Pontus Marine LTD- Leader of fishing industry in Somaliland

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Invitation to participate memorial reception for Late Ali Marshal via conference call

Invitation - Participate in memorial reception for late Ali Marshal via conference call
Invitation to participate memorial reception for Late Ali Marshal via conference call
What: You are cordially invited to participate in a Memorial Reception in Toronto (Canada) via conference call to remember Mujahid Ali Guled (Marshal).
The conference call will simply broadcast the program prepared for the Toronto Memerial Reception.
Conference call. Dial the attendee number listed below, enter the access code and press # sign.
Attendee Dial-in #: (712) 432-1001
Attendee Access Code: 499686938#
Anyone who is not in Toronto and is not able to physically attend the reception in person.
Sunday, August 16, 2009 @ 5pm (Toronto or Washington DC, USA), 10pm (London, UK), 2pm (California, USA)
Somaliland American Council http://www.somalilandamerican.com/ ________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, August 14, 2009

Somali officials trade blame over sheikh murders in Puntland

Somali officials trade blame over sheikh murders in Puntland
By Abdi Sheikh and Abdi Guled
MOGADISHU, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Officials in lawless northern Somalia traded accusations on Thursday a day after masked gunmen massacred seven Pakistani preachers at a mosque.
The sheikhs were killed in Galkayo, a town on the southern edge of the semi-autonomous northern Puntland region. Violence is increasing in the area, which had been relatively peaceful compared with the rest of the failed Horn of Africa state.
Western security agencies say Somalia has become a haven for Islamist militants plotting attacks in the region and beyond.
The president of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, accused officials in Galmudug, which covers the southern part of the town, of ordering Wednesday's shooting.
"The administration of southern Galkayo was behind the killing of the Pakistani preachers," Farole told reporters. "They are causing chaos in our region."
But a senior Galmudug official, Mohamed Warsame, denied it.
"Puntland is definitely behind the killings," Warsame said.
"When the Pakistanis landed in Puntland their passports were taken by the authorities and they were settled in a mosque ... the Puntland president has imposed a night curfew in the north of Galkayo. His forces must have killed them."
The group of about 25 sheikhs had arrived in Puntland on Tuesday. Local officials said they were mostly from Karachi.
It remained far from clear why they were murdered.
Some residents said they may have been suspected of al Qaeda links, while others rejected that and said the clerics were from South Asia's apolitical Tablighi Jamaat religious movement.
The Pakistani government said Somalia's Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar expressed condolences over the "tragic incident" in a telephone call to Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Amad Khan.
"He assured ... that the government of Somalia was doing its utmost to apprehend the culprits," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement, referring to Omar.
Somalia has been torn by civil war since 1991, and the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls only small pockets of the bomb-shattered capital Mogadishu.
It is facing hardline Islamist rebels in southern and central regions, including the al Shabaab group, which the United States accuses of being al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia.
At least six people were killed in Mogadishu on Wednesday when two supposedly pro-government factions exchanged artillery and anti-aircraft fire across the city's strategic K4 junction.
Violence in Somalia has killed more than 18,000 people since the start of 2007 and driven another 1 million from their homes.
On Thursday, al Shabaab fighters battled gunmen from a more moderate Islamist group, Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, for control of part of the central district of Eldher, residents said.
And a spokesman for al Shabaab said the port in the southern town of Kismayu had resumed work as usual after the monsoon season. The rebel group runs Kismayu and the surrounding areas.
"The sea port is under the control of the Islamic administration, not (east African regional organisation) IGAD, not America," the spokesman, Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, told Reuters.
"They cannot stop its work."
The port, near the Kenyan border, is an important source of income for the insurgents. (Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Hargeisa, Sahra Abdi in Nairobi and Zeeshan Haider in Islamabad; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Alison Williams

Somalia tells all visitors to seek government approval

Somalia tells all visitors to seek government approval
By Abdiaziz Hassan
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia's new security minister warned foreigners Friday not to visit the Horn of Africa nation without government approval after masked gunmen massacred seven Pakistani preachers at a mosque.
The clerics were killed Wednesday in Galkayo, a town on the southern edge of the semi-autonomous northern Puntland region. Officials in Puntland and neighboring Galmudug district accuse each other of ordering the shooting.
Some residents said the sheikhs may have been suspected of al Qaeda links, while others rejected that and said they were from South Asia's apolitical Tablighi Jamaat religious movement.
Mohamed Abdullahi, who was appointed as security minister last month after his predecessor was assassinated by a suicide bomber in June, said their identity was not yet established.
"Foreign fighters have been using this as cover and acting like preachers in Somalia. Nobody is sure if they were real preachers, but we condemn the killing of people in a mosque," he told Reuters in an interview.
"I am warning Islamic preachers and all foreigners not to come to Somalia with such arrangements. They have to pass through the country's immigration authorities who can advise them on when they can arrive and where they should stay."
Western security agencies say Somalia has become a haven for Islamist militants plotting attacks in the region and beyond. Violence has killed more than 18,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1 million from their homes.
The country has been mired in civil war since 1991, and the administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls only small pockets of the bullet-scarred capital Mogadishu.
It is battling hardline Islamist insurgents in southern and central regions, including the al Shabaab group, which the United States accuses of being al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia.
At least 16 people were killed and 20 wounded in two days of fighting between al Shabaab and rival militiamen in the central Galgadud region, witnesses told Reuters by telephone Friday.
Abdullahi said the government was holding indirect talks with three senior al Shabaab commanders and with high profile members of another guerrilla group, Hizbul Islam.
"We are getting quite positive signals ... In the coming weeks there will be a good development," he said.
He did not elaborate on the discussions, but said more than 50 Hizbul Islam fighters voluntarily disarmed this week.
"They had no deep political ideology. Most of them were brainwashed or forced into what they were doing. They also realized they had lost the moral support of Somalis because of their actions," the minister said.
(Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Hargeisa; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Egyptian crews overpower Somali pirates, kill 2

