Pontus Marine LTD- Leader of fishing industry in Somaliland

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Somalia looks like a lost cause

(M e d e s h i)
Somalia looks like a lost cause
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN (AP) – 16 minutes ago
UNITED NATIONS — Somalia is being hijacked by al-Qaida-linked terrorists who are better organized and more highly motivated than the ineffectual government in Mogadishu, and Sudan could be the next nation to fall under their influence, Ethiopia warned Saturday.
"It is time that we abandon the fiction that this is a war just among Somalis. It is not," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Ato Seyoum Mesfin said in a pessimistic speech before the General Assembly.
"Somalia is being hijacked by foreign fighters who have no inhibition in proclaiming that their agenda has nothing to do with Somalia. Theirs is an ambition that goes well beyond Somalia, and they say it out loud and clear," said Mesfin.
"Today in Somalia, there is greater coordination and cooperation among those who assist the extremists than among those who profess support for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia," Mesfin said.
Last week, two stolen U.N. vehicles packed with explosives blew up at an African Union peacekeeping base in Somalia, killing 21 people, including 17 Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers. Markings on the cars meant they were not subject to the usual security checks.
Al-Shabab, a local Islamic militia with foreign fighters in its ranks, said the Sept. 17 bombing was in retaliation for a U.S. commando raid on Sept. 14 that killed al-Qaida operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in southern Somalia. It has released a video pledging allegiance to al-Qaida and showing foreign trainers moving among its fighters.
"As the latest horrific suicide attack ... has shown, those destroying Somalia are being emboldened, and their supporters rewarded," Mesfin said.
On the other hand, "The international community is being stingy even with symbolic steps to show resolve against extremists and spoilers in Somalia," he said.
"It is critical that the international community wakes up before the hijacking of Somalia by extremism is fully consummated," Mesfin said, lamenting that "it appears, the Council does not consider Somalia is a priority."
"What is missing is the political will. No one who knows Somalia well believes that Al-Shabab is popular in Somalia. Whatever gains they have made is a function of their brutality and the support they have from without."
Mesfin warned Sudan could be the next domino.
"The Horn of Africa cannot afford the consequence of failure in the Sudan peace process. We are very close to both parties in the Sudan an asset which we want to use wisely," Mesfin said.

Desperate Somalis Take Risks to Escape War, Poverty

(M e d e s h i
Desperate Somalis Take Risks to Escape War, Poverty
By Lisa Schlein Geneva26 September 2009
The United Nations refugee agency says security continues to deteriorate in Somalia. At the same time, it says poverty is increasing as prolonged drought is destroying ways to make a living in the country.
Instability and the devastating effects of prolonged drought are causing tens of thousands of Somalis to take to their feet in search of a safe refuge.
( Newly arrived Somali refugees wait to register at Hagadera camp in Dadaab (file photo)
The UN refugee agency reports deadly clashes between government forces and rebel groups have forced about one-quarter of a million Somalis to flee the capital, Mogadishu since May.
It says most have sought refuge in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. This area now is home to more than 534,000 internally displaced people.
While their security may be better, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says their living conditions are deplorable. He says they are living in makeshift sites in squalid conditions.
And, he notes humanitarian organizations have great difficulty in reaching them with much needed assistance. He says thousands of other Somalis are exploring alternative escape routes.
"The deteriorating security situation and prolonged drought in Somalia are forcing more people to flee further a-field into the neighboring countries and beyond," said Mahecic. "Some of them are making the journey across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea trying to reach Yemen and the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe."
Mahecic says not all of them make it to their destination.
"Last week, as reported, 16 people died and 49 others went missing, presumed drowned in the Gulf of Aden," he said. "Since January, a total of 924 boats and over 46,700 people have made the journey to Yemen from the Horn of Africa. So far this year, 322 others are known to have drowned or went missing at sea and are presumed dead."
Mahecic says thousands of desperate Somalis continue to risk their lives and use unscrupulous smugglers to make the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden.
The UNHCR says Somalia is one of the world's biggest producers of refugees and internally displaced people. The agency provides protection and assistance to more than one-half million Somali refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda.

What is Eritrea's role in Somalia?

(M e d e s h i)
Q+A-What is Eritrea's role in Somalia?
Fri Sep 25, 2009
By Jeremy Clarke and Jack Kimball
ASMARA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Eritrea said on Friday the hunting of al Qaeda suspects in Somalia by U.S. and Ethiopian forces had crippled peace efforts in the Horn of African nation.
Washington and the United Nations accuse the Red Sea state of sending arms and other support to Somali insurgents battling the country's U.N.-backed government -- something Asmara denies.
Here are some questions and answers about Eritrea's role in Somalia:
* The U.N. arms monitoring body says Eritrea sends money and weapons by plane and boat as well as providing training and logistical support to insurgent groups in Somalia. The body -- set up to watch violations of a 1992 arms embargo -- says Asmara is acting as a middleman for other countries helping the rebels.
* Since September 2007, the United Nations and western powers have said Eritrea has focused its support on the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), a group set up at a Somali opposition conference in the Red Sea state. The U.N. arms body, citing an ARS source, said Asmara was providing between $200,000 and $500,000 a month to support the rebels.
* Eritrea is also accused of sending arms and providing other support to Ethiopian rebel groups and various guerrilla movements in western Sudan's restive Darfur region. Some Darfuri rebels and Ethiopian opposition groups have offices in the tranquil Eritrean capital Asmara, observers say.
* Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told Reuters in an interview in May that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was masterminding the accusations against Asmara.
* Eritrea says it is "sick" of the allegations, which it says are completely unfounded.
* Isaias' government says it supports a peaceful resolution to the Somali conflict and blames foreign powers for meddling in the region's internal affairs, citing Washington's weapons deliveries to Somalia's transitional government.
* Asmara denies claims it supports Somali groups with terrorist ties, saying that it battled its own al Qaeda-linked rebels in the western part of the nation in the mid-1990s.
* The African Union has called on the U.N. Security Council to sanction Eritrea for its role in the conflict. The 53-member body wants the United Nations to impose a sea blockade and a no-fly zone to stop people and weapons from reaching Somalia.
* Sanctions may prove less than effective in Eritrea, which prides itself on its self-reliance. Decades of war against successive Ethiopian governments -- which were backed by the United States and then Russia -- have hardened the rebels-turned-leaders against outside aid. There are less than a handful of foreign relief groups working in the Red Sea state.
* Asmara receives little development aid from foreign nations. Remittances from the diaspora in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and other Africa nations are the biggest source of foreign exchange for the nation. Revenue from mining, which is expected to begin in the next few years, will also boost Eritrea's balance of payments.
(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

