Pontus Marine LTD- Leader of fishing industry in Somaliland

Friday, June 12, 2009

Somaliland, an oasis of stability

Somaliland ,an oasis of stability
The self-declared republic of Somaliland has elections, a strong economy, and zero tolerance for extremists or pirates. But no one recognizes it.
By Scott Baldauf Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Hargeisa, Somaliland - At first glance, the dusty streets of Hargeisa look like much of the rest of Somalia. Traffic jams consist of the occasional late-model Toyota Corolla encountering a string of donkey carts or a slow-moving flock of goats. Roads, water pipes, and electrical power grids have been untouched for nearly 40 years, but the mobile phone system runs just fine, thank you.
But Hargeisa is not at all like the rest of Somalia, and according to its elected leaders, it is the capital of an entirely separate country: Somaliland – a country that no one besides the Somalilanders themselves recognizes.
A self-declared independent republic since 1991 – when civil war broke out after the fall of Somali dictator Siad Barre – Somaliland is an oddity in the conflict-prone Horn of Africa. A multiparty democracy with an elected president and parliament, a secular Muslim country with no tolerance for extremism, a thriving free-market economy with precious little foreign aid, and a strict law-and-order state with no patience for piracy – Somaliland is exactly the kind of country the Western world loves to embrace.
"We are the key," says Abdillahi Duale, Somaliland's foreign minister, during a recent interview. "This is the only safe haven you've got [in the region]. This is the only government with the public will and muscle to deal with the issue of piracy. With Somaliland, you have the only willing partner."
He pauses. "This is a terrible neighborhood," he says, referring to the ongoing civil war in Somalia and the piracy in Puntland, another self-declared republic to the east. "We are building this nation from scratch. We are not doing this to appease others. But we need to get the capacity [through foreign aid] if we want to sustain this."
Unstable by association
Denied recognition by the Western powers for nearly two decades out of fears that it would encourage breakaway movements in Darfur, Congo, Nigeria, and elsewhere, Somaliland has created an alternative Somali nation in slow motion, in a region with more than its fair share of war, famine, criminality, and extremism.
Lack of recognition has very real consequences for ordinary Somalilanders – being seen as a province of Somalia discourages foreign investors, to say the least – but Somaliland officials say their moment may finally have come. The rise of piracy, and the very real threat of an Islamist takeover in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, may be providing Somaliland with its best argument for recognition, as a separate, stable, friendly country in the region.
A model for Somalia
"Somaliland is a melange of traditional clan elites with modern governance," says Iqbal Jhazbhay, a Somaliland expert at the University of South Africa in Tshwane. "They have a home-grown method to form agreements and consensus. In three months after independence, they disarmed militias, set up a police force, began tax collection."
In theory, Somaliland's experience – blending traditional sources of clan authority with elected governance – could serve as a model for Somalia itself, just as it has for the neighboring state of Puntland. But Mr. Jhazbhay says that in the past 18 years, Somalia and Somaliland have drifted apart. Many Somalilanders simply want to move on with their lives, he says, and their patience is running out. "After 18 years, you have a neglected state. You have a total decay of the infrastructure."
'De facto' state
With 3.5 million citizens and an economy based largely on livestock – much of it destined for markets on the Saudi Arabian peninsula – Somaliland was once a nation easily forgotten. But Somaliland's bid for recognition seems to be gathering steam. In the waning days of the Bush administration, then-undersecretary of state for Africa Jendayi Frazer visited Hargeisa. Somaliland officials were invited this month to an EU parliament conference on "de facto states."
Even the African Union, long wary of redrawing the boundaries of African nations, issued a report in 2005 arguing that recognition of Somaliland "should not be linked to the notion of "opening a pandora's box."
Islamists lay claim with bombs
There are those, of course, who are opposed to Somaliland independence. On Oct. 29, 2008, a young Islamist – a Somali-American from Minneapolis, named Shirwa Ahmed – drove a car packed with explosives into the Ethiopian Embassy in Hargeisa, killing 20 people. The attack, and four others set off simultaneously by a radical Islamist group called Al-Shabab, was viewed as a signal that Islamists were intent on creating a Greater Somalia, by force if necessary.
'We must go our own way'
Like many Somalilanders, Abdulkadir Hashi Elmi, a prominent businessman, views his country's independence as "irreversible."
"The people of Somalia and Puntland were colonized by the Italians, and during Italian rule they were trained to rule in the Italian way," he says with a wry smile.
But while Italian settlers profoundly changed Somali culture in Somalia itself, he says, Somaliland was left largely untouched during a period of British rule, because the British largely allowed clan elders to run their own affairs until independence in 1960.
"Somalia will be difficult for years to come, because now nothing is in their hands, it is in the hands of the warlords," says Mr. Elmi, who owns the Maan-Soor Hotel in Hargeisa. "Somalia doesn't have any hope to recover, not in our generation. That's why we must go our own way."
Abdaillahi Ismail Ali, Somaliland's interior minister, says that his country is happy to provide a model for its neighbors and to provide a forum for clan leaders in Somalia to resolve disputes the old-fashioned way, through consensus. But Somalia can forget about taking Somaliland back, he adds.
"We believe – every Somalilander believes – that we cannot be reunited with Somalia," he says. "We had hopes of making a Greater Somalia, but that dream died. We realized that whenever we try, we always get shot."

