Pontus Marine LTD- Leader of fishing industry in Somaliland

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Canada seeks clemency for Canadian facing death penalty in Ethiopia

Canada seeks clemency for Canadian facing death penalty in Ethiopia
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada will seek clemency if a Canadian businessman is sentenced to death Monday in Ethiopia after being found guilty last week on terror-related charges.
(Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada will seek clemency if Bashir Makhtal is sentenced to death Monday in Ethiopia, after being found guilty last week on terror-related charges.
Photograph by: Photo provided, The Ottawa Citizen)
Bashir Makhtal, 40, of Toronto, was found guilty of being a being a senior member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a group Ethiopia regards as a terrorist organization. Canada does not consider it a terror group.
He was also found guilty of inciting rebellion and supporting Somalia’s Islamist movement, which came into conflict with Ethiopia after it invaded the neighbouring country in 2006.
“The Government of Canada has sought assurances from the Government of Ethiopia that the death penalty will not be applied in this case,” Cannon said in a release. “We will seek clemency for Mr. Makhtal if the death penalty is imposed.”
Makhtal was arrested in Kenya in December 2006 and a month later was illegally flown to Ethiopia. Once in Ethiopia, he was kept incommunicado and in solitary confinement for almost two years. He was not allowed to see a Canadian embassy official for 16 months.
“Consular officials have visited Mr. Makhtal as recently as July 28; his case remains a priority for the Government of Canada,” the release from Cannon also said.
Makhtal, a former Toronto computer programmer, was operating a trading business in the Horn of Africa at the time of his arrest. He has denied all allegations against him. Makhtal is to be sentenced Monday by Ethiopia’s high court.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Protecting our own
The Ottawa Citizen
August 1, 2009
In the next few days, Bashir Makhtal will be sentenced on terrorist charges in Ethiopia -- perhaps to death. This is the moment for the Conservative government to show it can do more than shrug when Canadians are abused in other countries.
Already, the Makhtal case has an unusually high level of support in the government -- although it came late. Transport Minister John Baird has taken a sincere and public interest in the case, and has pressured Ethiopia on Makhtal's behalf. So have other members of cabinet and opposition MPs. But it is now clear that Ethiopia intends to make an example of this Canadian -- a Canadian who's probably innocent. It's time for the prime minister to get involved.
Bashir Makhtal was born in Ogaden, a contested region of Ethiopia. As a child, he fled to Somalia and lived in Mogadishu with an uncle. He immigrated to Canada in 1991 and became a citizen in 1994. He had a good job with CIBC. But in 2001, he went back to East Africa to start a business trading clothing. He was supporting several siblings, nieces and nephews in Ogaden, and needed to make more money. He married a Kenyan woman living in Nairobi in 2006.
While he was on a sales trip to Mogadishu that year, Ethiopia invaded Somalia. Like many others, Makhtal fled to Kenya. But instead of offering him a refuge from war, Kenyan officials took his Canadian passport and threw him in jail. The corruption of Kenyan officials is notorious, and it may be that this began as a simple shakedown attempt of a wealthy merchant. But before long, it seems, Ethiopia learned that someone with the surname Makhtal was in Kenyan custody. Bashir Makhtal's grandfather was a key figure in the Ogaden resistance in the 1950s.
With other detainees, Makhtal was flown -- illegally -- to Ethiopia. He was put into solitary confinement for two years. He was blindfolded and brought before a military tribunal conducted in a language he doesn't understand, and without a lawyer. Eventually he was charged and tried in civilian court.
Ethiopia accuses Makhtal of being a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which it calls a terrorist organization. (Canada does not.) Makhtal insists he has nothing to do with the ONLF, and indeed, there doesn't seem to be any evidence against him. Even if there were, the Ethiopian trial can hardly be called justice. His conviction on July 27 -- on charges of supporting terrorism -- did not come as a surprise. He could face the death penalty.
Baird wrote recently in the Citizen: "When a Canadian citizen does not believe his passport will protect his basic human rights abroad, we should all be very concerned." Funny, the government hasn't seemed very concerned about the rights of Omar Khadr or Abousfian Abdelrazik. At least with Bashir Makhtal, the government adopted the right attitude. Baird says he's never seen such a concerted effort on the part of consular officials and politicians. That effort must not slacken now.
The immediate goal must be to persuade Ethiopia to free Makhtal. But Canada should also spend some time letting Kenya know, in no uncertain terms, that it can't just seize our citizens and hand them over to thugs in third countries.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Somaliland: NEC Press Release

Republic Of Somaliland
National Electoral
Press Statement
Date: 30/07/09
The heavily funded Voters Registration of Somaliland and Interpeace malpractice in implementation:
The current NEC was sworn for the office on September 2007 and inherited a pre-planned Voters registration project and its proposal at a time the Voters registration act 37/2007 was in place. The Donors consisting Sweden, Norway Denmark, USA and the EU has invested generously and Somaliland people will indebted for this holistic support for this project which will the foundation for Somaliland civil registry and voters’ registration. Similarly Somaliland people with enthusiasm accommodated added to the brilliant work done by the young generation Somali Landers involved the voter’s registration.
After suffering a number of delays for the presidential elections due the voters registration program that has been going for almost a year. Interpeace has in an organized aid mafia involved the contracts to vague Companies funded heavy handed by the Donors. Interpeace and the junta Steering committee personalities chairing has openly hijacked the project. The nascent Somaliland Democratization and the stability of Somaliland have been hampered intentionally and the country nearly to loose its community owned stability and democratization in destabilization. Interpeace without the consent of the National Electoral Commission has directly distributed DVD’s with a crude voters list with all duplication and Commission decreed not be used for the oncoming Presidential election in order to make a confusion and political turmoil of the country.
The intended effort of Somaliland electoral commission (NEC) is was meant to lay down a solid foundation for free and fair elections for Somaliland based upon constitutional principles and the values of our society and the acceptable norms of the international standards. The process is concurrent civil and voter registration to at once receive citizen and voters cards for the first in Somaliland. Therefore, the process of the voter’s registration should be free and fair so that all qualified voters are able to register and the process must ensure that each voter is registered only once and that all voters registered are qualified.
The biometric model intended was to curb double registration that might have happened be eliminated and necessary steps be engaged in automated finger print processes AFIS and final voter list be produced. All norms are followed to make the outcome accurate and to the best level internationally accepted. When due to voter’s registration staff proper training the implementation has encountered irregularities in lack of finger print capture and possible duplication that have been widely practiced. This blame of the irregularities goes back to engaging the Server the data collected from the first region to curb all double registrants and would have been discouraged for a similar act in the other regions. We have learned the software of the AFAIS was not ready and even after the completion of the whole Voters registration completion. At this point we have appealed for the enhancement of the severer software and a geometric facial recognition apparatus is included.
The figure of the data collected from all Somaliland became 1, 363, 162 registrants, it has been reported that 96111 registrants we disqualified as there was no extractable photos and have no finger print capture, it can be estimated that over 80% of this figure discarded are possible genuine ones.
In four days without knowing the how it was handled and outside the agreed parameters an additional over 80,000 disqualified registrants has been reached. And the figure of 1, 146 has been communicated to the political parties.
Without the generous holistic funding of the EU and countries UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, USA supporting Somaliland democratization, the voter’s registration would have been a dream. It was very hearting when Interpeace has failed a number of times to produce a final voters list. On the 27th July 2009 Interpeace failed to meet the promise made in the production of a final voters list that is accurate as the intention was. Looking for the ailing timetable of the presidential planned to be held at the 27TH September 2009, It became imminent for NEC to decide that any delay to planned elections could create political turmoil in Somaliland.
Looking into the hard worn governance building in Somaliland NEC has to proceed with presidential elections as planned without voter’s registration.
The heavily supported Voters registration by the donors with all thanks for the holistic financial support, the processes have to be completed and all misuses of the contracted company of the voter’s registration have to be audited internationally.
An independent expert has clearly mentioned in test of the software sampling 15 registrants checked with their original data has revealed that the software is only working in AfAIS only20% and the FRS is working only 30% . The said to have been contracted are not existing i.e. biometrics. The expert said openly if the software is touched it will take months to solve the problems, but slight changes can be made in adjusting the parameters.
We have at a number of times communicated to the EU Hargeisa that unless a proper engineers are brought to Hargeisa the Severer activities will always be at stake.
An international intervention of the mismanagement of the voter’s registration project is to be made. There shall be an open international measure to how the international contract was handled in companies contracted we selected. Interpeace has distributed a list of voters that the national electoral commission has reached on a resolution that this list is not accurate, comprehensive to use for the presidential election.
At this critical instance on the Presidential election time line, NEC has thoughtfully deliberated on the current problems encountered upon the outcome of the Server in producing the viable final voters list. NEC has resolved that the voter’s registration process accomplishment is very essential for Somaliland. Therefore, Interpeace being the sole agency responsible for the server operations and the donors shall come with a merge time line of the final production of the voter list and admit that the technical delays is exclusively.
Keeping in mind, that there are possible solutions that can be made in short period to accomplish a viable voters list for the coming Presidential election on the scheduled date on the 27th September 2009.
In this regard, NEC opted that on the coming Presidential election and the donors must quickly implement the recommendations made by the independent expert from creative associates.
For the future challenges:
In order to timely address the technical challenge that has been diagnosed by three Biometric engineers to be affianced as soon as possible to immediately fix the current problems in eliminating the double or multiple registrants that are still in data base of the registrants. This would make the voters and ID list useable.
An international biometric firm on voter registration and elections are brought in to verify and audit the viability of the data captured and all contracts given to Copenhagen elections and other which re pocket companies and the European Tax payers whose tax has been funded for this project.
NEC has all responsibilities to save this country of any vacuum due to delayed presidential elections and any pretext be International or national intended to hamper the presidential election will ferociously challenged by Somaliland. All needed funds must be made available by Somaliland government as we have communicated to president.
We are inviting international Observers to attend Somaliland presidential election and will make all possible arrangement to accommodated them to give all possible facilities and the Commission is also inviting international observation experts on the voters registration was handled and how proper equipments waved to the international bid the and the qualities of the equipments and if the report mentioned if any Creative associates made which was never been brought to us in an open international transparent biometric audit.
In addition we have appealed to pay all budget lines for the presidential elections and we belief elections can only managed only with national resources.
We have to re-assure Somaliland people that NEC will not spare all its efforts and commitment in accomplishing the desired goal in conducting the presidential Election in time on the 27th September 2009.
Jama Mohamoud Omar
NEC Chairman

