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  1. Somali-Dur-Dur-Band-in-MinnesotaWhen Somalia collapsed into a civil war more than two decades ago, the nation's cultural community suffered.For Somalis, a big blow came when the Dur-Dur Band, the country's preeminent party band of the 1980s, dissolved. Since then, its members have been separated far from their homeland.Tonight, members of the popular musical group will take the stage for the first time in two decades in a show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. It's a reunion many Somalis dreamed would happen, but never believed possible."We are still in shock," said Fadumo Ibrahim, development assistant and Somali community liaison at the Cedar.When they heard that Dur-Dur Band was reuniting, Twin Cities Somalis bombarded Fadumo Ibrahim with questions about the show, incredulous that it could take place."Dur-Dur Band?!" they asked. "Are you SURE?"Ibrahim and her coworkers were just as excited by their booking accomplishment as Somali music fans."We're like, 'Please, please, pinch me. Is this really happening?'" she said. "And it is happening."The band has been rehearsing for the last week at the Cedar, the Somali-born musicians' first practices after a 20-year hiatus.In pre-war Somalia, Dur-Dur Band was one of the most popular groups.[youtube url=" autohide="2" controls="0" hd="1" showinfo="0]"Very, very, very famous," Ibrahim said.Not long after its launch in 1981, the group was playing the biggest hotels in Mogadishu."There were other bands that were connected to the government to send the message the government is telling them. And then the government pays them," Ibrahim said. "But Dur-Dur Band was a private, organized band and their whole message at that time was to entertain people."In the 1980s, the band released 12 albums and packed dance floors. But the group's musical momentum came to an abrupt halt when violence took over the capital, lead vocalist Abdinuur Daljir said."When the war just started, we decided we all should get out right now because it doesn't seem that something good is going to come out of this," he said.In 1992, the members of Dur-Dur Band fled to Ethiopia. They spent 12 years there, waiting for refugee visas and playing music whenever they could. One by one, they were resettled abroad. Some landed in the United States and Canada, others in the United Kingdom.Daljir went to Columbus, Ohio, where he still lives today."I felt really sad that we all had to go [to] different parts of the world," said Daljir, 42. "But at the same time, we always had hopes that one day we will find each other."Members of Dur-Dur Band play together for the first time in two decades. Nikki Tundel / MPR NewsAnd they did, though a grant-funded project called Midnimo, the Somali word for "unity." It brings Somali musicians from around the world to Minnesota to promote understanding of Somali-Muslim culture.At an afternoon practice at the Cedar Cultural, drummer Harbi, 50, can't help but think of when the band played late-nights gigs at sweltering Mogadishu clubs, even though he's rehearsing in a winter hat and pair of mukluks."And I say, 'Wow. This is something I could never imagine happening,'" Harbi said. "And I'm so glad this is happening right now."While the band rehearses, 25-year-old Ibrahim dances in the back of the room, just like her parents did in Somali clubs when they were her age."This is crazy, funky disco!" she exclaimed with a laugh. "When it comes to the greater community, the non-Somalis, I want them to say, 'Whoa! In the '80s, this was their music? The Somali community? You guys rock!'"I want people walking out of that door saying, 'Dur-Dur Band rocked the '80s and they still rock today.' That is my hope."Source:

  2. Some Somalis are touting the opportunities of military service — both for young recruits and a community that doesn’t want to be defined by the recent departures of youths to join radical Islamist militants.
    Mohamed Mohamud prepared for basic training, which starts this spring. The prospect, he said, has made him more determined than ever to graduate from South St. Paul High School.
    The Minnesota National Guard did not want to lose Mohamed Mohamud.The high school senior was eager to enlist, but his mother, a refugee of Somalia’s brutal civil war, balked. Where Mohamud saw new experiences and money for college, his family saw danger. So the Guard took the unusual step of sending a longtime Muslim member to Mohamud’s home to address his family’s fears and secure their blessing.Somali-Americans have enlisted in the Guard and U.S. military for years, but by all accounts, the numbers have remained low. As in Mohamud’s case, recruiters come up against concerns about balancing service and the Muslim faith, the anxiety of refugees who fled armed conflict — and, some acknowledge, their own lack of awareness of the growing community.But recently, Somali community leaders and Guard recruiters have both made overtures. The Guard networked with a Somali youth group and turned up at a community celebration. Some Somalis are touting the opportunities of military service — both for young recruits and a community that doesn’t want to be defined by the recent departures of youths to join radical Islamist militants.They say young people and even their more skeptical parents are listening.“The world is becoming smaller, and the Somali community is getting bigger here,” said Yusuf Ali, a Somali community leader. “We need to be more engaged. We need to be stakeholders in this state.”Surprisingly warm welcomeThis August, Master Sgt. Kyle Mack of the Minnesota Air National Guard helped set up a display at the Somali Independence Day celebration on Lake Street: a tent and a Humvee with a Somali flag draped over the hood at the organizers’ request, to show solidarity. This was the Guard’s first appearance at the 14-year-old event, and Mack braced for a chilly reception.But the Humvee was a hit with parents and children, who posed for photos in the driver’s seat. More than 50 people signed up for a tour of the local Air Guard base. About 35 filled out cards to signal interest in considering service.A Somali police officer told Lt. Col. Angela Steward-Randle, the Guard’s director of diversity, “You don’t usually see the military this well-received at Somali events.”The U.S. armed forces do not track the national origin of members, but anecdotally, Somali-American recruits remain relatively rare. The Minnesota Air Guard’s 1,200 members at its Minneapolis base do not include any Somalis, though a man who attended the Independence Day event has applied.Last year, the Guard asked Yaser Ishtaiwi, a 22-year Guard member who grew up in the Middle East, to mediate with Mohamud’s family. Ishtaiwi sat down with the teen, his mother and an older sister in theirSt. Paul living room.The young man, then a senior at Central High School, would lose his focus and never graduate if he enlisted, the women argued. He would be whisked off to full-time service, and they wouldn’t see him for years. Unable to practice his faith, he’d drift away from Islam.Ishtaiwi countered by pointing to his own experience: He went to college with the Guard’s financial support. A full-time engineer, he trains with the Guard two days a month. He has remained a devout Muslim.As a new immigrant, Ishtaiwi once clung to the Twin Cities expat Palestinian community and shunned risk-taking: “You stick to your routine without exploring. Joining the Guard, I was able to crawl out of that isolation.”A new view of militaryCommunity leaders say Somalis have not joined in large numbers for a tangle of reasons. Youths and families don’t always know about the college funding and career training or the part-time service in the Guard. Mohamed Mohamud, the head of the Somali American Parent Association, says parents — survivors of civil war in which many saw the military as an oppressive force — often quash interest in enlisting.
    Somali-Americans are especially fearful their children might fight against fellow Muslims — and harm Muslim civilians in the process. They know less about other roles recruits might play, such as responding to natural disasters, says Ahmed Samatar, professor of international studies at Macalester College.“The Guard needs to be more proactive and more sophisticated in reaching out to the community,” Samatar said.Nationally, since the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the military has worked to recruit more Muslims for their language skills and cultural know-how. Former President George W. Bush opened a fast track to citizenship for legal residents who join the armed forces. By recent estimates, about 8,000 do each year.Master Sgt. Timothy Allen, a veteran recruiter with the U.S. Marines in Minnesota, says the Marines’ Bloomington recruiting station got a boost during the early 2000s when a Somali recruiter worked there. Over the years, the station has seen three to five Somali Americans join an annual crop of as many as 90 recruits. Allen says the ASVAB, the test all branches administer, trips up many inner-city students.Mohamud passed the test, but last spring brought setbacks. He ended his senior year short on credits. As his cousin left for Air Force training, he headed to summer school, his own 10-week basic training on hold.Demoralized, he thought about scrapping the Guard idea. But, say Guard leaders, they stuck with him and he persevered, showing up for monthly drills in preparation for basic training. Now, the soft-spoken Mohamud offers pointers on perfect marching form to newer recruits.At South St. Paul High School this fall, Mohamud says the prospect of training slated for spring has made him more determined to graduate. One recent Saturday, Mohamud’s mother woke him early to make sure he made it to his drill.Getting the word outSome community leaders predict more young Somalis are poised to enlist. They point to the growing number of Somali police officers, who have bucked a legacy of mistrusting law enforcement.Ali, the Somali community leader, became interested in the Guard as he watched his son struggle during his high school senior year. He imagined the teen coming out of Guard training with a new focus and discipline. Then, he pictured photos he had seen of Guard members responding to flooding on the Mississippi River — only featuring Somali Americans, “a beautiful public relations initiative for the community.”Ali recently met with Guard Chaplain Buddy Winn and offered his help raising community awareness.The Somali American Parent Association will include an hour on military service in new parent training in January. The Somali youth group Ka Joog, which invited the Guard to the Independence Day event, plans to kick off its eighth-anniversary celebration with recognition of Somalis who have enlisted.“This is our home, and protecting our home from all evils of life is our No. 1 goal,” said Ka Joog’s Mohamed Farah, who sees service in the U.S. military as an antidote to radical recruitment by the likes of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.Somali veterans like Minneapolis entrepreneur Gandi Mohamed are pitching in, too. When Somali parents ask him for the key to his success, he points to his four years in the Air Force in the early 2000s. During his time on base in San Antonio, he got a bachelor’s degree in accounting and management. His deployment with a civil engineering squadron in Oman was difficult and isolating, but it also gave him a head start on his career and a can-do attitude.The Guard has welcomed the interest. Mack, the recruiting office supervisor in the 133rd Airlift Wing of the Air Guard, recently e-mailed Ka Joog to repeat an earlier offer: Let Air Guard members volunteer in the Somali community, say, by building a playground. Guard recruiters see the outreach to the Somali community as part of a wider effort to make membership more diverse.Miski Abdulle tried hard to dissuade her son Mohamed Yusuf from enlisting in the Marines in 2009.“I was so afraid for him, being an immigrant kid who is Muslim,” Abdulle explained.Today, Abdulle tells proudly of her son’s service. A winner of a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, he was a radio operator aboard a naval ship that took him across the Middle East and East Asia.Recently, a neighbor who had questioned his decision to enlist asked Yusuf to persuade her son to join. Yusuf reflected. “There are serious sacrifices you have to make,” he told his mother. “For me it worked, but it’s not for everyone.”Mila Koumpilova • 612-673-4781Star Tribune, MinneapolisSource:

  3. Siilaanyo-7771


    Independent media and human rights organisations are speaking out against new rules the Somaliland regional administration has imposed on the media, calling them too restrictive of freedom of the press.


    Journalists took to the streets on January 15, 2012, to protest the Somaliland administration's closure of independent Horn Cable Television (HCTV). [barkhad Dahir/Sabahi]

    Under new rules announced last week by Somaliland Minister of Information, Culture and National Guidance Abdullahi Mohamed Dahir, media agencies will have to register with the ministry's office of the director general to lawfully operate. In addition, individual journalists will also have to register and obtain an identification card in order to work and receive access to press conferences.


    The order took effect Saturday (November 8th) and affects television, newspapers, radio stations, news websites, publishing houses and advertising agencies. However, the ministry did not provide a deadline by which media houses and journalists must register.


    "Both the media [outlets] and journalists have increased and they need to be identified since security is needed," Dahir said November 4th, announcing the new rules at a press conference in Hargeisa.


    The minister accused some journalists and media agencies of working to spread tribalism and to divide the public, and said they were unwilling to abide by the law.


    "We wanted the parliament to pass an amended media law," he said, referring to legislation passed in 2004 that the current administration had not enforced because it wanted to amend it -- a point of contention with media professionals.


    "However, beginning today, we are confirming that you will be subject to the Media Law No.27/2004 which is the law most media agencies are advocating to be left in place," he said.