Food crises situation in Eritrea

ERITREA: How bad is the food crisis really?
ASMARA, 12 June 2009 (IRIN) - Eritrea is facing a food crisis, but aid workers say they cannot fully determine its severity as they are unable to assess the situation because of travel restrictions and the government's policy of "self-reliance".
The rains have failed again this year, in what is one of the driest regions in Africa. One aid agency report said the country had produced only about 30 percent of its food requirements in 2008/09. (Photo: Teff, the favourite staple grain, has become unaffordable)
According to a recent report by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), rates of acute malnutrition in the northern provinces of Gash Barka and Anseba were above the emergency threshold of 15 percent; by February 2009, admission rates to therapeutic feeding centres were already two to six times greater than in 2008.
UNICEF warned that higher global food prices could be affecting up to 2 million Eritreans, more than half the population of 3.6 million. UN agencies have projected that the 1.3 million people living below the poverty line would suffer most.
Heruy Asgodom, head of Eritrea's agriculture department, acknowledged: "The rains have been poor again this year," but added, "We don't need food aid - we don't believe in it."
Unwelcome NGOs
Eritrea is difficult terrain for humanitarian agencies, a result of strained relations with the UN system, allegedly as a consequence of an international border commission ruling in favour of archrival Ethiopia after the 1998-2002 border war.
Marcus Prior, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said the government was not issuing work permits to international humanitarian staff, and with "movement restrictions, and the curtailing of project activities by key partners, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the real needs in Eritrea at this time".
The agency is feeding 17 million people in the Horn of Africa, which is still struggling to recover from its worst humanitarian crisis since 1984. Prior said WFP was "concerned" that malnourished children and pregnant mothers might "need the same level of assistance that the agency is already providing in neighbouring countries".
Eritrea suspended food aid in favour of a cash-for-work policy in 2006, "integrating" 94,500 tons of donor food into its new programme. Aid workers speculate that food-for-work was funded by "redirecting" supplies "seized" from a WFP warehouse. According to the US government, "this food aid later appeared on the local market". WFP still has an office in Asmara, the capital, but currently runs no operations in the country.
The government argues it rejected general food distribution because a "few have tended to use relief assistance as a political tool, and in a manner that would ultimately perpetuate dependency rather than eliminating it". It bred "lethargy", which the more dignified food-for-work programmes avoid.
NGO activities have also been brought under government control. The number of international NGOs working in the country has dropped significantly, from 37 in early 2005 to five, according to aid workers. NGOs need to have at least US$2 million in their accounts and are not allowed to be the implementing partners of UN agencies.
(Photo: Rains have failed and so have crops )
Asgodom said, "We want to make sure that most of the funds for a programme go to the beneficiaries - our condition was that NGOs can spend 10 percent of the funds on administrative costs, while 90 percent of it should go the beneficiaries. Those who agreed to that, stayed; others left."
The case for food aid
Almost any Eritrean will tell you that food is unaffordable, and the price of some staple grains rose fourfold in 2008. Most of the population depends on agriculture and pastoralism for their livelihood, but even in a good year Eritrea can only produce 60 percent of its cereal needs.
Eritrea's economy is stagnant; inflation, last recorded in 2007 by the IMF, was almost 14 percent; gross domestic product (GDP) growth, then driven by an improved agricultural harvest and a rebound in construction, was estimated at about 1 percent. The World Bank put gross national income per capita in 2007 at $230 per annum.
The average family cannot afford the most popular staple grains, such as teff, which retails at $8 per kg in Asmara, and is used to make injera, a pancake that is the mainstay of an Eritrean meal. A family of four would consume at least 25kg of teff a month, amounting to $200, so teff has become a luxury rather than a staple.
Teff is often replaced with sorghum, costing about $2 per kg, but an average family would need around 40kg a month, pushing the bill to $80 and also putting it beyond the reach of most families.
"It is very hard - while the price of food has gone up, our salaries remain the same," said an Asmara resident. Many survive on money sent home by relatives in other countries.

World Bank economist Dilip Ratha, a leading authority on remittance flows, guesstimated that between 15 percent and 20 percent of the population were living overseas, and remittances accounted for over 20 percent of GDP.
The agriculture department's Asgodom maintained that the cash-for-work programme was a safety net which particularly helped small-scale farmers and pastoralists cope during the lean season.
People are deployed to work on public infrastructure projects, earning 40 nafka (about $2.60) a day; the countryside is dotted with road construction and maintenance projects that run for three months during the lean farming season.
The programme does not cover all vulnerable Eritreans, but data on how many people benefit were hard to source, except for one project funded by the European Commission (EC), which benefits 25,000 households. Asgodom said the cash-for-work programme was funded by "monetizing", or selling, food aid.
The EC, the country's largest donor, has earmarked US$96 million to help Eritrea achieve food security, with another $23 million from a $1.2 billion facility to boost food production in at least 35 developing countries affected by the food crisis.
EC spokesman John Clancy commented: "The European Commission's humanitarian aid is always provided without any conditions attached to any vulnerable population around the globe ... Eritrea included. Our humanitarian aid is provided on a needs basis, and is apolitical."
Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Environment, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Natural Disasters