U.S. Military Harbor in Djibouti Receives New Security Force

U.S. Military Harbor in Djibouti Receives New Security Force
July 31, 2009
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti (NNS) -- A ribbon-cutting ceremony July 30 celebrated the establishment of a U.S. military harbor security force at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.
Officials from United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), the Djiboutian government and U.S. and Djiboutian military personnel attended the ceremony at Port de Djibouti.
AFRICOM Commander Gen. William 'Kip' Ward, CJTF-HOA Commander Rear Adm. Tony Kurta, Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti Eric Wong and Camp Lemonier's Commanding Officer Capt. William Finn were in attendance to witness the historic step toward enhancing the security operations for the port.
The new harbor security force was established after many months of coordination between the U.S. Navy's Camp Lemonier leadership and the Djiboutian Navy. The establishment of the harbor security force will enable increased capabilities to protect maritime vessels transiting through the port in addition to providing training and operational opportunities between U.S. and Djiboutian personnel.
The harbor security force will consist of personnel from other U.S. Navy installations throughout the Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia region. The diverse group of harbor security professionals will ensure the port is and will stay a secure environment for conducting maritime operations.
Finn said this diverse group of harbor security professionals will ensure the port is and will stay a secure environment to conduct maritime operations.
"I am honored to recognize and commemorate the efforts made between U.S. and Djiboutian forces in support of our harbor security force," said Finn. "Working together to compliment each other's capabilities, we have increased our ability to protect our ships as well as provide training and operational opportunities between U.S. and Djiboutian personnel. I sincerely appreciate the great support from our Djiboutian hosts."
Camp Lemonier, Djibouti is located in the Horn of Africa and is the only U.S. military infrastructure located in Africa to provide a base of operations for support services. The camp has approximately 2,500 U.S., joint and allied military forces, civilian personnel, Department of Defense contractors and 1,200 local and third country nation workers. The camp is the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa and supports more than 23 tenant commands, including Commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa; U.S. Army 218th Field Artillery Regiment; and naval mobile construction battalion detachments.----Marc Rockwell-Pate

Somaliland cultural festival stresses freedom and tolerance

Somaliland cultural festival stresses freedom and tolerance
01/08/2009 -
When does one qualify to be an autonomous state? When there is a government? A name? A president? Somaliland has all of these, and by the end of July 2009 it had its own cultural festival. The Mooge cultural festival was be held between the 22nd and 27th in Hargeysa, the capitol of Somaliland. This autonomous region, with its own government and president, is bordering the troubled part of Somalia but is "absolutely safe," says Ayan Mahamoud who is organizing the festival.
For several years Mahamoud has lived in The Netherlands, enabling her to comment on this festival in Dutch, on the phone from Hargeysa. "Of course this festival alone cannot bring recognition of our country, but hopefully it can make people understand the reality on the ground," says Mahamoud. Somaliland's independence, which was declared in 1991 after the fall of the Somali dictator Siad Barre, is not being recognized by other countries, neither by the United Nations.
"On a cultural level there is completely nothing in Somaliland," says Mahamoud. Even though Hargeysa used to be home of the majority of Somalia’s theatres. The country underwent a war in the period leading up to the declaration of independence in '91. "Artists come from the Diaspora in Europe to perform at this festival. But there are also artists from Somalia who haven’t performed in fifteen or twenty years, and now start performing again."
The festival in Hargeisa has been named after Mohamed Mooge Libaan, a singer/freedom fighter from Somaliland who was murdered in 1984 by supporters of the regime in charge. "Mohamed Mooge is the only artist from the region who hasn't commercialized his art. Naming this festival after him stands for freedom and tolerance," explains Ayan Mahamoud.
Arne Doornebal
Mooge festival was funded by OxfamNovib, Dahabshill and Daallo Airlines.

Freelance diplomats lend a hand to would-be states

Freelance diplomats lend a hand to would-be states
BRUSSELS — Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara and Somaliland may not have much in common, but they share the same predicament: all are unrecognized states striving to capture international attention.
Enter Independent Diplomat — freelance diplomats who offer their assistance to such nations-in-waiting. They have scored a notable success helping Kosovo win independence from Serbia — but critics say they can only accomplish so much without involving governments and should not pretend to have more influence than they do.
The nonprofit group, comprised of former diplomats from a variety of nations, stands ready to help would-be governments navigate the complex system of national bureaucracies and international organizations designed to accommodate established nations.
“Very often government or international officials will refuse to talk to our clients, or if they talk to them they’re reluctant to give them the information they need,” said Nicholas Whyte, who heads the Brussels office of the nonprofit group.
“And from our clients’ side, they are often inexperienced in dealing with international bureaucracies precisely because nobody talks to them,” said Whyte, an Irish international affairs expert.
With offices in New York, Washington, London, Brussels and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the organization provides its clients with guidance on how to approach foreign governments or international organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union.
The group played a role in helping Kosovo gain independence from Serbia. The province had been under international rule since the war ended in 1999 until declaring independence last year, and has been recognized by about 60 nations so far.
“We received great assistance from them at a time when we needed it most,” said Ilir Dugolli, Kosovo’s representative to the EU.
Independent Diplomat’s $1.8 million annual budget comes from foundation and government donations, as well as client fees. Clients are charged according to their ability to pay, with the poorest paying only nominal amounts.
The group also counsels established nations on issues where they lack expertise, including advising the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the U.N. climate change process and working with East European countries applying for EU membership.
“We advise would-be countries, but also regular states where we can add our own expertise to theirs, as long as they are democratic countries that respect international law,” said Carne Ross, the group’s founder and director.
He said Independent Diplomat adheres to a strict policy of rejecting clients engaged in armed struggle, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip or Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.
“If Robert Mugabe came to us for advice, we wouldn’t help him,” said Ross, a former senior British diplomat.
The organization says it has had significant impact as an intermediary, including arranging a recent meeting between EU officials and the president of Western Sahara’s government-in-exile. The territory was taken over by Morocco 35 years ago, and although a U.N.-negotiated truce in 1991 called for a referendum on its future, this has never been held.
Independent Diplomat “are our true friends,” said Mohamed Abdelaziz, who leads the government-in-exile based in a refugee camp in the Algerian desert.
The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus requested the group’s assistance in negotiations to reunify the Turkish and Greek parts of the island. Cyprus was split along ethnic lines after the Turkish invasion in 1974, and thousands of Greek as well as Turkish Cypriots fled to the southern part of the island.
“Turkish Cypriots are institutionally disadvantaged by the policies of the international community, and yet are expected to carry on with the peace process,” Whyte said.
However, Cypriot officials dismissed the group as outsiders with no influence over island policy.
“The Republic of Cyprus was accepted into the European Union in 2004 with full legal sovereignty over the entire territory” of Cyprus, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy. “That’s certainly not going to change whatever anyone from the outside says or does.”
Robert Cooper, secretary-general of the European Council in Brussels, also questioned the group’s influence.
“Achieving anything in foreign affairs is very difficult for non-governmental groups,” he said. “Some NGOs perform extremely valuable work and are well respected … but in the end nothing is achieved without governments (and) they should not pretend that they have influence when they don’t.”
Still, Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran, said those involved in the endeavor were “individually capable people” who could make a difference.
“Their philosophy and their code — and the approach that they take — does fill a gap for countries and for movements who don’t have access to the international system,” he said.
International recognition has eluded Somaliland, the self-declared republic in the north of Somalia which has had an effective government for almost two decades, including its own currency and a viable economy.
“International policy has been predicated on shoring up Somalia’s weak and embattled central government rather than supporting the one part of the country that has demonstrated its ability to avoid conflict,” Whyte said.
The organization believes the world’s diplomatic institutions need to be more accessible to such non-state groups, or the price will be more bloodshed.
“Our work helps countries and other political actors avoid conflict by using existing diplomatic channels … as long as they are allowed to,” he said.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wings Over Somali Waters