    The minister said he would name a media ethics committee as mandated by that law as soon as possible. "This will be an independent committee, and we will create an office for them to work," he said. "The members will be media experts."

    Media arrests and closures

    The new rules have rubbed media professionals the wrong way, however, as the announcement comes after a year of bans and increasing pressure on media houses and the arrest of several journalists.


    In the past two weeks, four journalists have been arrested, with two facing court charges.


    Somaliland authorities arrested Horn Cable Television (HCTV) reporter Mukhtar Nuh Ibrahim October 30th in Gabiley, and jailed Mohamed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of SOMSAT television the following day.


    The two journalists were arrested while reporting on the low turnout at a public conference organised by the Kulmiye ruling party, including filming crowds burning the Kulmiye party's flag.


    Gabiley regional Governor Mustafa Abdi Isse told local media there had been no anti-government demonstration in the city and that the reports had been fabricated.


    Ibrahim and Mohamud were arraigned November 2nd and remain in jail. Their next court appearance is scheduled for November 17th.


    On November 3rd, security forces arrested Mohamed Abdullahi of the Berbera Today news website in Berbera and Ifrah Haji Abdi of HCTV in Garadag district of Sanag region.


    Both journalists were released after a few hours, journalist Mohamed Abdi Bosh of HCTV told Sabahi.


    Somaliland authorities also have banned Hubaal News Network from operating since police raided its offices last December.


    The operating license of London-based television station Universal TV was revoked in February, and the Haatuf and Somaliland Times newspapers were shut down in April. The regional administration reinstated Universal TV's license last week but Haatuf and Somaliland Times remain closed.

    'The government wants to restrict and silence the media'

    The arrests and the government's new rules violate the freedom and independence of the media, said Guled Ahmed Jama, the lawyer representing the two journalists arrested in Gabiley.


    "We condemn it," he told Sabahi, adding that local media agencies should be responsible for creating their own ethics committee.


    "The appointment of the commission the minister announced has no legal basis," said Jama, who also serves as chair of the Hargeisa-based Human Rights Centre. "We see it as a new way the government wants to restrict and silence the media."


    The move will enable the government to control the media and revoke the licenses of anyone who talks about its shortcomings," he said. "We view that as inappropriate."


    The decision comes at a sensitive time, Jama said, noting that the Somaliland region is scheduled to hold general elections in mid-2015.


    "Pressure has been increasing lately," said Somaliland Journalist Association (SOLJA) Secretary General Mohamed Rashid Muhumed Farah. "This year has seen the largest number of bans on media agencies."


    "Again, we are calling for the release of the two reporters who are in custody in Gabiley, and for lifting the ban on Hubaal and Haatuf," he told Sabahi.


    "We welcome the implementation of the law the government has been rejecting for four years, but the Somaliland media is opposed to the other articles," he said. "Journalist identification cards are issued by the agency the reporter works for and media organisations; the government has no right to do that."

    Media must undergo 'complete re-evaluation'

    For his part, Mohamed Osman Mire Sayid, managing director of the government-run Dawan Media Group, said he welcomes the new measures the government has taken.


    "I saw [the new decision] as something joyful that should be welcomed since [the independent media] will be governed by the law they wanted and a media complaints committee will be appointed," he told Sabahi. "It is unfortunate that the media has disagreed with that."


    The biggest challenge Somaliland media outlets face at the moment is lack of knowledge, he said, which has become a problem for governance, order, public morale and security.


    "The youth who are entering [the field] daily do not discern between opinion, news and commentary," he said. "It has become a job to make money and is used inappropriately and beyond the bounds of international media laws and ethics."


    "The media in Somaliland has to undergo a complete re-evaluation, improvement and reform," he said, adding that the new measures are a step in the right direction.



  4. It is that cyclical season of winner takes all. It is that all too familiar gladiatorial executive combat all over again. Yes, the Villa Somalia has once again turned into a roaring amphitheater. The president and his prime minister are at each other’s throat, and as engraved on the walls of the theatre, the worst is yet to come.Of course, there is nothing new in this latest drama. A year ago, after current president — Hassan Sheikh Mohamud — succeeded in sacking his last prime minister — Abdi Farah Shirdon — I co-authored an article with Professor Afyare Elmi for Al Jazeera titled Spectre of Political Meltdown. In it we argued that the problem is systemic and that it would reoccur again and again so long as the system is not overhauled.

    Likely Outcome

    I am afraid this latest dramatic episode will most likely have the same finale as the ten previous times when high-level political contention took place in the past two or so decades. The prevalent scenario: The prime minister would be sacked, and the president would be left severely bruised. The outcome would further weaken the nation’s barely existing institutions. Furthermore, it would further corrupt parliament and severely undermine the capacity of council of ministers by aborting continuity and sustaining the culture of ushering in new clan-based ministers each year who must start rolling up the boulder to the top of the hill. The miracle scenario: international community would successfully pressure the contending executives to put their acting hats on and finish their term together. In both scenarios, the outcomes would be the same.Meanwhile, systematic assassinations of parliament members, government officials, and civilians with a sense of patriotism, experience or institutional memory continues. Conveniently, each and every assassination is attributed to that dreaded usual suspect, no questions asked!A case in point: On Saturday after a car bomb killed a person and wounded at least two others, theHodan District Police Commander had this reassurance to offer: “We are still investigating the incident but we are convinced that [al Shabaab] terrorists are behind the attack.” This is not only the epitome of incompetent policing; it is a dangerous public disservice. Now al Shabaab may very well be the culprit, but, arbitrarily attributing them all such crimes only emboldens other sinister characters (domestic and foreign) who might be motivated to “settle old scores” or permanently eliminate one human obstacle or another. Mogadishu has its share of such characters.

    Galvanizing al-Shabaab

    Make no mistake, this latest nasty political rancor within the executive branch is likely to give boost to al Shabaab and motivate them to forget about their differences and intensify their nihilistic objective of wreaking havoc throughout Somalia.Al Shabaab, though they lost a number of strategic cities and towns to AMISOM and the Somali forces, they were not defeated in the battleground as they done tactical retreat each time AMISOM and government forces approached their locations. So, they still collect “taxes”; rather, Mafia-style protection money from almost all areas that they do not technically control, all the while planning their next deadly strategic move.

    Phantom solution or fool’s errand?

    Against its better judgment as it relinquished its sovereign right to forge a Somali-owned national salvation strategy, the current “permanent” government, like the transitional ones before it, has illustrated its chronic dependency and unwavering faithfulness in the schizophrenic “international community” strategy into oblivion. Here I would respectfully ignore President Mohamud’s latest statement as it is nothing more than rhetoric intended to clear the runway for a political fait accompli.The government is expected to secure and stabilize the country by defeating al Shabaab in the battle fields. Since it has no well-trained, adequately equipped and consistently paid army, the government must rely heavily on AMISOM which is under de facto Ethiopian command. While Ethiopia and Kenya are publicly the most vociferous opposition to al Shabaab, both find its threat as a convenient pretext for their respective strategic interests of exploitation and keeping Somalia Balkanized.Second, the government must put “development” before national reconciliation and inclusively negotiated social contract. In the current arrangement, the government and all other political entities and fiefdoms are to contract out all resources and borrow heavily before system of checks and balances is well established. The government and its miniature twins are often lured into lavish international investment conferences for crisscross contracting of the same oil blocks and same mining fields located in highly disputed and volatile geographical areas.Meanwhile, civilian individuals who are mostly from the diaspora and businesses (foreign and domestic) continue to invest and lavishly build new building and rebuild artillery-devastated old ones.Third, government must facilitate and help develop federal states. Considering the current constitution—a document that I refer to as “constitution of ambiguity and deferment” — any step forward toward this end opens the curtain into a dizzying three-ring circus and a deadly political freak show. There is not a single entity that declared itself as a Federal State or declared its secession that is not built on active fault-lines.Candidly speaking, one has to be delusional to believe that Somalia is on the right path to sustainable federalism or a negotiated secession. Every argument that makes a good case for an Alpha clan to concoct a “federal state” inadvertently makes a case for rivalry clan(s) to concoct their own sub-federal state. The same is true for Somaliland’s declared secession. The current trajectory leads onto a slippery slope of perpetual partition, hostilities and indeed bloodshed.Fourth, government must build national institutions. While this particular priority has especial merit in democratic societies, how sustainable would these institutions prove in a broken nation that is yet to be repaired? To make matters worse, under the current arrangement, building non-essential ministries take precedence over reforming the judiciary system. For instance, since year 2000 the establishment of a constitutional court to arbitrate cases such as the one at hand has been suffering one setback after another-always putting the cart before the horse.Fifth, the government must outsource all reconciliation-related matters to IGAD (read Ethiopia). Ethiopia has been the masterful political trickster in the center stage of Somali politics. There is not a single militia group or a political actor that it did not or does not empower and arm against another Somali entity.Addis Ababa is a busy hub. It is where Somalia’s reprehensible political dysfunction is showcased and Ethiopia’s capacity to manage that dysfunction and its byproduct is amplified. Higher officials from Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Garowe, Kismayo, etc., make virtually biweekly visits to pay homage, attend one futile meeting or another, take orders or to fill up their respective political fuel tanks.Meanwhile, their meager resources are drained and less fortunate Somalis are deprived of food and essential public services.Business continues as usual. Casting doubt on the necessity of a comprehensive Somali-led genuine reconciliation, periodically, artificial “reconciliation” powwows are organized only to further complicate matters by forcing together clans with overlapping territorial claims and mutually exclusive interests. Each time myopic concessions were made only to create newer problems. Today, Somalia is on perilous tracks. Even Somaliland and Puntland — once considered oases of peace — are manifestly unsustainable.Resilience is a state mind; it is the willingness to rise above adversities and misfortunes by consciously managing or changing one’s outlook and attitude. The Somali people have demonstrated their capacity to undergo such process, whereas the “Somali elite” — political, intellectual and traditional — still find the status quo exclusively empowering and, yes, lucrative.Soon the current episode would come to an end and our collective attention would turn elsewhere. Already many have their eyes blindly casted on 2016, when the current government’s term is scheduled to end. Rest assured, nothing would change before attitudes are adjusted and the system is overhauled.Abukar ArmanAbukar Arman is a former diplomat (Somalia's Special Envoy to the US). He is a widely published political analyst. His focus is post-civil war Somalia, extremism, Islam, and US foreign policy. He is a DiploAct of a sort (fusion of diplomacy & activism).You may follow him on Twitter: @AbukarArman or reach him via