Foreigners Are the Real Pirates, Says Former Somali Fisherman

Published on Friday, June 12, 2009 by The Times Online/UK
Foreigners Are the Real Pirates, Says Former Somali Fisherman
by Tristan McConnell in Berbera, Somalia
The first time Farah Ismail Eid set out to hijack a ship off the coast of Somalia his boat was easily outrun. On the second occasion he kept pace but his boarding ladder was too short. On the third attempt he was captured.
Suspected Somali pirates hold onto their boat in the Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Aden in this photo released by the Spanish Ministry of Defence on May 7, 2009. (REUTERS/Ministry of Defence/Handout)Eid, 38, from Eyl on the Somalia coast, is one of an estimated 1,500 fishermen-turned-pirates who have made the seas between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean the most dangerous shipping route in the world.
“I believe the title of pirates should be given to those who come to our waters illegally,” he told The Times after shuffling into a room at the British colonial-era Mandheera prison, 40 miles south of Berbera, wearing plastic sandals, a T-shirt and a length of printed material wrapped around his skinny waist.
Eid may have not proved himself much of a pirate, but others have attacked at least 114 ships this year, 29 successfully. About 20 ships and 300 crew are being held hostage, while dozens of international warships now patrol the Gulf of Aden.
International forces have been wringing their hands over how to deal with captured pirates. In many cases they are simply released after their equipment is destroyed — but Eid and his four-man crew were tried and given 15-year prison terms. “When we capture the pirates we bring them to justice,” said Ahmed Ali, the deputy head of the ill-equipped Somaliland Coastguard.
Mandheera prison is straight out of a spaghetti western: hot wind blows dust devils across a scorched plain surrounded by rocky, scrub-covered hills. A few eucalyptus trees offer scant shelter from the 40C (104F) heat. Barred windows in the 6m (20ft) walls let little light into the sweltering cells that are home to 633 prisoners, including the five pirates caught in September last year. Another 31 have been captured and brought here since.
Eid blamed foreigners for the rise of piracy. He said he had a couple of boats and a fish-trading business in Eyl until illegal trawlers ruined the fishing: “The fish we caught used to be enough for the local people and enough to sell, but now there is not even enough to eat.”
Foreign ships started dumping toxic waste in Somali waters, he said, and one day he found shoals of fish floating. “We thought we were lucky. We collected the fish and stored them in refrigerators, then later we discovered they were like plastic.
“These problems fell on us like rain,” he said, his right leg twitching as he chewed on a mouthful of qat, a narcotic leaf enjoyed by many Somalis.
Eid said that fishermen bought guns and set out to exact informal taxes on the foreign owners of illegal trawlers. The kidnapping business proved lucrative, with ransoms of hundreds of thousands of dollars regularly paid out — and any noble motives were soon forgotten as pirate gangs launched attacks on cruise liners and cargo ships, including those carrying food for Somalia’s starving millions.
He justified the attacks as a way of highlighting their concerns. “We are quite aware that what we are doing is wrong, but this is a way of shouting to the world,” he said. “The world should ask: ‘Are these people wrong or were they wronged themselves?”
Eid has his own solution to the problem. “The international community should come and talk to us; they should compensate us for the problems caused to our waters by illegal fishing and toxic waste,” he said. “Then, until the government is in place in Somalia, we could protect the ships as they cross our waters.”
The international community is unlikely to take him up on the offer.

Desert locust swarms may move to southern Arabia and the Indo-Pakistan border

Desert locust swarms may move to southern Arabia and the Indo-Pakistan border
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Date: 12 Jun 2009
New reports indicate that Desert Locust swarms have been moving east across northern Somalia and reached the northeast on 6 June. Two days later, an immature swarm flew over Erigavo and moved north into the nearby Golis Mountains. There is a high probability that other small swarms are still present on the plateau east of Hargeisa and Burao in the Sanaag and Bari regions of the northeast. The swarms are immature and highly mobile. They are not mature enough to lay eggs now. As ecological conditions are mainly dry and unfavourable, there is a high risk that the swarms will continue to move east and northeast towards Bosaso and the Gulf of Aden.
The southwest monsoon winds are expected to carry most of the swarms across the Gulf of Aden to the southern shores of the Arabian Peninsula where they are likely to appear briefly along the coast of eastern Yemen and southern Oman in the next few days. From there, the swarms are expected to move northeast along the dry eastern coast of Oman and cross the Arabian Sea to the coast of Pakistan and to the Rann of Kutch, India before reaching the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border in about a week from now.
Given the current situation and the uncertainty about the scale of the potential migration, countries should be proactive and take preventive steps by mounting surveys in the following areas to monitor the arrival and movement of any swarms from northern Somalia:
- Yemen - coastal areas from Al Ghaydah to the Oman border (immediately for at least one week)
- Oman - coastal areas from Salalah to Sur (from 13 June for at least one week)
- Pakistan - coastal areas from Gwadar to the India border (from about 17 June) and eastern desert areas of Tharparkar and Cholistan
- India - coastal areas of Gujarat (from about 18 June) and interior areas of Gujarat and Rajastan
The swarms are likely to be highly mobile and difficult to control. If any swarms arrive in the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border, they will mature quickly and lay eggs with the onset of the seasonal monsoon rains later this month.
In Ethiopia, an immature swarm appeared in the highlands north of Addis Ababa on 10 June. Survey teams have been mobilized in all areas. A few more swarms from northwest Somalia may appear in the northern Rift Valley and move through the Afar region to northwest Ethiopia (Amhara and Tigray regions) and perhaps continue towards the summer breeding areas in western Eritrea and central Sudan.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Italy will become the first Western country to reopen its embassy in Somalia