Wings Over Somali Waters
July 31, 2009:
The international anti-piracy task force operating off the coast of Somalia, also has its own air force. About ten manned and UAV aircraft are available, all currently based in Djibouti. Three of these aircraft are being transferred to Kenya, where they will better cover the east coast of Somalia. This will enable the task force to monitor pirate mother ships (usually stolen fishing ships) that are going more than a thousand kilometers from the coast, to seek out larger, and more valuable (in terms of ransoms) ships coming out of the Persian Gulf, and making their way south to go around the southern tip of Africa.
So far this year, there have been over 250 attacks, most of them in the Gulf of Aden. Despite the 34 warships on duty, 78 merchant ships were boarded, and 31 of them taken. There have been more casualties this year, with six merchant seamen killed, 19 wounded and 561 taken hostage. Although the pirates have received over $100 million in ransoms, the pirate activities have cost shipping companies nearly $15 billion so far, in the form of increased insurance, fuel (moving at higher speeds, or taking detours) and crew (danger pay) costs.
Recently, Japan sent two P-3C maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Djibouti. Last year, Spain sent a P-3. The U.S. and France also have naval reconnaissance aircraft there, although the U.S. planes (P-3s and UAVs) are also there for counter-terrorism missions.
The site of most attacks has been the Gulf of Aden, which is one the busiest shipping lanes in the world (with nearly ten percent of all traffic). Each month, 1500-1600 ships pass the northern coast of Somalia. Last year about one ship out of every 400-500 was captured by pirates. With the pirates getting more and more ransom money for each ship, the number of pirate groups operating in the Gulf of Aden is growing. An increasing number of mother ships, usually captured fishing trawlers (able to stay out for weeks at a time, and carry speed boats for attacks) are traveling farther from the coast in the search of victims. The P-3s can search large areas of the high seas in search of these mother ships, which warships are now hunting down.
Most merchant ships are wary of pirate operations, and put on extra lookouts, and often transit the 1,500 kilometer long Gulf of Aden at high speed (even though this costs them thousands of dollars in additional fuel). The pirates seek the slower moving, apparently unwary, ships, and go after them before they can speed up enough to get away. For the pirates, business is booming, and ransoms are going up. Pirates are now demanding $2-3 million per ship, and are liable to get it for the much larger tankers and bulk carriers they are now seizing. The P-3s seek out the mother ships, and alert warships to the location where the pirates are operating.
But there are some problems. The American built P-3C maritime reconnaissance aircraft is getting old. The average age of the U.S. P-3Cs is 28 years. The P-3 entered service in 1962. The current version has a cruise speed of 610 kilometers per hour, endurance of up to 13 hours and a crew of eleven. The 116 foot long, propeller driven aircraft has a wingspan of nearly 100 feet. The P-3C can carry about ten tons of weapons (torpedoes, mines, or missiles like Harpoon and Maverick).
The 63 ton P-3 is based on the 1950s era Lockheed Electra airliner. The last P-3 was built in 1990. A more likely replacement for these elderly search planes, are UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), like Global Hawk or smaller aircraft like Predator. These UAVs typically stay in the air for 24 hours, or more, at a time. What maritime reconnaissance aircraft need, more than anything else, is endurance or, as the professionals like to put it, "persistence."
Spain sent 90 personnel (air and ground crew) to Djibouti, while the Japanese sent 150. There is already a French Falcon business jet fitted out with maritime surveillance radar and other sensors.

Arab cruelty : Egypt police kill African migrant at Israel border

Egypt police kill African migrant at Israel border
EL-ARISH, Egypt, July 31 (Reuters)
Egyptian police shot dead an African migrant trying to cross the border into Israel on Friday, security and medical sources said, the latest killing in an upsurge of violence at the sensitive frontier.
The man, who was shot in the chest and right leg, was announced dead on arrival at Egypt's Rafah hospital, a medical source said. His nationality was not immediately known. A 20-year-old Eritrean was arrested as the pair tried to breach barbed wire between the two countries, a security source said. Police ordered the men to stop, opening fire when the migrants failed to do so.
The state news agency MENA later said 14 Eritrean and Ethiopian migrants had been arrested trying to enter Israel from different points along the border. MENA did not provide the dead man's nationality or identity.
At least seven African migrants have been killed at the border since mid-May, after a six-month lull. At least 28 migrants were killed at the border last year.
Analysts and aid workers say the migration route from the Horn of Africa through Egypt to Israel has seen increased migrant flow as other routes, such as via Libya to Europe, become more difficult. [nLS359973]
Eritreans are the single largest group of migrants attempting to cross into Israel.
Monthly migrant arrests by Egypt at the border have surged, rising five-fold in May to 55 and then doubling again to 114 in June and 160 in July, security sources said. That compares to just six arrests in January.
Cairo, which had for years tolerated tens of thousands of African migrants on its territory, has deported hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers back to Asmara despite objections from the United Nations, which feared they could face torture. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

Turkish commandos capture 7 pirates off Somalia

Turkish commandos capture 7 pirates off Somalia
(AP) – 54 minutes ago
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's military says navy commandos aboard a frigate have captured seven pirates in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's coast.
(In this photo released by the Turkish military, Turkish commandos are seen with five pirates in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, Friday, July 24, 2009. The Turkish military said Friday navy commandos aboard the Turkish frigate TCG Gediz, part of a NATO force patrolling the seas, have captured five pirates. Commandos raided the skiff Friday morning upon a request to block it before it could attack a ship. It says a navy helicopter aboard a second Turkish frigate, the TCG Gaziantep, also took part in the operation.(AP Photo/Turkish Military HO )
The military says the commandos aboard the frigate, part of a NATO force patrolling the seas, raided the skiff Friday upon a request to block it before it could attack a ship. The military did not provide details on what ship the pirates allegedly planned to attack.
It says a navy helicopter aboard the frigate also took part in the operation.
Turkish navy commandos had captured five other pirates in a similar operation in the Gulf of Aden a week ago.

Secretary Clinton snubs Ethiopia?

Secretary Clinton snubs Ethiopia?
U.S Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton will embark on 11-day, 7 countries trip to Africa next month, but Ethiopia will not be one of the countries that the Secretary plans to visit. Clinton will visit Nigeria, Kenyan, South Africa, Liberia, D.R. Congo and Cape Verde starting on August 4 and returning to the United States on August 14.
But why is Clinton skipping Ethiopia? Ethiopia is a regional power in Horn of Africa, and a major ally of the United States in its war on terror? Certainly, Ethiopia does not have oil, so can't compete with Angola or Nigeria on that front and not resource rich as D.R Congo. But with the second most populous nation in Africa and home of African Union, Ethiopia does have some weight in African matters, but it lacks one important quality. You guessed it, Democracy.
It appears that the Obama Administration wants to send a message to the regime in Ethiopia.No democracy No Visit, exception applies if you have oil.
In a news briefing given by Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson on Secretary Clinton's Upcoming Trip to Africa, he made it no secret why Clinton chose to go to some of the countries.
Below is some of reasons mentioned why Clinton is going to some of the countries.
Nigeria: Oil appears to be the prime reason. In the news briefing Johnnie Carson said, "Nigeria is probably the most important country in Sub-Saharan Africa: 140 million people, 75 million of whom are Muslims. It is also a major source of petroleum imports for the United States. It provides approximately 8 percent of America’s petroleum and the largest supply of our sweet crude."
Kenya will be hosting the AGOA Forum where Clinton will attend and meet with Somalia's President Sharif
Angola is one of the largest energy producers in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a major supplier of both petroleum and LNG to the U.S. market. The Secretary will meet with President Dos Santos, and she will also renew her acquaintance with the Angolan foreign minister
South Africa .The Secretary will use this to strengthen an important relationship in South Africa with a country which is the engine of that region’s growth.
Liberia is one of our historically most important relationships in Africa. The Secretary wants to reaffirm U.S. support for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Cape Verde is an African success story. It is a country which is democratically run, well managed, and a country which has used the economic assistance that it has received from the United States
Source: Nazret