Egyptian crews overpower Somali pirates, kill 2
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN (AP) – 4 hours ago
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The crew of two Egyptian fishing vessels overpowered Somali pirates after being held hostage for four months and, with machetes and tools, killed at least two pirates before sailing to freedom, a pirate and businessmen said Friday.
The case marked a rare instance of crewmen fighting back against Somali pirates, who usually hold their hostages for months in anticipation of million-dollar ransoms.
One pirate was in custody after local fishermen found him near shore with machete wounds, police said.
A top manager of the Yemeni fishing company that hired the vessels, the Ahmed Samara and Momtaz 1, said the crew may have been helped by gunmen the pirates hired to help watch over the boat.
A pirate who told The Associated Press he escaped the ordeal said the fight Thursday took place near the coastal town of Las Qorey off the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest waterways and where Somali pirates carry out most of their attacks.
"They attacked us with machetes and other tools, seized some of our guns and then fought with us," the pirate, who gave only his nom de guerre, Miraa, told the AP in a telephone interview. "I could see two dead bodies of my colleagues lying on the ship. I do not know the fate of the nine others."
Mohamed Alnahdi, the executive manager of Mashrq Marine Product, which hired both boats, said the crew told the owner of one of the boats that some of the gunmen on board collaborated with them.
Alnahdi, speaking on the phone from the northern Somalia port town of Bossaso, said he had been in the country for 35 days to negotiate the release of the ships. Negotiations broke down on Thursday when he and the pirates disagreed on whether they should be paid a ransom or reimbursed for the cost of supplies during the four months they held the vessels.
The pirates were demanding a ransom of $1.5 million, he said.
"We told them (the pirates) that we don't have more than the US$200,000 to pay them to recoup costs incurred during the past four months they have been holding the boats. But they rejected it," Alnahdi told The Associated Press.
"We don't pay ransom. It is forbidden in Islam," he said.
Alnahdi, whose company is based in Makalla, Yemen, said the crews coordinated their action to overpower the pirates on both boats at the same time. He said he did not have any other details of how the crews escaped from their captors.
The ships are now on their way to Yemen, and the Egyptian fishermen will make their way home via plane later Friday, Mohammad Nasr, the owner of the Ahmed Samara, said. Four pirates will be handed over to Yemeni authorities, he said.
The most prominent case of a hijacked crew fighting back pirates was in April when an American crew fought their Somali captors until their crew's captain offered himself as a hostage in a bid to save their lives.
The captain was later released after U.S. navy snipers shot his captors and captured one of them.
Pirate attacks worldwide more than doubled in the first half of 2009 amid a surge of raids on vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia, according to an international maritime watchdog. The attacks come despite international patrols, including U.S., European, Chinese, Russian and Indian ships.
The higher attacks worldwide were due mainly to increased Somali pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden and east coast of Somalia, which combined accounts for 130 of the ca4ses.
Somalia has not had an effective government since the 1991 overthrow of a dictatorship plunged the country into chaos. Besides frequent land battles, the power vacuum has also allowed pirates to operate freely around Somalia's 1,900-mile (3,060-kilometer) coastline.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to put armed teams on U.S.-flagged ships passing through high-risk waters, specifically around the Horn of Africa where Somali pirates have become a scourge.
The amendment now goes to the Senate. But U.S. military resources are spread thin and onboard weapons, especially in the hands of civilian crew, are seen as an extreme option.
The laws of many nations prevent vessels from carrying weapons, historically for fear they would be used by mutineers.
Associated Press writers Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Nairobi, Kenya and Hadeel al-Shalchi in Cairo contributed to this report.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A long-lasting leader faces growing problems at home and abroad

Ethiopia's resilient prime minister
The two sides of Meles Zenawi
Aug 13th 2009 ADDIS ABABA
From The Economist print edition
A long-lasting leader faces growing problems at home and abroad
HE HAS run Ethiopia as prime minister since 1991, but Meles Zenawi, still only 54, has two faces. One belongs to a leader battling poverty. In this mode he is praised by Western governments, with Britain to the fore, for improving the miserable conditions in the countryside, where 85% of Ethiopia’s 80m-plus people live. Mr Meles takes credit for building new roads, clinics and primary schools, and for an array of agricultural initiatives. He also wins plaudits for his country’s low crime rate and for keeping its parliamentarians more or less on the straight and narrow, especially in terms of wealth. They get paid only about $3,240 a year compared with the $120,000 earned by Kenya’s fat-cat MPs. Moreover, in the past few years Ethiopia’s economy has grown fast. Mr Meles says it will grow this year by 10%, though the IMF’s figure is about half as big.
His mind is sharp, his memory elephantine, and he bristles with energy and vigour. In a rare interview, he speaks for two hours without notes. With his polished English, full of arcane turns of phrase from his days at a private English school in Addis Ababa, the capital, he captivates foreign donors. Though he avoids mentioning famine because the spectre of it may be looming again, he uses the memory of past debacles to prick Western consciences. Last month he suggested that the famine of 1984, which stirred Band Aid to come to Ethiopia’s help, may have been worsened by the pollution in Europe. He says he fully expects the West to pay $40 billion a year to Africa to compensate it for the damage caused by climate change.
But then there is the harsher side of Mr Meles, the Marxist fighter turned political strongman with a dismal human-rights record who is intolerant of dissent. In 2005, after a disputed general election, his police shot dead some 200 civilians. An independent inquiry ended up with several of its judges fleeing the country. Mr Meles sprinkles spies through the universities to intimidate and control the students; he was once a student agitator himself. He closes down independent newspapers and meddles in aid projects, banning agencies that annoy him. Last month he suspended the activities of about 40 of them from the Somali-populated parts of the country.
Many of Ethiopia’s opposition leaders were imprisoned after the election of 2005 on trumped-up treason charges; after a year or more, they were freed. But several have been rearrested. A new catch-all law that has just been passed could make peaceful opposition liable to the charge of inciting terrorism.
In any case, the economic story is not quite as rosy as Mr Meles suggests. Ethiopia may have only a few weeks of foreign reserves left. On the business front, the country remains very backward. Ethiopians have one of the lowest rates of mobile-phone ownership in Africa. Banking is rudimentary at best. Farming is still mostly for subsistence.
And famine looms once more. At that suggestion, Mr Meles narrows his eyes and growls, “That is a lie, an absolute lie.” There is more than enough food in government warehouses to feed the people, he says. But others say stockpiled grain has already been earmarked for handing out to people in the towns. The UN and foreign charities are predicting a large-scale famine in Tigray, Mr Meles’s home region, by November. At least 6m people may need food handouts unless more supplies can be found locally.
Mr Meles’s officials, most of them still working in gloomy Soviet-built offices, often sound almost paranoid in their sensitivity to criticism. The prime minister is quick to talk up threats to his country, whether from malcontents in the army or disgruntled ethnic groups among Ethiopia’s mosaic of peoples. Radical Oromos, a southern group that makes up about a third of Ethiopia’s people, often fall under suspicion. A bunch arrested earlier this year after an alleged attack on a dam under construction were paraded on state television as members of the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The government also regularly publicises threats by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a Somali separatist group in the east, which has murdered foreigners and Ethiopians exploring for oil in that area.
Mr Meles is understandably worried by events in the wider region. Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea, his mother’s birthplace, remain lousy. He accuses it of backing jihadists bent on hurting Ethiopia. He also accuses Eritrea of egging on Oromo rebels in the south and Somali separatists in the Ogaden region. “Eritrea is hellbent on destabilising Ethiopia,” he says. “It does not care who it sleeps with.”
And he remains edgy about the continuing strife in Somalia. In late 2006, with American encouragement, he sent his army there to topple an Islamist government that had declared a holy war on Ethiopia. Earlier this year he withdrew his troops after it became apparent they could not impose peace. But now the jihadists are gaining ground there again, bringing in al-Qaeda types—just what Mr Meles wanted to prevent.
So Mr Meles is up against it, at home and abroad, but apparently relishing the challenges. A general election is due next year. He had previously hinted he might step down after it. More recently, he has sounded less sure, dismissing such speculation as “boring”. Some say he may leave his prime ministerial post but stay on to chair his ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He seems likely, in whatever guise, to call the shots—with decreasing dissent.