Thursday, June 11, 2009
ROME (Reuters) - Italy will become the first Western country to reopen its embassy in Somalia, in a gesture of support for the transitional government, officials said on Wednesday.
A meeting in Rome of the International Contact Group on Somalia, with delegates from 33 countries and international organisations, expressed support for President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government and urged others to follow Italy's lead.
"There was a decision to reopen Italy's embassy in Mogadishu and this is very important," said the U.N. Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. "The African Union has decided to follow suit."
Ould-Abdallah said only Libya, Yemen and Kenya had embassies in Somalia's crumbling sea-front capital Mogadishu, ravaged by 18 years of on-off civil war. Italy's pre-World War Two fascist government controlled large parts of Somalia.
The Somali government and its moderate Muslim allies are battling several groups of Islamist insurgents. Ahmed is himself an Islamist who previously led the Islamic Courts Union which controlled Mogadishu before an Ethiopian invasion in 2006.
Aid agencies say more than 1 million people have been made homeless and about 3 million need urgent food aid in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who attended the meeting, said the government would not negotiate with the opposition unless it laid down its weapons.
He praised the efforts of the international naval task forces off the Horn of Africa in combating piracy and expressed hope that 16 Italian hostages held by Somali pirates would soon be released.
The International Contact Group, founded in 2005, brings together the U.N. and countries committed to fostering peace in Somalia. (Editing by Andrew Dobbie).

Source: Reuters, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

U.S. says Eritrea must stop Somalia meddling

U.S. says Eritrea must stop Somalia meddling
Mon Jun 8, 2009
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - Eritrea is playing an unhelpful role in nearby Somalia and must cease its actions there if it wants better relations with Washington, the Obama administration's top diplomat for Africa said on Monday.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson pointed a finger at Eritrea for stoking hostilities in Somalia, whose government is battling militants.
"The role that Eritrea has played most recently has not been particularly helpful in helping to bring about a return to political stability and normalcy there (Somalia)," Carson said in an interview with Reuters.
He accused Eritrea of "aiding and abetting" the movement of arms into Somalia and of supporting the militant Islamist group al Shabaab and its leaders.
Somalia's government also has accused Eritrea of supporting Islamist militants with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has denied the allegations, saying U.S. agents were spreading lies.
"We would like very much to have good, normal relations with the government or Eritrea but that is predicated upon Eritrea acting as a responsible citizen in the neighborhood," Carson said.
"If Eritrea is prepared to be a responsible player in the region and to act responsibly in its governance, then the prospects are good for a better relationship," he said.
Eritrea's key rival, Ethiopia, sent thousands of troops into Somalia in 2006 to help topple the Islamist movement holding the capital Mogadishu and most of the south. Those troops pulled out early this year but Ethiopia has kept a heavy border presence to counter any threat from Islamists.
But Western analysts say Ethiopia and Eritrea have been fighting a proxy war in Somalia. The two countries still are bitter over a border conflict in which 70,000 people died.
Last week, Addis Ababa acknowledged its military personnel had been carrying out reconnaissance missions into Somalia but Carson said he had no indication the Ethiopians had returned with any "large combat elements."
Somalia's Western-backed transitional government is battling against rival Islamist groups in violence that has swelled the country's more than 1 million internal refugee population. Aid agencies say 3 million people need urgent food aid in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
In addition, Carson said refugee camps in Kenya were overflowing with tens of thousands of Somalis flooding into the north of the country every month.
Kenya is suffering its own political problems, with its coalition government criticized for not tackling corruption or implementing reforms fast enough.
"We are concerned about the slow pace of implementation of the Kofi Annan accords which brought an end to the violence which occurred after the very flawed December 2007 process in Kenya," Carson said, referring to an agreement brokered by former U.N. chief Annan.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki formed a coalition government with opposition leader Raila Odinga in early 2008 to halt violence after a disputed election.
"If Kenya is to make both political and economic success and gains, it has to move swiftly to resolve these political issues," Carson said. (Editing by Bill Trott).

War Crimes Committed Daily in Somalia Fighting


War Crimes Committed Daily in Somalia Fighting
By Derek Kilner Nairobi
09 June 2009
As an international meeting on Somalia gets under way in Rome, U.N. agencies say that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed on a daily basis in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. For the past month, Islamist insurgents have been battling pro-government forces in the heaviest fighting the capital has seen in years.
According to the U.N. children's and refugee agencies, all sides in the fighting have flaunted humanitarian principles by ignoring the safety of civilians. Fighters have shelled civilian areas, forcibly recruited children to join militias, and raped women.
The U.N. refugee agency says 117,000 civilians have been displaced since early May, when the latest round of clashes began.
UNICEF's acting representative for Somalia, Hannan Suleiman, says this is the most concentrated displacement of civilians the city has seen in years.
"It is certainly the highest we have seen in Somalia for many, many years,"Suleiman said. "We have not seen this number of people in such a short period of time being displaced."
The latest fighting pits Islamist insurgents from the al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam militias against government soldiers and pro-government militias. Insurgents have also targeted the roughly 4,000 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi who are deployed in Mogadishu. More than 200 people have been killed in the past month, according to most estimates.
Suleiman says women and children have been particularly affected by the conflict. She says there are reports that boys as young as nine-years old have been recruited to join militias.
"And they are being used on the front line,"Suleiman said. "This is in direct contravention of the child-rights convention, and with the laws governing combat, which state that the use of children under 15 years old in combat is a war crime with legal consequences. And we do have reports that children under 15 are being recruited by all sides in the conflict."
UNICEF says at least 34 schools in the city have been occupied by fighters at some point since the start of the year, and many families have been separated. There are reports of rape and other sexual violence against women who have been displaced.
The insurgents are seeking to overthrow the fragile internationally-backed government led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. President Ahmed is a moderate Islamist and a former insurgent leader, but his opponents say he is not committed to Islam and is too close to the United States and Ethiopia.
The government, as well as international diplomats, have accused Eritrea of backing the insurgents.
An international meeting to discuss the conflict is underway in Rome. The two-day meeting features representatives from more than 35 countries and international organizations. The meeting will discuss the security situation, as well as the problem of piracy off the coast.

