyond the U.N. threshold definition of an emergency. Around 400,000 refugees are in a single sprawling camp at Afgooye outside Mogadishu; 70,000 have arrived in the last month after fleeing the latest round of fighting in the capital. A further 275,000 have fled south to Kenya and live in three camps at Dadaab in the north of the country originally meant for 90,000; the U.N. High Commission for Refugees says 7,000 more Somalis also arrive there each month.
Hassan Noor, Oxfam's Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, says: "War, drought and malnutrition are thrusting Somalia towards even greater catastrophe. Living conditions in Afgooye are some of the worst I have ever seen. I couldn't see a single shelter fit for human beings, and thousands of people have nothing to sleep under or protect them from the searing heat and heavy rains. I saw sick children lying on the floor with diarrhea and disease. I saw a young girl who had been shot in the head, fleeing with her family. People told me they expect the situation to get even worse in the next few weeks." (See pictures of the pirates of Somalia.)
That sounds like a situation in which to invoke the international responsibility to protect. Adopted at a U.N. World Summit in 2005, "R2P" sets out in law the reasons and duty for international intervention: if a nation commits, or is unable to prevent, massive human rights abuses on its soil. Other, lesser African disasters do qualify for R2P intervention, in the form of large peacekeeping forces. The U.N. has authorized 26,000 troops for Darfur, where massacres are common and 2.5 million people need aid (and mostly receive it). It has also authorized another 20,000 for the Democratic Republic of Congo, where human rights abuses are rife and millions are intermittently made refugees.
Somalia would seem to be another case in point. After 18 years of war between rival clans, warlords and Islamists, the latest round in this Byzantine bloodbath pitches the Islamist government against marginally more extreme Islamist rebels to whom it was allied until last year. Not that the terms 'government' and 'rebel' really apply to Somalia. Both groups control little more than a few blocks of Mogadishu and a handful of small towns and neither has much function — or often, it seems, ambition — aside from fighting the other. (Read: "In Somalia, Another Government Teetering?")
Meanwhile, the country exists in a violent and anarchic vacuum, a place that has gone 18 years without a government, which is an al Qaeda sanctuary and destination of choice for hundreds of foreign jihadists, and where millions need food but where 40 aid workers have been killed since the start of 2008. Somali expert Ken Menkhaus, political science professor at Davidson College, calls it the "longest-running instance of complete state collapse in the post-colonial era."
And what does Somalia receive? Around 4,800 African Union troops from Burundi and Uganda. Last month, the British ambassador to the U.N. assured reporters in the capital of neighboring Ethiopia that although U.N. general secretary Ban Ki-Moon has so far demurred on Somalia, "the question of a United Nations peacekeeping mission remains on the table."
Of course, there is a situation in Somalia that has attracted global military intervention, even without the U.N: Piracy. Australia, Bahrain, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, the Seychelles, Spain, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the U.S. and Yemen have all contributed to the effort to safeguard international sea trade. Currently that involves 25 warships, scores of surveillance planes and tens of thousands of sailors. (See pictures of Somali piracy.)
It's stating the obvious to say the Somali crisis that involves millions of people receives almost no attention while the Somali crisis that involves millions of dollars receives unprecedented military action. (Menkhaus says the pirates raised $20-40 million in ransoms last year. They also cost the shipping industry millions more in hiked insurance premiums.) It's also true that land intervention in Somalia would be immeasurably bloodier than the sea operations underway and the ineffectiveness of peacekeepers in Darfur and the DRC raises big questions over whether such operations can ever be successful. And it is widely acknowledged that finding a lasting fix to either piracy or the humanitarian crisis would require fixing Somalia and that, as President Sheikh Sharif Sharif Ahmed told The Guardian newspaper last month, "is the hardest job in the world."
But none of that makes any more palatable — or defensible in international law — the idea that the world's worst humanitarian disaster continues to unfold within sight of its most international military force. "Somehow the rights of ordinary Somalis seem not to count in the international system," says Alex de Waal, program director at the Social Science Research Council in New York. "The Somali issue is framed entirely in terms of other political agendas."