FBI comparing DNA to link Somalia bombing with Seattle man

(M e d e s h i)
FBI comparing DNA to link Somalia bombing with Seattle man
By Steve Miletich and Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter
The FBI in Seattle is comparing DNA recovered from last week's suicide bombing in Somalia with that of the man's relatives, according to a federal law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.
FBI agents are investigating whether an American Somali refugee from Seattle was involved in the bombing on a peacekeeping base in Somalia that killed 21 people.
The father and mother of the Somali man have provided DNA samples to law enforcement officials, Abdirahman Warsame, a Somali-American who operates a Web site called the Terror Free Somalia Foundation, said today.
Warsame, 38, said he tracked down the father, Mohamud Mohamad, Thursday at a Rainier Valley business. The father spoke to him about the suspected death of his 18-year-old son, Omar, and his contacts with investigators, Warsame said.
The father is upset and "mourning the loss of his son," while being embarrassed about the youth's apparent connection to the bombing, said Warsame, an American Somali who came to the United States in 1996.
"He's very sorry about the tragedy" and "ashamed of the whole thing," Warsame said.
At the suggestion of law enforcement, the father disconnected his phone line because the number had been published on a Somali Web site, Warsame said.
The father recounted that his son returned to Somalia in 2007, after the youth began to change the last few months before he left, Warsame said. The youth, whose family also includes up to eight siblings, came to the U.S. about four years ago, Warsame said.
Warsame said the father complained that "something happened" to his son, who had been a "normal kid."
The youth may have been in one of the two stolen United Nations cars that Islamic insurgents detonated in an African Union peacekeeping base Sept. 17.
The FBI believes "outside influences" are at work in Seattle's Somali community, trying to recruit and radicalize young men to carry out jihad in their homeland. They are fighting to overthrow the United Nations-backed government, whose forces currently only hold pockets of the capital with the help of some 5,000 African Union peacekeepers.
Those influences — whether they be radical Islamic Web sites or outside recruiters — are "a danger to the Somali community, and the Seattle community at large," Special Agent Fred Gutt of the FBI's Seattle field office said Thursday.
Sahra Farah, the director of the Somali Community Services of Seattle, said she hopes to find out about the danger posed to young Somalis at a community meeting where she's planning to talk about the report that the Seattle man killed the 21 peacekeepers and civilians when he set off a suicide truck-bomb at a checkpoint in Mogadishu.
"We want to know, 'Is it happening here? Has anyone heard of it?' Sometimes you never know it's coming into your community until the last minute and it's already happened," said Farah, who has yet to set a date for the meeting.
She said it's hard to imagine why anybody would want to return to that war-weary nation.
"Nobody, especially teenagers, wants to go back to Somalia. People are dying there," she said.
Others who work with the thousands of Somali immigrants in Seattle say disaffected young people are vulnerable targets for recruiters.
"Our public school systems are simply ill-equipped to handle children who have spent most of their lives in refugee camps," Buddy Smith, 39, an after-school volunteer at the Somali Community Services Coalition office near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, wrote in an e-mail. The coalition is separate from Farah's group.
"Some kids arrive in this country having never gone to school. They don't speak the language, and they have to learn on the fly," he said.
In an interview, Smith said many Somalis get frustrated and drop out of school, making them turn to gangs or become targets for militants seeking to recruit them.
Smith said he has not personally come across young people who have been approached by recruiters because the kids he sees are those who go to extra effort to get help with school work.
"It's the ones I don't see that I worry about," he said.
In Minnesota, as many as 20 young Somali men are believed to have traveled to Somalia to fight, most for a group called al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida. Three have died, including 27-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, who blew up himself and 29 others in a suicide bombing at a United Nations checkpoint last fall.
Now, the FBI and immigration agents are looking at the Seattle man in the bombing last week, for which al-Shabaab has claimed credit. The FBI did not release his name.
The Seattle man would be the third from this area linked to the violence in Somalia or efforts to recruit Americans to fight there.
Gutt said agents and officials have met with several groups of Somalis in Seattle over the past months to discuss these and other issues. Gutt acknowledged there has been suspicion within the community, at least some of it stemming from post-9/11 investigations that targeted Somali money-changers and importers and users of the drug "khat."
Those raids were conducted by other federal law-enforcement agencies, he pointed out.
"These are hardworking people. They came here to make a better life for themselves. They don't want to go back" to their war-torn country, Gutt said. "So something is drawing these young people back. It's not their families. It's something from the outside."

Ethiopia arrests 480 opponents - coalition

(M e d e s h i)
Ethiopia arrests 480 opponents - coalition
Saturday 26 September 2009
September 23, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — A Newly allied coalition of Ethiopian opposition groups on Wednesday accused the Ethiopian government of launching a new wave of arrests against opposition members, ahead of the approaching national election.
The alliance, Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia (FDDE), said that government cadres have intensified a new wave of arrests against opposition members on trumped-up charges to cripple them from running in Next Year’s election.
“As of today our party has received a list of 250 opposition members jailed in Oromyia region and another 230 in the Amhara region” Gebru Asrat, FDDE chairman told Sudan tribune.
Prime Minister Meles’s former close ally, Gebru, said that the arrests were worsening after opposition groups and the ruling EPRDF party began talks on code of conduct.
Recently, FDDE walked-out of discussions on code of conduct set by the Ethiopian government, demanding other electoral rules to be included on the talks, so the election is held in fair and free way, as government pledged.
Issues of freedom to campaigning, intervention of security forces to stop, freedom of expression and movement were among others the opposition group demanded to be included for discussion alongside the talks on code of conduct.
According to the opposition official, Oromya and Amhara are the two regions arresting is being most intensified but he says he believes that same harassment is being underway in other regions too and the above figure of arrests could rise anytime soon.
“Opposition members, including potential candidates are being jailed on false allegation, accused of having links with anti-peace elements” Gebru said adding “meantime we are in the process of collecting names and figures of arrested members, we will soon announce when we have all the reports at hand.”
Another member of the coalition Bulcha Demeksa-a leader of a party that represent Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, Oromo, recently told reports that “they simply produce fake document linking you to the outlawed Oromo rebels and then after you are simply thrown to jail.”
Gebru Asrat believes that the waves of arrests are the sign of the ruling party’s “frustration” and sign of “no confidence."
FDDE is a coalition of 6 opposition parties and two prominent independent politicians, the two former close allies of PM Meles, Negaso Gidada, former President and Siye Abraha, former Defense Minister.