SOMALIA: People dying in their homes while no one knows about it


SOMALIA: People dying in their homes while no one knows about it.
(Photo:A family flees fighting in Mogadishu: Civil society officials say thousands of people are trapped in the city, with little access to aid)
NAIROBI, 9 June 2009 (IRIN) - Fighting in parts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has trapped many residents and made them inaccessible to the help they need to survive, civil society sources said on 9 June.
"There are people who have been stuck in their homes for the last three weeks; they are terrified, hungry and have no access to any help," Asha Sha'ur, a civil society activist, told IRIN.
She added: "Those who are left in the city have little choice except to wait and hope that the violence around them does not get closer. Some of the trapped residents cannot afford to flee while others are too afraid to leave Mogadishu."
In recent weeks, Mogadishu has been a battleground for troops loyal to the weak government of the western-backed President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and a variety of armed opposition groups, chief among them al-Shabab, which now controls much of the south and centre of the country, where it has imposed sharia law. The fighting has displaced almost 120,000 people since 7 May.

Sha'ur said they had received reports of desperate people stuck in their homes for days "with no access to any assistance, whether it is food, water or medical help; people may be dying in their homes and we don’t know about it".
Civil society groups were trying to visit some of the areas on 9 June "to ascertain the condition of the people and see where we can help", Sha'ur said.
In past conflicts, people fled to other areas of the city that were safe, "but now there are increasingly no safe places left to seek refuge", she said. "The trapped residents need most urgent help."
Muhammad Nur Ga'al, deputy head of the coalition known as Civil Society in Action, said the humanitarian situation for both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those still in the city was becoming more and more precarious.
"War, hunger, disease and rains have combined to create the worst humanitarian disaster this country has seen," Ga'al said.
He said the little help that was getting through was not enough to meet the massive needs of the people.
He said insecurity was the biggest obstacle in reaching the needy, but that agencies should be more creative in how they accessed the population.
"They have to come up with new ways of reaching those who need them," Ga'al said, adding that one option would be to involve the Somali business community and local agencies, although the business community was already providing some help to the affected populations.
Ga'al called on the international community to scale up humanitarian assistance "in any way they can". He added: "If the situation does not improve we will be faced with a humanitarian catastrophe comparable to that of 1992."

Rights concerns
Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have expressed concern over the effect the escalating violence in Mogadishu is having on civilians and the human rights violations being committed.
“Yet again, parties to the conflict in Mogadishu fight with no regard for the safety of civilians, in clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights principles,” Guillermo Bettocchi, the UNHCR Representative for Somalia, said in a joint statement on 9 June.
He called on the international community to intervene and end “this self-perpetuating culture of impunity, including by establishing a credible and independent process to investigate and eventually prosecute those responsible for the apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity that Somali civilians have and continue to be exposed to”.
The agencies said many of those killed or injured were women and children.
“Parties to the conflict must realize that the main victims are their own children, who are being killed, maimed or displaced by the fighting, some even recruited to take part in the fighting,” Hannan Sulieman, acting UNICEF Representative to Somalia, said.
According to UNHCR, an estimated 117,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Mogadishu since early May.
ah/mw

Monday, June 8, 2009

Radicals Connected To Somali Teen's Death


Radicals Connected To Somali Teen's Death
Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) ―
A Somali teenager who vanished from the Twin Cities last fall has met his death in his homeland. The family of Burhan Hassan learned on Friday that the teen died in Somalia.
Hassan disappeared from the Twin Cities last November. He's just one of dozens who have vanished, feared recruited by radical elements in Somali.
According to Hassan's uncle, Abdirizak Bihi, the family does not know exactly how he died but they think the terrorist group Al Shabab had something to do with it.
"The Shabab group took over neighborhoods in southern Mogadishu and they wanted to show, energize the young, to show them their success," he said. "There was no combat, then a shot hit him and he was dead."
Bihi said his nephew was trying to leave the war torn city and the family believes Al Shabab found out.
The family of Hassan also believe leaders of the Abubakar As-Sadique Islamic Center in Minneapolis may know more about the disappearance of several other Somali youth from the Twin Cities than they are saying.
"They curse us. Call us infidels, because simply we spoke up for our son," said Bihi. "Now we can say yes, that they do have something to do with it because they're always acting out in a sinister way."
Leaders of the mosque firmly deny the accusations made by Hassan's family.
"There's no question that the message of this mosque is a very peaceful message, in line with the real Islamic teachings of peace and tranquility, " said Omar Hurre, the executive director of the mosque.
The FBI has not confirmed Hassan's death but family members say his body has already been buried in Mogadishu.