Ethiopia orders 17 new Boeing

Ethiopia orders 17 new Boeing
Friday 31 July 2009
By Tesfa-alem Tekle
July 30, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopian Airlines announced plans to purchase 17 new aircrafts from the Boeing and Airbus companies with a $4.2 billion deal, marking the flag carrier, the first African airline to order and operate the ultra long range 777-200LR model.
The airline in a statement on Tuesday said that it has placed an order for five B777-200LR Boeing aircrafts from the Boeing Company and twelve A350-900s from Airbus.
Ethiopia’s latest announcement for the purchase of five Boeing aircrafts comes after the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines; Girma Wake signed an agreement with Boeing’s Sales Director for the Middle East and Africa, Skip H. Thompson.
Last week, the flag carrier has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to acquire 12 A350-900s aircrafts. The order for the five B777-200LRs will cost the Ethiopian airlines US$1.3 billion and US$2.9 billion for the twelve A350-900s.
The B777-200LRs will be delivered begin in October, 2010 while the A 350 -900s will be received in 2017.
"The Boeing 777 will be integral as we bring our business to the next level" Girma Wake said, adding this order reinforces the deep ties between our two companies.
"The new purchase of aircraft from Boeing and Airbus is made in line with Ethiopia’s fast growth strategy in which it is predicated that the fleet size would significantly increase in the next ten to fifteen years" Girma said.
The order is one of the largest-ever by an African airline, and comes amid a broad slump in business for the world’s top airline companies.
Ethiopian currently operates an all-Boeing jet fleet of 29 aircraft and was the regional launch customer for the 787. It has been forced to lease alternatives and delay expansion as the 787 schedule has slipped.
The airline has developed a strong regional network to position Addis Ababa as a base to feed long-haul traffic into Africa, competing with fast-growing Middle East carriers such as Emirates Airline.
Net profits rose 9% to 515 million birr in the six months to December 31, the latest data available, with operating revenue up 55% at 6.7 billion birr. It carried 1.5 million passengers during the period, with freight more than doubling to 55,000 tons. In the year to June 30, 2008 it made a net profit of 507 million birr.
Ethiopian airlines is widely regarded as one of the best-run airlines in Africa. It serves over 50 destinations worldwide and over 35 destinations within Ethiopia.

How to become a Pariah state--Eritrean edition

How to become a Pariah state--Eritrean edition
It all began in 2000, when Eritrea and Ethiopia, exhausted from war, decided to end their bloody border dispute by submitting to international arbitration. When the arbiters in the Hague handed down their ruling, they awarded the key disputed territory to Eritrea. End of story, right? Wrong. Ethiopia simply refused to withdraw and a stalemate ensued.
A changing international scene did not help things. The Clinton administration was instrumental in forging the original settlement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. But by the time of the arbitration ruling, September 11 had already occurred and the Bush administration was focused on leveraging the support of Ethiopia on terrorism issues in the Horn of Africa. Accordingly, the United States was reluctant to press Ethiopia to abide by the ruling.
From an Eritrean perspective, you can see how this might be unsettling. Asmara had agreed to binding international arbitration, but the international community was apparently unwilling to enforce the ruling. Caught in the middle were a few thousand UN Peacekeepers along the border, acting as a buffer between the two armies.
As Eritrea's understandable frustration with the international community grew, Asmara began to lash out in patently unhelpful ways. It kicked out UN Peacekeepers by blocking their shipments of petrol and food; made threatening statements aganst top American officials; attacked neighboring Djibouti; and supported a faction opposed to the internationally-backed Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
This latter issue is particularly troubling to the Obama administration. Indeed, just yesterday, Susan Rice raised the spectre of Security Council sanctions on Eritrea for their support of al Shabab, a Somali insurgent group the United States has labeled a terrorist organization. In her congressional hearing, Rice accused Asmara of "arming, supporting, and funding" the group. This is about as close to calling a country a state sponsor of terrorism as you can get.
Now, there are a number of Eritreans and Ethiopians living abroad--especially here in Washington and in Seattle. Whenever we post on the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Somalia issue, a lively debate ensues. So, in the interests of keeping things civil, let me post this item sent to me by reader Haile A of Organization of Eritrean Americans in North America.
''The Organization of Eritrean Americans (OEA) in North America vehemently rejects the recent statement by AU (African Union), calling on the UN to impose sanctions on Eritrea for allegedly “providing support to the armed groups” in the current Somalia conflict. Eritrea has repeatedly refuted any involvement in the deadly conflict in Somalia, and, on many occasions in the past, it strongly challenged the Somali Monitoring Group’s allegations and unsubstantiated charges to present irrefutable and tangible evidences, but to no avail.
OEA, once again, would like to remind the Security Council that there has not been any evidence that would warrant sanctions on Eritrea. Earlier allegations, such as the presence of “2000 Eritrean troops” inside Somalia and also the shipment of “AK-47 rifles” to the insurgents in Somalia have been proven to be pure fabrications. It should be recalled that Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, in a recent news conference stated that there had not been any evidence to prove the allegations that were made against Eritrea.
As Americans of Eritrean descent, we have a vested interest in seeing peace, stability and security in the Horn region. We believe that Eritrea’s position, which calls on the Somali people to resolve their own differences without external interference, is not only a political stand that Eritrea is entitled to have, but could also turn out to be the best option for Somalia.
We urge the UN Security Council to exercise a fair and just practice in evaluating all the facts and evidence to find a lasting peace in the region. The UN Security Council should not be swayed by certain quarters when the lives of so many are at stake. The mistakes made thus far in Somalia have resulted in the largest humanitarian crises in the history of that country.
If the Security Council chooses to use Eritrea as a scapegoat and takes punitive action based on groundless charges, not only would this not bring peace and security to Somalia but it would also further destabilize the strategic Horn of Africa region.''
Source : http://www.undispatch.com/node/8694

Ethiopia sets aside land for foreign investors

Ethiopia sets aside land for foreign investors
Wed Jul 29, 2009
By Tsegaye Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia has marked out 1.6 million hectares of land for investors willing to develop commercial farms, an investment official said on Wednesday.
Companies from Gulf and east Asian nations have rushed to buy up farmland around the world to secure food supplies. Africa has become a favourite target, despite concerns about the effects of investment on host countries.
Although Ethiopia has rivers and rich soil, it features among the drought-hit and chronically food deficit nations, with up to 4.9 million people dependent on food aid.
"The government has verified and delineated 1.6 million hectares of virgin land suitable for large-scale commercial farming in different parts of the country," Esayas Kebede, Director of the recently formed Agricultural Investment Support told Reuters.
Some 8,420 foreign and local investors have already received licenses for commercial farms, but only 2,000 of them are known to have started work on their projects, he said.
"The contribution to the country's economy , of those companies which began work is yet to be quantified. They are just beginning," he said.
Foreign firms that have started large scale commercial farming include Indian companies in sugar cane, tea and cotton production, a Saudi Arabian company in palm oil plantation and Chinese companies in sesame seeds, Esayas said.
Esayas said his country enjoyed balmy weather, unlimited water resources and infrastructure such as roads, power and telephone lines.
The government considered inviting those with technological knowledge and finances to develop its resources was an effective way to eliminate hunger and poverty.
"Production in quality and quantity of food and other exportable commodities are our topmost priority," he said.
The land set aside was in Benishangul - Gumuz and Gambella in western Ethiopia and in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's region and Afar.
The land can be used to grow coffee, cotton, sesame, soya beans, forage crops, sugar cane, palm oil and horticulture, Esayas said.
A further 800,000 hectares in Oromia region and 300,000 in the Amhara region were also in the process of being parcelled out for commercial farming, he added.
He said the government offered incentives, like financing, to those willing to start commercial farms in Ethiopia.
"Investors who qualify have the opportunity to receive loans from local banks up to 70 percent of their capital investment as well as attractive incentives and tax holidays," he said.
Ethiopia, which is Africa's biggest coffee producer is also the world's fourth largest exporter of sesame seeds.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Somaliland Government Expels Inter-peace Representative

Somaliland Government Expels Inter-peace Representative
Hargeisa, 30 July 2009
Mr. Ruben Zamora of Inter-peace was expelled from Somaliland today after an unexpected police search at Mansoor Hotel in Hargeisa. Mr Zamora was denied to meet the media nor was he given enough time to prepare for his departure. He was taken to the airport and deported from Somaliland as reported in the local media.
Somaliland Government seems to be taking its position to new extremes with the expulsion of Ruben Zamorra, the Interpeace representative referred to above. It is to be hoped that they will not continue down the path of attempting to silence anyone with whom they have a disagreement using this or other means. The officials who escorted Ruben to the airport also confiscated his laptop. They claim that he was not authorised to supply the voter register to the two opposition parties; this being the reason for his deportation.
The BBC Somali Service today carried interviews with Musa Bixi from Kulmiye, Faisal Ali Waraabe from UCID and a Government spokesperson. Faisal reiterated the UCID position that they would not stand a candidate (ie Faisal) in the presidential election without a voter register. Musa Bixi also stated that this is Kulmiye's position. This contradicts an earlier position stated by a different Kulmiye spokesperson.
Both opposition parties had apparently accepted the register as issued before the NEC Chair, Jama, announced that the election would be held without donor funding or a voter register. The reason Jama gave was that a final voter register had not been produced by the deadline. Of course, the reason a final register had not been issued by 27 July is that the Government had not agreed to it, so Jama's logic rests on government refusal to accept the list as produced.