Charcoal Fueled Deforestation in Somaliland

Charcoal Fueled Deforestation in Somaliland
By Suzanne Kanehl
The land of the Somali people, much of it arid and inhospitable, has been close to civilization and international trade for thousands of years.
Situated on the Horn of Africa, jutting out into the India Ocean, Somalia’s harbors are natural ports of call for traders sailing to and from India. Somalia’s coastline is frequented by many foreigners, in particular Arabs and Persians. But, in Somalia’s interior, the Somali are on their own.
Most urban households use charcoal for everyday cooking. It has been estimated that some families use a full sack of charcoal every four days due to their large family size. And, with this exacerbated charcoal use comes a significant amount of environmental fallout.
Because of an insufficient and cheaper alternative to charcoal and a large former refugee population, tree felling and a great dependence on charcoal in the self-declared republic of Somaliland are adversely affecting the environment. A 2007 study by the Academy for Peace and Development reports that greater than 2.5 million trees are felled each year and burned for charcoal in Somaliland. The report further stated that each household in Somaliland consumes an average of 10 trees a month.
Considering this extensive use of trees, the serious affects of deforestation should be noted. Deforestation not only exacerbates soil erosion, it also reduces rainfall availability. In addition, trees are a vital component in carbon fixing, which is the natural process of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Interestingly, the demand for charcoal remains very high, despite charcoal prices going up since 1991 with the resettlement of former refugees. Roughly 10 years ago, one sack of charcoal cost Somalis only about 5,000 Somaliland shillings, or 0.76 US dollars, but now the price is about 30,000 Somaliland shillings, or 5 US dollars. And, this price is only aggravated by rainfall, because when it rains, the trees become wet and the charcoal becomes more expensive.
It is not difficult to see that the ever rising gas prices have helped to encourage charcoal use. In past years, gas was actually cheaper than charcoal, but the price has increased dramatically. Now, one liter of gas costs approximately 4,000 Somaliland shillings or 0.61 US dollars, which is up from 1,500 Somaliland shillings or 0.23 US dollars.
Nowadays, charcoal is even the preferred fuel in hotels, which obviously consume even larger quantities of this valuable and environmentally important commodity. It has been estimated that some hotel chefs even use a full sack of charcoal for a single day’s cooking.
It is no wonder that researchers have determined that one of the main driving forces of African deforestation is the need for fuel.
It is also estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa, only 7.5 percent of the rural population has access to electricity. A 2009 report on the state of the world’s forests reports that “as household incomes and investment in appropriate alternatives remain low, wood is likely to remain an important energy source in Africa in the coming decades.”
Going back as far as forecasts made in 2001, it was suggested that there will be a 34 percent increase in wood fuel consumption from 2000 to 2020. However, as the price for fuel continues to rise, this increase is likely to be even greater. In other words, the share of wood fuel in the total energy supply is likely to decline, while the number of people dependent on wood for fuel and energy is likely to grow.
The report goes on to say that “the forest situation in Africa presents enormous challenges, reflecting the larger constraints of low income, weak policies and inadequately developed institutions.”
With this ever-increasing demand for fuel, many environmentalists are concerned that the trade in charcoal will eventually wipe out some species of trees. For example, one species of trees used for charcoal production is the Acacia bussei tree, which can produce between eight to 10 sacks of charcoal per tree. Researches are worried because the Acacia is the most preferred tree specie for charcoal production, timber and fencing, and its extensive use could force it to the brink of extinction in the Somaliland territories.
Efforts are being made, however, to stop or slow down the felling of Somaliland trees. On April 30, 2009, concerned with the impact of charcoal burning on the environment, Maroodi Jeeh, regional governor of Hargeisa (a city in the northwestern Somaliland region of Somalia), banned trade in charcoal as well as the burning of trees. Other attempts at protecting the environment have included the introduction of gas stoves and solar cookers in the main urban centers of Burou, Las-anod, Gabiley, Wajalea and Borama.
Since January, Somgas Company has been supplying gas to residents. A typical household uses an 11-kilogram cylinder for approximately six weeks. Although initial gas and cylinder prices remain high, an 11-kilogram gas cylinder plus gas costs $44.50 and is recharged at just $19.This is certainly not expensive compared with the monthly charcoal consumption of about $15 for three 20-kilogram sacks of charcoal per household. (The gas cylinders range from two to 22 kilograms.)
According to Somaliland’s Ministry of Pastoral Development and Environment, there is still great cause for concern, even though charcoal consumption fell in 2008 compared with 2007.
Mohamoud Ibrahim Mohamoud currently heads the forestry section in the ministry. He says he is concerned about environmental degradation caused by the charcoal trade, and is working with several organizations to search for alternatives to charcoal energy. The problem that seems to drive the tree felling and forest burning for charcoal is the poverty throughout the countryside and the high demand for charcoal energy in the urban areas.
Overall, the demand for charcoal appears to be increasing daily and the burning of trees is also increasing. But, many leaders and environmentalists are now trying to encourage awareness and education among the people of Somalia and give them other sources of income, such as helping young people become involved in alternative activities such as bee-keeping.
It is obvious that other sources of income and further education and research are needed if the problem of deforestation and charcoal burning will be successfully addressed and redirected in Somalia.
June 4th, 2009 Category: Agriculture, Cities, Coal, Deforestation, Desertification, Forestry, General
Worst Places In The World

Thursday, June 4, 2009

“Deelley”—A Book On The Longest Known Somali Poem

Hargeisa , Somaliland
“Deelley”—A Book On The Longest Known Somali Poem—Launched
In a spectacular and well-organized event attended by more than five hundred guests, “Deelley”, a new book by Somali author and the Academy’s Programs Coordinator has recently been launched at Maansoor , Somaliland.
“Deelley” is a collection of 67 poems composed around the letter ‘D’ in sequence by some the most prominent Somali poets. It took Mr. Boobe, winner of 2006 Somaliland writer’s Association book of the year, 27 years to complete the book.
“Tonight, I am extremely happy because the burden of a 27-year odyssey has finally come to an end”, said Mr. Boobe while describing the long strenuous stretch which it took him to finalise the book. “The hardest part was finding the background history of the poets that had composed the series of poems”, he added.
Mr. Boobe stated that the book is a response to an earlier book on the same sequence of poems written by poet Ahmed Faarah Ali (Idaajaa), who despite composing a portion of the series, was highly supportive of Siyad Barre’s regime.“A nepotistic dictatorship was destroyed,’ asserted Mr. Du’ale in response to Idaajaa’s infamous commentary that the “Deelley” series of poems was used to destroy a nation.
Out the fifty-one poets that participated in the composition of the sequence—the longest known Somali poem—ten were present at the event. Among them were two of the most celebrated Somali poets Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadraawi) and Mohamed Hashi Dhamac (Gaariye) both of whom delivered keynote speeches at the event.
Also present were Mohamed Mohamud Yasin (Dheeg), Hassan H. Abdilaahi (Ganay) Mohamed Ali Jama (Masmas), Mohamed Aadan (Dacar), Muse Ali (Faruur), Abdi Aadan Qays, Mohamed Jaamac Gaahnuug, who, upon entering the launching hall, were welcomed with a long boisterous applause.
“Tonight it’s as if I’m born again”, bellowed renowned poet Mr. Gaariye, one of first two to initiate the series. Explaining the history of the series, he said that “Deelley” was a comeback to another series of poems—composed around the letter ‘S’—which poets from respective clans—with Siyad Barre’s endorsement—had used to launch hateful attacks against other sub-clans sometime in the mid-1970s.
Mr. Gaariye described how “Deelley” was born out of the dire need to initiate another sequence of poems which sought to fulfill a different kind of necessity—opposition to dictatorship. In effect, as explained by all of the speakers at the event, “Deelley” was the launching pad for the armed struggle that toppled the regime in 1991.Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadrwaawi), the most famous living Somali poet, explained to the audience the context under which the sequence was composed starting in 1979.
“At the time everyone hated the regime. It was a time when there were lots of unwarranted arrests and senseless killings,” reminisced Mr Hadraawi, also one of the first two to initiate the sequence. “But, as poets, we were inspired by the big support we had received from the public” he added.Nevertheless, pointed out Mr. Hadraawi, there were divisions among the composers of “Deelley” within who were those who supported the government and those who were against it.
Also speaking at the event was Dr. Martin Orwin, Professor of Somali and Amharic studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Speaking in Somali much to the delight of the audience, Dr. Orwin highlighted how astounding Somali oral literature is in comparison to written literature of particularly his home-country—Britain. Dr. Orwin urged all Somalis to preserve this very important tradition for future generations.
Boobe is the author of two other books: “Diwaanka Timacadde” and “Dhaxal Reeb”. “Deelley” is available at all major bookstores in Hargeysa.
Source: Academy for Peace and Development

