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Friday, July 10, 2009

World leaders want to help Africa feed itself

G8 leaders want to help Africa feed itself
Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliott in L'Aquila
Friday 10 July 2009
G8 leaders today committed $20bn (£12.4bn) in farm aid over three years to help poor nations feed themselves, increasing by $5bn the sum that world leaders had been expected to pledge.
In a shift in the focus of aid, world leaders meeting on the final day of their day summit in Italy promised that the money would go to boosting the long-term capability of Africa to produce food, rather than simply to provide short-term aid. It is being argued inside Washington that food security helps generate political stability.
It is estimated that, partly due to the world recession, 1 billion people in the world are currently hungry. It is expected another 100 million will be driven into hunger this year.
Barack Obama at his closing press conference said: "There is no reason that Africa cannot be self-sufficient when it comes to food."
Obama is visiting Ghana this weekend where he is likely to be afforded a hero's welcome as the first black American president. In what is coming to be a G8 tradition, African countries joined the G8 on its final day with the leaders of Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa at the talks.
Many African countries and aid agencies, such as Cafod, believe the key to self-sufficiency lies in increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers. Some aid agencies feared the redirection of funds to agriculture will hit other vital African issues, including clean water and maternal mortality. But Kana Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency, praised the G8 shift: "You're setting the foundation for transformation of communities. It is the foundation for food security."
It was not immediately clear how much of the $20bn was new funding, how much each country would give and where the extra $5m had been located. Some of the money vowed today represents previous aid pledges that G8 countries have failed to deliver on in the last four years.
World leaders pledged at the British-chaired G8 meeting in Gleneagles in 2005 to increase annual aid levels by $50bn by 2010, half of which was meant to go to African countries. Aid agencies feared that some of the money announced today was being siphoned off from other funds previously earmarked for schools, hospitals and sanitation.

Who might replace Ethiopia's Meles?

FACTBOX-Who might replace Ethiopia's Meles?
July 8 (Reuters) -
Ethiopia's long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Wednesday he was looking forward to relaxing after a retirement from power that he hopes will be agreed soon with his ruling party.
So who might replace him? Following are the three names most widely touted, and a summary of main opposition figures:
Physicist Seyoum has been Ethiopia's foreign minister since Meles came to power in 1991. Fiercely loyal to the prime minister, he used his weight as a well-regarded former rebel fighter to help Meles purge their Tigryan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of dissidents in 2001.
Respected for his skill as an international negotiator, he is considered a contender by the Addis Ababa diplomatic community.
Trade Minister Girma may prove the perfect compromise candidate. Despite making up only 6 percent of the population, the Tigryan ethnic group, of which Meles is a member, dominate Ethiopia's political establishment.
The Amhara ethnic group have traditionally ruled the country and are likely to lobby for one of their ruling party members to take over should Meles resign.
Girma is an Oromo -- an ethnic group which, though Ethiopia's largest in number, have never held power.
Educated in Britain, Tewodros has been health minister since 2005 and has a string of achievements under his belt -- including a significant reduction in Ethiopia's child mortality rate -- that have won him international respect.
The opposition is unlikely to win elections due for 2010. Its leaders were jailed after Meles blamed them for street violence after a disputed 2005 poll and they have made little impact since their release in a 2007 pardon deal.
They say that is because of government harassment but Meles denies that. Some of their key figures are:
The charismatic former judge leads the Unity for Democracy and Justice party. She was imprisoned in December after the government said she violated the terms of the 2007 pardon. Meles says there is no chance she will be freed before the 2010 poll.
Once nicknamed the "TPLF's Strongman", Seye was defence minister from 1991 to 1995. He fell out with Meles in 2000 and was jailed for corruption. He insists his imprisonment was politically motivated. Recently released, he is involved in a coalition of opposition groups going up against the government in 2010.
Berhanu is an economist who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in the 2005 election then jailed shortly after. He fled to the United States after his release where he formed "May 15th", an organisation named after the date of that poll. The government says Berhanu planned a recent plot to overthrow it and has charged 32 men it says were receiving money from him to buy weapons and bombs. He says the accusations are fabricated. (Reporting by Barry Malone, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Ethiopia's Meles eyes "long rest" post-retirement

Ethiopia's Meles eyes "long rest" post-retirement
By Andrew Cawthorne
(Reuters) - Ethiopia's long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Wednesday he was looking forward to relaxing after a retirement from power that he hopes will be agreed soon with his ruling party.
"Having a long, good rest would do," the 54-year-old former rebel leader said of his plans after relinquishing the power he has held for 18 years.
In an interview with Reuters, Meles also said the arrival of jihadists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gulf region had lifted the number of foreign fighters in neighbouring Somalia to anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500.
"It is a continuing influx," he said of the men coming to fight alongside Somalia's hardline insurgents.
Meles has said repeatedly he is ready to step down from the helm of sub-Saharan Africa's second most populous nation.
Most analysts believe that will be some time after an election scheduled for May 2010.
They say Meles may retain a senior post in his party or take a prominent position at an international institution given his high profile on pan-African affairs.
Declining to say when he might go, Meles did emphasise that he hoped to effect the first peaceful transition of power in Ethiopia's bloody modern history.
"It would be very important for everybody, particularly for the fledgling democratic institutions of this country."
Leaders of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) are to meet in September in what could be a determining moment.
"The party is in the process of dialogue, and sooner or later it will make its decision, and that will be it," Meles said, adding he was unlikely to act without EPRDF blessing.
Diplomats expect the EPRDF to win the 2010 election, and for one of Meles' senior Cabinet members to take over.
"We have a large leadership pool, any one of whom could take the mantle," Meles said.
The prime minister dismissed fears of ethnic rivalry.
"That is not a prime consideration. The party has gone beyond that," said Meles, whose Tigryan community accounts for just 6 percent of the population yet dominate the country's political and military establishment.
The ethnic Amharas, who used to be Ethiopia's elite, and the country's most populous group, the Oromos, may feel it is their turn, analysts say.
Meles said he hoped a code of conduct, which the government wants to agree with the opposition, would help prevent a repeat next year of post-election violence in 2005 when 200 protesters were killed by security forces.
Media air-time and public funds for opposition parties, plus monitors from at home and abroad, should also help "level the playing-field" and ensure fair elections, said Meles.
Rights groups and opposition leaders say Meles, however, oppresses opposition, with key figures exiled or in jail.
Long anxious about the threat from Islamist militants in next-door Somalia, Meles said he did not think al Shabaab rebels would oust President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government even though it was close to his palace door in Mogadishu.
The presence of a 4,300-strong African Union (AU) peacekeeping force, Amisom, and the gradual building of national security forces should turn the tide, he predicted.
"There is a very serious threat to the government ... but I don't think it's about to be toppled any time soon," he said.
"I don't think al Shabaab has the capability to ride over the Amisom presence there. And together with the forces of the TFG (Transitional Federal Government), I think they will be capable of resisting the so-called final onslaught."
Meles disputed accounts from the United Nations and others of several hundred foreign fighters in Somalia.
"It's much more than that, anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 is the estimate we have," he said.
But "it's very difficult to categorise some of these so-called foreign fighters," he said. "There are, for example, American passport holders in the Shabaab ranks, but of Somali origin. Are these foreign fighters or Somali fighters? That is a tough issue to answer. There are Canadians, and so on."
Ethiopia lost "several hundred soldiers" during its 2006-08 intervention, and has no plan to return unless there is a major threat, most notably on its border, Meles said.
The prime minister said he had conveyed that message to visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who was in Addis Ababa this week with a message for Ethiopia to be restrained.
"He was pushing at an open door," Meles said.