Ethiopia, Somaliland envisage exploiting Berbera port

Ethiopia, Somaliland envisage exploiting Berbera port
Source: ENA
Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said ongoing talks between Ethiopia and Somaliland on the use of the port of Barbara are well in progress.
State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekeda Alemu on Wednesday held discussions with Somaliland Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdulahi Mohammed Duele.
The discussions between the two officials were focused on the ongoing consultations to enable Ethiopia to utilize Barbara port.
The two ministers also discussed ways of further bolstering economic and trade relations between the two sides.
Ethiopia’s use of the port is believed to further strengthen existing economies and trade ties between the two nations, according to Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency's Website.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lack of Human rights and Neo-slavery in Saudi Arabia

Lack of Human rights and Neo-slavery in Saudi Arabia
ALKHOBAR: They dream of Saudi citizenship, but often find the reality to be different from their expectations.
For many longtime expatriate workers and families who often know no other home, Saudi citizenship seems like the bond to forge a lasting relationship with their chosen homeland. The perception is that once you become Saudi, doors open for you and you suddenly become well off. For hardworking entrepreneurs anxious to start businesses in the Kingdom, this may be true, but for the majority of expats-turned-Saudis, this turns out to be more in the realm of myth.
This conclusion was drawn on the basis of interviews with some of those expatriates who have become Saudis. The case of foreign women wanting to become Saudis is totally different. Their quest largely is driven by fear. “What if my Saudi husband divorces me? I will have no option but to leave everything behind. My husband can deport me instantly.” So what are the benefits of becoming a Saudi national? First and foremost is that you are no longer at the mercy of your sponsor. He cannot threaten to deport you if you have a disagreement, and you can seek other employment if he treats you badly.
You also put concerns about resident permits or iqamas, behind you.
“You are free of iqama troubles. That in itself is a big relief,” says Abu Jameel, a Pakistani expat-turned-Saudi. “The other major advantage is the ability to own property, the ability to inherit, the ability to work without sponsorship and own your own company. You can also exit and enter Saudi Arabia without a visa.”
According to a random survey, most would-be Saudis come from the subcontinent and Arab countries.
“I don’t see many men from First World countries desperate to become Saudis — even Muslim Westerners — unless they are married to Saudi women,” said Umm Saad. “The majority of Saudi women married to foreigners try to spend most of their time abroad, as they cannot bear to witness their husbands and children treated so poorly. Most women who become Saudis do so simply to protect inheritance rights and the right to be with their children. If a husband dies when he is married to a foreign wife, his family can simply strip her of everything — even her children — and have her deported. These can be families who were formerly sweet and kind to her before their son or brother died.” For foreign women, becoming a Saudi is of the utmost importance.
“Your husband can no longer threaten you with divorce and the withholding of your children once you are a Saudi,” said Umm Saad.
“However, a foreign government can no longer demand your release from an abusive spouse. Your husband can put a house in your name to protect you from abusive relatives in the case of his death. However, if he does die before you, note that you will only inherit a small widow’s portion of his total estate. Women with sons can be in a stronger position than those with only daughters.” Becoming Saudi doesn’t offer any distinct advantage to the children.
“Children at school will forever harass her children and call them ‘counterfeit Saudis’ even if their mother does become Saudi,” she said.
Take the case of Abu Abdullah. He never became a Saudi. He was married to a Saudi woman, and all his daughters married Saudis. So would he have had any advantage if he were given Saudi citizenship? “In my case, becoming a Saudi would have meant much had I got the nationality early on. My three daughters would not have had to wait nearly 20 years to get Saudi nationality on the humiliating strength of their marriages to Saudis,” he said. “Living schizophrenic and dichotomized lives for such number of years, they must have suffered emotionally. My son, who is now 20, is still patiently waiting for his application for Saudi nationality on the strength of his mother’s nationality, having applied on the day he reached 18.” Educational access or success is not ensured by a change of nationality, but it does have potential benefits, said Abu Abdullah.
“For my children, the benefits are more emotional than material. All my children studied in private schools, and I paid for their education,” he said. “My daughters had to study abroad for part of their undergraduate studies before they could be admitted into a university in Jeddah. Every one of them had 97.5 percent marks in their higher secondary certificates. However, after becoming Saudis, two of my daughters qualified for postgraduate Saudi government scholarships, and now one is a Ph.D. The other is an M.S. and should be finishing her Ph.D. this year. They achieved this being housewives and mothers. My son is studying law at a university in Jeddah, and he gets a stipend. He is waiting patiently for his nationality to apply for a government scholarship. This would be a definite advantage for him.” It is important to remember that there are more young Saudis than there are scholarships.
“Take the case of my sons. Both of them applied for scholarships, but they couldn’t get one,” said Abdul Rahman Abdul Hameed, who holds Saudi citizenship. “There is very tough competition for those scholarships. We will send them to universities abroad at our own expense. It is very, very expensive. Education is not cheap.” In the case of his family, he says Saudi citizenship so far has been a wash in terms of education.
“My younger brother, who never became a Saudi, spends the same amount of money on his children. So there is no distinct advantage for me at the moment,” Abdul Hameed said. “Maybe when my children come back after their studies, they will have a considerable advantage in the job market. Being Saudis will help them a lot. But for me, I have to shell out money like anything for their education. In that way, there is no difference between a Saudi and an expat.” Others see great advantages in becoming Saudi nationals.
“You can enroll your children in any government school,” said Umm Yaseen. “The standard of education is definitely not bad. As far as competition is concerned, there is competition everywhere. The most important thing is you can start your own business.” Most people involved in business know that planning and the wherewithal to carry out those plans are requirements for success anywhere — including Saudi Arabia. “You need a lot of cash. Something as simple as getting a commercial business registration takes thousands of riyals,” said Hasan Abdullah. “People may think just becoming a Saudi is enough to start a business or own property. The problem is that both sides are unaware of the challenges the other faces. Saudis are unaware of the problems expatriates face, and expatriates are unaware of the difficulties that Saudis encounter in their day-to-day lives. Both have different sets of problems. Because expatriates have to endure iqama renewals and other such problems, they think becoming a Saudi solves them all. That is certainly not the case.” In some ways, being a Saudi has its own set of unique challenges — perhaps tougher than some expatriates face.
“Getting a decent education for their children and setting up businesses for them or helping them land a job ... all demand huge resources,” said Amin Mohammad, a Saudi of Syrian origin. “It’s very, very tough. It is not as if once you become a Saudi you are given a tree that bears nothing but riyals.”

U.S.'s UN envoy warns Eritrea over Somalia rebels

U.S.'s UN envoy warns Eritrea over Somalia rebels
Wed Jul 29, 2009
Eritrea could face UN sanctions for backing rebels
* Getting UN to sanction Eritrea won't be easy -diplomats (Adds U.N. diplomats, paragraphs 11-14)
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - Eritrea has only a short time to stop undermining security in Somalia or face possible U.N. sanctions, Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Wednesday.
Rice told a congressional committee the United States was "deeply concerned and very frustrated" with Eritrea's behavior in Somalia, including arming and funding Islamist insurgents
"It is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it, and nor will other members of the Security Council," she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The U.N. Security Council warned Eritrea this month it would consider action against anyone undermining peace in Somalia.
"We will continue to discuss with colleagues in the Security Council appropriate measures, including potentially sanctions, against Eritrea for its actions in Somalia," Rice said.
"There is a very short window for Eritrea to signal through its actions that it wishes a better relationship with the United States and indeed the wider international community.
"If we do not see signs of that signal in short order, I can assure you that we will be taking appropriate steps with partners in Africa and the Security Council," she said.
Somalia's government and others have accused Eritrea of supplying arms to insurgents in breach of a U.N. embargo that allows such shipments only to the government.
The African Union, which has a force of 4,300 peacekeepers in Somalia, has called on the United Nations to impose sanctions on Eritrea for backing the rebels.
Eritrean officials deny the charges of arms supplies.
U.N. diplomats in New York said imposing sanctions against Eritrea might not prove so easy.
The chairman of the Security Council's sanctions committee, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, told Reuters that during a closed-door council meeting on Wednesday, several members had urged adding some Eritreans to the sanctions list for backing rebels in Somalia.
Diplomats said the United States, Britain, France and Mexico were among those supporting the idea, but China was worried the already difficult communication with Asmara could be made impossible if any Eritrean individuals or companies were sanctioned.
"The Somalia sanctions process is moving very slowly," a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Another diplomat said it might be difficult to persuade China, which has extensive economic interests in Africa, to support any punitive measures against Eritrea.
Al Qaeda-linked fighters belonging to the al Shabaab insurgent group control much of southern and central Somalia and most of the capital Mogadishu.
Rice said the Eritreans had rebuffed repeated U.N. attempts to discuss the situation. She said Eritrea had essentially "stiffed and stonewalled" the United Nations. (Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; editing by Mohammad Zargham