  5. hani-jacobson-somali-refugeeIt was 2005 and then 21-year-old Hani Jacobson was visiting family in St. Cloud.The Somali-American's stay was supposed to be temporary. But after filling in for her sister at her job at the Whitney Center, fate had other ideas."My first impression was she was beautiful, hard-working and smart," said her husband Nathan Jacobson.Nathan was volunteering at Whitney Center when the two met. He grew up in Borup and initially came to the area to attend St. Cloud State University.Hani and Nathan wed in March 2007. They now live in a north St. Cloud home with their three children: a 6-year-old son named Gabriel, a 3-year-old daughter named Layla and a 1-year-old son named Elijah."My first impression of Nathan is that he was really caring to newcomers, especially people from my community," Hani said. "He really cared about the new immigrants."Hani also noticed an opportunity to make a difference in St. Cloud's growing Somali community.She was born to an upper-middle class family in Mogadishu, Somalia, and escaped to refugee camps in Kenya when she was 7. It was 1991, and the Somali civil war had begun. She made it to the U.S. through the World Relief organization at age 9 in 1993 and grew up in an Atlanta suburb. Hani had also lived in Seattle and Nashville prior to coming to St. Cloud."I noticed there was a great need here for someone in the Somali community with an American education," Hani said. "Where I grew up by Atlanta, the people (had) left way earlier in the civil war. Most were wealthier, from Mogadishu and had an educational background. It was way easier for us to start lives as Americans."Whereas the immigrants who are coming to St. Cloud now were more like villagers or kids that grew up or were born in refugee camps."Hani is now an OB-GYN nurse at CentraCare Health Plaza, working with women of all cultures. She previously worked with Somali students in the St. Cloud school district, and she helped teach Somalis English and basic computer skills at the Whitney Senior Center and the BRIDGE World Language Center in Waite Park.Nathan teaches English as a Second Language courses at St. Cloud Technical & Community College."It's funny because my husband is kind of more known than I am among Somali people," Hani said.Hani, who has worked regularly since she turned 16 to help support her parents and 11 siblings, accomplished a lifelong goal by attending college in St. Cloud.While she's sacrificed her initial goal of supervising childbirth so she can spend more time with her family, Hani said she enjoys her current job working with pregnant women.But her life in the U.S. hasn't always been as prosperous or as full of acceptance."Before the war, my dad worked really hard and we lived an upper-middle class life," Hani said. "After coming to America we thought: 'Everything is going to be great again. We are going to get our lives back.'"But things were much harder than we anticipated."Hani's family initially settled in Clarkston, Georgia, a popular relocation for the first wave of Somali civil war refugees."It was a predominately African-American community but they had never heard of Somalis or Somali people," Hani said. "It was like we weren't welcome."Hani said Somalis were often bullied, including her brother who was once beaten into a coma at school."Fortunately, as time went on things got better," Hani said.And after multiple stops and struggles, she's found the American dream in St. Cloud.Growing up in 2 culturesWhen you ask Nathan and Hani's 6-year-old son what his first name is, the answer depends on who is asking.When it's Nathan's family from Borup or other English speakers asking, the son's response is "Gabriel."When it's Hani's family from Mogadishu or members of the local Somali community, the son's response is "Jibril," which is the Arabic equivalent of Gabriel."He already knows the difference," Hani said. "Lately he's been noticing the two cultures."Nathan and Hani hope their son takes the most positive qualities from each culture.Follow Jake Laxen on Twitter @jacoblaxenSource:

  6. abdisaid-abdi-ismail-prophet-islam-somaliaSomali author Abdisaid Abdi Ismail has come under intense scrutiny after publishing a Somali language book titled "The Rule of Apostasy in Islam: Is it True?" in which he argues that there is no religious justification for killing people for apostasy.

    The book sparked mixed reactions among the Somali community in Kenya and Somalia following its launch in Nairobi on September 14th.After some clerics called for the book to be banned and burned, most Somali bookstores in Eastleigh stopped selling it, and it is now being sold "discreetly" in a few bookstores in Garissa and Nairobi as well as online, Ismail said.Ismail, a 50-year-old Galkayo native, received a scholarship from Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where he studied sharia law and advocacy, graduating in 2002 with a master's degree in Islamic economics. Since then, Ismail has written two books in Arabic, "Muslim Countries' Expanding Debt Dilemma" and "Globalisation in the Muslim World: Facts and Figures", and two other books in Somali, "How to Eradicate Poverty" and "Introduction to Islamic Economics".Ismail, a father of three, has taught economics at East Africa University in Bosaso since 2009, but says he cannot go back to Somalia now due to death threats he has received since publishing his latest book in Nairobi.In an exclusive interview with Sabahi, Ismail talks about why it is important to discuss the subject of apostasy in Islam, his research on the topic, and the need to promote and tolerate a healthy debate on diverse ideas among Somalis.Sabahi: Tell us more about your book and why you wrote it.Abdisaid Abdi Ismail: The main thesis of this book is about apostasy in Islam, but I also talked about several other issues such as state and religion, gender equality in terms of blood money, death by stoning of adulterers and adulteresses, et cetera.I wrote this book for the Somali community to let them know some of the big issues in their religion that involve their life in this world and hereafter, which some Somali clerics continuously explain in a way that does not match the real meaning of the Islamic teachings.I hope that the people who read this book will realise what Islam says about the issues covered by the book, but the core message is that Islam is the religion of humanity and mercy, and it values above all the life of human beings.Sabahi: You made the issue of apostasy your main focus. Why do you think it is so relevant now and important for Somalis to understand?Ismail: It is a very important issue in [Muslim] society today because extremist groups are using the apostasy issue as a tool to justify their heinous and brutal killing against those who oppose their erroneous interpretation of Islam or even their political agenda.This issue is very important for the Muslim community in general, but especially for the Somali community, because their blood is being shed on a daily basis using apostasy as a tool to justify it.I believe the topic deserves to be discussed in a broader way in the current situation of the Muslim world. I would have liked if someone else could have written about it, but unfortunately no one has written about it and that has forced me to do it now, and I chose the Somali language so as to be able to reach Somali speaking peoples in East Africa and throughout the world at large.Sabahi: Is death an adequate punishment for apostasy and in line with Islamic teachings?Ismail: I have been researching the issue of apostasy for a while, comparing the various perspectives and the evidences that each extremist group is using and what the Qur'an and the teachings of the prophet said about it.What my findings led me to conclude is that the death penalty for apostasy does not have any valid argument in Islam even though it has been used for centuries for political purposes by ruling elites in successive historical Muslim regimes as a form of treason for Muslims who left the religion, because religion was an all-encompassing identity for people at the time.Sabahi: What does your research say is the correct punishment for apostasy according to Islam?Ismail: Based on scholarly review of the religious teachings, my view regarding apostasy is that there is no punishment for apostasy in this world. The punishment is in the hereafter and it is between the individual and God.Freedom of religion and beliefs are some of the basic human rights and no one has a right to interfere with what others believe. Diversity and different ideas and opinions are very crucial for co-existence, coherence and development of any society.Sabahi: Why should Muslims read this book?Ismail: They should read it because they need to know the lack of authentic justification for apostasy punishment in Islam, which I am satisfied that there is no valid support to back up the death penalty for apostasy in Islam.The book will clarify for readers many other issues directly or indirectly related to the issue of apostasy and will hopefully dissuade groups from using [this issue] to kill people [based] on false justification.I am hopeful that as [the number of] people reading the book increases, the madness sweeping in my country will ease a little bit and youths will eventually realise they are being used against their people under an un-Islamic pretext.Sabahi: What is lacking in the conversation among Somalis when debating these issues and ideas?Ismail: Several points are lacking in this matter, such as critical thinking and new scholars who can interpret the Qur'an and the hadith (the teachings of Prophet Mohammed) according to its original context without the interest of specific groups who want to hijack Islam for their own benefits.There has to be an open and free dialogue among scholars and the masses as to how to interpret Islamic sources in a way that can help Muslims live a civilised and tolerant way of life as they should, so that it can lead them to live in peace among themselves and with others in this global world of ours.Sabahi: What is the source of al-Shabaab's ideology?Ismail: I believe that al-Shabaab and other similar groups are just implementing the teachings and understanding of some hardline Islamic scholars who interpret some Islamic scriptures according to their agenda.To get rid of al-Shabaab and other extremists, first we need to explain the Qur'an and hadith and other Islamic sources of knowledge according to their original context. The war against al-Shabaab and other fundamentalists is a war for the hearts and minds of Muslim society and to win that war we have to reveal the real nature of Islam which is peaceful, tolerant, moderate and democratic.Sabahi: Groups such as al-Shabaab argue they are trying to recreate society exactly as it was at the time of the Prophet Mohammed. What is wrong with that?Ismail: There is nothing wrong with that, but who is presenting that? My argument is that we need to understand the real Islam, not the politicised Islam.On the other hand, we have to take into consideration the difference between the time that the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, and his companions lived, and our world, in the 21st century, when the circumstance of life are completely different.Sabahi: Did you expect such a negative reaction to your book?Ismail: Frankly, I was expecting the book to create academic debate among scholars, but I never expected that someone would call for the burning of the book and declare the author an apostate.That is the very thing that the book was trying to address and it seems those who are critical of it have not actually understood the main message of the book, which is [to promote] dialogue and discussion.However, there have been positive responses from various quarters who say the time was right to raise the issue.Sabahi: How are you doing and what is next for you?Ismail: I came to Nairobi from Somalia in August this year for the sole purpose of publishing this book since there are no publishers in Somalia. If there were any publishers in Somalia, they would not have been willing to publish the book anyway.Now I am just trying to save myself from some of those extremists and their supporters who have not hidden their intentions to harm me after my book. My movements are discreet and restricted, most of the time I am indoors.At the same time, I am working on how the peaceful Islam can be spread among Somali society. I will never be stopped or intimidated from speaking and discussing issues that I feel are important to bringing the correct and real Islam to my society. I will continue to reveal the truth about the correct stance of the religion regarding several issues that I addressed in this book and other [issues].Source:

  7. (Somalia Online ) -  According to a US Census Bureau report obtained by Somalia Online, Somali born immigrants living in the US are less educated than other African immigrants in the US.


    The percentage of Somali born immigrants in the US with less than high school education is nearly 40% of the total Somali born. Somali immigrants in the US also have the lowest percentage of bachelors degree among other Africans, according to the survey.




    “Compared with the overall foreign-born population, the foreign born from Africa had higher levels of educational attainment (Figure 6). High levels of educational attain­ment among the African born are in part due to the large number of educated Africans who have chosen to emigrate and to many who come to the United States to pursue academic studies” the report said.


    The report titled "The Foreign-Born Population From Africa: 2008–2012" put the total Somali population in the US at 76,000, with the majority of them arriving in the United States as refugees/asylum seekers and not as diversity migrants.


    “Of the 1.6 million foreign born from Africa in the United States, 36 percent were from Western Africa, 29 percent were from Eastern Africa, and 17 percent were from Northern Africa, followed by Southern Africa (5 percent), Middle Africa (5 per¬cent), and other Africa (7 percent)” the report said.


    You can read the full report here.


    News Snippet

    Somalia Online


  8. Ever since Djibouti’s official independence from France in 1977, the country has never experienced a civil war, a military coup or one of the many other political calamities that have become commonplace in much of East Africa. The two largest ethnic groups, the Somali and the Afar, co-exist peacefully and the economy has grown consistently over the last decade.


    All this is in spite of the fact that Djibouti has practically no natural resources and, due to its arid climate, is unable to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. If Djibouti has been able to develop stable post-independence economic and political institutions, it is because the country has effectively recognized and used its one main asset: its geostrategic location.


    Perched on the Horn of Africa with access to both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, which is home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, Djibouti’s utility was first noticed by the French, who founded Camp Lemonnier as a military base for their Foreign Legion. Today, Camp Lemonnier belongs to the Americans and represents the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone. From issues such as piracy to terrorism, Djibouti has repeatedly proved to be a valuable launching pad for US operations. When US Navy SEALs rescued aid workers Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from the Somali pirates that had been holding them hostage, Camp Lemonnier was where the soldiers off and landed from.

    Increasingly erratic

    Djibouti has only had two presidents since independence, Hassan Goulad Aptidon (1977-1999) and Ismail Omar Guelleh, Aptidon’s nephew; this continuity has been partly responsible for the country’s political stability. Just as influential has been the stability of Djibouti’s political relations on the international level. Even after French colonial rule officially ended, Djibouti maintained close relations with Paris and other Western allies. It wasn’t until 9/11 that the United States recognized the strategic importance of Djibouti but, when it did, the small African country was ready to welcome US troops with open arms.