Somaliland: The leader of Kulmiye opposition party reportedly suffers injuries

Somaliland: The leader of Kulmiye opposition party reportedly suffers injuries
The leader of Kulmiye opposition party of Somaliland has suffered injuries in a minor incident after falling down in his house in Hargeisa. Reports from a local news website indicate that, the leader has suffered injuries to his hipbone as a result of this incident as reported in Somaliland.org
The leader who is above 70 years of age is expected to be flown back to Britain on Monday for quick medical check-up.
Translated from Somali by Medeshi

War crimes in Somalia

Possible war crimes in Somalia
GENEVA, Jul 10 - The UN human rights chief said Friday that war crimes may have been committed in Somalia, where fierce fighting between hard-line Islamist rebels and government troops has forced more than 200,000 people to flee in two months.
Citing witness accounts that fighters from both sides had used torture and also fired mortars into areas populated or used by civilians, Navi Pillay said: "Some of these acts might amount to war crimes."
"In this new wave of attacks, it is clear that civilians -- especially women and children -- are bearing the brunt of the violence," Pillay, who is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.
On May 7, the Shebab, a hard-line Islamist armed group, and Hezb al-Islam, a more political group, launched an unprecedented nationwide offensive against the internationally backed administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The violence has forced more than 200,000 people to flee in the past two months, while hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed and wounded, according to Pillay's office.
Quoting witnesses, the UN said that the militant groups have carried out extra-judicial executions, planted mines and bombs in civilian areas and even used civilians as human shields.
There is also evidence that various forces are recruiting child soldiers, many aged between 14 and 18, in what is described as a "serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law."
"There needs to be a much greater effort to protect civilians.
Displaced people and human rights defenders, aid workers and journalists are among those most exposed, and in some cases are being directly targeted," added the UN.
Pillay said evidence of violations must be collected so that those responsible for the crimes can be brought to justice once order has been restored.
Amid the current unrest, however, official judicial institutions in the capital Mogadishu and the southern and central regions of Somalia have "ceased to function."
"UN human rights staff have received credible reports that in areas controlled by insurgent groups, ad hoc tribunals are judging and sentencing civilians without due process and in violation of Somali as well as international law," said the UN.
Punishments handed down by such tribunals include death sentences by stoning or decapitation. Cemeteries and places of religious significance are also said to have been destroyed by Shebab militants, it added.
The UN Security Council on Thursday said it would consider taking measures against countries, including Eritrea, that provide aid to armed militant groups in Somalia.
The United States, which is giving Somalia's embattled government supplies of weapons and ammunition to fight off the insurgents, had earlier fingered Eritrea for backing the militants.
"We think they (the Eritreans) are providing material support, including financing to some of these extremist groups, most particularly Al Shabaab," Ian Kelly, State Department spokesman said late June.
"We've taken these concerns up with the government of Eritrea," he added then.
Both the African Union and the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development have also called for sanctions against Eritrea, which has denied aiding the extremists and slammed the United States for providing weapons to the Somali government.

In the line of fire

In the line of fire
Gamal Nkrumah examines political prospects in Somalia after Islamists issued the government five days to surrender
"All on the apostate government soldiers who are in the frontline of the battle to surrender to the Islamists and hand over all their weapons," Sheikh Mokhtar Abu Zubeir, a leader of Shabab (Youth) or to use its proper name, the Mujahideen Youth Movement, exhorted the troops of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somali President Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed. The president declined to comment, but the TFG Minister of Defence Sheikh Youssef Mohamed Siyad Indhaade, while confirming the televised threat, insisted that the government would not be moved by such "empty threats". He denied Shabab claims that Somalis are embracing the Islamist militias ideology. He calmed the fears of the TFG supporters and he claimed that the TFG troops have enough military clout to trounce the Shabab's Islamist militias. "The government soldiers will not lay down their weapons," the minister of defence boasted.
What is clear is that the militant Islamists of Somalia have moved deftly into alignment with the country's people.
The problem with the Somali president is that he failed to make good on pre-election hints of a compromise president. He should remember that the success of his presidency is built on his reputation for restraint. He was one of the leaders of the Islamic Courts Union, but he is now widely seen as betraying their cause and indeed, the irony is that his fellow sheikhs are now threatening him with prosecution by Sharia Courts (ICU). He needs, in any case, to work with militant groups such as the Shabab if he is to remain a political force to be reckoned with in the country. And, that now will not be easy.
The militant Islamists of Somalia have ossified into something of a xenophobic sulk. The Islamists are about to take over. That could really break Somalia's traditional ties with its predominantly non-Islamic neighbours -- Kenya and Ethiopia.

Grim images of Black Hawk Down still haunt the American and Western psyche. Besides, the administration of US President Barack Obama seems to have had a change of heart as far as Washington's traditional Somali policy is concerned.

"Given the long-standing enmity between Somalis and Ethiopians, I will encourage the Ethiopians not to re-engage in Somalia," John Carson, US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs warned Ethiopia of interfering in Somali affairs. Ironically, it was the US that had in the past egged the Ethiopians on to send their troops into Somalia. US-supported Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006, ousting the ICU, which then included both President Sherif Sheikh Ahmed and his arch-rival Sheikh Dhaher Aweis, the outspoken militant leader of Al-Hizb Al-Islami. Ethiopia has no qualms about crushing the Islamist forces in Somalia, but it has come to realise that it cannot do so. When the ICU was being put together, the Ethiopians tried their best to undermine the movement with the backing of then US administration of George W Bush. Then the Ethiopians tried hard to garner support among moderates. Today, the moderates among the Islamists have been extensively purged.
The hatred for the Ethiopian invaders outweighed emotive and divisive issues such as working with the Ethiopians to resolve Somalia's political problems. Aweis has been embraced by many of his long-suffering people. His is not only a personal victory but a huge stride forward for Somalia's militant Islamists. They have come out decisively for democracy, Islamic-style.

The crucial problem at the moment is the humanitarian disaster that the war in Somalia engendered. More than 3.5 million Somalis are threatened with famine and destitution. The war resulted in a mass exodus from the Somali capital Mogadishu and the humanitarian situation is worse in areas such as south central Somalia where the Islamists hold sway. The autonomous regions in the north of the country -- Puntland in the northeast and Somaliland in the northwest -- are relatively less threatened by famine. The most pressing problem at the moment as far as ordinary Somalis are concerned is to try and feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and bring back a semblance of normalcy to the lives of the Somali people.

Al-Shabab Militants in Somalia Behead 7 in Mass Execution

Al-Shabab Militants in Somalia Behead 7 in Mass Execution
By Alisha Ryu Nairobi
10 July 2009
Al-Shabab militants in the south-central Somali town of Baidoa have beheaded seven people in what is believed to the largest mass execution carried out in Somalia by the al-Qaida-linked group since 2006.
According to relatives of the victims, the charges against the seven Somalis ranged from being Christians to spying for the Transitional Federal Government. They say none of the people were tried before the executions were carried out on Friday.
The executions have shocked the people of Baidoa, which was once the base of Somalia's transitional parliament. The town fell to al-Shabab insurgents in January, following the pull-out of Ethiopian troops from Somalia.
Al-Shabab follows the ultra-conservative Wahabi tenet of Islam and its fighters have imposed strict Islamic laws in areas they control. They have forced women to cover their faces, segregated men and women in public places, and have banned music and all forms of entertainment.
They have also punished thieves by cutting off limbs and have stoned women accused of adultery. Beheadings have been relatively rare, but their numbers have been increasing. Last month, al-Shabab beheaded three people in the same region.
On Friday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said carrying out such punishments without due process violated Somali and international laws and could be considered as war crimes.
Al-Shabab and an allied opposition group called Hisbul Islam already control large areas of southern Somalia and parts of the capital Mogadishu. In a bid to topple the U.N.-backed government, the insurgents launched an attack on government forces in early May. Two months of fighting in Mogadishu has killed hundreds of people and uprooted more than 200,000 others from their homes.
The Somali government says it needs international help to ensure the government does not collapse. Earlier this week, Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told local reporters that al-Shabab is a transnational jihadist group, determined to wipe Somalia off the map.
Mr. Sharmarke says al-Shabab is not fighting to establish a government for the Somali people, but is trying to replace the Somali flag with the flag of extremism.
The al-Shabab-led insurgency has attracted hundreds of foreign fighters to Somalia in recent months. Many of them have been seen fighting alongside al-Shabab in Mogadishu streets. Al-Shabab's ranks are also believed to be growing from new recruits trained at various camps set up by al-Shabab in southern Somalia.
Western intelligence officials believe al-Shabab is now a proxy army for the al-Qaida terrorist organization and pose a serious threat to the security of the region and to the Western world.
The United States recently acknowledged sending weapons to Somalia and has pledged more military assistance to the Somali government, but Washington says it will not send troops.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