Amid hunger, foreign companies in race to 'grab' Ethiopia's arable land


Amid hunger, foreign companies in race to 'grab' Ethiopia's arable land
(Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The PM recently welcomed a Saudi agriculture delegation and expressed his eagerness to provide hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land for investment.” Photo/REUTERS )
In Summary
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, China and South Korea among states seeking farms in Ethiopia.
India leads the "land grabbing" race, with more than $2.5 billion in agricultural investment
Currently, more than 5.2 million Ethiopians need emergency food aid
Agriculture ministry official argues that large scale foreign commercial farming is a way to end poverty and hunger.
Posted Thursday, August 13 2009
Ethiopian government has defended its plan to offer 2.7 million hectares of farmland to foreign companies despite millions of citizens who need food aid from the international community.
According to Ethiopia's Agriculture Ministry officials, the country delineated around 2.7 million hectares of land, available for foreign companies from Middle East and East Asia countries.
The government will hand over 1.7 million hectares of arable land to the foreign investors before the coming harvest season.
World's top oil producing countries including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and giant economies like India, China and South Korea are queuing in Addis Ababa to start big commercial farming to feed their own people.
The competition among “land grabber” states has become fierce, with the overall number of companies applying for land in Ethiopia reaching 8,000. However, only 2,000 foreign companies, including medium size agricultural projects, have already secured farmland.
India leads the "land grabbing" race and so far Indian agricultural investment has been more than $2.5 billion. India's total investment in Ethiopia was $300 million three years ago and has now grown to $ 4.3 billion. It is double the amount of Western aid offered to Ethiopia.
Departing Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Gurjit Singh, believes Indian investment will reach eight to 10 billion dollars in the coming few years.
“I don't think this is the end of the story, but just the beginning,” he added.
Currently, more than 5.2 million people need emergency food aid from the international community in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Another eight million rural poor are being supported through a regular productive safety net aid scheme.
Esayas Kebede, Director of Agriculture Investment Support office argued that large scale foreign commercial farming is a way to end poverty and hunger.
“We have abundant land and labour but we don’t have a finance and technology to feed our people” Esayas said.
"Its not land grabbing; we are looking to generate foreign currency to support our development effort. It’s better than begging" He added.
Esayas downplayed the size of land allocated for the investors. He said the size was small compared to the entire country's arable land, which is estimated at 74 million hectares.
So far, only 17 million hectares of land is being used by Ethiopian farmers.
Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, is also enthusiastic. After welcoming a Saudi agriculture delegation recently, he said: “We told them [the Saudis] that we would be very eager to provide hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land for investment.”
Some critics, including Jacques Diouf, head of the FAO, warned against “neo-colonialism” but others say the investments can boost economic growth in Africa.
Ethiopia's ruling party Ethiopian People Democratic Front (EPRDF) is now reconsidering its firm ideological land use policy and is now allowing private investors to farm, along with the more than 14 million Ethiopian peasant farmers.
The ruling party will meet to revisit the proposed land-use policy shift on the upcoming annual meeting next September.

Somalia :Pakistani Muslim missionaries killed in Puntland mosque. Why?

Somalia: Pakistani Muslim missionaries killed in Punland mosque. Why?
The brazen attack spotlights the presence of religious foreigners in a lawless country that US officials say could soon turn into the next terrorist haven run by militant Islamists.
By Matthew Clark Africa editor 08.12.09
Masked gunmen killed at least five Pakistani clerics after storming a mosque Wednesday in western Somalia.
Nobody but the killers seems to know yet why they launched the brazen attack, but it spotlights the presense of religious foreigners in a lawless country that US officials are worried could soon turn into the next terrorist haven run by militant Islamists.
Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit told the Associated Press that the victims belonged to the Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat, reports the Associated Press.
Some extremists, including shoe bomber Richard Reid, have been linked to the group but Tablighi Jamaat is believed to be apolitical and nonviolent. Some of its members travel the world, preaching to fellow Muslims.
“They have almost a rule of not discussing politics. They prefer to avoid it,” said Ghaffar Hussain of Quilliam Foundation, a London-based think tank. “Their stance is quite conservative, quite puritanical. But they themselves are not … extremist.
The killings come in the midst of a violent power struggle between moderate and extremist Islamists for control of the lawless country.
(Read Monitor Africa Bureau Chief Scott Baldauf’s coverage of the struggle here.)
The killings also come just days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to provide more military aid and training to the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) during a meeting in Kenya last week with moderate President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
Clinton’s tough words
Mrs. Clinton said that militant Al Shabab group – which is trying to overthrow the TFG – are “a terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda and other foreign military networks” and said that they “see Somalia as a future haven for global terrorism.”
“If Al Shabab were to obtain a haven in Somalia, which could then attract Al Qaeda and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States,” she said.
Clinton also took the sharpest stand to date against the tiny Red Sea country of Eritrea, which the US and many security experts have long accused of funneling weapons and money to Somalia’s extremists. “It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support for Al Shabab,” she said. “We are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable. We intend to take action if they do not cease.”
Foreign fighters?
Back in May, the UN envoy to Somalia claimed that foreign extremists were driving the violence in Somalia and were behind an attempted coup against transitional president Ahmed.
Osama bin Laden called for the overthrow of Somalia’s moderate Islamist president in an audio recording published on the internet in March.
Somalia now shelters an estimated 450 foreign fighters who were “egged on” by bin Laden’s message, according Agence France-Presse (AFP).
While foreign fighters wanted for links to Al-Qaeda have long used Somalia as a backyard, their numbers have swollen dramatically in 2009, experts say.
“There were maybe 100 foreigners last year but now our estimate is up to 450,” said Ismail Haji Noor, a former Somali security official who has established a secular militia bent on rooting out the Shebab and their foreign allies.
Noor said the foreign jihadists come from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia and often enter the country on regular airlines from the northern semi-autonomous state of Somaliland.
According to the AFP report, many of the foreign fighters are concentrated in Garowe, in the northern breakaway state of Puntland, not far from where the Pakistanis were killed, in the town of Galkayo.
Somali extremists are also making in-roads deep into neighboring Kenya, recruiting disaffected young ethnic Somalis, as this in-depth Monitor story details.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Out of Africa, into Wales

Out of Africa, into Wales
City-dwelling Somalis in the UK are being given the chance to experience traditional rural life in a hill farm in mid Wales. Sanjida O'Connell reports on how an unlikely partnership is keeping their cultural heritage alive
Sanjida O'Connell
The Guardian, Wednesday 12 August 2009
Article history