Food shortage puts millions of Ethiopian children at risk – aid group

(M e d e s h i)
Food shortage puts millions of Ethiopian children at risk – aid group
Saturday 26 September 2009 03:00.
September 25, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — Millions of children in the Horn of Africa’s region especially in Ethiopia are at greatest risks unless they are assisted with emergency humanitarian aid through the year, Save the children warned this week.
Some 20 million people will need emergency humanitarian assistance through the end of this year in the region. In comparison, last year – when drought, high food prices, and conflict were also at issue – only 14 million needed such assistance in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda, said the group.
In its latest report, the humanitarian organization on Thursday said that food aid to Ethiopia is falling well-short, mainly due increased needs and some 3 million children in the Horn of Africa’s nation could be facing severe malnutrition, disease and death.
"We’ve not seen a food crisis of this magnitude and severity in many years, and it is children who will suffer the most if the world fails to respond quickly," said Ned Olney, Save the Children’s vice president for Global Humanitarian Response.
Cases of acute watery diarrhea are on the rise in Ethiopia, with 1,354 new cases and three deaths reported in just one week this month. Meanwhile, food aid is lagging behind greatly increased needs. The United Nations’ World Food Program estimates a current shortfall of $400 million worth of food needed to reach hungry families in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government estimates that 6.2 million people — half of them children — will need emergency food aid in the next few months.
These needs are beyond those of the 8.2 million people in Ethiopia already receiving food aid through the Productive Safety Net Program run by the government together with Save the Children and other humanitarian agencies. That program distributes food in exchange for community participation in public works, such as road, water well, and school construction and rehabilitation.
In response to the current crisis, Save the Children plans to distribute food to 800,000 people in some of Ethiopia’s hardest hit areas, and is expanding emergency health and nutrition programs. These programs include therapeutic feeding centers for severely malnourished children and supplementary feeding programs for severely and moderately malnourished children.

Ethiopia, China sign agreements for dams, wind farms

(M e d e s h i)
Ethiopia, China sign agreements for dams, wind farms
Saturday 26 September 2009
September 23, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopia electricity company this week has signed contracts with three Chinese firms to develop hydro-electric projects and a preliminary deal to construct wind power farms.
Ethiopia plans to construct at least six new dams as a part of a 12 billion-dollar plan over 25 years to improve the power network.
According to agreements signed on Wednesday, two Chinese firms will construct two dams to increase Ethiopia’s hydropower generating capabilities.
China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) will build the $408 million Genale Dawa 3 hydropower project in southern Ethiopia with the capacity to generate 254 MW of power, he said.
Sinohydro Corporation had also inked a deal to construct the $555 million Chemoga Yeda hydropower project that will be made up of five dams on five rivers.
The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation further signed with the HydroChina Company a third agreement to build wind power projects in the Adama and Mesobo Harena areas. Theproject will be funded by the Chinese government.
Ethiopia is building five hydropower dam projects, some funded by the World Bank. Addis Ababa plans to export powers to neighboring countries like Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti.

Somaliland: Democracy Threatened

(M e d e s h i)
Somaliland: Democracy Threatened
Wednesday 30 September 2009 13:15 to 14:15
Chatham House, London
Michael Walls, Coordinator, International Election Observation Team, Somaliland Presidential Election; Chair, Somaliland Focus (UK); Lecturer, Development Planning Unit, UCL
Type: Research and other events
Somaliland currently faces a critical constitutional and political dilemma as the presidential elections, scheduled to take place on 27 September, have been postponed for the third time with no new date announced. The President's and Vice-President's already extended terms in office expire on 29 October, and there are no constitutional means for addressing the power vacuum which will be left in the absence of an election.
For a region which is one of the few secure and democratic territories in the Horn of Africa, the failure of Somaliland's political system could result in instability, a more authoritarian governance system and contribute to the further deterioration of an already unstable part of the African continent.
Michael Walls will provide his analysis of the crisis and discuss why the Somali tradition of dialogue and consensus-building may be the only real avenue for resolution.
For more information please contact Tighisti Amare.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Somaliland elders extend President Kahin's rule

(M e d e s h i)
Somaliland elders extend President Kahin's rule
Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:20am GMT
By Hussein Ali Noor
HARGEISA (Reuters) - Clan elders in northern Somalia's breakaway enclave of Somaliland voted on Friday to extend President Dahir Riyale Kahin's term on condition that a voter list be finalised and a date set for a presidential election.
It was the third time since April 2008 that Somaliland's upper House of Elders has extended Kahin's term, which was due to expire on October 29. Opposition politicians in the lower House of Representatives have demanded the president be impeached.
Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace compared with the rest of Somalia since the Horn of Africa nation descended into chaos in 1991. But repeated delays to the presidential poll have worried rights groups and donors, as well as angered the opposition.
Suleiman Mohamoud Aden, chairman of the House of Elders, called for a vote after an all-night discussion of what he called the "delicate situation" and potential power vacuum.
"We want you to vote for the extension of the president's term based on the completion of the voter list by the international technical committee and the fixing of the election date with the national electoral commission," Aden said.
All of the 77 other members then present voted to extend Kahin's term to last for one month after the ballot, whenever that might be. A poll set for July was put back to September 27, but the electoral commission postponed it again earlier this month.
The commission said it had ordered the latest delay because of rising concerns about whether a fair vote could be held in a political climate inflamed by disputes over the voter register.
Somaliland -- which has long sought international recognition as sovereign state -- is governed by the opposition-led House of Representatives, which is elected by the people, and an upper house comprised of senior clan elders.
Members of the lower house traded blows in the chamber and one politician pulled out a pistol earlier this month when the proposal to impeach Kahin came up for debate. The African Union says it is concerned and has appealed for calm.
On Wednesday, a senior minister in the Mogadishu government said southern Somalia's al Shabaab insurgents were also seeking to exploit the growing tensions in Somaliland.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Drought pushes 23 million East Africans toward severe hunger