Obama Repositioning America

William Bradley
California-based political analyst NewWestNotes.com
President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world today at Cairo University in Egypt.
In the biggest example of event marketing that comes to mind, President Barack Obama used his ballyhooed speech today at Cairo University to reposition America in the Muslim and Arab worlds.
"I have come here," he said, "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."
The fact is that Obama didn't really say anything new. The positions he laid out are positions he had in his campaign. But he did say it all at once, and quite well. He did say it in a 50-minute address aimed directly at the Muslim and Arab worlds. He did say it in Cairo, largest city in the Arab world and a critical city in the history of Islam. And he did say it at the leading modern university in Egypt in an event co-sponsored by the world's chief center of Arabic literature, the ancient Al-Azhar University.
In that sense, to borrow a phrase from Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. The context is the key to the effort.
In an even larger sense, the message is himself. Both who he is, and who he is not.

Showing His True Colors: A Despot peaks

Showing His True Colors: A Despot peaks
by Scott A Morgan
Although not widely seen on the Internet a TV Channel in Sweden had an interview that was both Interesting and Revealing. The Network TV4 conducted an Interview with Eritrean President Afeworki and some of the statements were revealing.
Eritrean Relations with the Rest of the World can best be described as tenous. It fought a War of Liberation with Ethiopia. After Gaining its Independence a Line of Demarcation was drawn up that left neither party satisfied. To this date Tensions are still simmering along that border. Tensions with Djibouti are strained as well as Eritrean Troops have occupied a small area of that country.
Another Area of Contention is the Status of Press Freedom in the Country. Since Private Media was banned in 2001 several Journalists were thrown into Secret Prisons without being charged or Tried. There have been High Profile cases of Journalists such as the late Fesshay Yohannes who Died in Custody. In 2004 President Afeworki gave an Interview where he stated that He did not know Mr. Yohannes.
When Pressed for Information about the status of Dawit Issac a Eritrean Journalist with Swedish Citizenship the President stated that He didn't know what Crime if any was committed. He also said that "He did something bad." In the Lexicon of Eritrean Politics that can be seen as saying anything that goes against the Current President.
Another Statement President Afeworki Made was Interesting. President Afeworki claimed that there was no actual Private Media outlets in the Country. The Media Outlets were financed by the CIA. This is not the First Time that President Afeworki has claimed that the US Government has worked to Undermine His Government.
More often than not this Claim has centered around Somalia. It seems that every so often that either the UN or the US claims to have Evidence that Eritrea has been supporting the Insurgency in Somalia. The UN often rescinds the claim but rarely will the US do so. Another Area of Concern that the US has with Eritrea is over Freedom of Religion.
It seems that whenever any Leader has issues with Human Rights or Democracy in General they blame the United States. That always seem to be the rule to hiding whatever abuses are being committed. Blaming the US will also have the criticism be placed on the US for Intervening in Internal Affairs. Relations with Iran will also place Eritrea on the Radar in Washington as well.
There is a saying that Absolute Power corrupts Absolutly. Having People put in Prison because they did not write anything about you is a sign of Absolute Power. Being a hero who Liberated a country would lead one to think that such tactics would not be used while in power. Sadly in this case once again when achieving Power one has become a despot again.

The Author Publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and Comments on US Policy towards Africa. It can be found at morganrights.tripod.com

Ethiopia made "reconnaissance" trips into Somalia

Ethiopia made "reconnaissance" trips into Somalia
Thu Jun 4, 2009 2:25pm GMT
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA, June 4 (Reuters) - Addis Adaba acknowledged on Wednesday its military personnel had been carrying out "reconnaissance" missions into neighbouring Somalia where any incursions from Ethiopia always inflame passions.
Ethiopia sent thousands of troops into Somalia in 2006 to help topple an Islamist movement controlling Mogadishu and most of the south. That drew protests from some in the Muslim world and infuriated the Islamists, who regrouped to launch an insurgency.
Ethiopia pulled out early this year, but kept a heavy border presence to counter any threat from the Islamists, who are battling to topple the Western-backed Somali government.
"When there is a threat, you can send some scouts here and there," Bereket Simon, Ethiopian government's head of information, told reporters in the first confirmation from Addis Ababa that it had sent people back in.
Witnesses on the Somali side of the border have spoken of seeing hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers, with heavy equipment.
Bereket denied that.
"Apart from doing reconnaissance, which is normal in these circumstances, the government of Ethiopia is not engaged in any way in Somalia ... When the terrorists and the extremists were moving fast, we've been standing on alert on our border and following what is happening."
The militant al Shabaab movement is spearheading Somalia's insurgency, and has regained control of some areas of the south.
The government has, however, been beating back al Shabaab from some of its strongholds in Mogadishu. The rebels have been joined by hundreds of foreign jihadists, Somalis say.
"After a brief offensive by al Shabaab and some misfits of the world in Somalia, we have observed that the Transitional Federal Government has been able to withhold the movement of al Shabaab through central Somalia," Bereket said.
"There has been a brief counter offensive by the TFG which indicates all is not rosy for al Shabaab. The terrorists have lost momentum for the time being." (Reporting by Barry Malone; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne)