Alarm over Somalia's child soldiers

Alarm over Somalia's child soldiers
For years, warlords have conscripted children to fight in bitter conflicts over money, power and land. The BBC Somali service's Mohamed Mohamed reveals widespread alarm that the practice is now becoming entrenched in Somalia.
Children as young as eight years old are going missing.
Some are drugged, others brainwashed and some paid $50 (£30) for every month they fight.
(Children man checkpoints and administer lashings in Mogadishu)
Most people are frightened to speak openly, but those who can afford it are sending their children out of the country to safety.
An elderly man who did not want to be named publicly told how his 15-year-old son had vanished.
He said he had looked everywhere for his boy, and even asked the militant Islamist group al-Shabab whether they had seen him.
They said they had not, but he later found out that al-Shabab had convinced the boy to join their jihad so "he would go to heaven if he died".
Children as shields
"After a long search I found out that my son is being held in a training camp on the outskirts of Baydhabo," he said.
"They are using our children as a shield. But the children of people who claim to be leaders are not in the camps. They are not fighting.
"Al-Shabab only use children from the poor as fighters."
“ The boy stops pubic transport and checks if there are men and women passengers sharing the seats. If he finds them, he tells them to get off the bus and flogs them ” Journalist working in Mogadishu
A journalist working in Mogadishu says he has seen 10-year-old children on street corners in Mogadishu armed with AK47s.
"A child of about 12 years old, armed with a gun and a whip works at a crossroads in Mogadishu's Bakara Market," he says.
"The boy stops pubic transport and checks if there are men and women passengers sharing the seats.
"If he finds them, he tells them to get off the bus and flogs them in public while other members of al-Shabab sit under roadside trees nearby."
Trained by foreigners
Hundreds of Somali youngsters are recruited and trained in camps in southern Somalia by al-Shabab, according to a senior police officer.
"The people involved in training children are foreigners who speak English or Arabic and they use translators to help them," says Colonel Abdullahi Hassan Barise.
"They are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chechnya and other countries."
He said a few months ago, the police caught a small bus carrying teenagers at a police checkpoint outside Mogadishu.
The children were from villages and towns in Lower Juba and they had been transported by al Shabab.
In their inquiries, he said they found that some of the children had been threatened while others were brainwashed into believing that they would go to paradise if they took part in what was described as the defence of Somalia and Islam.
"Some of the children said that a Pakistani trainer used to spike their drinks with something," he said.
He also said some of the street children in Mogadishu are recruited as they are the most vulnerable, because there is no family to look after them.
American jihadists
Even Somalis who live overseas are not safe from the child recruitment effort of the Islamists.
In the US state of Minnesota, some young men from the Somali community have been recruited to fight with al-Shabab, and have been killed.
In October last year, at least one of them, Shirwa Mohamed, carried out a suicide attack against security services in Bosasso in north-eastern Somalia.
Omar Jamal, a community leader in Minnesota, blames local jihadists' influence on young people.
"They were targeting young, vulnerable boys at colleges and universities to indoctrinate them and tell them to join and fight the jihad," he says.
"Some of them were provided with cash and Somali passports and they were persuaded to join this global jihadist ideology and they fall for it.
"We want this to come to an end and we want the US government to investigate."
Meanwhile, the FBI is already looking into how and why these Somali youngsters choose to leave a comfortable life in the US for the dangerous conditions in Somalia.
A worker for a children's rights group in Somalia says that, while using children as soldiers is not new, the scale, number and age of those involved is worrying.
Parents try to stop their children from being recruited - but the lack of schools or other activities as well as, in some cases, peer pressure makes it difficult.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Livelihoods at risk as drought worsens in western Somaliland

Livelihoods at risk as drought worsens in western Somaliland
IJARA, 29 July 2009 (IRIN) - A prolonged drought is causing large-scale livestock deaths, increasing the vulnerability of residents living in the mid-western Gabiley region of Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland, local officials say.
"We have not experienced such drought before," Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, Gabiley governor, said. "Before, the drought affected either the people on the farms, or the animals, but now it is affecting [both]."
(Photo: Indha-Deeq Mohumed Ahmed, a resident of Galolay area, southeast of Gabiley, collects grass from a ploughed field. A prolonged drought in the region has caused livestock deaths, increasing the people's vulnerability )
Abdi said agro-pastoralists living south of the main road connecting Gabiley to Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital, and neighbouring Kalabait area, may have lost up to 70 percent of their sheep to the drought.
Dahir Abdillahi, a resident of Ijara village in Gabiley, told IRIN: "I had 50 sheep two months ago but they started dying off one by one; when it rained a week ago, another 10 died, leaving me with only 10 sheep."
Abdi said carcasses of dead cows littered most of Ijara; camels are better adapted to drought.
According to the Food Security and Nutritional Analysis Unit (FSNAU Somalia) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an acute food and livelihood crisis was emerging in parts of Somaliland due to recent rain failure, compounded by three previous seasons of poor rainfall.
In its June quarterly food security and nutrition brief, FNAU said pasture resources in areas that experience moderate rains had been quickly depleted due to large livestock in-migration from neighbouring rain-deficit areas.
"There is a high level of livestock off-take, as well as high abortion rates, culling of kids/lambs, and drought-induced livestock diseases," FSNAU stated.
Food availability
According to Ijara resident Mohamoud Mousa Warsame, the village has lost some 1,500 sheep and more than 600 cattle.
"I am in my 60s [yet] this is the first time we [have] experienced such drought," Warsame said. "I had more than 50 sheep, but 20 died in the drought; two of my cows have also died."
Warsame said sheep were the most affected due to a lack of pasture and the start of the cold weather had escalated the deaths.
The region has suffered two consecutive failed Gu [long] rains seasons.
According to Warsame, about half of Ijara residents have run out of food reserves and were surviving on one meal a day or skipping meals altogether.
Sharing food among neighbours has increased as has the sharing of reserve food with the animals.
(Photo: Carcasses of dead cows litter most of Ijara, where prolonged drought has led to high number of livestock deaths)
"Villages such as Taysa, Bodhley and Boqor have also been affected by the drought," said Mohamed Da'ud Ahmed, chairman of the Ijara village elders, adding that there was a need for food aid to help cope with the drought, which has lasted about 10 months.
According to Amina Mohamoud, a mother of six from Ged-abeera village near the border with Ethiopia, the drought was increasing food hoarding.
"I came from Ged-abeera to Ijara looking for food to buy but because of the drought, people who have some sorghum or maize are refusing to sell," Mohamoud said.
Food prices have soared. "Before, we used to buy 1kg of sorghum and maize for 2,000 Somaliland shillings each [US$0.28] but now this has doubled to 4,000 shillings [$0.57] - if you can find a place to buy it from," Mohamoud said. "We used to sell our animals to buy food, but nowadays all our animals are dead."
Desperate to feed their surviving livestock, residents are collecting grass loosened during ploughing in the fields for their animals.
"I have come to look for food for my animals," an elderly Indha-Deeq Mohumed Ahmed, told IRIN in the Galolay area, southeast of Gabiley. She has been left with three cows out of a herd of 30.
Ahmed, who was collecting grass, said: "My son went to town to work... and you can see me working at this age."
More people are moving to the towns. "We do not have the exact statistics, but we know that several hundred agro-pastoralists have moved to the urban centres where they are living with relatives," said Aden Muhumed Badde, mayor of Gabiley.
He said the region's residents had been living in difficult conditions for almost two years with little support.
"We do not have the facilities to support these people. We are calling on the government and the international community to send food and medicine for the people and the animals affected by the drought," Badde said. maj/aw/js/mw
Theme(s): (IRIN) Food Security [ENDS]

Five Somalis sentenced to death in absentia for bombs

Five Somalis sentenced to death in absentia for bombs
29/07/2009 - 13:36
HARGEISA (Reuters) - A court in breakaway Somaliland sentenced five men to death in absentia Wednesday for masterminding suicide bomb attacks in 2008 that killed at least 24 people.
The synchronised blasts in October 2008 -- at Ethiopia's embassy, the local president's office and a U.N. building -- were blamed on Somalia's militant insurgent movement al Shabaab, which has links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
The blasts in the northern territory, which has been relatively stable since declaring itself independent in 1991, showed the militants could operate beyond their southern strongholds and were one of Somalia's worst suicide attacks.
Officials at the Regional Court of Hargeisa, capital of the enclave, said the five convicted Somalis were on the run in other parts of the Horn of Africa nation.
Somaliland carries out the death sentence by shooting.
Of 11 men in its custody, all from Somaliland, nine were released then re-arrested following a prosecution appeal, officials and witnesses said. That angered relatives who had to be dispersed by police firing in the air outside court.
Two were sentenced to 18 months' jail for obstruction of justice, court officials said.
Unlike anarchic southern Somalia -- where hardline Islamist rebels are battling a weak government and chaos has often reigned for the last 18 years -- Somaliland prides itself on having a working judiciary and government structure.
(Reporting by Hussein Ali Noor; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