(M e d e s h i)
Drought pushes 23 million East Africans toward severe hunger as rains fail for fifth year, Oxfam warns
Source: Oxfam
Date: 24 Sep 2009
Charity launches £9.5 million emergency appeal to reach 750,000 in need
More than 23 million people – equivalent to one third of the UK population – are being pushed towards severe hunger and destitution across East Africa, international aid agency Oxfam warned today, as it launched an emergency appeal to raise £9.5 million.
A severe and persistent five-year drought, deepened by climate change, is now stretching across seven countries in the region and exacting a heavy human toll, made worse by high food prices and violent conflict. The worst affected countries are Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda. Other countries hit are Sudan, Djibouti and Tanzania. Malnutrition is now above emergency levels in some areas and hundreds of thousands of cattle – people's key source of income – are dying. This is the worst drought that Kenya has experienced for a decade, and the worst humanitarian situation Somalia has experienced since 1991.
The high numbers of people affected – more than double the number caught up in a similar food crisis in 2006, when 11 million were at risk – underline the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for funding to prevent the crisis getting worse.
Paul Smith Lomas, Oxfam's East Africa Director said:
"This is the worst humanitarian crisis Oxfam has seen in East Africa for over ten years. Failed and unpredictable rains are ever more regular across East Africa as raining seasons shorten due to the growing influence of climate change. Droughts have increased from once a decade to every two or three years. In Wajir, northern Kenya, almost 200 dead animals were recently found around one dried-up water source. People are surviving on 2 litres of water a day in some places – less water than a toilet flush. The conditions have never been so harsh or so inhospitable, and people desperately need our help to survive."
In Kenya, 3.8 million, a tenth of the population, are in need of emergency aid. Food prices have spiraled to 180 percent above average. Areas such as Rift Valley, which have never previously experienced a drought of this intensity are now affected. Conflict over rapidly diminishing resources such as water and pasture for cattle is increasing. Desperate herders are taking their cattle further to look for water and food, sparking tensions with other groups competing for the same resources. Sixty-five people have been killed in Turkana, northern Kenya since June 2009.
One in six children are acutely malnourished in Somalia, and people are trekking for days to find water in the northern regions of the country. Conflict means that people are less able to grow the food, and drought is creating hardship in areas where people have fled. Half of the population - over 3.8 million people - are affected.
In Ethiopia, 13.7 million people are at risk of severe hunger and need assistance. Many are selling their cattle to buy food. In northern Uganda farmers have lost half of their crops and more than 2 million people across the country desperately need aid.
Some 160,000 people mainly around the wild life tourist area of Ngorongoro in north-eastern Tanzania are also at risk. In Djibouti there are worrying levels of increased malnutrition and in South Sudan conflict has put 88,000 people at particular risk.
The aid response to the crisis needs to rapidly expand, but it is desperately short of funds. The World Food Programme is facing a $977 million donor shortfall for its work in the Horn of Africa over the next six months. The government of Uganda appealed for donor money to tackle the food crisis, but has so far received only 50 percent of the funding it needs.
Rains are due in October but are likely to bring scant relief or worse still, deluges that could dramatically worsen the situation. There are genuine fears that the region could be hit by floods as a result of the El Nino phenomenon, which could destroy crops and houses, and increase the spread of water-borne diseases. Even with normal rain, the harvest will not arrive until early 2010. People will still need aid to get them through a long hunger season.
Oxfam staff are on the ground helping those at risk but the organisation is appealing for help from the UK public to help scale up its efforts. The agency is expanding its aid effort to reach more than 750,000 people but is in desperate need for funds to do this work. Oxfam is supplying emergency clean water and access to food, and also carrying out long-term projects to strengthen people's ability to cope with future shocks.
Helen Mirren, who is supporting the appeal, and has previously traveled to Uganda with Oxfam, said:
"I visited Uganda just six years ago, and I saw then just how precious life is. It horrifies me that the people I met then are being caught up in this new catastrophe. I have seen how generous the British public can be, and how their generosity can make a huge difference to families in Africa struggling against the odds. We can turn things around and help these families – but we need to act now, before it is too late. Five pounds could support a family to get the food, cooking oil, and soap they need to survive for five days. It can bring a family back from the brink. "
People can donate by visiting www.oxfam.org.uk or at their local Oxfam shop or call 0300 200 1999
£1 will feed a family for one day.
£5 will buy enough chorine to clean a day's water for 40,000 people.
£20 pounds can feed one family for 20 days.
For more information contact:
In Oxford: Rebecca Wynn on + 44 (0) 1865 472530/ + 44 (0) 7769 887139, and Ian Bray on +44 (0)1865 472289 or +44 (0)7721 461339
In Nairobi: Alun McDonald on +254 736 666 663
Footage, photographs and interviews available.
Rebecca WynnPress OfficerOxfam+ 44 (0) 1865 472530+ 44 (0) 7769 887139
Oxfam works with others to overcome poverty and suffering.
Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International and a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 612172.

The Front Line in Somalia

(M e d e s h i)
The Front Line in Somalia
By Jeffrey Gettleman
MOGADISHU, Somalia – We duck through a hole in a wall along this city’s blasted-out waterfront, following teenage gunmen with skinny shoulders and enormous guns.
We creep over old fishing nets that haven’t touched salt water for years. All around us are ruins – ruined buildings, ruined boats, streets pulverized to a fine, bluish-gray rubble. This part of Mogadishu used to be a beautiful seaside promenade, the gem in the Italian colonial crown, a place where tourists gazed out at the Indian Ocean rollers and where Somali fishermen hauled in boatloads of marlin, lobster and tuna. Now, it’s the front line.
“Look,” a Somali soldier yells to me, through a mouth full of rotting teeth. “Dead Shabab.”I peek out from behind a stack of sandbags. Sure enough, there’s a body 50 feet away, face down in the street. He must have been killed several weeks ago because his flesh had worn away, showing a white skull.
This is Somalia’s new war. A weak transitional government, backed by the United States, is trying to hold off extremist Islamist insurgents close to Al Qaeda. The leading insurgent group is the Shabab, best known for chopping off arms and stoning adulterers. Most Somalis don’t like them, because their harsh form of Islam is out of sync with Somalia’s more moderate traditions.
But the Shabab don’t seem to care. This war is increasingly spiraling away from Somali control. It’s becoming internationalized, with the Shabab fighting to turn Somalia into a global jihad factory, and the West, led by the United States, determined to prevent that. The Obama Administration recently shipped 40 tons of weapons to the government here and last week, American commandos, in a daring daylight helicopter raid in Somalia, killed a top Al Qaeda agent.
True, Somalia’s been a mess for years. Ever since 1991, when the central government collapsed and clan warlords took over, this sparsely populated, punishingly hot coastal strip has been notorious as one of the most dangerous places in the world.
But the bloodshed is only getting worse as Somalia becomes yet another battleground in the proxy war between the West and militant Islam. The evidence is here, sprawled out in the streets. According to the front line soldiers, the dead Shabab fighter was from Eritrea, a tiny but nettlesome African country widely suspected of funneling arms to Somalia’s insurgents.
The warfare here is shifting too, from fluid, wild street battles to a more settled fight. Sandbags, mortars, even heavy artillery – all that’s part of the mix now, along with suicide bombs and other tricks of Al Qaeda’s trade.
The Shabab are known as die-hard fighters, trained by jihadists from Afghanistan and Pakistan.“Ten of their guys can defeat 100 of us,” admitted Gen. Mohamed Sheik, chief of the government’s fledgling intelligence services.
But they may be running low on cash. The day I visited the front line, government soldiers pounded the Shabab with heavy machine guns. The Shabab responded with a single assault rifle, sparingly fired, pop by pop.

Call to all Somalilanders

(M e d e s h i)
Call to all Somalilanders:

In order to avoid conflict, all in Somaliland must respect the rule of law, including the President. The Guurti should be neutral in the current political disagreement and therefore, should not extend Riyale's term beyond its mandated length. The opposition must tone down their rhetoric.
All current political party leaders in Somaliland worked under the regime of Siyad Barre at some point. Some were sacked or demoted, while others kept on working until the fall of the regime.

1. Dahir Riyale Kahin:
In the last years of the Siyad Barre government, Kahin held the rank of Sergeant in the National Security Service and served as the NSS station chief in Berbera. During this time, many sources (including the US Department of State, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Africa Watch) identified the NSS as having been involved in torture and extrajudicial killings of civilians on a massive scale, particularly during the war in northern Somalia from May 1988 to the end of 1989. Sergeant Kahin was charged with suppression of the Somali National Movement.

2. Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo
Silanyo served as a junior official at the Ministry of Planning and Coordination in Mogadishu from 1965 to 1969. He was also the Minister of Planning and Coordination (1969-1973) and the Minister of Commerce (1973-1978 and 1980-1982).

3. Faisal Ali Warabe
Faisal Ali Warabe worked under the regime of Siyad Barre as Regional Director, Chief Engineer and Director of Planning and Building, Ministry of Public Works in Mogadishu.

The background of the leaders of the three main political parties in Somaliland raises questions about whether Somalilanders are in need of new blood. It seems that these party leaders simply are not willing to give up power and allow others a chance to lead the nation.
Somaliland should be saved from leaders that are putting their interests before those of their country. Tribalism and clan rivalry should be set aside at this critical stage. Somaliland needs and deserves political leaders with fresh new visions of the country’s future.
Written by M. Ali with editing of Sarah Howard

Drought conditions persist in Somaliland

(M e d e s h i)
Drought conditions persist in Somaliland
HARGEISA, 24 September 2009 - Recent rains in eastern parts of secessionist Somaliland have done little to improve drought-affected pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods in the region, says a local official.
(A dead cow (file photo): Severe drought has made food increasingly scarce for the poor because of reduced livestock products and the lack of saleable animals)
"[By] Allah’s mercy, rains were received in most of the region's districts, but the problem is that the people and the animals are still [affected]. I [still have] to send my relatives in the remote areas animal [feed] and food," Ahmed Aw Dahir, the mayor of Las’anod, in Sool region, told IRIN.
Aw Dahir estimated that about 400,000 people would still need assistance in the coming months due to the effect of the prolonged drought.
"The people in the region will need food assistance in the forthcoming months not only in the countryside, but even in the capital of Las’anod [where] about 20 percent of the population is suffering [a] lack of food," he said, adding that appeals for food have been made at mosques.
"The pastoralists used to sell milk to the urban centres; unfortunately the drought led to the deaths of most livestock," he added.
The low value of the remaining livestock, most of which are in poor physical condition, also meant residents could not afford to buy food.
According to an 8 September report by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia (FSNAU), food has become increasingly scarce for the poor because of reduced livestock products (milk) and cereals, the lack of saleable animals and limited job opportunities.
"The pastoralists have no ability to buy foodstuffs in the interim period as we move from drought to the wet season. We are afraid of starvation," Bashir Ahmed Hayir, a resident of Hudun village in Sool, told IRIN.
Poor roads have aggravated the situation, said a local journalist. "People in the remote areas cannot receive food even if they can [afford to] buy it because the rains have closed [off] the roads," he told IRIN.
Almost all pastoral and agro-pastoralists in the northwest have less food, according to FSNAU. In Togdheer Agro-pastoral and Sool Plateau, the pastoralists are facing an acute food and livelihood crisis, with a high risk it could deteriorate into a humanitarian emergency before December.
The situation is similar in Hawd and Nugal Valley, while all agro-pastoral areas of Awdal and Galbeed regions, as well as Golis/Guban, are facing an acute crisis.
The situation is attributed to three consecutive rain failures, low to no calving and kidding and high livestock off-take. Agro-pastoral areas have also suffered crop failure.
According to FSNAU, very poor pastoralists in regions such as Sool, Togdheer, and Sanaag are moving to camps and other villages in search of help. Other coping mechanisms include household splitting, switching to cheaper cereals and skipping meals.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Environment, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Natural Disasters [ENDS]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Arab brutality against Eritreans fleeing dictatorship in their country

(M e d e s h i)
ISMAILIA, Egypt, Sept 23 (Reuters) -
Egyptian police shot dead an Eritrean migrant as he tried to slip across the border into Israel in an upsurge of violence that has left seven migrants dead this month, security sources said on Wednesday.
One other Eritrean migrant was wounded and in a critical condition after police fired first in the air and then at the migrants after they ignored orders to stop and ran toward the Jewish state. Four Ethiopian migrants were also detained.
Police have stepped up efforts to control the sensitive border with the Jewish state since May, ending a six-month lull in known fatalities as authorities responded to what security sources say is an increased flow of human traffic through Egypt.
At least 15 migrants have been killed since May. Egypt's border with Israel is a main transit route for generally unarmed African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel, although Egyptian police complain the smugglers who ferry the migrants to the border region sometimes fire on security forces.
Egypt, which for years tolerated tens of thousands of African migrants on its territory, is under Israeli pressure to halt the flow of migrants.
Egyptian authorities also say they are concerned the flow of migrants at its Sinai border could pose a security threat in an area where Islamist militants sometimes find refuge.
Analysts and aid workers say the flow of migrants from the Horn of Africa through Egypt to Israel has increased in recent months as it has become more difficult to travel on other northward routes, such as via Libya to Europe. [ID:nLS359973]
Eritreans are the single largest group of migrants attempting to cross into Israel from Egypt, although Ethiopians and Sudanese also make the trek. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Cynthia Johnston)