From renaissance leader to pariah

Eritrea rebuked by Africa
From renaissance leader to pariah
Jun 4th 2009 NAIROBI
From The Economist print edition
A regime that represses at home and meddles abroad is pilloried in Africa
THE African Union (AU) has taken the unprecedented step of calling on the UN to impose heavy sanctions on one of its own members. It wants to punish Eritrea for helping jihadist fighters in Somalia with arms and training which it says have caused the deaths of many civilians and AU peacekeepers.
The union has also called for a no-fly zone over Somalia and a blockade of its ports. Neither is likely to happen. Air patrols by America and others might win the jihadists more support; a blockade of the long coastline is almost impossible. But the AU may have better luck with sanctions. The UN Security Council has already expressed “concern” that Eritrea may have breached an arms embargo on Somalia.
Eritrea’s detractors say it has become a pariah in the mould of North Korea. A one-party state, it jails and even kills those of its citizens with independent minds. It conscripts its young into armed forces far bigger than it needs. At least it has no nuclear ambitions. But it exports instability and inflates its sense of importance by backing rebels in Chad, Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as Somalia. It seems long ago that President Bill Clinton lauded its president, Issaias Afwerki (pictured above), as a “renaissance African leader” after a long struggle brought independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Mr Afwerki has dismissed the latest charge of gun-running into Somalia as a CIA lie. The AU, he says, has been hoodwinked by Ethiopia, which hosts the African club’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. Eritrea is still on a war footing with its larger neighbour over a disputed border. Its main reason for backing the jihad in Somalia is to hurt Ethiopia. If Eritrea is to have a chance of beating the Ethiopians in the future, it thinks it must stretch the front-line. Hence it backs separatists in Ethiopia too.
Some say Eritrea’s arms shipments to Somalia have been paid for partly by Iran and individual rich Arabs. Maybe so. But Eritrean support for the Islamist insurgency in Somalia is long-standing. And the AU is fed up with it.

Seeking alternatives to charcoal in Somaliland

Seeking alternatives to charcoal in Somaliland
HARGEISA, June 4, 2009 (IRIN) - Insufficient cheaper alternatives and a large former refugee population are fuelling tree-felling and dependence on charcoal in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, adversely affecting the environment, say analysts.
Most urban households use charcoal for everyday cooking. "We use a sack of charcoal every four days because our family is large," said Zahra Omar, a mother of 12, in the capital, Hargeisa.
(Photo: A lorry transporting charcoal in Hargeisa, Somaliland capital )
According to a 2007 study by the Academy for Peace and Development, more than 2.5 million trees are felled annually and burned for charcoal in Somaliland. The report stated that each household in Somaliland consumed an equivalent of 10 trees a month.
Deforestation exacerbates soil erosion and reduces rainfall availability. Trees are also important in carbon fixing - reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Despite charcoal prices going up since 1991 with the resettlement of former refugees, demand remains high. "Before, 10 years ago, one sack of charcoal [cost] only 5,000 Somaliland shillings [US$0.76] but now here in Hargeisa it is about Sh30,000 [$5]," said Nimo Ahmed, a resident. "When [it] rains... charcoal [becomes] more expensive... because [the] trees become wet."
Wood for energy
High and rising gas prices have also encouraged charcoal use. Previously, Nimo said, gas was cheaper than charcoal but the price has increased dramatically, with one litre of gas now costing about Sh4,000 ($0.61) up from Sh1,500 ($0.23).
It is the preferred fuel even in hotels, which consume even larger quantities of the commodity. "I use a sack of charcoal for a day's cooking," said Anab Mohamed Ismail, a Hargeisa chef.
According to researchers, one of the main drivers of deforestation in Africa is the need for fuel.
In sub-Saharan Africa only 7.5 percent of the rural population has access to electricity, according to a 2009 report on the state of the world's forests. "As household incomes and investment in appropriate alternatives remain low, wood is likely to remain an important energy source in Africa in the coming decades..." it stated.
Forecasts made in 2001 suggested a 34 percent increase in wood fuel consumption from 2000 to 2020. "However, the rise in fuel prices in the past two years suggests that this increase is likely to be even greater. The share of wood fuel in the total energy supply is likely to decline, but the absolute number of people dependent on wood energy is predicted to grow," it stated. "The forest situation in Africa presents enormous challenges, reflecting the larger constraints of low income, weak policies and inadequately developed institutions."
"Charcoal... demand is increasing daily and burning [of] trees is increasing... but we are trying to [encourage] awareness among the people and give them other sources of income," said Abdirisaq Bashir, the emergency and environment coordinator of Candlelight, an NGO working in environmental management. The NGO is helping young people become involved in alternative activities such as bee-keeping.
Trade ban
Local environmentalists are worried that the trade in charcoal may wipe out some tree species. "One of the ... trees used for charcoal [production] is [the] Acacia bussei tree. Unfortunately its type is now going to be [extinct] in the Somaliland territories," said Bashir. Each tree produces about eight to 10 sacks of charcoal.
Concerned with the impact of charcoal-burning on the environment, Hargeisa’s regional governor, Maroodi Jeeh, on 30 April banned trade in charcoal and the burning of trees.
Other attempts at protecting the environment have included the introduction of solar cookers and gas stoves in the main urban centres of Burou, Las-anod, Gabiley, Wajalea and Borama.
Since January, Somgas Company has been supplying gas to residents. "We have different gas cylinders [which] we sell... and train [the public on] how to use," said Subeir Mouse Abdi of Somgas. An ordinary household uses an 11kg cylinder for six weeks, according to Abdi.
Although initial gas and cylinder prices are high, an 11kg gas cylinder and gas costs $44.50 and is recharged at $19. This, he said, is not expensive compared with the monthly charcoal consumption of about $15 for three 20kg sacks of charcoal per household. The gas cylinders range from 2-22kg.
"We now have 600 customers since we started in January," he said.
While charcoal consumption fell in 2008 compared with 2007, there is still cause for concern, according to Somaliland's Ministry of Pastoral Development and Environment.
"We are concerned [about the] environmental degradation caused by the charcoal, and we are working with several organisations to search [for] alternatives [to] charcoal energy," said Mohamoud Ibrahim Mohamoud, head of the forestry section in the ministry. "The problem that increases... forest burning for charcoal is the poverty in the countryside and the high demand [for] charcoal energy in the urban [areas]."