UN Mulls Eritrea Sanctions Over Somalia Interference

UN Mulls Eritrea Sanctions Over Somalia Interference
NEW YORK (AFP)--The U.N. Security Council said Thursday it would consider taking appropriate measures against countries, including Eritrea, that provide aid to armed militant groups in Somalia.
The council "condemns the recent attacks on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the civilian population by armed groups and foreign fighters who undermine peace and stability in Somalia," it said in a declaration read by the body's president for July, Ugandan Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda.
Somalia's fragile transitional government controls virtually no territory and has been unable to govern the country due to ongoing fighting with hard-line militias.
The Security Council noted the African Union's call for action against countries, including nearby Eritrea, that have provided support for the militants.
The U.N. body said it remained committed to the Djibouti peace process concluded in 2008 between the transitional government and a major Islamist opposition faction, which has failed to strengthen the TFG or produce peace.
"The Security Council is deeply concerned in this regard and will consider expeditiously what action to take against any party undermining the Djibouti Peace Process," the declaration said.
The African Union, meeting in Libya last Friday, appealed to the Security Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea - a call echoed Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African regional group.
Militia groups Shebab and Hezb al-Islam, a more political organization, launched an unprecedented nationwide offensive in May against the administration of Somalian President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who enjoys international backing.
But Sharif's forces have been unable to reassert their authority over the capital Mogadishu.

Bloc calls for sanctions against Eritrea

Bloc calls for sanctions against Eritrea
Addis Ababa - Six-nation east African body IGAD on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea which is accused of arming Islamist insurgents in Somalia, an Ethiopian government statement said.
Ethiopia, which currently holds the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) presidency, called a meeting on Tuesday in Addis Ababa to discuss the situation in Somalia where the insurgents are waging a deadly offensive.
"IGAD calls on the UN Security Council to take urgent measures in order to achieve lasting peace and stability in Somalia," said the statement released on Wednesday by the Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The African Union last week at a summit in Sirte, Libya, called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea.
The final declarations of the AU summit voiced the bloc's "full support" to Somalia's internationally backed government, which is battling the insurgency led by the hardline Islamist group Shebab.
The 53-member grouping called on the UN Security Council "to take immediate measures, including the imposition of a no-fly zone and sea blockade, in order to prevent foreign elements from entering Somalia."
Published on the Web by IOL on 2009-07-09

Ethiopia to build fourth dam on River Omo

Ethiopia to build fourth dam on River Omo
Related Stories
Ethiopia snubs Kenya on dam
Ethiopia will build the fourth hydro dam along the Omo River despite the concerns from environmentalists, the Nation has established.
The Gibe 4 dam will be built along the river, which tributes significant water volumes to Kenya’s Lake Turkana.
A memorandum of understanding was signed this week between Ethiopian Government and Chinese company Sino-Hydro Corporation Limited, to construct the dam within five years.
The State-owned power utility Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation (EEPCO) çhief, Mr Mihret Debebe, told reporters the planned project would cost 1.4 billion Euros and will generate 1,400 megawatt hydro electric power. Ethiopia hopes to get loans from China for the project.
According to Mr Mihret Ethiopia, has allocated $12 billion for hydro power development within the next 10 years.
A document obtained from EEPCO indicated Ethiopia was also preparing for the construction of a fifth hydro dam; Gibe V dam.
Ethiopia signed the agreement following a Kenyan delegation’s five-day visit to the country last month, to probe the environmental impact of Ethiopian Gibe III dam on Lake Turkana.
The Kenyans reportedly concluded that there was no immediate danger to the lake if Ethiopia abided by the environment impact assessment rules.

SOMALIA: Young men running from militia conscription

SOMALIA: Young men running from militia conscription
NAIROBI, 9 July 2009 (IRIN) - More and more of the thousands fleeing fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are young men trying to avoid being conscripted into the various militias, locals told IRIN.
Many have been pouring into Dobley, near the Kenyan border, some 630km south of Mogadishu.
(Photo: family flees violence in Mogadishu: Thousands of those fleeing the capital are young men trying to avoid being conscripted into the various militias - file photo)
Faisal Mohamed, a resident of Dobley, said between 8,000 and 15,000 displaced people had arrived in the town since early May.
"Every day a fresh group of IDPs [internally displaced people] arrives," he said. "Most of them move toward the Kenyan border hoping to cross. Not a day passes without new arrivals.
“In the past we used to get mostly women and children, but now the new arrivals are mostly young men,” he said.
Abdulkadir Ali, 19, said he had arrived in the town on 6 July, a week after escaping Mogadishu. Originally from the Shangani area, north Mogadishu, Ali told IRIN many Mogadishu youth were fleeing because they were afraid of being conscripted into the militias.
“They either use force to [make you] join them or accuse you of belonging to the other side,” he said. “I don’t want to join any army.”
He said of the 11 members of his family, only he and his sister survived when their house was shelled. “I have no idea how we survived but we did.”
He said IDPs fleeing the recent upsurge of violence in Mogadishu wanted to go to “any place safe. There is no future there. At least in the [Kenyan refugee] camps there is education."

Escalation in fighting
Since early May, fighting between forces loyal to the Somali government and those of two Islamist armed opposition groups, including the militant al-Shabab group, has escalated, displacing more than 200,000 people. Some 542 have been killed and 2,137 injured since 7 May, according to a local human rights group.
Mohamed Omar, 22, who arrived at the same time as Ali, said the biggest fear for many young men in Mogadishu was “being forced to join the fighting groups. We suffer like everyone else but we have the added problem of being recruited or accused of being an enemy," Omar said. "Every young man in Mogadishu is in danger.”
Ali and Omar said they wanted to cross to Kenya but did not have enough money. “You have to have money to give to those who will help you cross,” said Ali.
The Kenyan government closed the border in early 2007 but the number of Somalis arriving in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya continues to rise, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
In a briefing note issued on 8 July, the agency said "since May, more than 11,000 Somali refugees have been registered at the refugee camp, bringing to 36,000 the number of Somali refugees who have arrived in the camp since the beginning of the year”.
An aid worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN the displaced in Dobley were for the most part left to fend for themselves. “There is not much help here for them and the local community cannot support them.”
The displaced live in abysmal conditions, with “very little food, no shelter and no health facility", he said, adding that Dobley, a town of about 15,000 inhabitants, had one medical facility, which "cannot even take care of the locals”.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

Somalia 'Uncontrollable' Because of Al Qaeda Influx, PM Says

Somalia 'Uncontrollable' Because of Al Qaeda Influx, PM Says
Omar Shamarke Desperate for International Help to Fight Extremist Groups
July 9, 2009 , ABC News
In an interview with ABC News, Prime Minister Shamarke says the ongoing violence in the war-torn country has taken a decidedly international turn. A large in flow of Al Qaeda-backed foreign fighters coming into Somalia has made the country "uncontrollable," says the Prime Minister. He says his moderate Islamist government, which has been in power for less than six months, needs international help to make it a fair fight.
"We don't have an edge in terms of capability and that's why we have requested this international emergency help to salvage the country," says Shamarke. "We cannot prevail on these extremist groups when they have Ak-47s, and other weapons and we only have Ak-47s."