    Lately though, Guelleh’s leadership has been shaky at best, which could discourage much-needed investment. In 2000, Dubai launched an unprecedented level of investment in Djibouti, notably signing a 20-year concession to operate the Port of Djibouti, including building the lucrative Doraleh Container Terminal, through their maritime operator DP World. When the businessman who set up the Dubai deal, Abdourahman Boreh, dared to publicly criticize Guelleh, the President promptly had him fired and filed criminal charges against him. Boreh, who was in Dubai at the time, refused to return to Djibouti and the Emirates refused to extradite him. In retaliation, Guelleh informed DP World their concession was “cancelled” and swiftly sold a 23.5% share of the Port of Djibouti to Hong Kong-based China Merchants for $185 million.


    Furthermore, the DP World episode seems to be part of a broader trend whereby President Guelleh appears worryingly ready to forsake historic allies if the price is right. As China’s wave of African investment swept across Africa (the People’s Republic is now Africa’s number one trading partner), Guelleh has consistently jumped to make way for the wealthy newcomers. On 25 February, the President of Djibouti gave the go-ahead for a landmark defence agreement with China, allowing the Chinese Navy to use his country as a home port. Susan Rice, US President Obama’s top national security advisor, reportedly expressed deep concern at China’s increasing military presence in the country during her latest meeting with Guelleh, as it flies in the face of the partnership the United States and Djibouti have been building.


    If anything, it seems as if the strategic value of Djibouti’s location has gone to Guelleh’s head, making him feel untouchable from foreign powers. There is little doubt that the United States and other Western countries might be more critical of the Guelleh regime’s human rights record if they weren’t concerned about upsetting the stability of a key African ally. In 2011, Guelleh broke Djibouti’s commitment to honour the rulings of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which he himself signed nine years earlier, bywelcoming Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir to his country, on the lam from the ICC for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


    Such blatant disregard for signed agreements, political and economic, risk undermining the foundation that Djibouti’s long-standing relative stability is built upon. And even China, who is currently poised to profit from Guelleh’s lack of good faith with his historic allies, will not support Djibouti for long if its President does not prove reliable.


    carolineholmundCaroline Holmund is a management consultant and freelance writer currently based out of New York. She has a particular interest in Eastern Europe, having begun her career working there after completing graduate school in the UK.

  9. Listen to Audio


    Nuruddin Farah's novel Hiding in Plain Sight centers around Bella, a Somali living in Rome, who has become a famed fashion photographer. Her beloved half-brother Aar, a UN official, is murdered by extremists in Mogadishu and leaves behind two teenagers who are Bella's niece and nephew.


    Bella's a globetrotter, with tightly scheduled lovers and global obligations, but she feels drawn into their lives despite the opposition of Valerie — the mother who gave birth to the youngsters but left the family and doesn't know them.


    Farah, a Somali-born author of 11 previous novels, talks with NPR's Scott Simon about his homeland and his biggest challenge as a writer.



    Interview Highlights

    On parallels between the novel and his own life


    It feels almost everything that happens in Somalia is either part of my life directly or indirectly. ... What happened in this particular case is that I had done the first draft of a novel — submitted it to my publishers — when something very similar to what happened to the character Aar happened to my sister: [she was] killed in Afghanistan in a Kabul restaurant on January 19, 2014.


    On the challenges of writing and loss


    I go to Somalia a great deal, perhaps, in part, to feed my imagination and also to be in touch with the experiences that other Somalis go through on a daily basis. But, in terms of writing as a writer, there's always a daily challenge when one goes into one's studio to write. And the bravest thing, I think, for a writer is to face an empty page. Almost everything else is less challenging until it comes to ... someone close to you — as close as Basra was to me — fall[ing] a victim to terrorism.


    On writing about Bella's photography


    I actually have very little understanding of how photography works — or had very little understanding. But I had to train myself and I had to read lots and lots of books. And then, after that, had to train myself, buy a camera, and go digital/analog and do all these things.

    Nuruddin Farah is the author of 11 novels, including Maps, Gifts and Secrets. He is a professor of literature at Bard.i


    Nuruddin Farah is the author of 11 novels, including MapsGifts and Secrets. He is a professor of literature at Bard.



    On the power dynamic between a photographer and his or her subject


    Just as there is a power structure between the novelist and the subject the novelist is writing about — it's the novelist who decides who gets the power of speech. So, whoever puts their finger on the button that ultimately decides what happens with the camera is the one who has the power. And anyone sitting outside of that power zone is turned into a subject. So, I could see parallel between the novelist's writing, and therefore, deciding, ultimately, the destiny of his or her characters — in the same way that the photographer decides what position to take, what light to use.


    On whether he could live in Somalia


    Mogadishu has stopped being a cosmopolitan city; it was a cosmopolitan city many years ago — one of the most celebrated cosmopolitan cities. I can imagine living in Somalia, but Somalia has to change. I have changed and therefore Somalia must change. And that would be the case if: one, there was peace. Two, if I could live anonymously — which is not possible all the time, but it could be. And then, [three], if there are book shops and cultural stuff that one can do and get involved in. There is no such thing now. Civil war dominates everything in one's everyday life in Somalia, which is quite tragic.




  10. somali-girls-flight-from-denver
    Complaints of illness, snatching $2,000 from dad, a quick trip to Denver airport—and the three were apparently Syria-bound. What happened next was not your typical runaway tale.
    The Farah girls, aged 17 and 15, told their father they were too sick to go to school on Friday morning.So the father, 68-year-old Ali Farah, let them stay home as he set off for work from the family’s apartment in Arapahoe County in Colorado.At 10:30 a.m., the girls called their father at his job and told him they were going to the library. He did not suspect anything was amiss until he returned home that evening and found them gone. He tried calling them but got no answer.The father of a 16-year-old girl who is friends with the sisters then appeared at Ali Farah’s door in the Highland Apartments. This other father, 48-year-old Assad Ibrahim, informed Farah that his own daughter also had gone missing.Ibrahim said his daughter had left to catch the school bus at 6:30 a.m. But he had later received a call from the Cherry Creek School District saying she was not in class. He had reached her on her cellphone, and she had told him she was just late to class. He had subsequently tried to reach her again, but she had not picked up. He had grown even more alarmed when he discovered that her passport was missing.Ibrahim now urged Farah to check for his own daughters’ passports. Farah did so and discovered the passports were gone, along with $2,000 in cash.Both fathers contacted the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, which dispatched a deputy to each home to take a runaway report. The deputies asked the standard questions, and the fathers said the girls were neither homicidal nor suicidal, were not on medication, and did not take drugs.Ibrahim made clear to Deputy Dennis Meyer that his daughter was a respectful and dutiful girl of Sudanese extraction. She was anything but the typical teenage runaway.“[The daughter] has always been a good kid and he has had no real problems with her,” Meyer later wrote in his report.Farah told Deputy Michael Reed that he could not say what clothes his daughters might have had on. He could surmise one item in keeping with young women of Somali heritage.“Both wear head scarves as part of their religion,” Reed later wrote in his report.The names of the three girls were entered into the appropriate databases, and their passports were flagged. Word then came from Germany that the three had been detained by police after spending an entire day at Frankfurt Airport.According to one U.S. official, the girls had planned to continue on to Turkey and then to Syria, where they apparently intended to join ISIS. That is the same Colorado-to-ISIS itinerary that another Colorado teen had been about to embark upon when she was arrested at Denver International Airport three months ago. Nineteen-year-old Shannon Maureen Conley of Arvada has since pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization, and she faces up to five years in federal prison when she is sentenced in January.On Sunday, the German police put these latest ISIS-bound Colorado girls on a plane back to Denver, where they were briefly detained by the FBI. They were released to their families without being charged. Their names were withheld because of their age.The FBI had apparently decided that this was less a case of jihad than hooky. Agents nonetheless began to examine the girls’ cellphones and computers, seeking to determine whether the girls had been recruited online, as Conley had been. Conley’s father had been stunned to walk into his daughter’s room and find her Skyping with an ISIS warrior who used the opportunity to announce he intended to marry her.A spokeswoman for the Cherry Creek School District suggests that one of the girls had fallen victim to an “online predator” who urged her and her friends to undertake the trip to Syria. The spokeswoman suggests that the girls had not been radicalized, only led astray.At the mention of ISIS, most of us think of those videos in which innocents are beheaded, captured soldiers are massacred, or, most recently, a boy is crucified for taking pictures of the group’s headquarters and a girl is stoned to death for supposed adultery, her father inflicting the fatal blow.But for some teens ISIS seems to symbolize power and purpose, a great drama promising deliverance from the humdrum. They appear to see not atrocities but adventure, not gore but glory.And these three particular teens also might have been encouraged to see a trip to the caliphate as a way to rebel. Ali Farah and Assad Ibrahim have both embraced democracy and are registered Democrats. Records show that Farah is a regular voter, casting his ballot in the last two general elections.Early Monday evening, the Arapahoe Sheriff’s Office dispatched Deputy Evan Driscoll to make a “welfare check” on Farah’s daughters such as is usual for returned runaways.“I was asked to see if they were home and if they were OK,” Driscoll later wrote in his report.When the deputy arrived at the apartment, he asked to speak with the girls and was led to their bedroom. Their alleged attempt to run off and join ISIS had apparently been exhausting. The two teens were in bed when it was not yet 6 p.m.“Both girls were asleep,” the deputy would report. “Their mother woke them up and I started speaking to them.”The girls told how they had taken the passports and the $2,000 and gone to the Denver airport with their friend and flown to Frankfurt, only to be detained the next day by “some sort of police force in the German airport.” They described being returned to Denver, detained by the FBI, then released.And now they were back home in their room, almost as if nothing had happened. The deputy asked them why they had been in Germany. They answered as if they were terrorists, or maybe just teenagers.“They said, ‘Family,’ and would not elaborate on any other details about their trip,” the deputy wrote.Source:

  11. Port of Mogadishu - Somaliaonline2

    The Somali government's grand vision for Mogadishu port under its new Turkish managers sees modern container ships replacing wooden dhows, new cranes easing the back-breaking work of porters and a surge in state revenue as traffic rises.


    Outsourcing port operations to Turkey's Albayrak Group is one more sign of Somalia's slow rehabilitation, a dramatic shift from more than two decades of war when clans battled for control of Somalia's most valuable asset and let its facilities decay.


    Yet the award of the 20-year contract has highlighted other challenges facing the government, which has been struggling to build public confidence after years of chaos and has been trying to reassure donors worried about corruption.


    In the wake of the deal, members of parliament have accused the government of making the award without proper oversight, while laborers, fearing they will lose their jobs, have staged frequent protests.


    "If you come to the Mogadishu port at the moment, you will wonder if it is a market or a port," said Abdirahman Omar Osman, an adviser to the Somali presidency, describing how porters rush to dhows and ships as they tie-up, seeking cash to help unload.


    "The Turkish company will improve the infrastructure, maximize the income of the government and bring the port to international standards," he said.


    Port of Mogadishu - Somaliaonline


    An efficient port is vital for the government, as it is the state's biggest single source of revenue, and essential to building a functioning economy in a nation that is still battling an Islamist insurgency and which the West and African neighbors fear could yet tip back into anarchy.


    The deal might also help change the reputation of Somalia, which has become notorious as a jumping off point for pirates preying on sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, although hijackings have dropped sharply since 2012.


    But it has not been plain sailing for Albayrak, which started work last month. On several occasions, clashes between Turkish employees and Somali laborers brought work to a halt, local officials said.


    Last month, three Turks were beaten and a Somali was killed during a scuffle between the laborers and the Turkish workers, according to a port official who asked not to be named.


    "The government deliberately handed over the port to the Turkish company without considering our right to work and earn an income," porter Ahmed Siicow told Reuters. "Turkey wants to use its lifts instead of the thousands of porters."