As soon as the goat is brought in, Zahra Mohomed bends down and expertly milks it, before turning back to toss another lahooh, a type of pancake made with yeast, on a hot skillet. Mohomed is originally from Mogadishu in Somalia and now lives in London. Today, with another 21 Somalis, she's at a hill farm in mid Wales and seems as at ease here as she once was in her own country.
"Everything is organic," she says, indicating the Welsh flour. "It reminds me of back home. I love the fresh air, the fresh food."
We're at the Degmo Centre for Somali Heritage and Rural Life at Hamish Wilson's farm in New Radnor. Wilson was partly brought up in Africa and, due to his father's experience in Somalia during the second world war, had such strong connections with the country that he became a camel boy, herding camels through the deserts with the nomads in the 1980s. He went on to join the liberation movement during the civil war. Now settled in Wales as an organic livestock farmer, he wants to recreate Somali traditions on his farm.
Somalis have a custom, he says, of sending their children to live in the countryside during the summer months with their nomadic relatives. "It imbibes them with a sense of their own culture and the language. Unlike other Africans, it means they don't turn their back on village life even after they've moved to the city," says Wilson.
However, Somali people in this country often do not have the means to send their children back home. It might not seem immediately obvious that instead of travelling around with the Mi, nomadic pastoralists in Somalia, children should be sent to a rainy, hillside farm in Wales. But Wilson is at pains to point out that it is the Somalis themselves who dictate how the centre is run. A number of Somali businesspeople, including Abdirashid Duale, the chief executive of Dahabshiil, a money-transfer service for the Horn of Africa, have paid for the creation of the centre.
Wilson works with Somali communities in Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester and London. His major partner is the Ocean Somali Community Association (Osca) in Tower Hamlets, east London with which he meets every two or three months to discuss how Degmo should be run. The centre also has a Somali board of patrons who assist in the decision-making.
Osca's most recent concern is how to encourage Somalis to be more interested in the environment and sustainability, and in response Wilson initiated a programme of tree-planting on the farm. Osca is also keen to keep Somali women's customs alive, and a programme of weaving traditional rush mats will begin soon.
Thanks to the intervention of Osca, Degmo now provides private family-sized tents instead of communal accommodation. Somali families come for private visits, and the money they pay is used to fund trips for unemployed or low-income families.
The centre aims to recreate a sense of life on a traditional Somalian settlement with a series of tents filled with mattresses and woollen blankets. There are hot showers and two large, round yurt-like tents with a cooker, a fire and a number of Somalian artefacts. "Degmo" means settlement in Somalian, and the idea is to create a place to stay that has an ecologically low impact and allows people "to hear the birds and the bees", says Wilson.
"I was born in a place like this, on a mattress like this and with a tablet like this one for learning," says Musa Hersi, chair of the London-based Somali Carers Trust, indicating a wooden slab with a fragment from the Qur'an written on it. "We wanted to come here because of Hamish's connection to Somalia.
"We've brought all ages of people with us, from children to the elderly. It's about remembrance for the older generation, enjoyment for the middle-aged and learning for the youngsters."
Migration to the UK
Somali communities have been in the UK for 125 years, originally as migrant labourers who maintained their families back home. As the political situation deteriorated in their own country, they started returning to live here in the 1970s, and numbers escalated in the 90s. Official figures suggest there are 43,000 Somalis living in the UK, but experts say there could be anything from 95,000 to 250,000.
Like many other people from an ethnic minority background, few visit the British countryside. Even though 8% of the UK population is from an ethnic minority, only 1% of ethnic minority communities go on day trips to the countryside, according to the Campaign for National Parks.
For Summer Duale, 21, who is studying architecture at Kingston University, this is the first time she has milked a goat. "It's lovely here but I miss my hair straighteners and makeup," she says.
Hersi's 17-year-old daughter, Amal, who is still at school, says: "Dad told me I had to come because we would be milking goats. I thought it would be boring, but it's not. It's fun, but you have to get used to it." She is wearing a dress over jeans and thin pumps, just as she would have done back home in north London. Wilson sighs with exasperation and hands Amal a pair of swirly-patterned wellies.
A couple of sheep are brought to the tent to be sheared. One is clipped with electric shears, the other with a pair of hand-held metal shears. Wilson explains that Somali sheep don't have wool and aren't fat like ours; instead they store what little fat they have in their tails. The older generation nod sagely - the fatty tail is highly prized. Mohammed, 7, grabs a scrap of wool, sniffs it, makes a face and throws it away.
Four teenage boys stand with their arms folded trying not to look interested.
"It's very interesting - the difference between Somali and English sheep," says Abdi Elmi, 17, from Tottenham. It's his first experience of both camping and visiting the countryside, and he is exactly the age group that the Degmo Centre wants to engage.
"Many of them have never been to visit Somalia. They question who they are. Everything they hear about Somalis is negative, whether it's the disturbances in Mogadishu, street crime in London, conflict with African-Caribbeans in St Paul's, Bristol. Their parents find it hard to impress anything on them," Wilson says.
It is largely thanks to his father that Wilson was able to set up the centre. Eric Wilson fought in Somalia in the second world war and was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. Much later, Wilson junior was given the opportunity to buy the farm in New Radnor along with 210 acres of land. Unfortunately, he had no money. But his father believed so strongly that his son should set up a centre for Somalis that he sold his Victoria Cross to raise the funds.
The centre is now working in collaboration with the Soil Association to help low-income families visit the farm; the charity is campaigning to raise money to send 150 Bristol-based Somalis there over the next two years. They are also looking at replicating the Degmo model with other ethnic minority groups in the UK.
• Sanjida O'Connell is the author of The Naked Name of Love, published by John Murray

Somalia: The Trouble with Puntland

Somalia: The Trouble with PuntlandAfrica Briefing N°64 12 August 2009
The semi-autonomous north-eastern Somali region of Puntland, once touted as a success of the “building blocks” approach to reestablishing national stability and widely viewed as one of the most prosperous parts of Somalia, is experiencing a three-year rise in insecurity and political tension. At its roots are poor governance and a collapse of the intra-clan cohesion and pan-Darood solidarity that led to its creation in 1998. Intra-Darood friction has eroded the consensual style of politics that once underpinned a relative stability. The piracy problem is a dramatic symptom of deeper problems that, left untreated, could lead to Puntland’s disintegration or overthrow by an underground militant Islamist movement. A solution to the security threat requires the Puntland government to institute reforms that would make it more transparent and inclusive of all clans living within the region.

Puntland’s founding a decade ago was an ambitious experiment to create from the bottom up a polity that might ultimately offer a template for replication in the rest of the country, especially the war-scarred south. But Puntland is no longer a shining example, and its regime is in dire straits, with most of the blame resting squarely on the political leadership. In a major shift from the traditional unionist position officially adopted in 1998, an important segment of the Majerten elite is pushing for secession. If a wide variety of grievances are not urgently tackled in a comprehensive manner, the consequences could be severe for the whole of Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
The new president, Abdirahman Farole, and his government promise many reforms and say they will eradicate piracy in “a matter of months”. Since the beginning of April 2009, there has been a crackdown on the gangs; a few members have been put on trial and sentenced to long jail terms; and the security forces have raided suspected hideouts. These measures alone are likely not enough, however, to cope with an entrenched criminal enterprise. Criminal gangs in Puntland are involved not only in piracy, but also in other illicit activities, including arms trafficking, kidnapping and the smuggling of both people and contraband. There is evidence of state complicity, and doubts remain that the government has the political will to move against the powerful gangs, since that could spark fighting between sub-clans. Officials know this and are prioritising what they call a wa’yigelin (sensitisation campaign) rather than use of force.
Clan elders and clerics are talking to youth groups in coastal villages about the immorality and dangers of piracy, but the practice is widely tolerated and even described as a response to the “plunder” of Somalia’s marine resources and the reported dumping of toxic waste on its shores. Youth unemployment, poverty and worsening living conditions fuel the problem.
The government must take advantage of the piracy-driven international attention to mobilise funds and expertise to carry out comprehensive political, economic and institutional reforms that address the fundamental problems of poor governance, corruption, unemployment and the grinding poverty in coastal villages. The international community needs to refocus on the long-term measures without which there can be no sustainable end to that practice or true stability. Equipping and training a small coast guard is obviously a necessary investment, but so too are other steps, such as to improve the general welfare and help impoverished fishing communities. International partners should encourage and support the government of Puntland to do the following:
•suspend implementation of the new constitution and redraft it in a more inclusive process involving consultation with civil society and key clan stakeholders, as well as expert help to meet international standards;•draw up and implement a credible security sector reform strategy with input from domestic stakeholders and foreign experts, key elements of which should include civilian oversight and professionalisation of the state security agencies, and recast the general amnesty for pirates who surrender so leaders and their financial backers do not have impunity to enjoy their profits;•implement comprehensive electoral reform, including an independent electoral commission whose members come from all clans, are endorsed by the elders and parliament and enjoy secure tenure and autonomy; an independent cross-clan committee of experts to redraw parliamentary boundaries; and a special court to handle election petitions and arbitrate disputes; •set up an independent anti-corruption authority competent to investigate and prosecute officials;•open serious talks with Somaliland, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and clan elders in the Sool and Sanaag regions, and if necessary seek external arbitration to determine the final status and ownership of the disputed territories; and•build consensus around these measures by convening a region-wide conference of clan elders, political leaders and civil society groups, modelled on the 1998 Garowe Conference that launched the Puntland experiment.