Suffering of refugees in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya

(M e d e s h i)
Suffering of refugees in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya Author: Jonathan Miller
Here’s an African love story.
Adebe married her childhood sweetheart, Daniel, in Addis Ababa when she was 22. The trouble was, although Daniel was born in Ethiopia, he was of Eritrean stock, and when the two countries went to war, he was deported to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, where he was forced to join the army.
Adebe couldn’t bear the separation and fled to Sudan. When Daniel heard she was there, he deserted and escaped and joined his wife in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. It was hard there so after a few months, they decided to try to make it to Europe. It took them two weeks to cross the Sahara desert to Libya, the launchpad for boats to Italy.
En route, Adebe and Daniel were robbed of all their savings. Many of those they were with died on the way, their bodies thrown from the crowded shipping container they were crammed inside by Libyan traffickers. They ran out of water and food.
“There was no space to sit; people were vomiting, going to the toilet where they stood,” Adebe said. “People died.”
They told me their terrible story in a secret meeting in Tripoli, where they now live hand to mouth, in constant fear of arrest. Adebe and Daniel are not their real names. I had a clandestine meeting with them in a safe house. They held hands as she related what happened next.
On arrival in Tripoli, they found a room which they shared with other refugees, all from Eritrea. One night, after six weeks, the police arrived, arrested them and whisked them off to separate prisons, where they were to spend the next three years.
Prison days
He suffered physical abuse at the hands of Libyan guards, he told me, in conditions which humanitarian workers who’ve visited Libya’s detention centres agree are truly grim. Foul water, bad food, no chance to wash, overcrowded, constant beatings. “Once, five soldiers came with electric sticks and beat me,” Daniel said. “For two years I cried and I prayed.”
In her women’s prison, deep in the Sahara and far from anywhere, Adebe claims she was also beaten. “Many women were raped by guards,” she whispered. “I became very sick. So sick they thought I would die, so they took me and threw me from a truck into the medina” (the old city in Tripoli).
Adebe recovered. She spent her days trying to track down her husband. Finally she found out where he was and through the first stroke of good luck in years, was introduced to a compassionate Libyan policeman who traced Daniel and secured his release. They were back together again, but they had no money and there was no work.
Today they live in a room in a broken backstreet apartment block. I went there. It’s tiny; they share it with four Eritreans. They sit around reading the Bible and, appropriately enough, playing Patience. They laughed when we told them the English name for their card game.
Adebe and Daniel now have refugee papers from the UN refugee agency. But the papers are worthless and other refugees I met told me they’re often just torn up by the police. That’s because Libya has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and does not distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants. In a country of six million people, there are an additional two million refugees/migrants, living in the shadows.
Those wanting an appointment with the UNHCR often have to wait eight months. The agency is extremely restricted in what protection it can afford refugees. Its staff are denied access to all but seven of Libya’s many detention centres, and since July access has been further restricted. One human rights group reckons there are 28 such centres just along the coast; there are many others in the desert.
Tonight, Channel 4 News will broadcast shocking evidence of just how bad things have got in these places where up to 60 people are crammed into cells 5m by 6m. In July, Libyan guards are reported to have killed more than 20 Somali refugees and injured 50 more after a riot over conditions in a detention centre at Ganfuda, near Bengazi.
There are no rules as to when detainees can be released. I spoke to many former detainees who said they had bribed their guards to buy their freedom. A charity worker told me he had sometimes drawn funds from Western Union, sent by a detainees relatives abroad. This money, he claimed, was smuggled into the centres so inmates could bribe their way out.
The going rate is US$1,000-$1200 – exactly the cost of the boat ride to Europe. “The guards know exactly how much money the migrants will have at this stage of their journey and they set their price accordingly,” the charity worker told me. “It’s a business.”
Those unable to bribe their way out say they live with the constant threat of deportation to their countries of origin. Many, from countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan claim they risk persecution and say they’d rather die than return.
Pushed back from Europe
Most shocking of all is the fact that since May, Italy – on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis – has been breaking international law by forcibly returning migrants who are intercepted heading towards Italian shores from Libya. Returnees are immediately locked in the detention centres.
This violation of Italy’s legal obligations is known as refoulement – the forced return of people to places where their lives or freedom is threatened, or where they face risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Until the “pushback” policy was enacted by the Berlusconi government in May, more than three-quarters of asylum seekers arriving on Italy’s southern shores were granted protection.
The policy has cut the number of migrants arriving in Italy by more than three-quarters in just one year, to just over 7,000. A large proportion of those pushed back to Libya, however, would have been given asylum had they made it to Europe.
Those not in detention run the gauntlet with the Libyan authorities. Many of the refugees I met say life is as precarious and dangerous outside prison as inside. Most are just stuck. The feeling of hopelessness is like nothing I’ve seen before. They can’t go home, they can’t work, they live in constant fear of arrest and their only hope is the death boat to Europe – after which they face deportation back into Libyan detention.
Together again
And that’s where Adebe and Daniel are at. “At least we are now together,” she said, but her head was bowed, and I noticed that she was quietly crying. Daniel’s teenaged brother and sister have now joined him from Asmara. When the Eritrean authorities discovered that, he says, they jailed his father on suspicion that he’d helped them escape. His mother, he says, is always crying now.
Adebe now doesn’t want to take the boat to Italy anyway. Her best friend, an Eritrean woman with whom she’d survived the Sahara crossing, died along with 73 others last month, when their boat ran out of fuel and supplies and drifted for three weeks in the Mediterranean. Nine passing European ships ignored their distress calls. The refugees died of thirst. Only five survived after being finally rescued and taken to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
Italian Catholic bishops recently declared that Europe’s habit of shunning migrants is the modern day equivalent of ignoring the deportation of Jews during the Second World War. Italy, and Europe in general, are trying to wash their hands of the problem, dumping it back with their new friend, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who human rights groups accuse of running a police state with a horrendous human rights record.
Gaddafi, who’s due to address the UN General Assembly tomorrow after President Obama, does not even formally recognise the very UN agency that could actually help him out in this crisis. It’s a mystery, even to those in the UNHCR, why he doesn’t sign the UN Convention on Refugees and put a stop to this abuse. But people are suffering and dying because of this and Europe is shamefully complicit.
Another of the refugees I met in Tripoli sent me an email last week. We need protecting in the name of human dignity, he wrote. “We are not criminals. We are not ignorant. We are people worthy of respect. We need shelter temporarily because we want to go back to where we grew up as soon as things change for the better. I am here, invisible, struggling with my fate, a victim of injustice.”

Drought releif emergency efforts in Ethiopia

(M e d e s h i)
Urgent resources needed to feed Ethiopians stricken by drought, warns UN23 September 2009 –A lack of resources for emergency relief efforts in Ethiopia threatens to cut off food aid delivery to the most vulnerable people in the coming days, the United Nations humanitarian arm warned today.
“All food aid pipelines to groups of needy people in the country could break in September,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on the situation in the Horn of Africa nation.
Poor rains in eastern Africa this year has produced crises in the areas of food, nutrition, water and disease among others, leaving some 24 million people in need of aid – up from 17 million last year – across the region, in Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and parts of Uganda, as well as Ethiopia.
OCHA noted that currently food aid distributions planned between September and December face a deficit of some 56,789 metric tons valued at $37.1 million.
In addition, a joint mission, consisting of various UN agencies and the Ministry of Health, is in the Amhara region to assess an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea, which has struck a number of regions, to ensure adequate measures are in place to prevent infections gathering pace in schools and religious and traditional festivals, among other areas.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that major gaps in the ongoing response to the outbreak include shortages of Case Treatment Centre materials, funds for running the centres, inadequate protection of water sources and poor hygiene practices.

Somaliland "should heed Kenyan election lessons"

(M e d e s h i)
Somaliland "should heed Kenyan election lessons"
NAIROBI, 23 September 2009 (IRIN) - Stakeholders in Somaliland need to reach a consensus on the role the media can play before, during and after elections to avoid election violence, a report says.
A man sets a car on fire during a demonstration after the disputed 2007 elections in Kenya (file photo)
The report, entitled The Role of the Media in the Upcoming Somaliland Elections: Lessons from Kenya, discusses potential scenarios and interventions in the run-up to Somaliland's elections and compares them with the post-election violence experienced in Kenya in 2008.
It is published by the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford, Center for Global Communication Studies at University of Pennsylvania and Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research, London.
Both countries have polarized electorates with significant political and economic grievances, political parties accused of manipulating the system, weak institutions and politically influential media. "The challenge... is how the media can be harnessed for nation-building rather than partisan politics and violence," the report notes.
Somaliland's elections were planned for 27 September, but were postponed after violence broke out. The term of the current government ends on 29 October.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kenya drought leaves 4m needing handouts (Video)

(M e d e s h i)
Kenya drought leaves 4m needing handouts (Video)