    Job security

    The government faces a delicate balancing act between creating a more efficient port while preserving jobs of people with few other options in one of the world's poorest nations.


    "They will not lose their jobs," Ports and Marine Transport Minister Yusuf Moallim Amin told Reuters, adding more traffic could mean work for more porters.


    Amin said he wanted traffic to grow from 3,000 containers a month - which now arrives on vessels that need to have their own cranes to unload - to 50,000 in a few years.


    "Those dhows, I think they will vanish as we have more, bigger ships coming in," the minister said by telephone.


    The port's current intake of $5 million a month from duties could double in a year with more traffic, the minister said. Albayrak will also improve collection of service fees, amounting to $1.2 million, of which the state gets 55 percent, he added.


    Albayrak aims to build four new berths and repair others, bringing the number of working berths to 10.


    More revenues would help a government that is now dependent on donor largesse. But the benefits of the port deal have not shielded the government from criticism from its lawmakers.


    "Any deal that is not approved by the parliament remains null and void," legislator Dahir Amin told Reuters.


    Parliament has called several hearings to discuss the deal with Albayrak, a construction company whose website indicates has only one other port enterprise.


    DP World, the Dubai-based firm with port operations across the globe, also showed interest, according to a source in the United Arab Emirates and a Somali with knowledge of the award.


    A spokeswoman for the Somali president said Albayrak was the only firm to make a formal expression of interest. DP World said it would not comment.


    In response to the row, Albayrak said Turkish firms were fixing Mogadishu's airport and constructing schools, hospitals and mosques. "Turkey's interest, love and contribution oriented in Somalia are continuing," it said in a statement.


    Turkey has emerged a crucial donor and ally since 2011, when Somalia was in the midst of a devastating famine. That year, the then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first leader from outside Africa to visit Mogadishu in nearly 20 years as he set out to build his country's status as a regional power.


    Torn loyalties


    The row is another headache for Somalia's government struggling to rebuild donor confidence after allegations of corruption last year, first by a U.N. monitoring group then by a central bank governor who quit after less than two months in her post. The government denied charges of graft.


    Western diplomats say the government faces an understandable lack of capacity as it negotiates deals, whether the port or airport, which is now being run by Turkey's Favori.


    Yet, echoing the sentiment of others, one senior Western diplomat said more scrutiny was needed. "What are commissions being paid? What is the structure of the contract?" he said.


    The port deal and other support from Middle East nations also suggests the Somali government could find itself increasingly torn between regional Muslim rivals.


    "The threat is the Somalis will try to play off the different Muslim interests," the diplomat said, adding this could cause splits in Somali politics and alienate donors.


    The UAE, which provides support to Somalia's security forces and other aid, has been a staunch opponent of Islamist governments who emerged during the Arab Spring. Turkey's government of the ruling AKP, which has Islamist roots, held out a hand of friendship to Middle East Islamist leaders.


    An official in the UAE said the Gulf state's support for Somalia was aimed at rebuilding the nation and not driven by any commercial concerns. Turkey has made similar comments.



  12. siilaanyo

    The recent high-profile campaigns for Scottish and Catalonian independence have buoyed hopes that Somaliland could soon gain independence from Somalia, according to the president of the self-declared country.


    Somaliland is viewed by the international community as a territory within Somalia – a nation that is struggling to emerge from more than two decades of civil war. However, the former British protectorate boasts more than 20 years of relative peace and security as well as untapped oil reserves and mineral deposits.


    Its president, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo, said he was encouraged by other independence movements and hoped that boosting investment in Somaliland’s energy and agricultural sectors would spark an economic rebirth that could help it towards independence.


    “Other countries’ search for recognition, like Catalonia and Scotland, is something we find [inspiring],” he said. “We are, in our own way, also seeking our independence.”


    Equally encouraging, said Silanyo, was the symbolic but non-binding vote this month in which British MPs recognised Palestine as a state.


    Silanyo, who met European firms at an investment summit hosted by the UK Foreign Office last week, said commerce was key to his country’s quest for sovereignty. “The recognition of Somaliland and the development of its economy are things which are very much related,” he said. “Without economic development, recognition is meaningless. Somaliland is entitled to recognition – we have been waiting for a long time.”


    But the UK, which has hosted a series of talks aimed at repairing relations between Somaliland and Somalia, has been reluctant to endorse Somaliland’s quest for recognition. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “The UK’s position is that it is for Somaliland and Somalia to resolve the issue of Somaliland’s status, and the region should lead on recognising any new arrangements.”


    Somaliland refused to attend the UK’s conference on Somalia last year, dealing a blow to diplomatic relations. Writing in the Guardian, Silanyo said: “We cannot take part in a conference that does not recognise Somaliland’s unique status or move forward our long fight for international recognition.”


    Somaliland’s energy sector has been touted as the area of its economy most ripe for development. According to the energy minister, Hussein Abdi Dualeh, there are four foreign companies exploring for oil and gas in Somaliland: Turkey’s Genel Energy, DNO International of Norway, UAE-based RAK Gas, and Yemeni firm Ansan Wikfs Hadramaut.


    Dualeh said: “We’re across from one of the biggest shipping lanes in the world, the gulf of Aden, we have a deep sea port in Berbera, and it just so happens that our resources are running parallel along the coastline. Most of the major potential basins for hydrocarbons are also not too far away from the coast, so I think, logistically speaking, even a small discovery of minerals or hydrocarbons would be a viable proposition for Somaliland.”


    But analysts say oil production could raise tensions with Somaliland’s neighbours, particularly in disputed areas that have aligned themselves with Somalia.


    “The federal government of Somalia has indicated its concerns over these contracts that Somaliland has with these oil companies. A solution has to be found through the dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia,” said Mohamed Farah, executive director at the Academy of Peace and Development in Somaliland. “The government must initiate dialogue in areas where there are some concerns from local people.”


    But Somaliland has yet to secure a deal to develop the port of Berbera, which would be vital for exporting oil and gas. The port has long been touted as a potentially lucrative transport corridor that could link neighbouring Ethiopia, which is landlocked, to the sea.


    Until new sectors of its economy are developed, Somaliland will continue to rely heavily on livestock exports to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries where Somali livestock enjoys a premium status, Silanyo said. During the annual hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia imports more meat from Somaliland than anywhere else.


    “We are very much dependent on the exports of livestock, but we would like to develop our fisheries because we have a very long coastline and we have mineral resources as well,” Silanyo said.


    The UK’s Department for International Development has said that Somaliland’s government is “better able to provide for its citizens” than the government of Somalia. DfID will contribute £25m to the Somaliland development fund, which is designed to support governance, boost infrastructure and improve water purity.


    The UK’s international development minister, Lynne Featherstone, said: “It is only through investment, trade and jobs that Somaliland can reduce its dependence on aid and remittances. Business will be central to Somaliland’s growth and development. It is already happening – Hargeisa [the capital] teems with people starting new businesses and shops.”



  13. detainedThree teenage girls from the western U.S. city of Denver, Colorado are reported on their way back to the United States after going missing from their homes last Friday and later being apprehended in Frankfurt, Germany.Relatives and other sources told VOA’s Somali Service the girls left Denver and flew to Frankfurt via Chicago. Family members alerted Denver authorities who contacted their German counterparts.Two of the girls are sisters of ethnic Somali origin and are 15 and 16 years old. The third girl is from Sudan - her age is not yet known. It is not yet clear where they ultimately were heading, but one of the young girls reportedly told German authorities, “We are going to Turkey to study.”The girls have since spoken to their relatives and are due to arrive back home later Sunday.Source:

  14. somali-fifa-referee-yabaroow-wiishConfederation of African Football (CAF) has appointed Hagi Yabarow Wiish, a Somalian to handle the Wednesday AFCON 2015 group E return leg clash between Togo and Uganda.He will be assisted by Berhe O’Michael (1st Assistant referee), Yahaya Mahamadou (2nd Assistant referee).The first leg at Namboole last Saturday between the two nations was handled by Kenyan referee, Davies Omweno where Uganda fell to Togo by a solitary goal.Uganda is currently joint second on the log with Guinea (4 points) with Ghana the table leaders on 5 points as Togo has 3 points.By press time, Uganda Cranes players where already in their hotel in Lome and where due to have a training session this afternoon.The match will be played at the Stade de Kutgue which has a sitting capacity of 35,000 fans.Additional Reporting by Kawowo SportsSource:

  15. I am a Muslim, but I wasn't always. I converted to Islam in November 2001, two months after 9/11.I was 21 and living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a bad time to be a Muslim. But after four years of studying, poking and prodding at world religions and their adherents, I decided to take the plunge.Questions and answersI am the product of a Creole Catholic and an Irish atheist. I grew up Catholic, then was agnostic, now I'm Muslim.My journey to Islam began when I was about 15 years old in Mass and had questions about my faith. The answers from teachers and clergymen -- don't worry your pretty little head about it -- didn't satisfy me.So I did what any red-blooded American would do: the opposite. I worried about it. For many years. I questioned the nature of religion, man and the universe.After questioning everything I was taught to be true and digging through rhetoric, history and dogma, I found out about this strange thing called Islam. I learned that Islam is neither a culture nor a cult, nor could it be represented by one part of the world. I came to realize Islam is a world religion that teaches tolerance, justice and honor and promotes patience, modesty and balance.As I studied the faith, I was surprised many of the tenants resonated with me. I was pleased to find that Islam teaches its adherents to honor all prophets, from Moses to Jesus to Mohammed, all of whom taught mankind to worship one God and to conduct ourselves with higher purpose.I was drawn to Islam's appeal to intellect and heartened by the prophet Mohammed's quote, "The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female."I was astounded that science and rationality were embraced by Muslim thinkers such as Al-Khawarizmi, who invented algebra; Ibn Firnas, who developed the mechanics of flight before Leonardo DaVinci; and Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, who is the father of modern surgery.Here was a religion telling me to seek out answers and use my intellect to question the world around me.Taking the plungeIt was 2001, and I had been putting off converting for a while. I feared what people would think but was utterly miserable. When 9/11 happened, the actions of the hijackers horrified me. But in its aftermath, I spent most of my time defending Muslims and their religion to people who were all too eager to paint a group of 1.6 billion people with one brush because of the actions of a few.I was done being held hostage by the opinions of others. In defending Islam, I got over my fear and decided to join my brothers and sisters in the faith I believed in.My family did not understand, but it wasn't a surprise to them since I had been studying religion. Most were very concerned for my safety. Luckily, most of my friends were cool about it, and even curious to learn more.The scarfThese days, I am a proud wearer of hijab. You can call it a scarf. My scarf does not tie my hands behind my back, and it is not a tool of oppression. It doesn't prevent thoughts from entering my head and leaving my mouth. But I didn't always know this.Studying Islam didn't immediately dispel all my cultural misconceptions. I had been raised on imagery of women in the East being treated like chattel by men who forced them to cover their bodies out of shame or a sense of ownership.But when I asked a Muslim woman "Why do you wear that?", her answer was obvious and appealing: "To please God. To be recognized as a woman who is to be respected and not harassed. So that I can protect myself from the male gaze."