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Hargeisa city: Of Goats and Great Hope

Of Goats and Great Hope
Fiona Moola
Hargeisa is a city where the streets have no names and the houses have no numbers. But no one here is lost. Of course this precludes a postal system; but snail mail seemsparticularly passé. Hargeisans are at the cutting edge of the information age and are highly connected both locally and globally. In bizarre pastiche, apparently ‘pre-modern’ nomadic pastoralism meets ‘post-modern’ cyber-connectivity. Most Hargeisans carry a mobile phone orhave access to one. The tallest building in Hargeisa is the seven or eight storeys of the mobile phone network provider. And tall glass buildings, like obelisks before them, seem to be somekind of phallic index of power and progress. Make what you will of the happy coincidence ofcyber-connectivity and multi-storey development. The number of internet cafés by far exceedsthe number of traffic lights – there seems to be only one malfunctioning set. But hang on to your handbag if you get googled by a goat. Hundreds of goats appear to have the freedom of thecity; along with stray dogs, skunks and baboons which venture in for scraps from a country side which, for a number of reasons, faces gradual desertification. (Unlike other urban spaces, theborder between country and city in Hargeisa is porous.) The goats, incidentally, are pets keptnot for slaughter, but for the pleasure of children who also drink their milk. So goat milk in asense is on tap, while water for most people is not. Water in Hargeisa is a precious commodity.Well water is supplied from metal drums drawn by mules. Piped water is something of a luxuryenjoyed by the elite and the well represented NGO community.
Banking Hargeisa-style is an absolute cinch. Apart from the state bank, the onlyoperator in town is the money remittance company, Dahabshiil. ( The other company was putout of business in the early, excessively zealous days of the paradoxically named War on Terror.) Here you can enjoy a limited range of banking services at a fraction of the cost of the servicecharges of ‘proper’ banks. Apart from livestock, the Somaliland economy relies on remittances of Somalilanders in the diaspora, for whom the call of kinship (at the moment) remains strong. Themoney remittance company has branches in eighty countries in the world and operates based,believe it or not, on trust in the largely non-literate nomadic regions of Somaliland. If you’reinclined to do your banking outdoors, buy foreign exchange from the currency hawkers on thestreet – pronto! – with no filing through x-ray security doors, no tellers behind shatterproofwindows and best of all, no queues! (Not that they need any of this in Dahabshiil either.) They use wheelbarrows here for cash in transit. There are no heists. At worst the wheelbarrow,loaded to twice its height with banknotes, can over balance in a pothole. Potholes occur with an alarming frequency and an even more alarming magnitude. Old women also hawk thousandsof dollars’ worth of gold jewellery in the street with only plastic sheets to guard against the
rain. Hargeisa experiences some petty crime, and the rate of violent crime is extremely low. Thesecurity checkpoints at the main routes into the city are a safeguard mainly against the political banditry of the south which threatens to spill into Somaliland. The Somaliland judicial system mirrors the political system, which is a dynamic (and sometimes uneasy) equilibrium of state,Islamic and traditional law.
If, in other African cities, the 4×4 is frequently the only accessory which offsets with adequately garish consumerist verve bling-bling jewellery and his-and-hers pointy shoes, inHargeisa the 4×4 is an absolute necessity. Most city streets constitute rugged terrain and wherethe roads are ‘tarred’, often they are the product of community initiatives and community funding. The city is intersected at two points by a river. There used to be two bridges whichspanned the river at these points; now there is only one. The other bridge was bombed by thedictator, Siyad Barre, in the late 1980s. To reach Hargeisa University one needs to cross theriverbed, which becomes something of a survivor challenge after rains which have been comingless and less frequently.
They say that the city never sleeps. If cities are man-made spaces which fundamentally flummox diurnal rhythms, rendering day-time and night-time indistinguishable, Hargeisa by contrast is very different. By about lunchtime, most of Hargeisa grinds to a business but notsocial halt. By the early afternoon, most Hargeisan men seek the sociality of the little green leafcalled qaat. Qaat is flown into the city daily and constitutes a significant percentage of trade with Somaliland’s big neighbour, Ethiopia. Qaat-chewing suppresses the appetite, slows down thebody and focuses the mind. Qaat has since time immemorial been used by Somalis, but what haschanged are the social rituals and economic context of its use. It is reported that ninety per cent of Hargeisan men chew qaat, with the habit growing in the shadows among increasing numbers ofyoung women. Qaat is sold openly in the streets at little stalls. There are tea shops and dedicated qaat-chewing dens where men assemble in conviviality and conversation. If this sounds like alatter-day version of the coffee shops of Habermas’s eighteenth-century public sphere, perhaps itis, but at a disturbing social cost. The prevalence of qaat-chewing means that the working dayin Hargeisa essentially ends at lunchtime, with chewing and talking going on late into the nightand the hangover lasting until late the next morning. A large part of bread winner income alsogoes into supporting the habit, creating family discord and domestic abuse. Significant healthrisks also attend continuous qaat use. To return again to the ubiquitous city goats; stalks andtough qaat leaves are frequently fed to the goats to increase milk production. The milk is fed tothe children … say no more.
The ‘public sphere’ centred on the tea shops is extended by the relatively lively printmedia and somewhat constrained electronic media. Three daily Somali-language newspapers arepublished in Hargeisa, and one weekly English-language paper called the Somaliland Times – aremarkable achievement for a society that is predominantly oral, with a script and orthographyfor Somali standardised fewer than four decades ago. Interestingly, all four Hargeisa papers,which are distributed throughout the country, have the same editor who appears signally unafraidof courting controversy. The electronic media exist through state subsidy, perhaps explaining anoticeable failure of imagination. In the post-World War II era, Hargeisa was a renowned Somalicultural centre, with a thriving theatre. The bombing of the Hargeisa theatre in 1988, togetherwith the ravages of the civil war, brought theatre culture to an abrupt close. Theatre has not beenrevived, but will hopefully be resuscitated in a few years’ time on completion of the theatre buildingon its original site, a project undertaken by the Somaliland Ministry of Culture and Tourism inconjunction with a philanthropist in the Somaliland diaspora. The theatre structure at presentis about waist-high. (Incidentally, apart from self-help, the philanthropy of Somalilanders whohave managed to make it accounts for most successful Hargeisa projects.) The Hargeisa of aboutfive decades ago was also the Camelot of oral poetry. In fact, the most important ‘modern’ genreof Somali oral poetry, the heello, developed in Hargeisa. Most Hargeisans lament the decline
in orature which, they claim, had its golden age about twenty years ago in the resistance to theauthoritarianism of the Barre regime. Clearly, the art–politics dichotomy is not a consequenceof the way in which poetry figures in this society. There is also in Hargeisa a handful of poetsand novelists who quite mind-bogglingly write in English in a society mainly Somali-speakingand oral. English, for these writers, appears more suited to represent what is styled ‘modern’experience and is an escape from the sometimes rigid strictures of traditional art and politicalcriticism. In other words, these young artists can say what they like in a language their eldersdon’t understand. These self-reliant young writers create their own opportunities where noneexist. Not only do they self-publish, but they also organise social gatherings (much like bigand festive weddings) to read their work. And on the topic of weddings, weddings among theHargeisa elite are much the same interface of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ as elsewhere in Africa,with bride and groom constrained in sweaty satin and razor-sharp suits, looking like they’dmuch rather be on a trek across the desert in jilaal, or the dry season. As almost everywhereelse, the most widespread entertainment (apart from qaat-chewing, that is) is satellite television– and, yes, even in Hargeisa the regime of Hollywood is challenged only by the coup staged byBollywood.
Hargeisa is a relatively young city, having been founded only in the late 1800s by a Sufisheikh. It had to be rebuilt in the 1990s, quite literally out of the ashes of its 1988 bombingby Siyad Barre, based in Mogadiscio in the south. The city’s inhabitants have felt the falloutof the Ogaden war in 1977, which witnessed so many refugees fleeing into Somaliland thatSomalilanders themselves were obliged to seek refuge elsewhere. Many of the refugees of theOgaden war remain housed in Hargeisan school and municipal buildings. Hargeisa has enduredthe economic and political domination of the south, culminating eventually in brutal persecution.Most Hargeisans tell of life in a refugee camp, or of a family member killed or incarcerated. All Hargeisans know about the ‘Hargeisa Group’, a group of twenty-eight professionals whoseinitiatives to improve schools and hospitals were deemed seditious by Siyad Barre. They weretortured and held in solitary confinement for a period of almost seven years, during which oneof their number tapped out in a kind of Morse code for his troubled neighbour in the adjacentcell all of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, his copy of which had not been removed by the guards. Theyhave known resistance, insurgency and civil war.
Hargeisa is a city which has been reconstructed by Hargeisans upon mass graves of theirkin. It is the capital city of a country which is a testament to a peace negotiated wholly throughautochthonous Somali conflict-resolution techniques. Since self-declared independence in 1991,it has with varying degrees of success sought to integrate traditional principles of egalitarianismand pastoral democracy into the inevitability of a modern state formation. Class differentials have been inescapable. It is not internationally recognised, so has not enjoyed any of the benefitsof bilateral aid and has not been able to develop the economic foundations of the modern stateit seems it must become in order to survive.
What one sees on the streets of Hargeisa may not be much, but it is the product of theinitiative, will and co-operation of Hargeisans, the people themselves. But Hargeisa, for variousreasons, has reached an economic impasse. The position of Somalilanders in the international community is dependent upon the African Union, which has been put in the position of gatekeeper.Ironically, the policy of the African Union is to respect colonial boundaries to which Somaliland does conform. Hargeisans are holding their breath for change. But, as the self-reliant people ofthis city like to say … God willing.