In a memo obtained by ABC News dated in May, U.S. officials requested an exemption to the arms embargo Somalia has been subject to for the last 17 years. The memo requests permission to ship 19 tons of ammunition including small arms, RPGs and mortars directly to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government forces. It states, "In light of the on-going fighting in Mogadishu, this emergency support is needed to ensure the continued war fighting capacity of the NSF [National Security Force] and the survival of the TFG."
The Somali government claims there are thousands of foreign fighters in the country coming primarily from Pakistan and Yemen to fund and fight along side al Shabaab, the country's primary insurgent group. African Union officials working with the mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, have also said they think the number of foreign fighters within Somalia could be in thousands, but U.S. officials believe the number to be smaller.
Despite differences in opinion of the exact number of extremists present, the Somali government and the United States are in agreement over their concern that this government may fall to al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups, who now control the majority of the country.

U.S. State Department
"We do not want to see Somalia become a safe haven for foreign terrorists," a Senior State Department official told reporters. "And we believe that one of the best ways to prevent that is to help the TFG establish itself as a strong, legitimate government."
But Somalia has not had a functioning government in nearly 20 years. The country has no system of justice, no infrastructure and no established rule of law. The government forces have had little to no training and there are reports that in the past troops have sold weapons and supplies to insurgent groups.

Prime Minister Shamarke does not dispute those reports, but says al-Shabaab is exploiting them for it's own agenda. "They know when people here that most of our weapons have fallen into the hands of these people, people will say don't give weapons to the government. And that's actually the objective, to create some sort of suspicion or distrust with the people who want to assist us," he says.
The fighting between government forces and insurgent groups has intensified since May, with the insurgent groups launching an offensive and the government countering, causing a humanitarian disaster. More than 200,000 Somalis have fled Mogadishu in just two months according to the UN's refugee agency.
Reports of young men roaming the streets with clubs, machetes and guns as well as mortar fire targeting civilian areas deemed friendly to the government have forced families to flee, sometimes relocating more than once.
"These are areas that in the last 19 years people never flee. 125,000 in a matter of 2,3,4,5 days," said Shamarke. "That's unheard of, even in the worst times of Somalia."
Those that stay must live by al-Shabaab's rules, a strict interpretation of sharia Islamic law. Last month four young men reportedly had their hands and feet cut off as punishment for stealing cell phones.
The group has pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda numerous times. An Osama bin Laden audio tape released last spring entitled "Fight on, champions of Somalia" called for al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups to overthrow the current government.
The Prime Minister says he believes that would be disastrous, not just for Somalia, but for the entire world. "It would turn the country into a safe haven where people could actually organize attacks in the EU, in the United Stations, in Asian Countries in African countries," he said. "I think the consequences are unimaginable."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fear and beheadings in the heartland of the militants

Meeting Somalia’s Shabab
The next jihad
From The Economist print edition
Fear and beheadings in the heartland of the militants
THE Juba river region, in Somalia, is hard country. Women are regularly eaten by crocodiles while fetching dirty water. The sandy farmland is either in drought or flooded. And the militants known as the Shabab, who rule the area, exact brutal justice. Your correspondent had to turn back from the town of Wajid (see map) this week because, within, a man was being beheaded. A day later, a clan leader was shot dead. As The Economist went to press, three more were to be beheaded in Wajid, and two more had suffered the same fate in a nearby village.
All were suspected of being “collaborators” with the internationally recognised, but largely powerless, transition government in Mogadishu that is protected by a small African peacekeeping force. It is led by Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, who once headed the Islamic Courts Union. This had imposed a tenuous calm in the city, but was swept from power by Ethiopian forces in 2006 because its erstwhile allies in the Shabab, or “Youth”, had ties with al-Qaeda. If anything, the intervention strengthened the Shabab and hardened their link with global jihadism—not least because of an influx of foreign fighters who see Somalia as the next battleground for holy war.
The Shabab now control most of south and central Somalia, and much of Mogadishu. Western security sources worry they could stage attacks outside the country, of the kind that destroyed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
The Shabab, for their part, have nothing but contempt for President Ahmed. “Even you [an infidel] are closer to us than he is," one stern-looking Shabab commander tells your correspondent. “He is far, far from us, because he has sold out his religion.” Dressed in jeans and sandals, and sporting a wispy beard, the commander asks not to be identified; even speaking to an unbeliever can invite retribution. Western security sources say many foreign militants are in the Juba valley. And the commander is happy to have them. “Colour makes no difference,” he says, “All Muslims are the same. They are welcome.”
There is a streak of pragmatism among the Shabab that is distinct from al-Qaeda. The Shabab guarantee the safety of the food convoys of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP). That said, there is an air of fear in Shabab-ruled areas such as Buale. Checkpoints are everywhere. Elders seem to be losing authority; they stick to resolving disputes over land and marriage. Residents are for the most part reluctant to talk. One tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who returned home to the Juba river after fighting with a ferocious Shabab unit in Mogadishu. When his mother pleaded with him not to return to the fighting, he threatened to kill her on the spot.
Not all those who bear arms in the name of Islam support the Shabab. Several hundred kilometres north-east of Buale, in the town of Dusamareb, Sheikh Omar Sharif Muhammad, a Sufi religious leader, has mobilised fighters to “liberate” Mogadishu from the Shabab. On July 1st, Somalia’s Independence Day, a local crowd gathered to sing patriotic songs and raise the national flag, a white star on an azure background—a rare sight for a country without a working government since 1991. Some of the men from his movement, Ahlu Sunna Waljama, had shiny new Kalashnikovs; Sheikh Omar said they were not gifts from Ethiopia or America, both of which want to counter the backing given to the Shabab by Eritrea and private Arab donors.
Sheikh Omar’s men do not have the strength to march on Mogadishu any time soon, but in several recent battles they have halted the northward advance of the Shabab. They claim to have killed all manner of foreign fighters, and to have recently intercepted two Canadians of Somali extraction sent out as suicide-bombers.
Security in the Galgadud, the desert region controlled by the militia, has improved. But the humanitarian situation is dire. WFP says 90% of the 400,000 people in the area need food aid to survive. The failure of the Gu rains, which fall between April and June, promises greater misery. Matters are made worse by the arrival of 60,000 people fleeing Mogadishu.
Some of the refugees are gathered in a compound near Sheikh Omar’s base, among them Muhammad Hassey, who says he has moved house ten times over the years to escape fighting. He finally left Mogadishu when his two brothers and two sisters were killed by a mortar shell. Kadijo Hassan, an elderly lady, interrupts. “Mogadishu is unbelievable,” she says. “It is war. Everyone is crying there.”