    Surprisingly, Islam turned out to be the religion that appealed to my feminist ideals.Theresa Corbin
    She explained how dressing modestly is a symbol to the world that a woman's body is not meant for mass consumption or critique.I still wasn't convinced and replied, "Yeah, but women are like second class citizens in your faith?"The very patient Muslim lady explained that, during a time when the Western world treated women like property, Islam taught that men and women were equal in the eyes of God. Islam made the woman's consent to marriage mandatory and gave women the opportunity to inherit, own property, run businesses and participate in government.She listed right after right that women in Islam held nearly 1,250 years before women's lib was ever thought of in the West. Surprisingly, Islam turned out to be the religion that appealed to my feminist ideals.Getting marriedIt might shock you to know that I had an arranged marriage. That doesn't mean I was forced to marry my father's first choice suitor, like Jasmine from "Aladdin." Dad didn't even have a say.When I converted, it wasn't a good time to be a Muslim. Feeling isolated, alienated and rejected by my own society pushed me to want to start a family of my own. Even before converting, I had always wanted a serious relationship but found few men looking for the same.As a new Muslim, I knew there was a better way to look for love and a lifelong partnership. I decided that if I wanted a serious relationship, it was time to get serious about finding one. I wanted an arranged marriage.I made a list of "30 Rock"-style deal breakers. I searched. I interviewed. I interrogated friends and families of prospects.I decided I wanted to marry another convert, someone who had been where I was and wanted to go where I wanted to go. Thanks to parents of friends, I found my now-husband, a convert to Islam, in Mobile, Alabama, two hours from my New Orleans home. Twelve years later, we are living happily ever after.Not every Muslim finds a mate in this manner, and I didn't always see this for my life. But I am glad Islam afforded me this option.Living in a post-9/11 worldI never had to give up my personality, American identity or culture to be a Muslim. I have, at times, had to give up on being treated with dignity.I have been spat on, had eggs thrown at me and been cursed at from passing cars. And I have felt terror when the mosque I attended in Savannah, Georgia, was first shot at, then burned down.In August 2012, I moved back home to New Orleans, where being different is the norm. I finally felt safe -- for a while. But now, with the continuous news coverage of the un-Islamic group known as ISIS, I have been subjected to much of the same treatment I received in other cities. And I now feel less safe than I ever have.It enrages me to know there are some who call themselves Muslims and who distort and misappropriate Islam for political gains.It weighs on me knowing that millions of my countrymen see only these images as a representative of my religion. It is unbearable to know that I am passionately hated for my beliefs, when those hating me don't even know what my beliefs are.In my journey to Islam, I came to learn that Muslims come in all shapes, sizes, attitudes, ethnicities, cultures and nationalities. I came to know that Islam teaches disagreement and that shouldn't lead to disrespect, as most Muslims want peace.Most of all, I have faith that my fellow Americans can rise above fear and hatred and come to learn the same.Have a question for Corbin? We'll open comments at 1 p.m. ET, and she'll be here to answer your questions.theresa-corbinTheresa Corbin is a writer living in New Orleans. She is the founder of Islamwich and a contributor to On Islam and Aquila Style. A version of this piece first appeared on CNN iReport.

  16. somali-refugees-music-waayaha-netherlandsSomalian musicians Waayaha Cusub are seeking asylum in the Netherlands after immigration officials in Kenya reportedly revoked their refugee status. Frontwoman Falis Abdi Mohamud claims Kenyan authorities confiscated the group's refugee cards last month (Sep14) when they left Nairobi to perform at a peace concert in Amsterdam, effectively banning them from returning to their adopted home. Mohamud, whose three children are still in Kenya, tells the BBC, "They (Kenyan immigration officials) told me if I return they will put me on a plane to Mogadishu (Somalia)." Government representatives have yet to comment on the allegations, but officials have been cracking down on Somali asylum seekers amid accusations they have been harbouring members of militant Islamic group al-Shabab, which has been responsible for a number of terror attacks in Kenya. Ironically, Waayaha Cusub are known for openly criticising members of al-Shabab in their songs. Dutch authorities are now reviewing the band's case for asylum.source:

  17. somali-candidate-torontoTORONTO - Munira Abukar said the racist defacing of one of her Ward 2 campaign signs “is really disgusting” and current councillor Doug Ford agrees.A friend of the Etobicoke-North council candidate alerted her on Saturday to the vandalism of a sign posted in the Martin Grove and Dixon Rds. area. The message, “go back home” was scrawled in red marker at the top of the sign; over top of the candidate’s name, was the word, “B----.”“It was frustration and shock that I had to be reading the language on it,” said the 22-year-old Somali-Canadian. “My parents took it a lot worse. They experienced a lot of racism when they first came to Canada and to live vicariously through that again through their children isn’t the easiest experience.”Abukar and her parents decided to take the sign home instead of leaving it up, because they didn’t want other people to see it to be “triggered” and get upset by seeing it.She doesn’t believe “Ford Nation” -- despite the sign being in the heart of it -- is to blame.“I’d like to believe there’s good in everybody,” she said. “That, yes, the Fords do have some explaining to do for racist things that have happened in the past, but the reality is I choose not to speculate who it is.”Akubar tweeted about the incident on Saturday.“When people tell me to ‘go back home’ I’m always like oh you mean back to my crib in Etobicoke? Miss me with that racist/xenophobic speak,” Abukar tweeted after posting pictures of the sign.Abukar is planning to file a police report about this incident.Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow said she empathizes with Abukar being told to “go home” as a heckler at a recent debate to her to “go back to China.”“It’s disgraceful,” she said. “There’s no room for racism in this city. I hope she stays strong.”Chow said she asked her staff for examples of online comments that have been written about her containing racial slurs.“‘Poor baby, if you can’t stand a little criticism, then get the f--- out of the race, go make some rice’ and ‘F--- you, ch---.’ This is all recent,” she said.Doug Ford – the current councillor for Ward 2 – called the graffiti “disgusting.”“I’d like to find the person, charge them. They should be thrown in jail,” the mayoral candidate told the Sun after being shown the photos.source:

  18. Connectivity has become something of a buzz word in Puntland State, Somalia. For a strategically located region the importance of improving infrastructure along with land, sea and air corridors has become a national priority. Puntland’s President Abdiweli Ali Gas is leading the campaign, one readily supported by diverse stakeholders ranging from the Public Sector, the Puntland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, members of the Diaspora as well as potential foreign investors. With such unanimity it is heartening to see that funders are beginning to recognise that the dynamic is changing. The false hopes and regional insecurity of the past are beginning to dissipate and a grounded optimism is finally becoming apparent. For those in the know there is a realisation that the hard work is about to begin.




    Those eager to gain an insight into the spirit of transformation would do well to look closely at what is happening with regards to the development of the airports at Garowe and Bossaso. After years of neglect by the Federal Government, the airports are finally about to be given a new lease of life with the construction of modern runways, proper perimeter fencing and security measures and many of the attendant facilities that will enable the respective airports to raise their game. Arab and Italian funders along with the engineering and construction expertise of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) will ensure Puntland State finally acquires the type of airport facilities that it has long desired. Such an enterprise is highly complex and has required protracted negotiations, ones that have seen the likes of Minister Hassan Haji Said Hassan (Minister of Civil Aviation and Airports) along with Director General Capt. Amin Abdullah Haji Khair (Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airports) and their staff working tirelessly to ensure things move forward in a positive and purposeful manner. Whilst more work remains to be done, the signs are encouraging and now there is growing anticipation of the benefits that will follow the planned improvements. Already there is a realisation that there is likely to be more frequent flights, improved regional connectivity, the ability to land larger aircraft and increased competition. Locals and Diaspora alike are excited by what is about to take place and are not alone in recognising that ticket prices are set to fall and that visitor numbers and commercial traffic set to increase markedly. Little wonder then that there is already anecdotal evidence of increased interest in Puntland from potential investors.


    All of this bodes well, but presents the people of Puntland State with a series of challenges. Airports and ports are all very well, but to ensure that they operate and function effectively there needs to be a whole raft of attendant backup services, facilities and personnel.  Engineers, technical support crews and ancillary staff will be essential.  Visitors and foreign investors will expect professionalism as standard and will make ready comparisons with the experience they receive elsewhere. Effective training, communication and customer care will be paramount if Puntland State is to present its best face to the world. Already there are signs that local hotels recognise that they may need to improve existing facilities to ensure that they can compete with the arrival of international hotel chains. With more traffic comes the likelihood of increased competition and in some sectors this will be stiff. Thankfully various Ministries have begun to wake up to the enormity of the task that lies ahead and the very real developmental opportunities Puntland’s gateway status can present. For all the challenges, there is no need to reinvent the wheel Puntland can learn from successful development models elsewhere, the best fit being that of Rwanda. Like Somalia, Rwanda has had an image problem, yet in the last two decades has managed to transform itself into the one of the leading business and investment destinations in Africa. At the heart of Rwanda’s success has been a national vision, one based on the desire to move the country forward thanks to national reliance rather than reliance on aid and handouts. The small central African country, whilst not blessed with Puntland’s coastline and extraordinary rich marine life has set about harnessing what it believes to be it greatest resource – namely its people. National literacy has been made a priority as has literacy in English and Information Technology. With improved male and female literacy has come marked improvements in health and substantial process in the field of democratisation. Olympian efforts have been made to ensure that appointments and promotions are made on merit and that both the public and private sector have a zero tolerance to corruption. Rwanda’s co-ordinated approach to registering businesses means that it is currently one of the easiest and most efficient places to register and establish a business anywhere in the world.  Image at every level has been deemed essential, with a concerted effort being made to ensure its foreign legations appoint the brightest staff regardless of age, gender or clan heritage. One of the most obvious manifestations of care over the country’s image has been in regards to hygiene and the public realm with a nationwide blitz on discarded plastic bottles and bags proving a veritable triumph.  Effective leadership, motivated and accessible staff and national empowerment have driven Rwanda forward to such an extent that progress and increasing prosperity look assured. With similar zeal there is no reason why Puntland State cannot do the same.


    Whilst there is good reason for grounded optimism, no one should be under any illusion of the enormity of the task that lies ahead. New airports are all very well, but they alone cannot bring about the development and equity Puntland State and the Somali peoples desire. Forward momentum is always a work in progress and even the most passionate Puntlanders and friends of Puntland recognise that much more needs to be done. In order for Puntland to soar there needs to be a concerted desire to do better, for complacency is the seedbed of disappointment. Areas that will help drive Puntland forward include:

    State wide blended energy solutions (especially including solar and wind power)

    Wireless mess technology across all urban centres

    A centre of frugal innovation

    A data and statistics office

    Regional entrepreneurship centres and workshops

    Increased awareness of the value of time and motion studies

    Introduction of statutory Health & Safety Standards

    Recognition and celebration of regional excellence

    Greater emphasis on meaningful training and capacity building

    A concerted effort to articulate investment opportunities internationally

    Promise and potential are one thing, actually realising it is quite another matter. The fact is that things are beginning to move in the right direction, now it is down to Puntland State to capitalise on growing goodwill and prove that it has the ability and will to soar and ascend new heights.


    Mark-T-Jones-SomaliaMark T Jones is an advisor on trade and investment in frontier markets, and sits on the Advisory Board of various media outlets. He is a member of the Centre for Innovative Leadership Navigation (CILN), London as well as the Expertise Forum – A UK-based Think Tank society focusing on the Sustainable Development.