By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi
Published: 4:56PM BST 22 Sep 2009
Three failed rainy seasons have left up to four million Kenyans needing food handouts and trucked-in water as the latest in a series of droughts sweeps through the Horn of Africa.
As many as 19 million people are currently affected by the lack of rain in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Harvests have failed in many places and food prices have increased by as much as 130 per cent.
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Close to the town of Elwak in northern Kenya, water tankers arrive only every four of five days and when they appear there are fierce fights over the precious few litres given to each family.
As the drought deepens, community elders predict that further bloodshed at water delivery points is inevitable.
Already, the escalating struggle for survival between people and animals has resulted in at least two babies being snatched by starving hyaenas which prowl the perimeter of Elwak's makeshift camps at dusk.
"My month-old baby boy was taken by hyaenas two weeks ago – somebody found his body 10 miles away from here a few days later," Habiba Malim, 49, a former nomad, told Christian Aid researchers during a recent visit.
"The hyaenas are emaciated and attracted by the water in the open tarpaulins, so even though we light small fires to keep them away after dark, we can't stop them altogether." Despite a small amount of basic food supplies starting to trickle in from the UN's World Food Program and other aid agencies, Habiba, like many others, is now only managing to eat one tiny, uncooked meal each day.
"We have very little food or clean water to drink or to cook with and I genuinely fear for my life and that of my remaining eight children.
"This is even worse than the drought we had in 2005 and if the rains don't come soon I don't know what will happen to us," she added.

When Ethiopia invades Somalia, Minnesota takes a hit

(M e d e s h i)
By Douglas McGill
September 21, 2009
TC Daily Planet
It sounds a bit roundabout at first, but if Minnesotans truly want to know why Minnesota became a breeding ground for young Somalis who take up arms with Somalia's extremist militias, we need to look first at Ethiopia.
Specifically, we need to scrutinize U.S. foreign policy towards Ethiopia, which the U.S. has supported with millions of dollars in annual aid for many years.
Connecting the dots is always hard in the Horn of Africa, and therefore also in Minnesota, which has one of the world's largest diaspora populations from the Horn of Africa, including refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya.Fortunately, a new policy paper from the Council on Foreign Relations does an excellent job of connecting the dots by drawing a bright line connecting U.S. financial and military support for Ethiopia and the rise of Islamist militant groups in Somalia, of the type that recently attracted 20 Somalis living in Minnesota to join. Somali MilitiasFive of those young men have died in the fighting, and one of the largest domestic terrorism investigations ever in the U.S. is underway to determine how Somalis in Minnesota and other states are recruited to fight with Islamist Somali militias.The connection to Minnesota is implicit in the CFR paper but deeply compelling. It is so because the report clarifies how U.S. support for Ethiopia is a key component - possibly the most critical one - contributing to the radicalization of young Somalis living both inside Somalia and in the global Somali diaspora, such as in Minnesota.The paper's very first sentences provide the context for that claim:
"U.S. strategic interests in the Horn of Africa center on preventing Somalia from becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda or other transformational jihadist groups. In pursuing its counter-terror strategy, the United States has found common cause with Ethiopia ... But the Ethiopian government's behavior in recent years, both domestically and in bordering states, poses mounting difficulties for the United States and its long-term goals in the region."
Ethnic Federalism
For many years, a firm partnership with Ethiopia has been the cornerstone of America's presence in the Horn of Africa. In a global neighborhood where several countries - Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea - have either harbored (in the case of Eritrea) or been led by Islamists, Ethiopia is the one country that has openly declared its steadfast opposition to such groups. In return, it has received substantial U.S. aid annually, much of which is spent to support and train the Ethiopian army.The present Ethiopian government, led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, came to power in 1991 by overthrowing the brutal regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.Initially, hopes ran high in Ethiopia that under Meles the country would peacefully unite in a multi-party democracy based on "ethnic federalism," with the country divided into nine ethnic-based regional states. Instead, throughout the 1990s, the Meles government increasingly showed its willingness to suppress dissent through social and economic discrimination and sometimes through extreme violence.The CFR paper cites numerous such examples, which since 2005 have become more frequent, overt and severe. That year, the Ethiopian army was deployed to violently put down protests of suspected fraud in Ethiopian national elections. Uniformed Ethiopian troops in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, met the election's protesters in the streets, detaining thousands, arresting hundreds, and killing dozens. Counter-TerrorNot holding Ethiopia accountable for massive human rights abuses in the ethnically-Somali Ogaden region of Ethiopia, where Human Rights Watch and other groups have documented widespread crimes against humanity, has also cost the U.S. dearly throughout the region by cementing anti-American sentiment and encouraging extremism, the CFR report says.The breakdown of legitimate rule in Ethiopia has progressed so far, the report says, that supporting Ethiopia may now be undermining America's counter-terrorism goals in the Horn of Africa.That is especially true with American efforts to eradicate Somalia Islamist extremism.In 2006 and 2007, with significant U.S. financial and military support, the Ethiopian army invaded Somalia, ousting the country's Islamist government and helping install a government that remains highly dependent on Ethiopian aid and direction.Replacing Somalia's Islamist government, using the Ethiopian army as a proxy for American power, served U.S. counter-terror goals in the Horn of Africa. The ShabaabBut that achievement may have come at too high a price, the CFR report says:
"U.S. reliance on Ethiopian military might and intelligence has served to exacerbate instability in Somalia. Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia, and the extended presence of Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu, instead of quelling conflict, has triggered a local backlash that has served as a rallying point for local extremists."
Which is precisely where the dots connect back to Minnesota:
"It was the development of a complex insurgency against Ethiopian occupation that effectively catapulted a fringe jihadist youth militia, the Shabaab, to power in Somalia. International jihadists have now capitalized on the local insurgency, and on U.S. support of the Ethiopian invasion, as an opportunity to globalize Somalia's conflict."
In other words, the anti-American backlash to the U.S.-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia was not only local within Somalia - it was global. It was Minnesotan.Several journalistic accounts have established that many of the Somali men who left Minnesota to join the Shabaab were actually becoming well-assimilated to American society, holding down jobs, attending college, and planning professional careers.
It was only their outrage that their homeland had been invaded by U.S.-supported Ethiopia that stirred them to abandon Minnesota to fight halfway around the world.Ours is a world without borders to the flow of money, arms, soldiers and suffering.Our individual actions and collective policies should flow from that fact.

Douglas McGill has reported for the New York Times and Bloomberg News--and now the Daily Planet. To reach Doug McGill: doug@mcgillreport.org. And visit The McGill Report at www.mcgillreport.org.