Somalia appoints UK accountancy firm

Somalia appoints UK accountancy firm
Somalia's fragile government has hired the world's biggest accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to help ensure international aid is spent correctly.
The embattled administration has been asked by donors to demonstrate that funds will be spent properly, and not embezzled by corrupt officials.
PwC has undertaken similar work checking how donor funds are used across Africa.
More than 200,000 people have fled clashes in Mogadishu since May.
PwC staff will find a Somali capital rocked by fierce battles between radical Islamist insurgents and pro-government forces.
"PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed to hold and manage the pledged and allocated funds for institutional capacity building and development [in Somalia]," the firm said in a statement.
“ This is a big step in reconstructing Somalia and will enhance transparency ” Somali government spokesman
It declined to go into detail about the work, citing client confidentiality and security issues.
But it is thought a team of at least 20 staff, based in Nairobi, capital of neighbouring Kenya, will operate in and out of Somalia, helped by local agents on the ground.
They will administer via a central bank account some of the $213m (£132m) pledged by donors in Brussels in April towards boosting security in the failed Horn of Africa state.
PwC will check Somali ministries' spending plans tally with donor expectations, before releasing the cash and ensuring it is spent transparently.
It is understood the firm will receive a commission of between 2-4% on all funds that reach their intended destination.
A spokesman for the Somali transitional federal government said in a statement: "This is a big step in reconstructing Somalia. In addition, this will enhance transparency and accountability."
Somalia has not had a stable central government since Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Turkish Ship Falls into Pirate Hands Off Somalia

UPDATE: Turkish Ship Falls Into Pirate Hands Off Somalia - TV
ANKARA (AFP)--Pirates on Wednesday seized a Turkish cargo ship with 23 people on board off the coast of Somalia, the Turkish all-news television station NTV reported.
The ship was seized at around 0530 GMT, it said, while the Anatolia news agency said the vessel - identified as the Horizon 1 - was sailing from Saudi Arabia to Jordan.
Pirate attacks on shipping off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean have escalated since last year, with several Turkish vessels among those being targeted for ransom.
A Turkish frigate has been in the area since last year as part of an international naval force to crack down on pirates and Somali arms traffickers. (END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Somlai Pirates: ''If we do not get money we beat the crew badly''

''If we do not get money we beat the crew badly''
Richard Meade - Tuesday 7 July 2009
A DEFIANT warning from a senior Somali pirate that violence could be used against hijacked crews has raised serious concerns that ransom negotiation tactics are being intensified as pirates push for more money.
In an exclusive interview with Lloyd’s List, a senior Somali pirate giving the name Garaad Mohammed boasted that his pirate gangs could not be stopped by naval forces and warned that crew would be “punished” if shipowners did not pay full ransoms on demand.
Security sources who have seen a full transcript of the interview agree that the threat is “credible” and have suggested that the timing of the approach to the press should be seen as an escalation of the negotiating tactics now being employed by the pirates.
Last week Lloyd’s List received information suggesting that up to five vessels and their crews being held hostage in Somalia were due to be released “imminently”.
However, a number of those ransom negotiations are understood to have stalled after pirates tried to push up the asking price and internal disputes between rival pirate gangs brought one negotiation to a stalemate.
The interview with Mr Mohammed, which was set up via sources close to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, came shortly after one of the negotiations entered what one security source described as “a difficult situation”.
“It is interesting timing and I would suggest that because of the stage of the negotiations under way the pirates are trying to gain some extra leverage by speaking [to the press],” said Nato anti-piracy operation spokesman Chris Davies.
While Mr Mohammed’s precise identity could not be verified, several security sources confirmed that the information given and the level of detail displayed by Mr Mohammed indicate he is the genuine article.
“I don’t call myself a pirate. I call myself a Somali coastguard,” he told Lloyd’s List, speaking via mobile phone from his base near Harardera in the Mudug province of Somalia.
Despite his protestations about not being a pirate, Mr Mohammed was very keen boast about his prolific career to date as a successful hijacker of ships.
“I can’t count how many,” he said referring to specific attacks he had been involved in.
He claimed direct involvement with the high profile hijackings of the Ukrainian ro-ro Faina captured last year and the very large crude carrier Sirius Star as well as the LPG tanker Longchamp, Malta-flagged bulker Ariana and the German boxship Hansa Stavanger.
In the case of the Hansa Stavanger, negotiations over an estimated $3m ransom are understood to have stalled over recent days, but Mr Mohammed remained confident that he would personally get paid up to $300,000 once the problems had been ironed out.
The specific problems were not mentioned but security sources suggest that pirates are finding it increasingly tricky to secure ever-higher ransom amounts.
Mr Mohammed was clear that these frustrations would result in direct action on the part of the pirates.
“If we get our demands we treat [the ship’s crew] well. But if the shipowner does not get us the money soon we punish, we punish and we beat them badly,” he said.
“For 20 years we don’t have a central government, for 20 years the world betrayed us. America, Africa, Arab league. We are going to punish them as they punished us. And we are going to make business”.
In response to the claims made by Mr Mohammed, International Maritime Organization head of maritime security Chris Trelawny told Lloyd’s List: “It would not be appropriate for the IMO secretariat to comment on hearsay opinions of alleged, or even self-confessed, criminals.
“What is important is that the steps currently being taken by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, working with regional authorities and clan elders to marginalise the pirates and to dissuade young men from resorting to crime.”

Somalia Seeks Urgent Support as it Faces Rebel Ultimatum

Somalia Seeks Urgent Support as it Faces Rebel Ultimatum
By Peter Heinlein Addis Ababa
07 July 2009
Intense diplomatic activity is underway in East African capitals aimed at saving Somalia's embattled government from a determined onslaught by well-financed radical Islamist rebels. Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is touring the region before an urgent high-level meeting scheduled later this week.
President Sharif was in Ethiopia's capital as part of a whirlwind tour of the member states of IGAD, the East African regional economic grouping.
He flew on to Uganda's capital, Kampala. His is also visiting IGAD member states Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti before a regional foreign ministers' meeting Friday in Addis Ababa.
Last week, the African Union summit in Libya gave its full support to upgrading the overstretched AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia known as AMISOM.
Efforts are on to rapidly increase the size of the 4,500 member AMISOM force to its full strength of 8,000.
There is also a move to strengthen AMISOM's rules of engagement to meet the challenge posed by the recent influx of as many as 2,000 foreign fighters. The foreigners have come in response to a call from al-Shabab, the rebel group fighting to replace President Sharif's Western-leaning government with a hardline Islamic state.
Sunday, al-Shabab issued an ultimatum to government forces to surrender their arms within five days.
After meeting Ethiopian leaders, President Sharif said he is encouraged by the response and by the relative calm in the capital, Mogadishu, following nearly two months of heavy fighting. He spoke through an interpreter.
"The situation is calm in Somalia that last couple days. One of the things we discussed was completing the AMISOM forces to their full strength. The people of Somalia are supportive of their government as it leads them toward peace and stability," he said.
As the Somali president was speaking at an Addis Ababa hotel, the AU ambassadors from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council were meeting in a nearby room.
Diplomatic sources say the Security Council ambassadors discussed a request from African leaders at last week's summit to impose a no-fly zone and a blockade of Somali ports to prevent the entry of foreign fighters and the shipments of weapons that are fueling the conflict. The summit also urged the Security Council to sanction Eritrea, the Horn of Africa country accused of providing support to the Somali rebellion.
The United States last month urgently sent a $10-million arms and military training package to President Sharif's government. The African Union Peace and Security Council is slated to meet this month to consider boosting AMISOM's mandate to allow peacekeepers to more robustly engage the rebels.
President Sharif says he is encouraged by the votes of confidence from the AU summit and the neighboring IGAD countries.
"The support we are looking for is political support, and support that is meaningful that can make a difference in the lives of the Somali people," he said.
After meeting President Sharif, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said discussions are moving forward on all fronts.
"We have also discussed the need of supporting the government, building institutions of governance, and urging the international community to honor the pledges made in Brussels supporting the government financially and we have also discussed how we urge the United Nations Security Council to heed Africa's decisions, call on the Security Council of the United Nations to impose sanctions on the spoilers," Mesfin said.
Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia in 2006 to oust Islamists in Mogadishu, but the presence of foreign troops proved to be a rallying point for the rebels, and the Ethiopians pulled out earlier this year.
Despite the recent violence, Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said he has no intention of sending the troops back.