Desert locusts invade Somaliland

Desert locusts invade Somaliland
HARGEISA, 4 June 2009 (IRIN) - Food security in eastern and western regions of the self-declared republic of Somaliland is under threat following an invasion of desert locusts, which have destroyed an estimated 3,000ha of farmland, officials told IRIN.
"The locusts have destroyed both farmland and grassland across Somaliland, from west to east," said Aden Ahmed Dhola-yare, Somaliland's Minister for Agriculture.
A team comprising government and non-governmental officials undertook a mission in late May to assess the impact of the invasion, which was first noted in February.
Abdi-Kadir Jibril Tukale, director-general in the ministry of agriculture, said: "The locust outbreak in Somaliland will not stop in days, weeks or months; according to our assessment, which was conducted in collaboration with international organizations such as FAO Empres [Food and Agriculture Organization anti-locust project] and other stakeholders, the desert locust outbreak will continue until September because the locusts have already buried their eggs within a 700 sqkm stretch in the west coast, particularly in Salal, Awdal, Hargeisa, and Sahel regions [west and mid-west of Somaliland]."
An FAO official, who requested anonymity, said the locust invasion had destroyed several hundred farms in Qabri Bahar area of Awdal region and along the 700km coastline from Lawya-adda to Karin, east of the town of Berbera, as well as the farmlands in Berbera region and around the Golis mountains.
However, the FAO official said, the assessment team did not survey the extent of loss in Berbera region because the team had "already assessed the west of the region, particularly Awdal and Salal areas, which were the first areas to be affected by the invasion”.

Agriculture minister Dhola-yare said the government and its partners had been fighting the locust invasion in the past several months but "the problem of Salal and Awdal regions is that the locusts have destroyed the trees and the grass and several farmlands".
Invasion spreads
The minister expressed concern over the spread of the locusts, saying nowhere was safe.
"The latest invasion in the last several days has been in areas surrounding the capital [Hargeisa] and Aw-Barkhadle; the anti-locust planes used to spray the affected areas have only been able to cover 100-200km a day," Dhola-yare said.
The project to spray the locust-affected areas started in April and is funded by FAO Empres and implemented by the Desert Locust Control Organization, a regional organization based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Dhola-yare urged local communities to report any locust swarm to avoid further spread.
Somaliland resident Abdi-Aziz Ahmed said: "We passed from Berbera Airport to Daraygodle village, 15km away, and in 48 hours the locusts had eaten all the trees and the grass and were moving towards the Red Sea."

Puntland turns against Somali pirates

Puntland turns against Somali pirates
By Peter Greste BBC News, Bossasso, Puntland
If Somalia's pirates find the Gulf of Aden a rich hunting ground for ships to hijack, the bleak camps for displaced people overlooking the gulf offer rich pickings for pirate gangs looking for recruits.
(Camps like 100-Bushes house about 40,000 displaced people)
The oldest of the camps is called "100-Bushes", named by locals with a grim sense of humour.
“ They drive around in expensive cars, they offer our sons lots of money, so of course piracy is an exciting option ” A mother living in 100-Bushes camp
Thousands of makeshift shelters huddle together in the heat and dust on the fringes of the old port city in Somalia's northern province of Puntland.
There is not a blade of grass - let alone 100 bushes - anywhere in sight. The oldest shelters have been here for more than a decade. They look like they were thrown together last week.
The shelters are built around frames of sticks salvaged from the beaches and lashed together with bits of wire and twine.
They are clad in whatever their owners can find: Scraps of plastic, flattened tin cans, paper bags and, if the owners are lucky, sheets of rusting corrugated iron.
The 40,000 people who live in camps like 100-Bushes across Puntland have drifted in over the years, seeking refuge from the apocalyptic horrors in southern Somalia - civil war, drought and famine.
Out here, there are no jobs. Only one in three children are in school, and the future for most is anything but promising.
No wonder then that mothers like Mumena Abdur Qadir are worried about their children - either that they will end up just as poor and destitute as their parents or that they will become pirates.
"They drive around in expensive cars, they offer our sons lots of money, so of course piracy is an exciting option," she says.
"But nobody likes them any more, and now it's really dangerous. The (French and the Americans) have been killing pirates, so we think it's a really bad thing to do."