Six foreigners killed in Somalia's Puntland

Six foreigners killed in Somalia's Puntland
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
MOGADISHU, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Six foreigners, said to be from Pakistan, were killed by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, witnesses said.
Two other people were wounded in the attack at a mosque in Galkayo, residents said, adding that the foreigners came from Pakistan on Tuesday and were dressed as Islamist preachers.
"Masked gunmen opened fire in the mosque, killing six foreigners and injured two others," resident Sheikh Abdiqadir Ali told Reuters.
A local elder told Reuters that security forces were at the scene of the attack.
"Puntland forces have reached the mosque to carry away the dead bodies," the elder Mohamed Hussein told Reuters by phone from Galkayo. "These foreigners, mostly Pakistanis, were 25 in number and arrived from Pakistan yesterday."
Residents said the killings may have been motivated by suspicions that the foreigners had links to al Qaeda.
Lawless Somalia is viewed by the international community as a potential breeding ground for al Qaeda-linked groups and as a threat to regional stability.
Puntland's information minister was killed in the same area last week. (Reporting by Abdi Guled; Editing by Louise Ireland).
Source: Reuters, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why I fear for Somalia

Why I fear for Somalia
The wave of radicalisation targeting young Somali children everywhere is threatening hopes for the country's future stability
Nuradin Dirie
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 August 2009
Over 20 years, I have watched Somalia disintegrate politically, crumble economically and fragment socially. But my hope for Somalia's future was always entrusted in its younger generation. Our struggle was to invest in our youth inside Somalia to develop a culture of peace by continuously talking to them about the negative effect of the civil war. We also had great hope that the Somali young people growing up in the west would bring back to the country a culture of democracy, tolerance and coexistence with the rest of the world. Both of these hopes are being seriously challenged in Somalia today by a wave of radicalisation that directly targets Somali young people everywhere.
The religious disintegration in Somalia is what worries me the most. I never feared for Somalia as much as I do now. My fear emanates from the fact that I am today seeing a Somalia that I do not recognise. Up until recently, we could make sense of the complex political and social dynamics. The way to gauge it was that, one way or another, most things tended to be tribal or clan motivated. But the radicalisation in the country and in Somali communities in many parts of the world today is quite bewildering, quite unprecedented and quite detrimental to us all.
Religious groups in Somalia came to the forefront of Somali politics after the fall of the last central government in 1991. Since then, they have been part of the political process – or should I say political blunders? There was no apparent suspicion from the wider society about the motives of these organised religious groups. Somalia continued to have a blend of religio-clan politics that worked with each other as long as the clan took the overriding priority. "Fiqi tolkiis kama jana galo" – which loosely translates to mean, "even in justice religious scholars will always side with their clan and will consequently burn in hell" – is a maxim that aptly explains the religio-clan relationship in Somali society. But that was in a time of certitude. At least we always knew what we were dealing with.
But what I see now is what I will call the diktat of semi-literate and semi-sane child religious scholars. Today, 15-year-olds are giving religious edicts in Somalia that decide life and death. We are talking about teenagers who never knew anything but conflict and have never seen how a stable state functions. Youth who never had the opportunity to go to school now promulgate fatwas. Certainly they never had the chance to study Islamic jurisprudence, history or politics; never examined the Somali judicial history where customary law, Islamic sharia and the Somali penal system worked in tandem. Their qualifications for such esteemed leadership have been attained by crash radicalisation courses in the form of video and radio tapes, produced outside Somalia and designed to brainwash very unsuspecting, innocent and fragile children.
Child judges, as they are locally known in Somalia, were given the responsibility to decide on beheadings, stonings and amputations. This is a punitive system that most scholars will agree is not compatible in today's Somalia. The reign of these children is spreading fear amongst the Somali population. A group with the name al-Shabab justifies its policies by virtue of the fact that its name means "the youth". It alleges that its objective is to empower youth. The problem is that their definition of youth includes children as young as nine years old. And by their definition, empowerment does not mean providing an education so that they can learn and grow, but turning them into tools for murder and destruction.
In today's Somalia, children are victims, perpetrators and bystanders all at the same time. They are also being systematically recruited and used in ever larger numbers for military and related purposes, including suicide bombings. It is a terrible ordeal for such vulnerable children who have not known peace and normalcy in their lives.
But most alarming of all is that Somali youngsters are coming from cities like London and Minnesota to be part of this Mogadishu madness. For me, this is destroying Somalis everywhere. This is taking away the future hopes for Somalia. This is creating instability for Somali communities in their respective countries in the west.
It is ironic that as very young children they were taken from Somalia under very traumatic circumstances in order to give them a better life, free from conflict. The fact that they are now returning to Somalia to kill and be killed is a symptom of greater failures. Somali communities in places like my adopted country, Britain, have collectively failed to protect their children. Governments also failed to protect these children based on their unique needs. It is time to admit that. Now is the time to stand up and protect these children if we are to safeguard any future hopes for Somalia.