ONLF deny helping Somali Islamists

(M e d e s h i)
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA, Sept 22 (Reuters) -
An Ethiopian rebel group denied on Tuesday it is helping Islamist militants in neighbouring Somalia who are waging a violent rebellion against the country's U.N.-backed government.
Al Shaabab, the main rebel group that Washington says is al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia, on Sunday seized control of Yeed town on the border with Ethiopia from Somali government forces in fighting that killed at least 14 people.
A local governor said militiamen from the Ethiopian Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) helped al Shaabab drive out government forces in the attack.
But the ONLF denied the reports of cooperation.
"The Ogaden National Liberation Front has no relationship whatsoever with al Shaabab, which on several occasions has assassinated ONLF members," it said in a statement.
"ONLF does not interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia and in fact has so far supported the new transitional government, although aware of the deep involvement of Ethiopia with some warlords working with the current government."
Ethiopia entered Somalia in late 2006 to topple an Islamist movement in the capital Mogadishu. The intervention sparked an insurgency that is still raging despite the fact Ethiopian troops pulled out in January. ONLF said the report linking it with al Shaabab was a plot by Addis Ababa to discredit it.
Regional analysts say the ONLF and al Shaabab gunmen have clashed on the border several times in recent years.
Ethiopia denounces the ONLF -- which demands independence for the ethnic Somali eastern Ogaden region -- as a terrorist group supported by long-time archrival Eritrea.
Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of hostilities over Ogaden and fought a war over the region in the 1907s.
Foreign oil and gas companies have long eyed the Ogaden which they believe may be rich in mineral deposits.
The rebels warned companies last week against exploring the region. In 2007, the ONLF attacked an oil exploration field owned by a subsidiary of Sinopec, China's biggest petrochemicals producer.
The separatist cause has been fuelled by the region's low level of development. Until Chinese engineers arrived in the remote region in 2007, the entire area had only 30 km (20 miles) of tarmac road. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Jon Hemming

Somalia's Shebab proclaim allegiance to bin Laden

(M e d e s h i)
Somalia's Shebab proclaim allegiance to bin Laden
By Herve Bar (AFP) –
NAIROBI — Somalia's Shebab group has proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden in a video documentary, the latest evidence of Al Qaeda's growing ideological influence among Somali Islamists.
The authenticity of the 48-minute film -- released for the Eid al-Fitr feast marking the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan -- was confirmed by a Shebab official in Mogadishu.
Entitled "Labaik ya Osama" (At your service, Osama), the video was posted on Islamist Internet forums in recent days and is presented as a "gift to the lions of Tawheed (belief in the oneness of Allah) and the Muslims everywhere."
Shebab fighters on Monday distributed the video in several Mogadishu neighbourhoods, including in Suqaholaha, where a public screening was also organised following the Eid prayers.
The group is fighting to overthrow a fragile western-backed transitional government in the Horn of Africa country.
The video opens with an artistic animation of whirling flower tendrils and text in English and Arabic paying tribute to the mujahideen (holy warriors) in Palestine and the Arabian peninsula, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Receive glad tidings and rejoice, and we are awaiting your guidance in this advance stage of jihad," the voice of top Shebab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane (also known as Abu Zubayr) tells bin Laden in the video.
The slick production marks a new level in the propaganda capabilities of the Shebab and is reminiscent of the videos made by As-Sahab -- Al Qaeda's media production company -- on Iraq and Afghanistan.
The video is a sequence of fighting scenes in the streets of Mogadishu and elsewhere, training sessions and news commentary lambasting the president of Somalia's transitional federal government, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
One sequence shows the young cleric -- once a top leader of the Islamic Courts, of which the Shebab was the youth and military branch -- shaking hands with a blurred out US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at an August meeting in Nairobi, under a spiteful voiced-over commentary.
Complete with booming sound effects and flaming action movie trailer graphics, the film includes typical jihadi imagery of fighters taking cover behind sand bags or spurting 12.7 mm rounds from "technicals", the trademark Somali gun-mounted pick-up, as they shout "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest).
A Shebab official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the video was aimed at "persuading people to join the jihad and give youngsters a chance to see the real life of a mujahed (holy warrior)."
Paris-based expert Dominique Thomas argued that the video demonstrated the growing influence of Al Qaeda on extremist Islamic movements in Somalia, which has plagued by almost uninterrupted civil conflict for 18 years.
"To proclaim 'Osama we are awaiting your orders' is a form of declaration of allegiance," Thomas said, adding that "the Shebab were now clearly affirming their adherence to jihadi salafism."
Experts point out that Al Qaeda's ideological forays in Somalia do not necessarily reveal an increased operational fire power on the ground.
Most of the few hundred foreign fighters reported to have flocked into Somalia in recent months are Somalis from the diaspora.
One American fighter, known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, features in the latest video, sporting a thick black beard and long hair as he instructs a small group of masked combatants.
The Alabama-born Omar Hammami (his real name) first appeared on jihadi internet forums in March in a video where he comments on an ambush against Ethiopian troops.

Ethiopia - Meles Zenawi on his daughter's future role in Politics

(M e d e s h i)
Ethiopia - Meles Zenawi on his daughter's future role in Politics
Question: Is there a possibility, assuming that the EPRDF were to win the next election that you would resign from your post as Prime Minister but stay on as a leader of the EPRDF and is that something that you would consider?

US raid in Somalia raises concerns — Kenyan Minister

(M e d e s h i)
US raid in Somalia raises concerns — Kenyan Minister
By: Reuters
Published: 22 Sep 09
The US raid in Somalia that killed a senior al Qaeda militant last week raises questions about "lone ranger behaviour" by the US Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said on Monday.
US special forces killed Kenya-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, 28, who was wanted for a hotel bombing and a failed missile attack on an Israeli airliner leaving Kenya's Mombasa airport in 2002.
Asked about the US raid, which analysts say risks further inflaming anti-Western opinion a area of growing concern, Wetangula expressed mixed feelings.
"To the extent that the US has said that the operation had some limited success ... if their operation has any value to add, we would welcome it," Wetangula told Reuters in New York where he was attending the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
"What I do not feel comfortable with is the fact that the US would want to conduct operations in our neighborhood without information or cooperation or collaboration," he said.
"That lone ranger behaviour has often not succeeded in many places."
Nabhan was killed by US special forces who struck a car in the rebel-held south of the Horn of Africa State.
He is said to have built the truck bomb that killed 15 people at an Israeli-owned beach hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002 and was accused of involvement in a simultaneous but failed missile attack on the Israeli airliner.
US President Barack Obama has criticised his predecessor George W Bush for acting unilaterally to the detriment of relations with the rest of the world.
Wetangula said countries in the region were actively engaged in supporting the UN-backed government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, which faces a growing insurgency by Islamist rebels of al Shabaab.
"(Regional countries) would welcome engagement with partners. But when we get to know after the fact, of course it raises some justifiable degrees of concern as to the value of our partnership in certain respects," Wetangula said.
Escalating violence in Somalia fuelled by an influx of "mercenary fighters" from abroad was the greatest security challenge to the region, he said.
Last week's twin suicide car bombs that killed 17 peacekeepers at the main African Union military base in Mogadishu reinforced the need to expand the mandate of the force to include peacebuilding as well as peacekeeping, he said.
"Where is the peace? There is no peace."