Christian Balslev-Olesen also despairs. As Unicef's outgoing special representative to Somalia, he believes just a little more international effort in social services like schools and healthcare could give youngsters a decent prospect of a future that does not involve piracy.
Mr Balslev-Olesen visited the camps around Bossasso on his farewell tour, along with the British Unicef ambassador Martin Bell (the former member of parliament and BBC broadcaster).
"We've seen here that we can make life so much better for these people, just by building a few good schools and giving kids an education.
"It's wonderful to see what can be achieved, but frustrating that it is so hard to get the support we need," Mr Balslev-Olsesen said.
When they began, Somalia's pirates cast themselves as "Robin Hoods of the sea" - as defenders of the nation's fisheries, first chasing away and later capturing foreign trawlers that had been looting the country's rich and unpoliced seas.
Much of the money they took as "fines" went back into local schools, hospitals and businesses. No longer.
"They're responsible for so many problems," said Abdifatah Hussein Mohamed. As an activist with the Puntland Students' Association, Abdifatah and his friends have created a multi-media empire.
“ Sometimes women go with them because they promise lots of money. But they also divorce their wives very quickly too. It's bad for everybody ” Bossasso resident Mohamed Jama
From their stuffy, cramped headquarters in central Bossasso, they churn out TV programmes, radio shows, magazines and websites with a single, simple message - piracy is out.
"First, they are responsible for inflation," he complained. "Now, food, land, cars are all too expensive for ordinary people. It used to be that you could hope for these things, but not any more.
"Then, they bring in prostitutes, they take drugs, they crash their cars. They rape whoever they want and nobody can do anything about it. Nobody wants them around any more."
His friend, Mohamed Jama agreed: "They are causing a lot of problems in the family.
"Sometimes women go with them because they promise lots of money. But they also divorce their wives very quickly too. It's bad for everybody."
Of course, casting pirates as social outcasts will not solve the issue alone, but the government believes that isolating them from their communities is a promising first step.
Funds needed
What the Puntland administration wants now is the support the international community has promised so vehemently over the past few months.
President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole complains that he is a victim of political ideology.
"So many governments promised to help fight piracy on land, and that's a good thing," he said. "But they are all talking to the central government in Mogadishu. That's a policy decision, but it is a waste of time.
"The TFG (transitional federal government) only controls a piece of Mogadishu. They have no authority up here. So the rest of the world has to recognise that there are two legitimate governments in northern Somalia - Puntland and Somaliland - and deal directly with us if they want anything done."
Somaliland declared independence in 1991 after military leader Siad Bare's regime collapsed; Puntland opted for autonomy in 1998. Both regions set up their own administrations though neither has been formally recognised by any other government.
President Abdirahman believes that he could bring piracy under control with barely a 10th of the money that shipping companies are paying out as ransoms.
"With $7m (£4.4m) or $8m, we could set up security services and a coastguard that could stop this in its tracks… But the rest of the world has also created this problem by paying out ransoms," he said.
"They must stop paying ransoms and give us the permission and resources to fight (pirates) at sea."
But the president also acknowledges that such a strategy would come at a price.
"We can't make decisions for the companies, especially when their ships and the lives of their crews are at risk. But sometimes you have to take big risks if you want results."
It is a risk the international community has so far been unwilling to take.
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.
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Story from BBC NEWS:

USACC Somaliland Recognition

USACC Somaliland Recognition
Abdulazez Al-Motairi
May 31, 2009
Washington, DC. – U.S. African Chamber of Commerce said U.S. African Subcommittee Somali Stabilization Must Included the Recognition of Somaliland. This will bring Democracy in the Region, Economic for the Somali People and Most Importantly a Political Stability to the Horn of African.
Washington, a US Senate panel held a hearing Wednesday on developing a coordinated and sustainable strategy toward Somalia. The Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs took testimony on "the new offensive launched by militant extremists." Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says despite a transitional federal government in place, Somalia is in crisis.
"Approximately 43 percent of the Somali population relies on humanitarian assistance to survive and nearly 500,000 Somalis have fled the country and now live in overcrowded refugee camps throughout the region," he says.
Clans, militias, warlords and terrorist organizations control most of the country, not the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Carson adds, "The blight of piracy off the coast of Somalia is without question a symptom of the instability and insecurity within Somalia. Without stability in Somalia there can be no long-term resolution of the piracy problem."
The resolution of these problems calls for a comprehensive solution that provides stability, promotes reconciliation, economic opportunity and hope for the Somali people," says Carson.
The Obama administration has called on the State Department, the National Security Council,the Defense Department, USAID, intelligence agencies and other agencies to develop a Somalia strategy -- one, Carson says, "that is both comprehensive and sustainable." He says the US is also working with international partners, including the United Nations, African Union and European
Union.A strategy based on internal reconciliation:
"Our comprehensive strategy is to promote a stabile and peaceful Somalia, to support regional peacekeeping efforts, to create a functioning and effective central government…to create a country that is at peace with its neighbors," he says.
Carson says the United States has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support humanitarian and security needs in Somalia. He also accuses Eritrea of supporting armed groups, who are opposed to the Transitional Federal Government.
Also testifying was Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College, who expects the Somali crisis to be a continuing foreign policy concern for the new Obama administration.
Past US policy flawed
He says, "In this increasingly complex environment, external state building, peace building and counter-terrorism initiatives have at times been based on flawed analysis and have produced unintended consequences, which have left Somalia and its regional neighbors even more insecure."
He adds that US policy toward Somalia must take a regional approach and consider tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the insurgency in Ethiopia's Somali region and territorial claims.
Oxfam senior policy advisor Shannon Scriber told the Senate panel that "Somalia remains the site of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The combination of conflict and drought have led to more than three million Somalis dependent on aid within the country and the displacement of up to 1.8 million
For more information, contact the U.S. AFRICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Martin Mohammed, President