Somalia Opposition Leader Denies Reports He Was Wounded


Medeshi
Somalia Opposition Leader Denies Reports He Was Wounded
By Alisha Ryu Nairobi0
8 June 2009
Somalia's hard-line Islamist opposition leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, appeared before the media in the Somali capital to dispel rumors that he was gravely wounded last week during a battle in central Somalia. The Islamist cleric showed no visible signs of injury as he walked into a room full of journalists, opposition supporters, and curious residents.
Flanked by several armed bodyguards with their faces hidden behind scarves, Hassan Dahir Aweys told reporters he was "healthy and fit," mocking claims by a rival religious, pro-government group called Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama'a that Aweys was shot and possibly killed during last Friday's battle for control of Wabho town in the central Galgadud region.
Aweys says the fighting will continue in Somalia until Islamic law is implemented throughout the country and the African Union withdraws its 4,300 peacekeeping troops from Mogadishu.
Aweys made the same statement in April, when he returned to Mogadishu from exile and vowed to lead a bloody campaign against Somalia's weak, five month-old government of his former ally, moderate Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.
Aweys, who is on the U.S. and U.N. lists of suspected terrorists, was recently named the new leader of a coalition of militant anti-government groups called Hisbul Islam. Hisbul Islam is in an uneasy alliance with Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group to drive out A.U. peacekeepers and to oust President Sharif's U.N.-supported government from power.
The government has ruled out ordering peacekeepers to leave Somalia. But the Somali parliament recently agreed to install Islamic law in the country. The insurgents have not been appeased, insisting the law passed by parliament is not the version they want implemented.
Early last month, Hisbul Islam and al-Shabab attempted to take control of key areas in Mogadishu under the control of the government. But they failed, largely because of the presence of African Union troops. Since then, near daily fighting and violence in the capital has forced almost 100,000 people to flee their homes.
The separate fighting in central Somalia pits Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama'a against al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam. Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama'a is an established religious brotherhood of Sufi Muslims, which took up arms several months ago to defend against religious attacks by al-Shabab. Al-Shabab members adhere to the Salafist-Wahabbist version of Islam and consider Sufism to be heretical.
Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama'a and al-Shabab have clashed numerous times in central Somalia in recent months. But sectarian tensions boiled over late last month when al-Shabab officials in the Bardhere district in Gedo region destroyed the graves of several revered Sufi religious leaders buried there.
On Sunday, a human-rights group in Mogadishu reported that more than 120 people, mostly combatants, may have been killed in Friday's battle in central Somalia.

Somaliland Elections: A Potential Derailment of Peace?

Medeshi
8 June 2009:
Somaliland Elections: A Potential Derailment of Peace?
Protracted conflict has turned Somalia into an impoverished nation and a failed state with an entire generation knowing war as the most common means of social interaction. In stark contrast, the breakaway Republic of Somaliland is an island of stability compared to war-torn south/central Somalia. Despite having never received legal recognition by the international community, Somaliland has been able to arrive at a level of stability that is unknown to south/central Somalia for the last two decades.
Due to an inclusive, grass-roots based political reconciliation process, and without international involvement, Somaliland has lifted itself out of the perpetual cycle of poor governance and violence that we see in the rest of the Somali region. In 2003 multiparty elections were held in a smooth fashion in which Dahir Riyale Kahin, who is from a small clan in the north-west of Somaliland, was elected as the third president. However, several rows over multiple postponements of presidential elections are now threatening its stability. Elections must live up to international standards not only because Somaliland wants to be recognized by the international community, but also to prove democracy is a viable construct in a Somali region with complex clan dynamics.
Presidential elections were originally scheduled to take place on 27 October 2008. The elections were postponed for the first time to 31 May 2009 due to instability in the eastern Sanaag and Sool regions. The eastern border of these regions is disputed as semi-autonomous Puntland also claims territory in these regions. Due to the manipulation of clan-allegiances from both sides the exact delimitation has never been codified and remains a nipping thorn in the relationship between the two autonomous regions. On 29 March, Somaliland’s upper house of Parliament, the Guurti, again postponed the presidential elections, this time to 27 September 2009, because incomplete voter registration would not allow for fair elections.
The postponement was strongly criticized by Somaliland’s opposition parties, the Kulmiyeh, and the For Justice and Development party (UCID). Kulmiyeh indicated they would no longer recognize the legitimacy of President Riyale’s government and UCID declared the decision to postpone the elections as unconstitutional. Both parties called upon the government to hold the elections as scheduled on 31 May 2009. The incumbent United People’s Democratic Party (UDUB) put Kulmiyeh’s call aside, arguing that Somaliland’s upper house of Parliament, the Guurti, has the constitutional mandate to extend the governments term. This was a setback for Kulmiyeh, who advocated the government’s dissolution. However, they kept on articulating their stance on the matter by holding demonstrations.
On April 6, hundreds of protestors from the opposition Kulmiyeh party gathered at their headquarters in the capital, Hargeisa, ostensibly to mark Somali National Movement day, which honours the rebel group that fought the former Somali government in the northern regions of Somalia in the 1980s. But the meeting, called by the party’s leader, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud, or Silanyo, turned out to be a protest against the six-month extension of President Rayale’s term. The government subsequently announced it would ban demonstrations by the opposition because they violated the constitution as they formed a threat to national security.