Bashir Makhtal's kangaroo court conviction in Ethiopia

Date: 28th July 2009
Ref: OHRC/PRJ/0209
On December 31st 2006, Bashir Ahmed Makhtal, a prominent Canadian businessman, who originates from the Ogaden region, was arrested by the Kenyan authorities while he was crossing the border between Kenya and Somalia with a valid Canadian passport. No reason was given for his illegal detention.
On January 21st 2007, Mr Makhtal and three other Somalis from the Ogaden region were airlifted secretly to Mogadishu airport and then handed over to the Ethiopian authorities against their will. They were beaten up, blindfolded and then transferred to secret military detention centre in Ethiopia. (See OHRC’s press release Kenya: Illegally arrests and renders Ogaden Somalis to Ethiopian military in Somalia ref: OHRC/PRO/0207).
According to his co-detainees who were released lately, they have been constantly interrogated under torture and did not get any medical treatment for their injuries.
Mr Bashir was accused of being a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. He has been brought before an Ethiopian court several times. Each time, he was taken back to his cell for lack of evidence.
On July 27 th 2009, an Ethiopian kangaroo court, in Addis Ababa, convicted him of being a member of the ONLF and supporting terrorism in the Ogaden. According to the Ethiopian law this conviction carries capital punishment. The court will pronounce its verdict today, July 28th 2009.
Throughout his appearances in the court he pleaded not guilty. But as usual in Ethiopia the court’s conviction was fait accompli. He was not informed the particulars of the charges and reasons for his arrest, has not had access to any evidence presented against him and was not represented by a proper legal counsel and his trial was marred by many problems and irregularities.
Hence, he did not receive fair trial in accordance with recognized international standards.
On the basis of available information about his case, the OHRC believes that there was not credible evidence for his conviction, and his trial was a travesty of justice, and considers all members of his family – who are in detention- prisoners of conscience and victims of Ethiopian government’s personal vendetta.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee believes that Ethiopian government is bent on destroying Garad Makhtal Dahir’s family because of late Makhtal’s role in founding Ogaden Liberation Front.
Since his arrest the Ethiopian government has hunted down all members of his family without an apparent reason.
On May 17th 2007, in Jigjiga, Ethiopian security forces and the local police collected a number of his relatives from their residences in the dead of night. And then they were transferred to Garabcase military barracks and Jigjiga Police Centre. Among them were:
Ruqiya Ahmed Makhtal, Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, Mohamed Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, Mulki Sheikh Salah, Dakhare Hassan Ahmed, Abdullahi Dahir Adan, Abdi Mohamed and Abdirahim Mukhtar.
On August 28th 2007, in Jigjiga, Ethiopian security forces and the local police collected Suldan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, a cousin of Bashir Ahmed Makhtal, from his residence in the dead of night. And then he was transferred to an underground military detention in Jigjiga. (See Ogaden: Ethiopian Government Forces: Massacre, displace and starve out the civilian population with impunity ref: OHRC/AR/07).
On May 12th 2008, Suldan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, a prominent community elder and a peace activist was sentenced to 22 years in prison by an Ethiopian regional court in Jigjiga. He was transferred to Zuway prison, in Amhara region, far away from his family and relatives.
(See Ogaden: Ethiopian Court’s Sentences are Mockery of Justice ref: Ref: OHRC/PRM/0208).

Bashir Ahmed Makhtal’s family members and relatives were subjected to extensive torture. The remaining members of his family went into hiding for fear of their lives.
Recently, Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, Abdi Mohamed and Abdirahim Mukhtar, his brother and two nephews respectively, were released on bail, and were restricted to Jigjiga, after 22 months of detention without official charges or trial.
The OHRC, which called for them to be either charged with recognizable criminal offences and given fair trials or released unconditionally, welcomes their release, and calls upon the Ethiopian government to lift the unconstitutional restrictions imposed on them, and asks the unconditional and immediate release of other detainees as well.
To the best of OHRC’s knowledge, Bashir Ahmed Makhtal and members of his family were not involved in any illegal activities, and have no political affiliation whatsoever.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is concerned about their safety and well-being and condemns the conviction of the Addis Ababa Kangaroo Court and demands their unconditional and immediate release.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee urges the Canadian Government to seek the immediate and unconditional release of its citizen as well as his family members on humanitarian grounds.
Ogaden Human Rights Committee
E-mail: ohrc@ogadenrights.org

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eritrea Ruler Tells Nation To Sacrifice Breakfast To Build A Road

Eritrea Ruler Tells Nation To Sacrifice Breakfast To Build A Road

“Breakfast For A Road”. That is how the Financial Times reporter correctly dubbed Eritrea ruler Isias Afewarki's most bizarre call yet for the entire nation to sacrifice breakfast in order to save foreign currency to finance road construction!
Afewarki's revelation of his new prescription for the entire nation to skip yet another meal to remedy yet another shortage was exposed during an interview last week with the Financial Times posted to the web yesterday.
Responding to the nations shortage in Foreign Currency, Afewarki proclaimed:
“The whole population will have to sacrifice breakfast..use that saving for putting in place a road any where..”. To that, the reporter exclaimed: So, “Breakfast for a road?” Afewarki then granted this fitting designation gladly and without any hesitation!
The interview covered, among other things, issues about Somalia, Democracy, Military service, and looming UN sanction. On democracy, Afewarki is still in denial, on Somalia, Afewarki treats it as his private property, and on looming UN sanction, he doesn't want to talk about! On military national service, Afewarki delivered an agitated response “..in national service you are obliged to service without pay. This is a duty imposed upon every citizen in spite of your liking or not liking..” So responded Afewarki angrily on national service!

Clinton to meet Somali president

Clinton to meet Somali president
The US secretary of state plans to meet the president of Somalia's transitional government during a seven-nation trip to Africa next week, the state department has said.
Hillary Clinton will meet Sheikh Sharif Ahmed on the sidelines of an annual trade forum with sub-Saharan countries, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, on August 5, Ian Kelly, the state department spokesman, said in a statement on Monday.
The meeting comes as Somalia is ravaged by years of violence that worsened two months ago when armed groups stepped up an offensive against the internationally-backed government of President Ahmed.
On Monday, mortar attacks by Somali armed groups disrupted a parliamentary session as heavy fighting between the groups and African Union-backed government forces killed seven civilians, officials said.
Heavy fighting
At least seven civilians were killed and 18 others wounded in fighting between al-Shabab and government forces backed by the AU troops, police in the capital said.
The parliament was meeting for the first time since al-Shabab and Hizb al-Islam groups launched an anti-government offensive in May.
"Several mortar shells struck the compound where we were having a session but there were no casualties. The session was called off after the attack and will continue tomorrow," Mohamed Adan, a legislator said.
Some 300 MPs were meeting in a building in the south of the capital Mogadishu when al-Shabab fighters began firing mortars.
"We heard explosions of mortar as we started our session minutes after the president left the compound," said Hussein Ali, another MP.

Somalia: Many Displaced, Many to Feed

Somalia: Many Displaced, Many to Feed
By Joe DeCapua Washington D.C28 July 2009
As fighting between Somali government forces and militias continues, so does the
displacement of many thousands of civilians.
In recent months, Somalis have fled the capital, Mogadishu, in droves, affecting humanitarian operations as agencies adjust where and how they distribute aid.
World Food Program spokesman Peter Smerdon, in Nairobi, describes operations in Somalia as "a rather difficult undertaking."
Budgetary needs unmet
"Overall, the World Food Program has so far received just 40 percent of the resources it needs to assist 3.5 million Somalis from April 2009 through to next March," he says.

There could be more ration cuts.

"We, without any new contributions, will run out of food to distribute from October. Therefore," says Smerdon, "we need urgent contributions now to avoid continued ration cuts beyond September or having to entirely halt feeding to vulnerable groups."
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have left Mogadishu in recent months, seeking a safe haven from the ongoing fighting in the city. The UN refugee agency is trying to find out where they went. It's expected to release a new assessment in August.
"We will try to get assistance to them, but it's very difficult," he says.
Poor and hungry
"Generally, the displaced people are the most vulnerable because often they've fled Mogadishu with just the clothes on their back. And they don't have jobs. They have no money with them. They've used what money they can to get out of Mogadishu," he says.
"The fighting in Mogadishu," says Smerdon, "forced our Somali NGO partner in the capital to suspend on the 20th of June the provision of 80,000 daily prepared meals that are handed out to the most desperate people through 16 centers across the city," he says.
Two months of food worth $700,000 had been pre-positioned in the capital for the program. The food remains in the city, but it's not known when distribution will resume.
"That's the only large-scale feeding program in the Somali capital at the moment. So, it's a big blow to people inside the city," he says.
Local harvests part of food aid
"The main rains harvest is just starting. So what we do is we reduce our relief distribution to some people…in order to not force down prices for produce from local farmers," he says.
The harvest also creates jobs. Food distribution will be reduced in some areas in August and September and then gradually rise after the harvest.