AU hospital in Somalia succeeds where troops fail

AU hospital in Somalia succeeds where troops fail
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU: Raising her palms in thanks, Sahra Abdi says an African Union (AU) force (AMISOM) in the Somali capital saved her daughter and mended her shattered knee.
"May God reward AMISOM for treating us free of charge," she said, her child clinging to her side after treatment at the AU's tented hospital inside its main base in Mogadishu.
After 18 years of civil war, Somalia's infrastructure has been devastated, doctors have fled, and the government is unable to provide basic services as it fights Islamist insurgents for control of the capital.
The 4,300-strong African Union peacekeepers in Somalia have often had a bad press: criticized for failing to stem the violence, accused by a UN body of selling arms to rebels, and accused by some residents of firing mortars into civilian areas.
But on the AU hospital, Mogadishu's war-weary residents are enthusiastic.
Mohammad Aden, 25, said doctors there saved his life.
"My police mate destroyed my organs with my own gun," Aden said, wrapped in bandages from his toes to his thighs. "I did not know he joined the Islamists while I was away at a police course in Ethiopia. He snatched my gun and opened fire on me as we had a friendly conversation."
The under-funded and under-equipped AU force arrived in March 2007, but only Uganda and Burundi have contributed troops so far, leaving the force well short of its 8,000 target.
On patrol, the AU soldiers face guerrilla-style hit-and-run attacks by the rebels. A suicide bomb hit one of their bases.
Inside the barbed-wire gate of the AU's main Halane base behind Mogadishu's airport, where the hospital is, Ugandan soldiers with machine-guns and bullet-proof vests frisk Somalis waiting to enter.
Armor-plated vehicles sit inside, waiting for the next patrol or to transport government officials from the airport.
Despite the heavy security at Halane, there are attempts to infiltrate the base.
"I was very shocked one day when our intelligence picked out four Al-Shabaab teenagers from the line in front of me," said Ugandan doctor Donald Yiga, referring to a hardline rebel group. "They pretended to be patients. [It was] good luck, they had no pistols or explosives. Maybe they were just spies. We treat every Somali and do not know who is who."
Somalia's civil war has so far defied 15 attempts to restore central rule to the Horn of Africa nation, where warlords ousted a dictator then turned on each other.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmad - a former rebel leader - is trying to entice his Islamist comrades into the government.
But the Al-Shabaab militia and the Hizb al-Islam umbrella opposition group have rejected talks with the government while foreign troops remain on Somali soil. The rebels have continued to take territory in south Somalia and the capital.
At lunchtime, bare-chested masons climb down from the roof of a new hospital under construction. For Somalis working for the continental body, each day is a new battle.
"We have come here to get the family some money, but we might not survive tomorrow," said Osman Ali, a toothless middle-aged mason.
"I am afraid Al-Shabaab will recognize our faces ... Those guys behead anyone who works for AMISOM and the government."

Thousands of refugees flee Somalia for Kenya

Thousands of refugees flee Somalia for Kenya
Article from: Reuters
By Frank Nyakairu in Dadaab, Kenya
June 04, 2009 03:30pm
SOMALIS fleeing war and hunger at home are pouring into neighbouring Kenya at an average rate of 7000 per month, swelling what is already the world's largest refugee settlement, UN staff said.
Eighteen years of civil conflict in Somalia show no sign of abatement, with foreign militants joining Islamist rebels seeking to topple a new government that is the 15th attempt to restore central rule since 1991.
About 80,000 people have died in the last two years alone, while a million Somalis are refugees in their own land, three million need urgent food aid and hundreds of thousands have crossed borders into Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.
"We have been receiving an average of 7000 refugees (per month) since January and from what they tell us, the major reason why they leave their country is increasing insecurity," said Anne Campbell, head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR's sub-office in Dadaab, north Kenya.
Located 100 km from the border, Dadaab's three main camps - Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagadera - are a large settlement of mainly flimsy huts and tents on sandy scrubland.
Set up in 1991, the camp was designed for 90,000 refugees but now houses 275,000, mainly Somalis.
Aid agencies expect this number to keep increasing, and are seeking more space from the Kenyan government.
"We are preparing for a higher influx in mid-June because the rain has made it impossible for those fleeing the current fighting to reach the border easily," added Ms Campbell.
With high food prices and falling donations due to the global financial squeeze, the UN World Food Programme warned that supplies for Dadaab could soon be squeezed.
No food for arrivals
At Dagahaley's registration centre, new arrivals crammed UNHCR's offices while others stood for long hours in the scorching sun outside the gate.
"I arrived here eight days ago, I have not been given food or water. I am still waiting to be registered, I don't know when that will be," said Asha Aden Ali, a 22-year-old mother of two.
She fled from Mogadishu two weeks ago after insurgents from the al Shabaab militia shelled her home in the outskirts.
"When they attacked, we all ran in different directions. My husband has been missing since," she said.
"I had to board a truck and come to Kenya."
Kenya officially closed its borders in 2006 to stop Islamists fleeing after an intervention by Ethiopia's army. But like Asha, many Somalis are still making their way across the long, porous and arid border areas.
"I had to wait for a week and a Good Samaritan came and showed me a shortcut to Kenya," she said.
The United Nations has been in negotiations with Kenyan authorities over re-opening crossing points. But Nairobi maintains that would leave the country open to an influx of refugees and small weapons, which would worsen insecurity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Plans to Stabilize Somalia On Course, Says Minister

Plans to Stabilize Somalia On Course, Says Minister
By Peter Clottey 03 June 2009
Somalia's new administration says it will continue with its national stabilization plan despite intensified attacks by hard-line Islamic insurgents, including al-Shabab. This comes after government forces drove out insurgents from two districts of the capital, Mogadishu, Tuesday during a day of heavy fighting.
Insurgents have been controlling some sections of the capital, but the new administration says it is determined to take back those areas.
Militants from the Hard line Somali Insurgent Islamic group aiming to topple governmentSomali government spokesman Abdi Kadir Walayo told VOA that the administration's plan to restore peace and stability is on course.
"Last night there was some armed confrontation between the government force and the opposition. And it happened in two residential areas, the eastern and northern parts of Mogadishu. The government forces repulsed the opposition armed groups," Walayo said.
He said President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government will continue with its stabilization plan.
"The government has worked out a national stabilization and security plan, and in accordance with that plan, it plans to totally free the whole of Somalia from the opposition stronghold," he said.
Walayo said the government is mandated to protect the lives of Somali citizens.
"In accordance with that plan, the government is duty-bound to get rid of the menace of the opposition armed groups," Walayo said.
He said the government would gradually take over control over the capital, Mogadishu and the entire country.
"The government is planning to make counteroffensive on a step by step approach to minimize the casualties of the civilian population. And now there is plan to be implemented to restore peace and order, not only in Mogadishu but throughout Somalia," he said.
Walayo said the new Somali administration is enjoying support from the international community who back the government to succeed after at least 18 years without an effective government.
"The government has the support of the international community, and I believe that that assistance is forthcoming. And I'm sure that we will get support from the international community which expresses total support to the Transitional Federal Government," Walayo said.
Watch Video here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7459669.stm