Harvest concerns in parts of Somaliland

Harvest concerns in parts of Somaliland
HARGEISA, 7 July 2009 (IRIN) - Authorities in Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland are worried about a bad harvest and potential livelihood crisis for poor agro-pastoralists.
Abdikader Jibril Tukale, director-general of Somaliland’s Ministry of Agriculture, told IRIN: "We are very worried about low crop production, which can cause livelihood crises for poor agro-pastoralists in the main farmlands of Hargeisa, Togdher, Gabiley, Awdal, Salal and Sahil, caused by the failure of Gu' [spring] rains and the desert locust outbreak."
Tukale said at least 100T of seeds were distributed to agro-pastoralists in the western and mid-western regions of Somaliland, particularly Awdal, Salal, Gabiley, and Hargeisa.
"We provided seeds to at least 5,000 households in these regions, giving 20kg per household, selecting the poorest people to support them to [restore] their livelihoods," he added.
However, most farmers failed to cultivate their land due to insufficient rainfall.
Omar Aw Aden Riirash, a farmer in Satile region, said: "I cultivated my 10ha farms in Satile and Idhanka Jufada twice this year but seeds germinated in only two qodis [44 sqm] in Satile; all others were lost seeds and I need to plant afresh during the next rainy season.
"I am now an old man; when I was young, I witnessed my father cultivating the same quantity of land and producing about 100 sacks of crops per harvest, but in recent years, the situation has changed, our highest crop production is only 30 sacks during the good years; we just harvest enough for our subsistence during other years."
He said the causes of the lower output included poor rainfall, soil degradation and farmers' financial inability to cultivate more land.
Other farmers attribute the poor crop production to the quality of seeds.
"We seeded our farms using the imported sorghum and maize seeds; in the first two to three years, we harvested much more than before; unfortunately, later, the production decreased," Hassan Haji Mohamed, a farmer who lives near Abarso, 21km northwest of Hargeisa, said.
However, the ministry maintains it distributed good quality seeds.
"We do not distribute imported seeds; we buy locally and supply poor farmers," Tukale said. “We now expect to distribute new seeds and even help farmers to plough their farms during the next rainy season; this will be done with the support of international organizations that are working with us to help farmers.”
However, several farmers complained of seed shortages.
"In this area, this is the first time we are receiving these seeds, as far as I know; we have heard that some people who had received these seeds had better harvests than in previous years," Omar Aw Aden, a farmer in Satile, said.
Riirash said: "We planted the seeds more than two times but produced nothing, now we are encountering a lack of seeds.”

Britain: War criminals to face justice

Britain: War criminals to face justice
Whitehall Editor
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
DOZENS of war criminals who have found refuge in Britain will face justice under new laws announced today.
Jack Straw vowed to close legal loopholes which allow those suspected of atrocities to escape trial.
More than 400 have been referred to police or immigration chiefs for action.
But they cannot be deported because sending them home to face the death penalty would breach their human rights.
Now the Justice Secretary is to change the law so those suspected of genocide, war crime or crime against humanity abroad can be tried in this country.
Under existing law, Britain only has power to prosecute for offences committed after 2001.
This will now be extended to January 1, 1991 – covering horrific events in Rwanda and Bosnia.
The law change will pave the way for brutal killers to finally be brought to court.
It will mean Britain is no longer a safe haven for those who commit heinous crimes anywhere in the world.
Four Rwandans wanted for their part in the 1994 massacre could be among the first to face trial.
They were freed by the Court of Appeal after winning a legal battle against extradition.
Emmanual Nteziryayo, now living in Manchester, is accused of taking part in the murder of 87,000 people in the tiny African state.
Dr Vincent Bajinya – now known as Vincent Brown and living in North London – is also accused of genocide.
Others living in Britain include a Somali warlord, officers in Charles Taylor's army in Liberia, a member of the Serb militia and an Angolan hostage-taker.
Immigration files also list child soldiers from Sierra Leone and a member of the country's "Mosquito" rebel group.
Mr Straw said yesterday: "The government is committed to the fight against these heinous crimes.
"We must send a clear message that the UK is no safe haven for those who commit them."
The new laws will apply to all British nationals and residents for crimes such as torture since 1991.
But they will NOT cover asylum seekers or foreigners staying in Britain on student visas.
Mr Straw added: "Our strong preference is for those alleged to have committed such terrible crimes to be brought to justice in the country where the crimes took place, which allows the community that has suffered to see the perpetrators brought to justice.
"But when this is not possible, we are committed to ensuring those guilty of these crimes are punished appropriately and to the full extent of the law in this country."
Last night the move was welcomed by justice campaigners.
Nick Donovan, head of research for war criminal-hunters Aegis Trust, said: "This is a bold move.
"It is as significant as the War Crimes Act which allowed Nazi war criminals to be brought to book.
"However, we wish it had gone further and covered asylum-seekers or those on student or business visas."
Source: The Sun, July 07, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Edna Hospital : Ayaan Needs Facial Reconstruction

under Edna Adan
Here is the transcript of the forthcoming video where Edna Adan appeals to the world to get help for a young woman whose face was destroyed when she was shot - shot in the face when she was only two years old!

I would like to speak to you about the case of Ayaan Osman, a child who was shot in the face when she was two years old during the Somali Civil War that Somaliland had with Somalia in 1988.
At the time of her injury, Ayaan was taken to a refugee camp where fortunately she was given the medical care that saved her life. Today, Ayaan is a young woman who has taught herself to read and write, not only in Somali but also in English. Unfortunately, Ayaan has a gap in her face. Ayaan has a hole on the side of her face, with a tooth sticking out here and a hole from where food and liquid, as she drinks, pours out from. Ayaan is from Burao and has come to our hospital in Hargeisa to seek help.
I was very touched by her case. We get many patients whom we can save. And we also have some patients that we cannot, and we move on. but the case of Ayaan has left a lot of pain in me because I often wonder where I would be if had been the one who had sustained those injuries that Ayaan did when she was two years old. I feel very touched when I see her eat and drink and have to deal with the liquid that is pouring out. I don’t know how she does it.
She has lived for 20 years with that condition. And because God has given me a voice and has given me the ability to reach out to the world, that is why I am appealing to the world out there for the medical assistance and the facial reconstruction that Ayaan needs in order to lead a normal life like everybody else does.
I appeal for plastic surgery. I appeal for facial reconstruction for Ayaan and I thank you all for your attention.
- Edna Adan Ismail
For more information - including how you can make a donation - please see the web site we have created for Ayaan at http://www.helpayaan.org/
Please be advised, the photos will be difficult for you to look at.

Everyone is crying in Somalia


Everyone is crying in Somalia

All were suspected of being "collaborators" with the internationally recognized, but largely powerless, transition government in Mogadishu that is protected by a small African peacekeeping force. It is led by Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, who once headed the Islamic Courts Union. This had imposed a tenuous calm in the city, but was swept from power by Ethiopian forces in 2006 because its erstwhile allies in the Shabab, or "Youth," had ties with al-Qaida. If anything, the intervention strengthened the Shabab and hardened their link with global jihadism -- not least because of an influx of foreign fighters who see Somalia as the next battleground for holy war.

The Shabab now control most of south and central Somalia, and much of Mogadishu. Western security sources worry they could stage attacks outside the country, of the kind that destroyed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

The Shabab, for their part, have nothing but contempt for President Ahmed. "Even you (an infidel) are closer to us than he is," one stern-looking Shabab commander tells an Economist correspondent. "He is far, far from us, because he has sold out his religion." Dressed in jeans and sandals and sporting a wispy beard, the commander asks not to be identified; even speaking to an unbeliever can invite retribution.

There is a streak of pragmatism among the Shabab that is distinct from al-Qaida. The Shabab guarantee the safety of the food convoys of the United Nations' World Food Program. That said, there is an air of fear in Shabab-ruled areas such as Buale. Checkpoints are everywhere. Elders seem to be losing authority; they stick to resolving disputes over land and marriage. Residents are for the most part reluctant to talk. One tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who returned home to the Juba river after fighting with a ferocious Shabab unit in Mogadishu. When his mother pleaded with him not to return to the fighting, he threatened to kill her on the spot.