The Arab negativity toward Yemen and Somalia

The Arab negativity toward Yemen and Somalia
Secessionists, Houthis and Houthi supporters and Al-Qaeda followers are destroying Yemen. They are exploiting the fragility of the security situation which resulted from the weak economic situation in the country. They aim to split Yemen through provoking sedition, wars, terrorism and acts of sabotage. They further aim to threaten the security and stability of the state and society of Yemen that was happy but has since moved far away from happiness due to these destroyers.
The Arab leaders, their tremendous armies, the intelligence apparatuses, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are largely ignoring what is going on in Yemen as if it doesn’t concern them. It is as if there are no mid-term or long-term negative reflections on their own domestic situations, which incidentally are not free from weaknesses themselves. Who is the Arab official who can take the initiative to move quickly? Who will be able to reach out to Yemen to follow up the situation there closely and offer the required and urgent support and assistance?
None of the Arabs have taken up this critical position. Only General David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, reached out to Yemen during the apex of the recent and ongoing incidents. He met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and announced Washington’s support – not Arab support – to Yemen’s unity and stability, further announcing cooperation with Yemen to combat terrorism!
Even Amr Moussa, the Arab League Secretary-General, and Abdul Rahamal Attiyah, the GCC Secretary-General, didn’t tire themselves out going to Yemen. They didn’t bother to scrutinize the serious level of the risks that are threatening the unity and security of Yemen and the stability of its people. They didn’t go there to discover the substantial reasons behind these incidents and report to the Arab leaders to bring them into the picture of the situation in Yemen!
Additionally, Arab leaders are completely ignoring what is going on in Somalia every day. Tens of thousands of children, women and innocent people are fleeing their ruined houses to face the unknown due to criminal gangs that have no mercy. These gangs are committing their criminal and forbidden acts to assume power, not for the sake of legitimate objectives as they pretend to do through their false slogans.
Apart from the problems on the land, gangs of piracy in the seas surrounding Somalia are seizing trade ships to extort people and obtain high ransoms in return for releasing these ships and their crews. If it weren’t for the international efforts that are currently being exerted, piracy wouldn’t have decreased. Arabs are still just ignoring what is going on both on land and sea of Somalia, but they do nothing!
The Arab comprehensive negativity, retraction and deliberate inactivation of Arab supportive institutions and joint conventions invite the enemies inside and outside the Arab world to act against the security and stability of Arab countries and societies. This hostile movement that expresses illegitimate greed and aspiration harms countries that suffer from fragile economic and security conditions. Will Arabs move to prevent these risks? We hope so, but we are not waiting! Source: Alwaten, Kuwait

Somali Islamists pull teeth from "sinners"-residents

Somali Islamists pull teeth from "sinners"-residents
Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:37am EDT
Somali Islamists pull teeth from "sinners"-residents
Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:37am EDT
* Al Shabaab pull teeth, citing strict Islamic law* Resident says teeth removed by masked man* Doctors fear crude methods may spread disease(Adds doctor's quotes) By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Somali Islamist group al Shabaab is forcibly removing gold and silver teeth from residents in southern Somalia because it says they contravene strict religious law, locals from a coastal town said on Monday.
Residents in Marka say al Shabaab has been rounding up anyone seen with a silver or gold tooth and taking them to a masked man who then rips them out using basic tools.
"I never thought al Shabaab would see my denture as a sin. They took me to their station and removed my silver tooth," resident Bashir told Reuters.
"I met several men and women whose dentures were being pulled out by a masked man they called a doctor. The doctor used a pincer or his gloved hand depending on the strength of the tooth," Bashir said.
"As you smile your silver tooth accuses you. I was at a counter with my friend when three armed al Shabaab ordered me to follow them," he added. "I am afraid they want to make money from taking all this precious metal."
Al Shabaab officials declined to comment.
The Islamist group says the gold and silver teeth are used for fashion and beauty, which is against strict interpretations of Islam, residents told Reuters.
The crude dental work has fuelled fears of health risks.
"Pulling or replacing teeth may lead to loss of blood and neurological damage. The tooth may break and the remaining piece may cause sepsis," Mohamed Mohamud, dean of faculty of medicine at Mogadishu's Benadir University, told Reuters."Worse, careless treatment may spread HIV," he added.
Al Shabaab, which means "Youth" in Arabic, is an al Qaeda-inspired militant group that has taken control of large swathes of south and central Somalia.
The group's hardline interpretation of Islamic law has shocked many Somalis, who are traditionally moderate Muslims. Some residents, however, give the insurgents credit for restoring order to the regions under their control.
In June, al Shabaab officials in one of the group's Mogadishu strongholds ordered four teenagers to each have a hand and a foot cut off as punishments for robbery. (Writing by Jeremy Clarke; editing by Andrew Roche

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ethiopia's passion for bureaucracy

Ethiopia's passion for bureaucracy
As she prepares to leave Addis Ababa, the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt reflects on the intense level of officialdom she has encountered in Ethiopia which she believes reveals much about the nature of power and responsibility in Ethiopian society.
“ A rubber stamp conveys absolute authority, and without it no document is genuine ”
(A rubber stamp conveys absolute authority, and without it no document is genuine )
I had not been in Addis Ababa very long when one of my predecessors came to visit.
His first question took me by surprise.
It was not, "How was I getting on," or "What was going on in Ethiopia," but: "Did I still have the BBC rubber stamp?"
Actually I did. Small, round, wooden handled, not particularly impressive.
"Good", he said. "Don't lose it. You won't believe how long it took me to get it."
At that point I had no idea what he was talking about.
My notion of rubber stamps came from countries like Nigeria, where every street corner boasted a small plywood booth where the local rubber-stamp maker plied his trade.
Getting a rubber stamp was just a matter of paying your money and coming back in the afternoon to collect it.
A good rubber stamping gave a letter a nice air of authority, but it was not something to be taken too seriously.
But not in Ethiopia. There a rubber stamp conveys absolute authority and without it no document is genuine.
This was brought home to me when I lost both my passport and residence permit. The immigration department offered me a temporary permit, to tide me over for a few days until my new passport arrived.
I showed them the duplicated slip I had just been given by the British embassy, informing me that replacement passports were now printed in Kenya and the process took at least six weeks.
The official peered at it very doubtfully.
"How do I know this is really from the British Embassy?" and finally, the killer argument: "It doesn't have a rubber stamp."
Of course something this important cannot just be bought on any street corner.
My predecessor had gone through an elaborate process of getting official authorisation - a "Fikad" - complete with rubber stamp from the authorising ministry, before a BBC stamp could be issued.
Ethiopia's obsession with these authorisations can be written off as insane bureaucracy, or as a make-work scheme to provide jobs for civil servants. It is both of those, but above all it is a way of shifting responsibility.
Take my problem with the satellite phone or satphone which served as an antenna for the BBC studio. I had taken it to London for repair and on the way back I was stopped at customs.
“ It is the Catch-22 answer everyone in Ethiopia dreads: 'I cannot give you permission because you do not need permission' ”
The customs officer clearly had no idea what it was but he certainly was not prepared to get into trouble for letting me bring it into the country.
"Did I have authorisation for it?"
"Er, no whose authorisation did I need?"
With the air of a man making it up as he went along he thought for a moment, then proclaimed "the Telecommunications Agency," and impounded the satellite phone.
Waiting game
The next day I presented myself at the agency.
"Was I going to connect it to the Ethiopian telephone system?"
"Was it going to interfere with wireless transmissions?"
The official there looked relieved. Then I did not need his permission.
That clearly was not going to do at all.
Without a piece of paper and a rubber stamp I was never going to get the satphone back.
It is the Catch-22 answer everyone in Ethiopia dreads: "I cannot give you permission because you do not need permission."
Please, please would he give something, anything, with a rubber stamp on it to show to customs.
He weakened. Well all right, but only if I got an authorisation from the Ministry of Information.
So off to the information ministry, where the official in charge of the foreign press was friendly, but far too wily a bureaucrat to get caught giving me permission to have some dubious piece of satellite technology.
He offered an attestation that I was a fully accredited and responsible journalist. With a stamp.
"Not good enough," said the Telecoms Agency. "Try again."
This went on for some time until finally everyone's back was covered. I was allowed to pay an eye-watering sum of money in customs duty and retrieve my equipment.
Rubber-stamped dictatorship
Of course the dark side of this is that if nothing can be done without an authorisation, then with an authorisation, anything becomes permissible, and all responsibility is lifted from your shoulders.
In the days of the Derg, the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Ethiopia from the mid-1970s until 1991, every arrest, every interrogation, every killing was documented, authorised, and filed.
And every piece of paper was kept, and is still there, in a vast, chilling archive. And every single sheet, I am prepared to bet, carries the correct rubber stamp.
Meanwhile I have carefully filed all the paperwork relating to the satphone, and if I go back to Addis Ababa in years to come I will check that my successor still has it.
It may seem a strange question, but you will not believe how long it took me to get it.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Dubai World suspends $100 mln hotel projects