Somali Bantus gain Tanzanian citizenship in their ancestral land

Somali Bantus gain Tanzanian citizenship in their ancestral land
By Brendan Bannon and Eveline WolfcariusWednesday,
June 03, 2009
CHOGO, Tanzania (UNHCR) - A further 1,500 refugees in Chogo settlement, in the north-eastern coastal region of Tanga, are still in the process of getting naturalized
Working and living alongside the local population, many of the Somali Bantu refugees and new citizens can trace their origins to this area of the country, from where their ancestors were transported as slaves. The refugees returned in the early 1990s fleeing civil war and the collapse of Siad Barre's regime in Somalia.
Back then, tens of thousands of Somalis travelled on overcrowded and rickety dhows to the Kenyan harbour of Mombasa. A small group of refugees of Bantu origin made their way even further south, to Tanga, reversing the path their ancestors had taken more than three centuries ago.
Ramadhani Abdalah, a Tanzanian Zigua farmer, remembers very well the day the refugees arrived in Tanga.
"I heard about refugees before, but when they came, it was my first time to actually see a refugee," he now recalls. "I was so surprised. They were talking in the same language as I do, Zigua, but they came from Somalia."
Ramadhani lives in one of the neighbouring villages of Chogo settlement where he prepares land for planting. He is hired by a former Somali Bantu farmer and is paid 12,000 Tanzanian shillings (about US$9) for each acre of land he clears.
At first the government of Tanzania, with assistance from UNHCR, hosted the Somali refugees in Mkuyu camp, also in Tanga region. In March 2003, more than 3,000 refugees were transferred from there to Chogo, a newly-constructed settlement some 80 kilometres away, in a move towards naturalizing the Somali Bantus who wished to stay.
Upon arrival in Chogo, each refugee family received more than 2.5 acres (about one hectare) of land, to farm and to build a home. With the help of UNHCR, working with the Tanzanian authorities and the Tanzanian non-governmental organization, Relief to Development Society, a school, health centre and market were constructed.
Since 2005, the new citizens and the 1,500 refugees awaiting citizenship have been supporting themselves and living together with the surrounding communities.
Haji Sefu Ali, one of the elders in Chogo, proudly shows off his farm. "In Chogo, we have named the villages after places in Somalia," he says. "We are tilling land, raising cattle and chicken and are taking care of ourselves."
Life has been a struggle, adds Fatouma, his neighbour and a grandmother of three, but "today, we are citizens of Tanzania. My granddaughters could even become president one day. In Somalia, for a Bantu, that would not be possible."
By Brendan Bannon and Eveline Wolfcariusin Chogo, Tanzania

United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS)

United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS)
For Immediate Release
Former Somalia senior military officials to meet in Washington, DC
Nairobi, 03 June 2009 – Former Somali senior military officials will convene on the 4 and 5 June in Washington DC at a meeting organized by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) under the auspices of the Somali Ministry of Defence.
The meeting will serve as a preparatory forum that will solicit support and participation from prominent Somali military leaders with follow-up meetings expected to be held in late July.
In keeping with the Djibouti Agreement and the Government’s commitment to build up security institutions, the meeting will look at the structures of Somalia’s military before the collapse of the state and the best ways to address the current and future security needs.
“We are expecting this to be the first of several fruitful meetings,” UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said. “The senior military officials that will participate in this meeting are respected for their past professional experience during a period in Somalia’s history when it was called upon to help train soldiers from other African nations.”
During the meeting, the participants will discuss best practices and the way forward for security sector development.
“This is a great opportunity for Somalis to find within their past some solutions to their future,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said.

Monday, June 1, 2009

228 persons on missing Air France jet

Monday 1 June , 2009
228 persons on missing Air France jet
Flight AF 447, with 12 crew and 216 passengers - including 126 men, 82 women, seven children and one infant - was "well advanced" over the ocean when it disappeared from radar around three-and-a-half hours after its 7pm take-off.
According to a list posted on Air France's website, passengers included 58 Brazilians, 61 French, 26 Germans, nine Italians, nine Chinese, six Swiss, five Britons, five Lebanese, four Hungarians, three Irish citizens, three Norwegians, two Spanish and two Americans as well as 18 other nationalities.
The A330 200 is feared to have crashed around 1,500 miles northeast of the Brazilian city having sent an automated message reporting an electrical fault 15 minutes after experiencing strong turbulence.
The Brazilian Air Force is searching for the jet near the island of Fernando de Noronha - an archipelago consisting of 21 islands located about 220 miles off the coast of the South American country.
Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgon said earlier: "We are probably facing an air catastrophe."
The airline said its plane had 18,870 flight hours on the clock and went into service in April 2005. It last underwent maintenance in a hangar in April this year.
At Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, tearful family and friends were led away by airport staff after they arrived expecting to greet their loved ones. In Rio, about 20 relatives arrived at Galeao airport seeking information after hearing news of its disappearance.
Bernardo Souza, who said his brother and sister-in-law were on the flight, complained he had received no details from Air France.
"I had to come to the airport but when I arrived I just found an empty counter," he said. "With a lack of information, it is even more worrying."
Air France has opened a telephone hotline for friends and relatives of those on board - 00 33 15702 1055 for callers outside France and 0800 800 812 for inside France.
If no survivors are found it will be the worst loss of life involving an Air France plane in the firm's 75-year history. It will also be the first time an A330 has crashed during an operational airline flight.
The last major incident involving an Air France plane was in July 2000, when one of its New York-bound Concorde supersonic airliners crashed just after taking off from Charles de Gaulle. All 109 people on board died along with at least four on the ground.