Many of those who've fled the capital, says Smerdon, have settled in the Afgooye corridor.

"Our distributions in Afgooye have continued. There are more than 400,000 people living in a string of camps on the road to Afgooye out of Mogadishu…. Sometimes we have to divert the trucks because there's fighting in a particular place," he says.
WFP food ships continue to arrive in Mogadishu port, escorted by international naval vessels to ward off pirates.
"The supply line to Afgooye has been pretty secure so far," he says.

The Delay Is Not Due To The Production Of The Voter List.

July 28, 2009
The Delay Is Not Due To The Production Of The Voter List.
Interpeace Press Statement
Hargeisa, Somaliland,
Following a series of recent accusations reported in the Somaliland media, Interpeace is compelled to clarify a number of points.
In 23 July 2009, a newspaper reported comments by an official of the Ministry of Planning, accusing Interpeace of working illegally in Somaliland because it is not registered under the Ministry. Under Somaliland law, Interpeace is not required to register as it is present only as a PROJECT with contracted consultants and does not have or intend to have a permanent presence on the ground. Interpeace does not have its own premises and its consultancy work is carried out from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) offices; its status is that of a consultant (not of an international organization established in Somaliland). Furthermore, Interpeace is present at the invitation of the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) and supported the successful parliamentary elections in 2005 and the construction of the Parliamentary Building under similar terms. Interpeace has asked for an official citation from the Ministry of Planning to clarify these points.
There have been other media reports (for example on 20 and 21 July 2009) of accusations against Interpeace with respect to the Voter Registration System and the Voter List. While every effort is being made to address the massive abuse of the system during the registration period - and to finalize the Voter List for 27 July 2009, Interpeace notes for the record that any delays in technical preparations for the presidential election on 27 September 2009 do NOT relate to the production of the Voter List.
Background on the voter registration system,
1. The National Electoral Commission (NEC), and the political parties insisted on a sophisticated biometric (fingerprint identification) system, against the explicit advice of Interpeace and the donors; both recommended using a simpler manual system in order to avoid potential delays from an electronic one that Somalilanders would not be familiar with and that would require recruiting extra personnel and obtaining materials from abroad.
2. Donors provided about $10 million for the development and implementation of this ambitious system, of which over $ 5 million was directly contracted to Somaliland vendors and the employment of thousands of Somalilanders to implement the programme.
3. The Voter Registration system was seriously abused during its implementation, with widespread corruption and systematic fraud, resulting in the failure to record the fingerprints of more than half of all registrants. In other cases, over 150 registrations were made with a single fingerprint at the same registration centre, or through photographs instead of in person.
4. NEC refused to accept additional oversight support in the field or to implement proposed measures to curtail abuse of the registration system. These abuses are illegal and those responsible should be held to account but not a single case has been brought to court despite ample evidence.
5. In order to rescue the voter registration exercise, a second back-up facial recognition system (FRS) was introduced for which the system was not originally designed. This is an unprecedented and technically complex exercise, which was undertaken in order to rescue this unique opportunity for Somalilanders for both voter registration and a national identity card - as well as to protect the huge investment and effort incurred. All political parties agreed that the system must be saved and the complex FRS system was developed to do that.
6. The technical challenges in addressing the abuse of the voter registration system were aggravated after the 29 October 2008 attack in Hargeysa, which led to the withdrawal of the Indian IT company that was developing and supporting the implementation of the system.
7. New technical experts took their place and enormous efforts have been made to identify and eliminate the most flagrant violations, and to produce a Final Voter List that is credible and technically sound.
8. There is no National Registrar in post because the NEC and the parties have failed to reach agreement on this for the past 16 months. The acting National Registrar has been fully trained by Interpeace and intimately involved in the development of the Final Voter List. But, as the acting official, he cannot build a team of qualified Somaliland technicians to run the Server and the Final Voter List process, which were the original intent and the commitment of NEC. Interpeace has serious concerns about management of the Server after the Voter List is produced in the absence of a National Registrar and trained staff to manage it.
Independent evaluation of the voter registration system and production of the Voter List
The independent experts who evaluated the voter registration system and production of the Voter List briefed the technical representatives of the political parties on Tuesday 22 July. Some key points as follows:
The voter registration system is transparent and the database is sound
2. There is almost no exclusion (disenfranchisement) of genuine registrants, which is impressive, significant and important.
3. The Automated Fingerprint Identification (AFIS) and Facial Recognition (FRS) systems are both sound but not operating together as well as expected.
4. This is because the introduction of the secondary system (Facial Recognition) introduces huge complications into the programming, which was done to rescue the voter registration after the abuse of the Fingerprint Identification System.
5. No system can catch all fraudulent registrations [just as no justice system can catch all criminals and perpetrators]; but the system is allowing through too many double/ multiple registrants, resulting in an unrealistic total of 1.2 million registrations
6. This can be dealt with by adjusting one of the parameters.
On 23 July, NEC approved the adjustment of the parameter to produce a more accurate and robust Voter List that eliminates more of the double/ multiple registrants. The Company that devises the program has already presented the corrections and the server is running the new program.
While the Somaliland media is commended for its intention to inform the public of current dynamics, it is unfortunate when Somaliland’s official business is addressed primarily through the newspapers rather than managed by the wisdom of its institutions and leaders, as entrusted to them by the law of the land and on behalf of the people.
Interpeace reiterates to the Somaliland people that any delay in holding the presidential election is not due to the production of the Voter List. The real problem is the fulfillment of the necessary preconditions to hold the election, summarized in the donors’ communication of 27 May 2009. If the Somalilanders are going to exercise their right to vote on September 27, it is essential to start the preparation NOW but this is not possible until the foundations for a credible election are put in place by the Somaliland stakeholders.
Source : Awdal News

Monday, July 27, 2009

Foreign Troops Should Leave Somalia

Monday, July 27, 2009
Foreign Troops Should Leave Somalia
By Andrew Bast
Somalia has become synonymous with the term “failed state.” Even now, after nearly two decades of civil war and a dismaying string of failed foreign interventions, the end of the country’s long humanitarian catastrophe seems no closer. Recently, Western security experts have begun to warn that the capital city, Mogadishu, could be overrun by Al-Shabab, an armed Islamic extremist group the U.S. government says has ties to Al Qaeda. In the past two months, more than 200,000 people have fled fighting between Al-Shabab and a 4,300-strong African Union peacekeeping force. Last week Al-Shabab gunmen overran a U.N. compound in the city of Baidoa, expelling the international agencies there, including aid workers. Alarmed, Washington recently sent $5 million worth of munitions to help the badly outmatched blue helmets. Now various groups inside and outside the country are calling for more foreign assistance.

But the last thing Somalia needs is additional outside interference. Instead, the world should pull out its forces. Again and again, foreign intervention there has only made conditions worse. Ethiopia’s three-year war with Somalia’s insurgents, which ended in January, managed only to empower the hardline Islamists. Likewise, the presence of the African Union force has made the insurgents seem stronger and more unified. (Meanwhile, the U.N.-approved transitional government the AU is meant to support remains largely impotent and controls just a few streets in Mogadishu.) To fight the foreigners, Al-Shabab has allied itself with another insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, despite the fact that the two have little in common. “The foreign military intervention is a unifying force for the extremists,” says Council on Foreign Relations fellow Bronwyn Bruton, author of an upcoming report on the political dynamics in Somalia. The country has even become a prime destination for Qaeda fighters from Pakistan, who are attracted by the chance to wage international jihad there. That makes a long-term political solution much more difficult to achieve.

Hardhearted as it seems, the smartest response might be to let Al-Shabab try to seize Mogadishu. There are several reasons to think this could help. For one, the Islamist group is far from monolithic, and could well splinter without a foreign enemy to rally against. Second, many of Somalia’s factions—like the Abgal businessmen who run Mogadishu’s port—are well armed and unlikely to be steamrolled by religious fanatics. Third, should they somehow manage to actually seize power, Al-Shabab would then face the immense challenge of governing. “Somalis don’t like harsh religious ideology,” Bruton says, and would thus likely resist Taliban-like rule. Foreign armies can still help—but only once Al-Shabab has crumbled on its own. And if outsiders return, it should be to rebuild, not to fight.
Tag(s): ,