Dubai World suspends $100 mln hotel projects
By Groum Abate
Dubai World, the global investment conglomerate, on Wednesday announced that it has suspended several of its planned projects including the multi-million dollar hotel projects in Addis Ababa citing the global financial crunch."Dubai World has put on hold a number of projects until the market improve, including some tourism projects in Africa and elsewhere," a Dubai World spokesperson said in a statement.
Limitless LLc, a subsidiary company of Dubai World, recently reached an agreement with Addis Ababa City Administration to lease two huge plots on which the company planned to construct two five star luxury hotels. The company signed with the lease bureau of the Addis Ababa city to pay the amount in three installments.According to the business proposal, Limitless intends to erect a 250 room business hotel, 150 serviced apartments, as well as additional office spaces and food and beverage stores, on the 30,525 square meter plot near the AU site.
The second proposal was for a 200 room business hotel, with 50 serviced apartments, cultural and entertainment centers, as well as office, retail and food and beverage market spaces.In May, the chairman of the holding company, Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulaiman, said that it expected double-digit growth from the emerging market of Africa.
Dubai World has also shown interest in receiving a management concession to operate the 761 kilometer Ethio-Djibouti railway line and to install a pipeline for oil that runs from Djibouti to the Awash area, 175 km east of Addis Ababa.
With the formation of Dubai World Africa, focusing on development and the acquisition of assets on the continent, it had planned to invest more than 1.5 billion dollars over five years.
Since the credit crunch and the property sector taking a nose-dive at home base, the company has decided to consolidate its losses before taking international projects forward.
Dubai World said it would go ahead with only two of the eight projects it has designed for Rwanda. Earlier, it had planned to invest 230 million dollars in Rwandan tourism and 100 million dollars in Ethiopia. Other projects included a wildlife game reserve in Zimbabwe, and three others in South Africa.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hellfire Hillary Pours Oil on Somalia's Fire

Hellfire Hillary Pours Oil on Somalia's Fire
Capitalism profits from suppression, and the U.S. public pays and pays
by Chris Floyd
Originally published in Empire Burlesque on Friday, 7 August 2009
What will be the effect of this new "humanitarian intervention" of weapons and advisers? Same as it ever was: more death, more ruin, more suffering, more extremism, more hatred, more sorrow -- and more money for the war profiteers. That is the point, isn't it?

There is apparently no path blazed by George W. Bush that Barack Obama will not eagerly follow. Surges, assassinations, indefinite detention, defense of torture, senseless wars and rampant militarism -- in just a few short months, we've seen it all.
To this dismaying record of complicity and continuity, we can add an increasing direct involvement in the horrific, hydra-headed conflict in Somalia, whose latest round of fiery hell was instigated by the American-backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in late 2006. Under Bush, U.S. forces were deeply and directly enmeshed in the murderous action, dropping bombs on fleeing refugees, "renditioning" other refugees to the tender mercies of Ethiopia's notorious prisons, and even sending in death squads to clean up after missile strikes and bombings. (For background, see "Silent Surge: Bipartisan Terror War Intensifies in Somalia.")
The result of that intervention has been the deaths of thousands of innocent people, the displacement and ruination of hundreds of thousands, and the creation of what many experts call the most dire humanitarian crisis in the world today. It has also resulted in the empowerment of violent sectarian groups and criminal gangs, who have stepped forth to fill the gaps of the fledgling state that the American-Ethiopian "regime change" operation destroyed.
So what do we see from the administration of "hope and change"? We see -- wait for it -- a new "surge" of direct American involvement in the war, with Obama's most ferocious war hawk -- sorry, his top diplomat -- Hillary "The Obliterator" Clinton leading the charge. As Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com reports, Clinton has pledged to double the recently announced supply of American weapons to Somalia's "transitional government" -- a weak reed cobbled together by Western interests from various CIA-paid warlords and other factions, and now headed, ironically, by the former leader of the aforementioned fledgling state overthrown by Washington. (Yes, it is hard to tell the players without a scorecard -- or even with one. But if you follow the weapons and the money, you can usually tell who is temporarily on which side at any given moment.)
Clinton, bellicose as ever, accompanied the shipment of 80 tons of death-dealing hardware with a heavy dose of the wild fearmongering rhetoric we've come to know so well in this New American Century. As AP reports, she declared that the radical faction al-Shabab, now leading the insurgency against the transitional government, has only one goal in mind: bring in al Qaeda and destabilizing the whole entire world.
Yes, dear hearts, once again the survival of the planet -- not to mention the sacred American way of life -- is under imminent threat from a gang of evil maniacs; a threat requiring the urgent enrichment of the U.S. arms industry -- sorry, I mean the urgent intervention of American know-how. For as the history of American foreign policy in the last 60 years has clearly shown us, there has never been an internal conflict in any country of the world that was not actually, deep down, a direct threat to all the sweet American babies sleeping in their cribs.
The interim Somali president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed -- an Islamist who only a few years ago was considered by Washington as, well, an evil maniac in league with al Qaeda -- agreed with Clinton, saying that al-Shabab aims to "make Somalia a ground to destabilize the whole world." This would be the same al-Shabab that Ahmed has spent most of his presidency trying to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with. (Where's that scorecard again?)
As usual, the AP story buries some of the most blazing, salient facts way down in the uncritical regurgitation of official rhetoric. But credit where it's due, the story does finally note that the new American assistance is not confined to stuff that can kill more Somalis; it also includes - wait for it again -- U.S. military "advisors" to help "train" the forces of the ever-collapsing transitional government.
Clinton also shook a sword at neighboring Eritrea, accusing it of supporting al-Shabab and "interfering" in Somalia's internal affairs. This, while she was announcing the delivery of 80 tons of American weapons to be poured into Somalia's internal affairs. This line is of course just an echo of the continual Bush-Obama warnings against "foreigners" interfering in Iraq. The gall of these gilded poltroons -- denouncing foreign interference while standing on mountains of corpses produced by the endless American "interference" in other countries -- is truly sublime. Clinton said that if Eritrea doesn't start toeing the imperial line, "we intend to take actions." (All you future Gold Star mothers and war widows out there better get out your atlases: your loved ones could soon be dying in yet another part of the world you never heard of.)
What will be the effect of this new "humanitarian intervention" of weapons and advisers? Same as it ever was: more death, more ruin, more suffering, more extremism, more hatred, more sorrow -- and more money for the war profiteers. That is the point, isn't it?