  19. dubai-mall-somali-shopLONDON // Bright hijabs for Dh18, Dh6 cappuccino and haircuts costing Dh30. Welcome to Dubai Mall … west London.A far cry from the sprawling emporium at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, the small shopping centre on the high street of Southall, which has a shopfront less than 10 metres long, is a source of much amusement for passing Emiratis.Multi-coloured lights flash in the window of the mall’s electronics shop, while a blue sign advertises the No 1 Barber Shop.There are no magnificent dancing musical fountains, Armani cafes or shark-filled aquariums, but that is no dampener for one regular visitor.“Welcome to Dubai – in London,” jokes Mr Arha, one of the shopping centre’s most loyal customers.Like many visitors and most of the shopkeepers, he is originally from Somalia and says the place is a popular hangout for members of that community.“I call my friends and tell them, ‘I’m in Dubai’,” he says.“Every day we come. In Dubai, it’s bigger than this, 10 times bigger. But here is better … it’s cheaper.”The world’s largest mall has Bloomingdales, boutiques and branded cafes.Here there are only six shops open and three vacant, one of which is being used as a makeshift prayer room.But while the Dubai Mall of London is undeniably smaller than its UAE namesake, one shopkeeper believes it is by no means the lesser.Amina works in one of the mall’s two clothes shops, selling abayas for £20 (Dh119), and hijabs for £3.Many of the products she sells are imported from Dubai, and some of her customers also come from the UAE, she says.The Somali, who has lived in London for eight years, says she has been to Dubai and visited malls there. But sitting in her humble rented shop, she shows no signs of envy.“This is better than Dubai,” Amina says. “They have a lot of money but we are happy. It is a small shop, but it is mine.”Qays Eribay, 27, who works in the Click Satellite electronics shop, says several Emiratis have stopped outside to take pictures.“I don’t really see any sense behind the name,” says Qays, another Somali, who moved to London 14 years ago. “Maybe it’s to attract rich people from Dubai. They keep stopping here and taking pictures.”He tinkers with computers and cameras as he waits for customers to arrive, in front of rows of mobile-phone covers he sells for as little as £3.The London mall’s only non-Muslim shopkeeper is Effrem Tekale, 36, who works part-time at the barbers.Effrem is from Eritrea and says he has a friendly relationship with the other shopkeepers.“I’m Christian and these people are Muslim, but we eat together,” he says.He cannot say how the mall got its name when asked by curious Emirati visitors.Abdurahman Haji, leaseholder of the mall since 2012, says the mall was named by a previous tenant, probably in 2010.The French-Somali, who goes by the name Abdi Haji, is director of Dubai Mall Business Centre, the formal name of the mall.Abdi, 27, says the economic downturn prompted him to reduce rents and he now charges shopkeepers between £500 and £1,100 a month.He says Emaar Properties, the developer behind the UAE’s Dubai Mall, has not been in touch with him about the name.Representatives of the Dubai property company did not respond to a request for comment.“I’d love to keep the name,” says Abdi. “There’s always been a connection between the Somalis and the Emirates.”The businessman hopes to expand his import-export business to the Middle East. But if he is successful, Southall may lose one of its quirkier shop signs.“I’d love to have some more business links with Dubai,” says Abdi. “But we might have to change the name first.”Source:

  20. bosaso-somali-minneapolis




    Bego Hersi, front left, and Qamar Musi, front right, both of Minneapolis, wear t-shirts linking Bosaso, Somalia and Minneapolis before the Minneapolis city council voted to add Bosaso as a sister city Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, at the Minneapolis City Council. Photo: David Joles
    Minneapolis’ first Somali-American City Council member had said only a few words about the city becoming the first in the U.S. to add a sister city in Somalia before he began to choke up.


    Abdi Warsame paused and looked out into the council chambers, packed Thursday afternoon with Somali supporters who stood shoulder to shoulder and spilled out into the hallway and nearby rooms. Some carried Somali flags and several had pulled on T-shirts reading “I (heart) Minneapolis” and “I (heart) Bosaso”. Photographers and video crews from Somali media outlets jostled for position in the crowd, trying to capture the moment.


    All seemed to be waiting anxiously for the kind of vote that usually goes by without much fuss. If approved by this council committee, Bosaso, Somalia, would be No. 12 on Minneapolis’ already long list of sister cities. But Warsame, clearing his throat, said this vote was different.


    “What it means to Somalis is emotional for me to think about,” he said. “Because for over 25 years, Somalis have suffered a great deal. They’ve been isolated and we grew up in a very tough time. So what this means to us is it means that isolation — we have hope that isolation is going to be over.”


    Other council members agreed, unanimously approving the proposal to make the port city of Bosaso a sister to a city that’s become home to thousands of Somalis.


    Organizers of the effort said they hope the partnership will provide opportunities for cultural and business exchanges, noting that Bosaso is a telecommunications hub and already home to many businesses with Minnesota ties. The city sits in a region that has several leaders who were born or spent time in Minnesota, and Warsame said a large number of Somalis in Minneapolis are from the area. Over the past two decades, Bosaso has become a home to many Somalis fleeing other war-torn cities — much like Minneapolis.


    Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden recalled her work as an attorney in the 1990s, assisting Somali refugees trying to build new lives in Minnesota. She said many have stayed, put down roots and consider this city as their home.


    “You have changed the city of Minneapolis,” Glidden told the crowd at Thursday’s meeting. “You have changed the state of Minnesota. It is a better city because of your contributions. It’s about time we have a sister city relationship.”


    After the vote, supporters cheered and embraced. Some wiped away tears.


    Khadija Ali, who runs an interpretive service company, said she was excited for her two young daughters, both born in the U.S. Ali said the sister city link will help show young people that Minneapolis is interested in Somalia — and all the people with ties to that country.


    She said Somalis’ greater community involvement can provide important inspiration; her daughter, after learning Warsame had been elected to the City Council, ran for a council position at her school.


    “It’s an exciting day in a way because it’s like the welcome we have felt has been extended beyond us, to the Somali people back home,” Ali said.


    Degha Shabbeleh, a member of Minnesota Friends of Bosaso, the group that helped put together the sister city proposal, said the new relationship feels like a recognition of Somalis’ presence in the world.


    “Today for me, it’s like I’m on the radar,” she said. “I’m here. You can see me now.”


    Addressing concerns over terrorism, Warsame said he sees danger in avoiding new ties with Somalia. The way to build trust and support for the U.S., he said, is to make more Somalis feel welcomed, to build lives here and serve the community as members of the military or police and fire departments.


    “I think this message is a positive message,” Warsame said of the sister city arrangement. “And it’s a message that I always kind of knew: The people in Minnesota are the best people in the world. And that’s why I was very emotional. I knew it couldn’t happen anywhere else. It could only happen in Minneapolis.”



  21. Speaking out: A Somali American, who calls himself Ibn Zubayr, has spoken to CBS about why he moved from the U.S. to fight for Syrian militants. He said the country is under terrorist attacks from America

    A U.S.-born militant fighting in Syria has revealed how he went from being a normal American kid to joining an al Qaeda-linked group.

    The interview sheds light on why Americans - more than a dozen - have traveled to Syria to join militant groups.

    Speaking to CBS News, the Somali American, who grew up in the Midwest, kept his identity hidden and instead asked to be known as Ibn Zubayr.

    'When I was living in America, I was just a normal kid,' Zubayr said. 'I liked sports and whatnot, growing up, watching movies, just like any other American.'

    Speaking out: A Somali American, who calls himself Ibn Zubayr, has spoken to CBS about why he moved from the U.S. to fight for Syrian militants. He said the country is under terrorist attacks from America

    But during college, he dropped out to study Islam in the Middle East and was moved by the plight of the Syrian people who were under attack by their own government.

    So two years ago, he joined rebel group Jabhat al Nusra to fight against the government.

    Now he says that the country is under attack from America.

    'I don't hate America,' he said. 'That's my home. That's where I grew up. I don't have a need to hate America itself. But the government and their policies as far as the Muslim lands, that's another story.'

    His home was recently hit in U.S. airstrikes in Syria. The U.S. government says the strikes targeted terrorists planning to attack America - but Zubayr said any attack would be a reaction to the U.S.

    Interview: He spoke with CBS' Clarissa Ward and told her the Muslim world experiences 9/11s every day

    Interview: He spoke with CBS' Clarissa Ward and told her the Muslim world experiences 9/11s every day

    Militant: He joined rebel group Jabhat al Nusra two years ago but says he does not hate America

    Militant: He joined rebel group Jabhat al Nusra two years ago but says he does not hate America

    'I wouldn't consider it a terrorist attack,' he said. 'If anything happened there, I would consider it a reaction to this action... There is no threat from us if we don't get hit.' 

    He said that the U.S. is killing innocent people in Syria, which he deems to be a terrorist attack.

    I don't hate America [but] there's no tears being shed from me if something happened in America

    'There's no tears being shed from me if something happened in America,' he said.

    When CBS reporter Clarissa Ward said that the way he looked up to Osama bin Laden could upset his fellow Americans because of 9/11, he responded: 'We have 9/11s every day in the Muslim lands.'

    He added that he himself would not take part in an attack on America - not because he would not want to, but because the U.S. authorities are watching him.

    He told CBS that authorities know he is fighting in Syria and have visited his family in the Midwest. As a result, he is not allowed to travel anywhere that would require using his passport.

    Zubayr would not reveal his American identity to protect family members. 

    'Terrorism': A photograph taken from Turkey on Thursday shows smoke rising following U.S.-led airstrikes in Kobani, Syria. Zubayr says the attacks will cause militants to react and attack the U.S.

    'Terrorism': A photograph taken from Turkey on Thursday shows smoke rising following U.S.-led airstrikes in Kobani, Syria. Zubayr says the attacks will cause militants to react and attack the U.S.

    Battle: Another Western-born militant, Yilmaz, who was previously with the Dutch Army, previously spoke to CBS about moving to Syria when seeing how Syrians were being killed by President Assad's regime

    Battle: Another Western-born militant, Yilmaz, who was previously with the Dutch Army, previously spoke to CBS about moving to Syria when seeing how Syrians were being killed by President Assad's regime

    Former life: Yilmaz, pictured when he was in the Dutch Army, left Holland two years ago for Syria so he could fight for fellow Muslims. He said ISIS's brutality comes nowhere close to that of Assad's regime

    Former life: Yilmaz, pictured when he was in the Dutch Army, left Holland two years ago for Syria so he could fight for fellow Muslims. He said ISIS's brutality comes nowhere close to that of Assad's regime

    Ward traveled undercover to Syria to interview Zubayr and another Westerner - a former Dutch Army fighter known as Yilmaz - battling against the U.S.

    While both men oppose the United States, they are not members of the Islamic state. Ward told the Associated Press she would not have traveled into Syria to meet with members of that group.

    She has been to Syria 11 times since the civil war began there, but this was the first time she has gone since Islamic state rebels beheaded two American journalists and two British aid workers.

    'I felt comfortable and secure,' Ward said. 'While any trip into Syria or Iraq or Gaza entails a certain amount of risk, I did not feel this trip was riskier than many others that journalists have made.'

    Ward said she had several discussions with Yilmaz online and talked in person with people who said they knew him. In turn, Yilmaz made her aware of Ibn Zubayr.


  22. bosaso-port-somalia-3


    Somali leaders in Minneapolis will ask the City Council this week to consider adding a Somali community to its list of sister cities — a move that would be a first for any American city.


    The proposal, which has support from a long list of Somalibusinessicon1.png, cultural and community groups, along with local elected officials, calls for Minneapolis to partner with Bosaso, Somalia’s third-largest city. It’s a diverse port city on the northern end of the country, home to people who have fled other areas during Somalia’s civil war — and a large number of residents with connections to Minnesota.


    Council Member Abdi Warsame, the first Somali-American elected in Minneapolis, said a sister-city arrangement would formalize the many informal relationships that already exist between the two communities. Several local businessicon1.png owners also have businesses in Bosaso and many of the items in the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum, near E. Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue S., are from the region.


    Perhaps even more importantly, Warsame said, a sister-city agreement would help raise Somalia’s status in the United States and the rest of the world.


    “I think it will galvanize the Somali community in the United States as a whole,” he said.


    Bosaso would be Minneapolis’ 10th sister city.


    But Warsame and others said they expect Minneapolis’ relationship with Bosaso would go further than just adding another pin on a world map.