Not all those who bear arms in the name of Islam support the Shabab. Several hundred kilometres northeast of Buale, in the town of Dusamareb, Sheikh Omar Sharif Muhammad, a Sufi religious leader, has mobilized fighters to "liberate" Mogadishu from the Shabab. On July 1, Somalia's Independence Day, a local crowd gathered to sing patriotic songs and raise the national flag, a white star on an azure background -- a rare sight for a country without a working government since 1991. Some of the men from his movement, Ahlu Sunna Waljama, had shiny new Kalashnikovs; Sheikh Omar said they were not gifts from Ethiopia or America, both of which want to counter the backing given to the Shabab by Eritrea and private Arab donors.

Sheikh Omar's men do not have the strength to march on Mogadishu any time soon, but in several recent battles they have halted the northward advance of the Shabab. They claim to have killed all manner of foreign fighters, and to have recently intercepted two Canadians of Somali extraction sent out as suicide bombers.

Security in the Galgadud, the desert region controlled by the militia, has improved. But the humanitarian situation is dire. The failure of the Gu rains, which fall between April and June, promises greater misery. Matters are made worse by the arrival of 60,000 people fleeing Mogadishu.

Some of the refugees are gathered in a compound near Sheikh Omar's base, among them Muhammad Hassey, who says he has moved 10 times over the years to escape fighting. He finally left Mogadishu when his two brothers and two sisters were killed by a mortar shell. Kadijo Hassan, an elderly lady, interrupts. "Mogadishu is unbelievable," she says.

"It is war. Everyone is crying there."

Israeli prison is filled with Ethiopians

Israeli prison is filled with Ethiopians - Cynthia McKinney
July 5th, 2009
Cynthia McKinney Letter from an Israeli Jail
This is Cynthia McKinney and I’m speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies - and even crayons for children; I had a suitcase full of crayons for children.
While we were on our way to Gaza the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around. The Israelis highjacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
At the outbreak of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead [in December 2008], I boarded a Free Gaza boat with one day’s notice and tried, as the US representative in a multi-national delegation, to deliver three tons of medical supplies to an already besieged and ravaged Gaza.
During Operation Cast Lead, US-supplied F-16s rained hellfire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full-scale, outright genocide. US-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons, and cluster bombs - new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel’s onslaught that Gaza had become Israel’s veritable weapons testing laboratory, people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.
The world saw Israel’s despicable violence thanks to Al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international water… It’s a miracle that I’m even here to write about my second encounter with the Israeli military, again a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military.
The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime… I am now known as Israeli prisoner number 88794. How can I be in prison for collecting crayons to kids?

Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else’s children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza’s children have crayons then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.
I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza’s children could color and paint, that Gaza’s wounded could be healed, and that Gaza’s bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.
But I’ve learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it’s incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream… like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better… The once proud, never-colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.
My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn’t cheap. Many of them represent their family’s best collective efforts for self-fulfilment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel, only after they arrived Israel told them, "There is no UN in Israel."
The police here have license to pick them up and suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world’s first Jews and Christians. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.
The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped in Ramle’s detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for six months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change, and "yes we can" were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfilment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.
It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel’s marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.
We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr Martin Luther King, Jr's letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to [write one]. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the US have a lot to atone for, for what they’ve done to others around the world.
What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people’s children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I’m experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I’m lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?
Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] What are you willing to do?
Let’s change the world together and reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity. I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes. I appeal to the United State’s Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel country report in its annual human rights report. I appeal once again to President Obama to go to Gaza: send your special envoy, George Mitchell there, and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.
I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine, and to the women I’ve met at Ramle.
This is Cynthia McKinney, July 2nd 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794.
(Cynthia McKinney is a former Democratic US congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice. The first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia, McKinney served six terms in the US House of Representatives, from 1993-2003, and from 2005-2007. McKinney's remarks are transcribed here from a telephone call received by WBAIX.org.)

Ethiopia - Meles Zenawi, will he, won’t he go?

Ethiopia - Meles Zenawi, will he, won’t he go?
Indian Ocean Newsletter
The Prime Minister is blowing hot and cold about his possible departure after the 2010 election. The EPRDF will have its work cut out to find a successor for him.
The conference of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, ruling coalition) scheduled for September 2009 should bring an end to the confusion resulting from Meles Zenawi’s affirmation that he may leave the post of Prime Minister (ION 1256). This confusion has reached a peak these last few weeks because Meles Zenawi has been issuing conflicting statements about his possible departure. One day he announced that he would resign his post of Prime Minister. Another day, he stated that he would like to become the President of the EPRDF. On yet a third day, he stated that he would leave politics altogether. Which of these Meles Zenawis should be believed? In fact, all these declarations are soundings to test the reaction within the EPRDF and try to bring a generally accepted candidate to emerge. Otherwise, the Prime Minister would be obliged to carry on for another mandate.

But each suggestion of a possible successor provokes the wrath of its rivals. So, Meles Zenawi and his Minister for Information, Bereket Simon, leaked the idea within the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF) that the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin could become the next Prime Minister. This immediately provoked protests, notably from the Minister for Public Works, Arkebe Oqubay Mitiku, who considers this candidate unsuitable for the post. The Prime Minister further complicated the debate when he considered that all veterans of the guerrilla struggle should leave the fore of the political scene and make way for a younger generation of EPRDF which has not known these combats. Much the same happened when he hinted that the future Prime Minister could be a non-Tigrayan, whereas the majority of the TPLF executive believes the opposite. On the TPLF side, the two most quoted names as potential Prime Ministers are those of Seyoum Mesfin and the Minister for Health, Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus. In the ranks of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO, governing), the name of Girma Biru is doing the rounds. Finally, many of the leaders of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM, pro-government formation currently going through an internal crisis), do not appreciate the fact that a suitable Amhara candidate has not yet been found to succeed Meles Zenawi in the post of Prime Minister.


SOMALIA: Women go where aid agencies fear to tread

SOMALIA: Women go where aid agencies fear to tread

NAIROBI, 6 July 2009 (IRIN) - Women's groups in embattled Mogadishu are stepping into the aid vacuum to assist thousands more displaced by fighting in the capital, civil society activists said.
"We have been helping in the past but now the situation is even worse so we have had to assume an even bigger role," said Asha Sha'ur, a civil society member and activist.

Due to insecurity, aid agencies have little access to internally displaced persons (IDPs), but Sha'ur said women's groups could move more freely.
“We have had problems but both sides to the conflict have been good at allowing us [women] to help the needy. When they see a bunch of women they don’t bother us," Sha’ur told IRIN.

Mogadishu has been a battleground for troops loyal to the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and two Islamist armed opposition groups, including the militant al-Shabab group, which controls much of the south and centre of the country.
The fighting has displaced almost 278,000 people since early May, according to a local human rights group.
Shaur said the situation in Mogadishu was worse than "at any time in the past. I know we have said so many times that the situation is bad, but I honestly cannot remember when the suffering was this bad."
Aid agencies should work more closely with women's groups, she said, "since we have better access".

Desperate IDPs
More and more desperate IDPs are arriving in camps located between Mogadishu and Afgoye (30km south), according to Jowahir Ilmi, head of Somali Women Concern, run by displaced women.
"The new ones are in worse shape than the old IDPs; they come with very little and for the most part have to share shelter with other families or stay in the open," Ilmi said.
She said the women's groups collected donations from the business community and Somalis in the diaspora. "Everybody is giving what they can afford," she said.
In the past few days, her group had distributed jerry cans and mosquito nets to 432 families using donations.

"I know it is a drop in the ocean, given the need that exists, but we have to start somewhere," Ilmi said.

Exodus continuing

Meanwhile, the exodus from the capital continued, according to the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO).

Ali Sheikh Yassin, the deputy chairman, told IRIN many more people were leaving the city.
"The fighting is still going on and there is no end in sight," he said.
A local journalist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that al-Shabab had warned government forces to lay down their weapons within five days or face the consequences.
A recording by their leader, Sheikh Mukhtar Abuu Subeyr, broadcast on local radio stations, warned that those who did not surrender would be brought before an Islamic court, according to the journalist.