The government acted on its promise when on 14 April government security forces raided Kulmiyeh’s party’s headquarters in an effort to silence the opposition. Forces entered at the moment Kulmiyeh was holding a press conference on the controversial term extension of the government as granted by the Guurti. In response, on the 3rd of May, Kulmiyeh and UCID demanded a change in the electoral commission. Kulmiyeh and UCID argued they no longer trusted the electoral body and called upon the government to change its composition.
This demand came after a political mediation committee, endorsed by both government and opposition, issued a five point ruling on Wednesday 29 April which was supporting mostly the incumbent UDUB party. Firstly, the term extension until 29 September 2009 was deemed valid. Secondly, the voter registration has to be concluded by 27 July 2009 so that there is sufficient time to organize free and fair elections. Thirdly, all parties must be granted equal air time prior to the elections. Fourthly, the freedom of political parties to function has been stipulated. This includes freedom of movement and the freedom to hold public gatherings such as demonstrations.
However, the judgment is still not signed by President Riyale, despite it being in his favor. Kulmiyeh and UCID now accuse Riyale of the government’s unwillingness to hold elections and undermining civil liberties. They argue the third postponement lacks democratic legitimacy and undermines the democratization process. Moreover, by attempting to silence the opposition and justifying its undemocratic mandate on a pretext of emergency rule on erroneous grounds of lawlessness, serious questions are raised about the need for checks and balances to curb further excesses by the executive.
It appears that the Somaliland government is restricting political freedoms in order to guarantee an easy victory during the election to be held in September. However, the conditions for free and fair elections are not met due to the obstruction of the political ambitions of the opposition. Therefore, the presidential elections will be a test case for Somaliland’s young democracy. If held freely and fairly, the international community may well reconsider its position toward Somaliland. Perhaps more importantly, by holding transparent elections, Somaliland will remind Somalia and the international community that peace and stability in the country can be a reality instead of merely a distant thought.
Source : ISS
Jesper Kleingeld, Intern, African Security Analysis Programme, ISS Tshwane (Pretoria)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Muslims respond positively to Obama speech

Medeshi June 7, 2009
Muslims respond positively to Obama speech
By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Writer Karin Laub, Associated Press Writer
RAMALLAH, West Bank – From Lebanese guerrillas to Saudi preachers, Islamic extremists have warned followers not to be taken in by President Barack Obama's conciliatory words — a sign that some may be nervous about losing support if animosity toward the U.S. fades.
(Photo: AP – U.S. President Barack Obama, center, tours the Sultan Hassan Mosque along with Secretary of State Hillary )
But even moderates warn Obama will have to quickly follow his call for a new relationship with the Islamic world with bold actions to prevent a disappointed backlash.
In his speech in Cairo Thursday, Obama listed confronting "violent extremism" as the top priority in addressing tensions between the U.S. and Muslims. He urged the Islamic world to reject radical ideologies and promised to work aggressively to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said the U.S. does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank and endorsed a Palestinian state.
There are already some indications his words are having the desired effect of undercutting extremists. A militant leader in Egypt called on the Taliban to respond positively to Obama's gestures, and Hamas militants in Gaza say they are ready "to build on this speech."
Obama may have managed to "plant the seed of doubt in some minds," said Robert Malley, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. "There was enough ... that represented openings for those who wanted openings."
Yet Obama's eloquent promises were seen as only a small step toward halting the region's drift toward militancy, accelerated in recent years by the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Washington's perceived pro-Israel bias.
He will be most closely watched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly his push to get Israel to comply with a settlement freeze. That is something no U.S. administration before him has accomplished.
"Extremists will only be disarmed when the U.S. takes a more neutral stand on Israel," said Abdel Wahab al-Qasab, a Qatar-based analyst.
Obama has so far followed the Bush administration's policy of not talking directly to Hamas, which the U.S. regards as a terrorist organization. But in his remarks in Cairo, he seemed to suggest some basis for believing that Palestinian militants who rule Gaza might be drawn into the peace process.
Obama's Mideast envoy George Mitchell is coming to the region this week to push the president's agenda with Israelis and Palestinians. He is tentatively scheduled to stop in Syria, where Hamas is headquartered. But a State Department spokesman said Mitchell has no plans to talk to Hamas.
Obama's message also contained an assurance that U.S. troops in Afghanistan fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban won't stay longer than absolutely necessary. That too may have resonated with militants in that region, said Ahmed Rashid, a Lahore-based analyst and author of a book on the Taliban.
"The extremists used to lie that the U.S. wants military bases in this region," he said.
Essam Derbala, a leader of one of Egypt's largest militant groups, al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya Al-Qaida, told an Egyptian newspaper over the weekend that the Taliban should reciprocate by announcing they will no longer target Americans. That would ensure U.S. troops will eventually leave the region, he said.
Still, many extremists remain wary of the U.S outreach.
Two influential fundamentalist groups, Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood, as well as a Saudi preacher, accused Obama of being deceptive. They said he offered soft words to hide unchanged anti-Muslim positions. But that could indicate their nervousness that Obama's strategy could undercut support for militancy.
This week's elections in Lebanon and Iran could give an early indication of sentiments in the region.
In Lebanon, Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies tried to unseat a pro-Western coalition in a vote on Sunday. In Iran's June 12 vote, hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing a pro-reform challenger likely to take a less confrontational approach with the U.S. if elected.
But what many in the Muslim world will be waiting to see is whether Obama delivers on expectations of a tougher U.S. stance toward Israel.
"If the Israelis continue with settlement activity and defiance and President Obama does nothing, the repercussions will be major," said Saeb Erekat, an aide to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "We're at a crossroads."
While seemingly tougher on Israel than his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama has not said what, if any, action would take if Israel defies him on settlements. He also has made clear that he is not dramatically revising the fundamentals of past U.S. policy.
Like Bush, he remains committed to Israel's security, is banking on the unpopular Abbas and refuses to talk to Abbas' rival, Hamas, unless the Islamic militant group recognizes Israel and renounces violence.
Despite disappointment that the U.S. position had not shifted more dramatically, Hamas leaders praised Obama's shift in tone. Hamas is eager to win international acceptance of its rule in Gaza, and has gone out of its way to sound pragmatic.
"We think we can build on this speech," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Saturday. "We can take positive things from the speech to open communications with Obama and the U.S. administration."
In the end, many Muslims were heartened by Obama's speech because they saw it as a significant change in the tone of discourse with Muslims. They noted he did not use the word "terrorism" or "terrorist" once in the 55-minute address — words that many thought had been devalued under the Bush administration and too often equated with Muslims.
They also heard a more respectful U.S. leader who quoted from the Quran, or Islamic holy book, greeted them in Arabic, and removed his shoes when he toured a Cairo mosque.
One militant Web site that often carries statements from al-Qaida had unusual praise for Obama after the speech, noting his quotations from the Quran demonstrated respect for Islam and branding him the "wise enemy."
___
AP reporters from across the Middle East contributed to this report.

'One more day here and I'll die'

Medeshi, June 7, 2009
'One more day here and I'll die'
Abdullahi Mohamed Hassan is trapped in his home in Mogadishu, surrounded by gunfire and mortar shelling.
The 25-year-old teacher of English is one of hundreds of thousands of Somali civilians caught up in fierce fighting between Islamist guerrillas and pro-government forces.
Mr Hassan e-mailed the BBC News website to tell of his ordeal alone without food and water as gunmen and looters circle his home, after his wife and daughter fled the war zone.
'This is the worst fighting I have ever seen.
I have been trapped in my home for two days, with no food to eat.
Can you hear the gunfire outside? I am afraid for my life.
I am in the middle of a battle zone. The fighting is intense. I can't even open my front door.
Never has it been this intense, not in my life
. '
Abandoned
I am a resident in the war-affected district of Yaqshid, [northern] Mogadishu.
The village is empty because everyone has run away.
My family fled too - I have a wife and a young daughter.
They took their belongings and fled on foot to Elashbiyaha, just south of the city.
I gave them all the food we had left - very little. They will have run out by now.
They do not have even makeshift shelter to protect themselves from the cold and rain.
It is very difficult for me to contact them - they have no mobile phone.
I stayed here to protect our home from looters.
Many of the homes here which were abandoned have been very badly looted.
I am afraid - I can't sleep at night because I am always thinking of my life - and the gunfire around me.
I don't have anything to eat or drink. If I stay here one day longer, I might die of starvation.
Student shot
If this situation continues, I may have to run for my life. I am preparing myself for that.
The situation here is very desperate. Many people have been murdered.
My cousin was hit by a stray bullet - on his way home from high school. He's in intensive care in hospital.
Some of my friends died yesterday morning in the fighting - they were hit by stray bullets from the warriors.
Our situation is very appalling.
I ask for the both sides to halt fire and respect the value of the poor communities.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Activist: Minn. teen who returned to Somalia dead

Activist: Minn. teen who returned to Somalia dead
The Associated Press
A Somali activist says one of several young Somalis who left Minneapolis to return to their homeland last year has been reported killed in Mogadishu.
Omar Jamal of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center says his Minneapolis group is looking into the death of the 17-year-old and asking federal officials for help in getting his body returned for burial. He said the teen was killed in artillery fire.
Groups of young Somalis went missing from Minneapolis last year and were feared recruited by radical elements in Somalia. That nation has seen a recent surge of violence as insurgents try to overturn the government and install a strict Islamic state.

Somali rebel leader Aweys dead or badly hurt: family

Somali rebel leader Aweys dead or badly hurt: family
By Abdi Sheikh and Abdi GuledReuters
Sunday, June 7, 2009
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali Islamist rebel leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is dead or seriously injured, a family member told Reuters on Sunday.
His death would be a major blow to the rebels and a boost for President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government, which had tried unsuccessfully to broker peace talks with the 62-year-old cleric.
Aweys, whom western security services say is close to al Qaeda, is an influential figure among the insurgents in Somalia, where he has headed various Islamist groups since the 1990s.
"We understand that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was brought yesterday to his brother's house opposite the football stadium," said the Aweys's family member.
"We were denied access but confirmed there were doctors in the area... The mood looks like he is dead. The whole area is surrounded by gunmen and there is no access," he added, of the house close to Mogadishu's football stadium.
A pro-government militia said its fighters shot Aweys during battles in Wabho town on Friday, and he died of wounds later. But Aweys's movement, Hizbul Islam, denied that as propaganda.
There were also rumors among militia fighters that another rebel leader, Hassan Turki had died
In one of the worst flare-ups of the year, 123 people died in fighting for Wabho, mainly on Friday, between the joint forces of al Shabaab insurgents and Aweys's group, and the pro-government moderate Islamist militia Ahla Sunna Waljamaca.
An Islamist insurgency since early 2007 -- the latest cycle in 19 years of conflict in Somalia -- has killed around 18,000 civilians and thousands more fighters.
It has also drawn foreign jihadists into Somalia, enabled piracy to flourish offshore and unsettled the whole region, with East African neighbors on high security alert.
BOMB KILLS 3, HITMEN KILL JOURNALIST
In Mogadishu where al Shabaab have been battling the security forces of president Ahmed, three people died on Sunday when a remote control mine meant for a police car struck a civilian vehicle.
"The police car was driving at high speed and the bomb missed it and struck a civilian car which was behind the police car," eyewitness Abdullahi Farah Nor told Reuters.
Gunmen in the capital also shot and killed Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, director of privately owned radio station Shabelle, and injured a colleague.
"They shot the director in the head and he died on the spot," an eyewitness told Reuters.
Hirabe, 48, is the fifth journalist murdered this year in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters to operate.
Washington Post