    Mohamed Jama, general director of the Cedar Riverside Youth Council, said he’s hopeful the arrangement could foster exchange programs for young people in both countries. He said opening young men and women’s eyes to what life is like in other parts of the world could have a big effect — even in fighting efforts by terrorist groups to recruit Somalis.


    “We’re very energized about it,” Jama said. “It’s an opportunity to give people a glimpse of what hope really is and creating that hope for them. In places like Africa there is a dire need for that.”


    Osman Ahmed, vice chairman of the Somali American Chamber of Commerce, said Bosaso is a major hub of the telecommunications industry, which makes it a good fit for sharedbusiness developmenticon1.png. He also expects that a closer relationship with Minneapolis could help give Somalis a better understanding of American culture — and in turn push back against radical political movements.


    “We’ve been working for a long time to bring the two cities together, culturally and also in education,” he said. “And in all aspects of human development.”


    The proposal will go before the council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Thursday, where Warsame expects it will find advocates.


    “I think there’s a lot of support on the council for it,” he said. “And I think this is a historic moment.”


    Erin Golden • 612-673-4790





  23. Somalia's first-ever cash withdrawal machine has been installed in the capital, Mogadishu.

    Some people are confused about how the machine works because they have never used one before, reports the BBC's Mohamed Moalimu from the city.The machine, installed by Salaam Somali Bank in an upmarket hotel, allows customers to withdraw US dollars.Somalia has a rudimentary banking sector, with many people relying on remittances from abroad.Its development has been thwarted by more than two decades of conflict involving clan and religious-based militia groups.'Big step forward'Somali's currency, the shilling, is almost worthless and many businessmen and foreigners deal in dollars.
    A street scene in Mogadishu, Somalia (3 October 2014)
    Mogadishu has been hit by instability for more than two decades and the Somali shilling is almost worthless
    African Union forces march through the town of Golweyn in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region - 30 August 2014
    African Union troops are trying to restore order across Somalia
    The machine allows people to withdraw money from their international bank accounts, using cards like Visa, MasterCard and American Express, our correspondent says.A spokesman for Salaam Somali Bank, Said Abukar, said people can only withdraw US dollars."We may add other international currencies in the future. People from the diaspora and foreigners have welcomed the move with enthusiasm. We are planning to install more ATMs in Mogadishu," he told the BBC.Omar Hassan, a visitor from the UK, said the installation of the machine was a "big step forward" for Somalia."I have been staying in Mogadishu for longer than I originally planned so I ran out of cash. I couldn't believe my luck when I heard about the new cash machine," he told the BBC, as he stood in the queue to withdraw cash.Source:

  24. somalia-corruption-hassan


    When Somalia’s government wanted to rebuild the country’s war-shattered economy in 2009, it hired lawyers to recover what it believed was more than $100 million of government funds frozen by foreign countries during two decades of civil conflict.


    Things didn’t go according to plan. Over the past five years, the drive to reclaim the missing money has spawned corruption allegations and led to the resignation of two central bank governors. The fragile Somali government is now tussling with American lawyers over the funds.


    So far, the recovery effort has yielded only about $12 million, has imperiled the country’s relations with Western donors, and exposed disarray in the Somali government. After decades of conflict, Somalia is constantly teetering on the edge of chaos. Additional strife could destabilize the fragile country and a region trying to unite to fight a rising terrorist threat.


    Somalia needs foreign aid and military support to fight al Qaeda-aligned militants. The corruption allegations have diminished donors’ appetites for funding the government, said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia scholar at Davidson College.


    Somalia is “a sieve for revenue,” he said. “It’s a place where it’s very difficult for external donors to ensure that funds are properly spent.”


    Follow the Money


    Key dates in the Somalian government’s attempts to reclaim assets.

    1991: As fighting breaks out in Somalia, foreign countries freeze Somali government assets held in their countries to make sure they aren’t seized by any of the warring clans.


    2009: Somalia’s former central bank governor begins talks with U.S. law firm Shulman Rogers about helping the new government reclaim the assets.


    Feb. 17, 2010: Date of contract between former Somali central bank governor and Shulman Rogers for the asset recovery.


    July 12, 2013: United Nations monitoring group releases report accusing government officials of using central bank as a ‘slush fund.’ Also date of renegotiated contract, which is signed three days later.


    Aug. 30: The Somalia government releases a report from Shulman Rogers concluding that allegations of financial mismanagement at the central bank are ‘false and contrary to the overwhelming weight of evidence.’


    September: Mr. Omer resigns. Yusur Abrar is named central bank governor.


    Oct. 30: Ms. Abrar resigns, alleging she was pressured to take actions to sanction the contract that would ‘open the door to corruption.’

    July 14, 2014: The central bank’s new governor, Bashir Issa, cancels contract with Shulman Rogers.

    Aug. 12, 2014: Shulman Rogers lawyer Jeremy Schulman holds a news conference in Minneapolis, apparently on behalf of the Somali government, promising litigation against U.N. monitors.


    Five years ago, few expressed qualms about a nascent Somali government trying to fund its recovery from a long civil war between warring clans. But no one knew exactly how much money was abroad. Somali officials estimated it exceeded $100 million, enough to fund the annual budget at the time.


    To spearhead the effort, interim President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed enlisted a trusted ally, Ali Abdi Amalow, who had been central bank governor when fighting broke out in 1991. Mr. Amalow turned to American law firm Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker PA. Jacob Frenkel, a partner at Shulman Rogers, said the firm has expertise in international asset recovery. “This is not a bunch of street-corner lawyers,” he said. “This really is the kind of sophisticated work that we do.”


    In 2010, the Somali government agreed to pay the firm $50,000 a month; a bonus of 3.5% on recovered funds; and all costs, according to a contract signed by Mr. Amalow and the law firm that was filed with U.S. regulators. Some Somali officials balked at the contract’s open-ended terms.


    “It was a blank check,” said Bashir Issa, who headed the newly reopened central bank from 2006 to 2010 and was recently reappointed to the post.


    Mr. Frenkel said the terms were justified because of the high costs of the complex investigation.


    But when the firm asked foreign governments for the money, they met resistance. Some governments queried why the contract was signed by a presidential adviser rather than Somalia’s central bank governor, said a Western European diplomat. A presidential spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.


    The diplomat said his government ignored the request, hoping it would go away.


    Shulman Rogers didn’t go away. Mr. Frenkel said the firm made “reasonable progress” but that political bickering inside the Somali government slowed the investigation. Somali officials have said they didn’t impede the effort.


    After two years of waiting and with fees piling up, Somali officials pushed to renegotiate the contract—this time with a signature from the central bank’s newly appointed governor, Abdusalam Omer.


    But Mr. Omer was also being closely watched by the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, tasked with evaluating the massive international effort in the country. In a report issued July 12, 2013, they accused him of running the central bank as a “slush fund” for politicians. Mr. Omer resigned two months later amid the scandal. He denies the allegations and no criminal charges have been filed against him. He now lives in Nairobi and does consulting work.


    Before he quit, Mr. Omer signed a new contract with Shulman Rogers that reduced the fees, but added a 6% charge to Somalia for “mutually agreed costs and expenses reasonably incurred by or on behalf of the central bank” beyond those already covered, according to a copy viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The 6% charge wasn’t further explained.


    In July, the U.N. monitors wrote to the U.N. Security Council suggesting the 6% fee sought to conceal kickbacks to three presidential advisers. The Somali government has said there were no improper payments.


    In an interview, Mr. Omer said the two sides agreed to set aside the 6% for extra possible expenses, such as hiring lawyers or other facilitators in countries where assets were found—or for travel by government officials to those countries. Mr. Omer said he renegotiated the contract to give the Somali government a better deal, which essentially waived $3 million in old fees.


    Mr. Frenkel of Shulman Rogers calls U.N. allegations of kickbacks “untenable and ludicrous.” He denied the firm made any improper payments.

    Soon after, Shulman Rogers recovered $12.3 million. Mr. Frenkel said he didn’t know exactly when the money was recovered or from which countries. The firm deposited $9.6 million in a Somali central bank account in Turkey, which is used to deposit foreign currency—including donor funds, said the current finance minister, Hussein Abdi Halane. Mr. Frenkel said he didn’t recall how the remaining $2.7 million was accounted for, and Shulman Rogers didn’t respond to follow-up questions.


    A breakdown on Shulman Rogers letterhead—supplied to the Somali government and viewed by the Journal—shows almost $2 million of the remaining $2.7 million was used to pay fees and expenses. The rest was labeled as “6% expense set aside.” No further explanation was provided in a document labeled “fees and expenses calculation.” The law firm didn’t respond to an email asking it to verify the document.

    The U.N. monitors allege the funds were funneled through companies that provided kickbacks to the president’s advisers.

    The U.N. monitors weren’t the only ones to allege wrongdoing in the asset-recovery effort. Yusur Abrar, a former Citigroup C -0.44% executive the Somali president


    appointed to lead the central bank after Mr. Omer’s resignation, challenged the contract. But she only lasted seven weeks before leaving Somalia. In a resignation letter she sent from Dubai, Ms. Abrar said she had “been asked to sanction deals and transactions that would contradict my personal values and violate my fiduciary responsibility.” She said she had refused to approve the new contract because it “put the frozen assets at risk” and opened “the door to corruption.”


    Ms. Abrar declined to elaborate on her resignation. The presidency said at the time that Ms. Abrar—who had lived mostly abroad—had been unprepared for the challenges in Somalia. A presidential spokesman didn’t respond to requests for additional comment.

    About a week after Ms. Abrar’s departure, a group of senior Western diplomats flew into Mogadishu. They met President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office in 2012, at the U.N.-protected airport and implored him to clean up his government, said a Western official briefed on the meeting. Otherwise, they warned, the billions of dollars of donor cash propping up Somalia would dry up. Mr. Mohamud promised more transparency and accountability, the official said. He pledged to publish all secret government contracts, create a financial oversight board with international representatives and seek World Bank advice in the asset-recovery effort. The finance minister confirmed these overhauls were being undertaken.


    In July, Mr. Issa, the current central bank governor, canceled the contract with Shulman Rogers in a letter sent by air courier and viewed by the Journal.


    In August, the firm’s lead on the Somalia effort— Jeremy Schulman —told reporters at a news conference that the firm had identified $33 million in assets so far. Most of that money was in the U.S., he said, without giving details on what was being done to obtain it. Another $50 million to $75 million was waiting in Europe, he said. He didn’t mention the canceled contract.


    Finance Minister Halane and the bank chief, Mr. Issa, have since urged the president to distance himself from the American law firm.

    In early September, Mr. Schulman traveled to Nairobi and met with President Mohamud at a hotel, said Awes Hagi, the president’s senior policy adviser. Mr. Hagi wasn’t at the meeting but said he was informed by those who were that Mr. Mohamud told Mr. Schulman that the contract was terminated. The president urged Mr. Schulman to discuss the contract with Somalia’s finance minister.


    Meanwhile, Mr. Issa has accused Shulman Rogers of withholding a list of overseas assets the law firm’s probe yielded, and has threatened to sue for that information. “We know where some of the assets are,” he said. “A very few of them.”


    Mr. Frenkel insists the Somali government is still a “valued client” and that the firm’s relationship with them “remains very amicable and open.”


    Asked about the cancellation, he said, “It is certainly reasonable to believe that Shulman Rogers could be doing work for some ministries—including the office of the president—but not other ministries.” He declined to elaborate.


    Asked about the accusations that the firm was withholding information about the assets discovered, Mr. Frenkel said the information may have gone to some parts of the government but not others, since not everyone in the government would be entitled to see the list, but declined to confirm either way.


    “Merely because someone within the government asks the question that does not mean that person is entitled to the answer,” Mr. Frenkel said. He didn’t respond to questions about the threatened suit.


    Source: Wallstreet Journal