"He is basically telling them to surrender to him," the journalist said.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Africa : Hometown glory

Summit takes AU back to its roots
By Christian Fraser BBC News, Sirte
Muammar Gaddafi's home town, Sirte, is not the most accessible venue for an African Union summit.
It is a hot and bumpy four hour drive from the Libyan capital Tripoli to a town reached by only two chartered flights each day.
Such is the shortage of hotel accommodation here that journalists and diplomats are sleeping on an ageing Greek-owned cruise liner moored in the harbour.
Space is equally short in the press room. There is no phone signal here and the journalists and dignitaries have almost come to blows as they grapple for internet lines, now in chronically short supply.
But Sirte does have a special place in the history of the African Union. The proclamation of the AU was signed here in 1999 and since then its compound has expanded over scores of acres.
Loosely modelled on European Union
Succeeded Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 2002
Headquartered in Ethiopia, with 53 member nations
Seeks to promote unity, peace among African nations
Encourages democracy, good governance, economic integration
There are leaders and representatives from some 50 African countries, as well as guests from the international community.
The Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is here. One notable exception is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who cancelled at the last minute.
The theme of the conference is agriculture and how it might lead the continent to greater economic stability.
Africa is certainly in need of some revolutionary ideas.
Far from the gleaming towers of Wall Street, the UN says it is the countries of sub-Saharan Africa that are now paying the highest price of the world's economic slowdown.
Growth rates have been slashed as export revenues, remittances, commodity prices and aid budgets have all tumbled.
The head of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release the money it had pledged at the last G20 summit in London.
At that time the IMF promised it would sell its gold assets to raise funds for Africa.
Unity plea
Col Gaddafi thinks the long-term solution is unity - a federal government to speak out for all countries on the economy, on defence and foreign policy.
The bold ambitions he has set out for a United States of Africa would be modelled on the European Union, with one economic bloc, one currency, perhaps even one voice on the UN Security Council.
The rationale is sound. African countries have this peculiar trait of trading more with the outside world than they do between themselves. The trade barriers between them are often the biggest obstacle to building competitive economies of scale.
But there are many here who believe the Libyan leader's ambitions are a pipe dream.
Few can see the big men of Africa who have ruled their countries for years ceding important powers and control to a distant federal government.
Would such a body really paper over the many cracks that exist - the wars, the poverty and disease?
They are all high-minded debates, far from the turmoil of Somalia, Sudan or DR Congo.
Oxfam estimates that some 1.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes so far this year as a result of increasing violence.
The heaviest fighting in months has engulfed the Somali capital of Mogadishu as radical al-Shabab rebels, reportedly supported by hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters from abroad, threaten to overthrow the moderate interim government.
Unconfirmed reports say an Afghan commander is their third in command.
No wonder the entire Horn of Africa is looking on nervously. There are 300,000 refugees on the border with Kenya - with more to follow.
The Ethiopians who withdrew their forces from Somalia in January say they will only return if the AU agrees a much stronger mandate for peacekeeping. Without it, the Somali government will undoubtedly collapse.
ICC criticism
On other issues there are the predicted grumblings about the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
African and Arab leaders condemned the arrest warrant issued for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, which they believe endangers that country's fragile peace process.
Since his indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity Mr Bashir has visited at least half a dozen African countries.
Col Gaddafi has called on African leaders to reject the ICC's "warped justice". He has expressed the view several times that the four African cases currently under investigation by the ICC are an imposition, if not a plot, by the West.
Col Gaddafi forgets to mention that five of the 18 judges are Africans.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, writing in the International Herald Tribune this week, rejected any criticism of political bias.
"There will be less need for the ICC to protect African victims only when African governments themselves improve their record of bringing to justice those responsible for mass atrocities," he wrote.
The group Human Rights Watch has been stalking the corridors on the first day of the summit reminding leaders that three years ago the AU called on Senegal to prosecute the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre. To date there has been no trial.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Meeting Somalia's al-Shabab

Meeting Somalia's al-Shabab
By Andrew Harding BBC News, Buale and Dusamareb
Southern Somalia is a dangerously unpredictable place.
We flew into the region, unsure what reception we could expect from the commanders of al-Shabab, the radical Islamist insurgent group, viewed by some as al-Qaeda's proxy in the Horn of Africa.
Our plan was to stay overnight in a town called Wajid - until we learned that al-Shabab had just publicly beheaded three men in the area and shot dead a community leader.
We changed our schedule fast.
We were travelling with the United Nation's World Food Programme, which, despite operating in one of the world's most dangerous environments, is managing to feed some 3.5 million Somalis.
"It is very, very difficult," said WFP's deputy country director Denise Brown.
'Pakistan militants'
Four of their staff have been killed since August last year.
“ We don't oppress people and it's peaceful here now ” Al-Shabab commander
But she acknowledged "a level of pragmatism" in al-Shabab and "a recognition that humanitarian help is needed. We don't negotiate [with them]. We discuss".
We flew into Buale region, on the banks of the wide, green Juba river.
A senior al-Shabab commander agreed to talk to us on condition of anonymity.
Bearded and apparently jovial, he confirmed an influx of foreign jihadists to the region - many thought to be from Pakistan - and welcomed their presence.
"We're all fighting for the same religion," he said. "We know we are hated by the international community, but al-Shabab has its own structure and strict rules.
"We apply Sharia law to everyone. We don't oppress people and [that's why] it's peaceful here now."
'Sold out'
He bitterly condemned the head of Somalia's transitional government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who is clinging to power in Mogadishu, protected by more than 4,300 African Union troops.
"He is far from Islam," he said. "He's sold out his own religion."
In Buale, no-one we spoke to was ready to criticise, or even discuss, al-Shabab, and its strict interpretation of Sharia law.
Local elders said there had been no amputations or stonings in the area, but politely told us it was best not to talk about politics.
Recent rains have eased some concerns about food shortages in Buale.
But further north, the United Nations is warning of yet another humanitarian emergency.
We flew to the central Somali region of Galgadud, and the drought-stricken town of Dusamareb, its population swelled by civilians fleeing the latest fighting in the capital, Mogadishu.
“ Al-Shabab are not even humans ” Sheikh Omar Sharif Muhammad Government-allied Ahlu Sunna
Sitting with his family beside their makeshift tent in the dry plains outside town, Abdi Nasir said he had escaped from Mogadishu with no possessions and was now scraping a living by collecting and selling firewood.
"I'm waiting for change," he said. "If there's a proper government in Mogadishu, then I'll go back, but right now I think things are just getting worse."
Dusamareb is the headquarters of a moderate Sufi Islamic movement, Ahlu Sunnah, which is bitterly opposed to al-Shabab.
Significantly, Ahlu Sunnah has just signed a formal agreement to co-operate militarily with the embattled government in Mogadishu.
'Somalia, wake up!'
Guarded by several dozen young fighters, Ahlu Sunnah's chairman Sheikh Omar Sharif Muhammad said he hoped the alliance could defeat al-Shabab.
But it badly needed international help, he added.
Sheikh Omar denied receiving any support from neighbouring Ethiopia, which recently temporarily sent a small number of troops back across the border.
"Al-Shabab are not even humans," said Sheikh Omar. "They're desecrating our culture, and destroying our sovereignty and our religion.
"They're very dangerous and must be driven out. They recruit young, innocent children to become suicide bombers. Islam does not allow that."
Although Ahlu Sunnah's "thousands" of fighters have had some success in blocking al-Shabab advances, the most likely scenario in the short term is probably a military stalemate.
Outside Sheikh Omar's headquarters, a small crowd gathered to mark Somalia's independence day.
Children, women and heavily-armed fighters all stood together under a dazzling blue sky.
"Somalia, wake up! Lean against each other," they sang - some wistfully, others with cheerful determination.
Story from BBC NEWS: